How is Virgin Atlantic cooler than Rolex?


Another year, another list of 20 ‘cool’ brands from the appropriately named CoolBrands company.

This year Rolex was conspicuous by its absence, having been included in the list in 2014. But this has left me with a number of burning questions. How are the 20 winners decided? Who is involved in the decision-making process? And who in their right mind came to the conclusion that Virgin Atlantic was cooler than Rolex?

For the record, I appreciate the difficulty of putting together things like ‘top 20s’ (James Buttery and I can testify to just how tricky picking the 100 best watches from 2015 is proving to be).


Working in publishing, I completely understand that if you let a panel of arbitrarily chosen people decide on the winners, then the accusation will be that it’s unrepresentative and unfair. Equally, if you give the entire vote to the public, you will tend to end up with a list that’s either plain stupid or skewed in favour of the brands who are most prominent and proactive on social media.

But enough of the mitigating circumstances. Any list of cool brands loses legitimacy when Rolex is out but Whole Foods Market and Virgin Atlantic are in. I’ve got nothing against those companies by the way. Both are very good at what they do and, in the case of Virgin Atlantic, have spent a lot of money on trendy marketing campaigns. But cooler than Rolex? Not in a million years.

And when was Apple last cool? I think it reached its zenith about five years ago, when any smart phone other than the iPhone was just rubbish. Since then everyone else has caught up and, in many cases, surpassed the original masters of cool. The only time I hear my friends talking about Apple now is to moan about how much the latest iOS software update has slowed down their phone, tablet or watch.

So which elite panel of fashionistas, socialites and trailblazers were responsible for compiling this annual window into the commercial zeitgeist? According to the CoolBrands website, the ‘Expert Council’ (their words, not mine) consisted of, among others: actor Alex Lawther, radio presenter Phil Clifton, and singer-songwriter Ella Eyre (whose version of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot peaked in the UK charts at number 134 earlier this year).

I’ll admit that my finger is not perfectly on the pulse of what’s hot and what’s not in modern culture, but how many of you even know who the above trendy triumvirate are, let alone agreed that it’s right that they should be partly responsible for telling the nation and the world what the UK thinks is cool? Maybe none of us are cool enough to know who’s cool and who’s not cool. Maybe that’s the point. If so, I give up.

For my own amusement I have started a sweepstake in the WatchPro office to guess who will be included in the 2016 list. At the moment my money’s on PG Tips, Werther’s Original or Skoda.

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