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CORDER’S COLUMN: Luxury must excite

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Last year’s virtual Watches and Wonders was forgivably dull. I cannot recall a single watch launched at the online series of webinars, although I managed to see many of the 2020 collections in stores over the course of last summer.

They were nice.

I forgive the tedium of the digital presentations last year because covid was brand new to the world when it made physical events impossible and businesses were right to focus on cost cutting and cash management.

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A huge amount of time and money had gone into exhibitions that had to be cancelled at short notice, and nobody had much time to think of anything better to replace them.

A year on and I feel less generous, and the approaching Watchesandwonders.com presentation fills me with dread.

The fact that the oversight committee at La Fondation de Haute Horlogerie is holding a proper show in China, ground zero for the pandemic, even makes me angry, particularly as my request to attend has already been declined.

Of course it is right that there are no mass gatherings in Europe this spring, that much was obvious from around October when the second wave began, and it would be irresponsible to suggest that international travel should be back on the agenda this side of May.

But, because it was obvious from the autumn that alternatives would need to be found, I hope time and talent has been devoted to making this year’s online presentations as theatrical and fun as possible from the multi-billion dollar groups.

Here are a few suggestions:

First, I want to see inside Rolex, the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of the Swiss watch industry.

Why not have Jean-Frederique Dufour in ivy green top hat and tails showing around wide-eyed actors or models.

Submariners tumbling over a waterfall of liquid Rolesor gold would be nice. Children turning funny colours after eating gems from a candy Daytona could inform and entertain. I could go on.

Omega should team up with Elon Musk and Steven Spielberg to create a space-themed odessy with a futuristic story arc, not just a rehash of 1969.

Georges Kern could star in a remake of Easy Rider with a bit of Breitling product placement.

Patek Philippe and Richard Curtis could do something weepy with fathers and sons.

TAG Heuer should send a Steve McQueen hologram into every home.

I gave this list two minutes thought and I’ve already cheered myself up a bit.

Imagine what Richemont, LVMH, Swatch Group, Rolex, Patek Philippe, Chopard, Chanel, Breitling, etc, could do with a full year of planning.

1 Comment

  1. Rob, I feel you. I certainly do. As a professional in the watch space – the pandemic has been nothing short of aggravating given all the restrictions. We humble media folk look on to the big, rich corporations responsible for so much of the production of timepieces – and seek both guidance and inspiration from them. We received a wholesale lack of either since this all began….

    The brands know they cannot shut down for good, but it certainly seems as though they want to. In further jest, consider the concept that luxury is a leech off “good times.” When consumers have extra cash to burn, wish to visually outdo one another, and when morale is high, then timepieces they will buy. If there is a relative lack of good times then what is there to leech off of? These are no companies who know how to create demand for luxury watches nor really innovate in regard to what consumers want.

    Luxury is a purely responsive industry that is incapable of formulating a plan for how to approach a prolonged period of economic malaise. Especially one that involves the entire world. Consider the 2008 economic crisis. Rather than form a new way of doing business in “the West,” the luxury industry simply pushed its focus to China and the East – because of the region’s comparably high economic activity. They more or less left Europe and North America to fizzle out. Now several years since the economic book in China passed its peak, most of the watch industry still doesn’t have a plan for tackling European and American markets. Their levels of investment and attention are minuscule given the size and needs of these markets.

    The watch industry will always be there to serve observable desire for luxury products. Outside of that they flounder about distrusting all, and investing sparingly. You and I my friend simply need to have less of an emotional attachment to the luxury powers that be – as they will more often than not let us down. Assume they will rebound like withered plants when the rains of prosperity drizzle again. Take some additional solace in the fact that most of the good people who work at the brands themselves tend to agree with you. Alas, they don’t control spending budgets…

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Rob Corder

The author Rob Corder