Retailers could be forgiven for thinking that schlepping thousands of miles to Geneva for next week’s SIHH exhibition is a recipe for jet lag with little reward.
If you are not already booked to travel, nothing I can say today will make any difference, but SIHH this year is hugely significant because its bank-roller, Richemont, needs to hit the American market harder.
Aurum Holdings, Great Britain’s biggest jeweler and watch retailer believes that America buys too few luxury watches.
I agree, and Rolex is working tirelessly to change that perception with global advertising that is successfully driving sales to its hundreds of US partners.
Patek Philippe is also active, and takes a more localized approach to its marketing that promotes the watch brand along with its retail partners.
But even Rolex and Patek cannot shift perceptions of the joy of owning luxury watches on their own, which is why I think Richemont’s showcase at SIHH is so important.
Cartier (yes I know it is French) needs to join Rolex and Patek Philippe to create a triumvirate of brands that collectively raise desire and expectation among US retailers and their customers.
The beauty of Cartier is its appeal to both male and female watch lovers in addition to its jewelry fans.
For me, there is no watch brand on the planet that has greater potential to challenge Rolex.
Walk into any coffee shop flashing a Cartier timepiece, and and as many people will know it signals success as would be the case with a Rolex.
This is crucial, because the first truly expensive watch that most people buy is as a reward to themselves for their success. Nothing today does the job like a Rolex, but Cartier is close.
The added incentive for retailers to embrace this idea is the appeal to both men and women. This is an Achilles heal for most Swiss watch brands, but not for Rolex, and certainly not for Cartier. Arguably Cartier has the edge in this department because of its jewelry and the 100 year heritage of its mostly ladies’ Tank watch family.
I believe Cartier has the cut-through that could make it as successful for a corner shop-in-shop as Rolex, particularly in America where jewelry has greater strength than in Europe.
The brand, itself, may be behind the curve on this, but I hope to galvanize a push for Cartier that will position it as a credible competitor to Rolex for America’s best luxury jewelers.