The multi-faceted benefits of charitable acts


Supporting a charity has become a key marketing initiative for watch brands. aligning a brand with particular causes, whether global or local, allows a company not only to show off its altruistic side but also win more custom. Kathryn Bishop takes a look at some recent ventures.

“A time to help!” stated Hublot, when it announced last month that it would donate 25% of sales from one day’s trading at its US boutiques to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that had violently hit the US east coast.

While it might have given over just 10 hours – most Hublot boutiques in the US open from 10am to 8pm – to raising funds, the PR surrounding the philanthropic move had a much longer lasting effect. Hublot has never released news of exactly how much it raised for relief efforts on that day, but what we can chart is the marketing boon that the announcement made.


The news was picked up by press around the world and surely Hublot fans umming and ahhing over whether to make that long-considered purchase would have jumped on this charity element as a way to persuade themselves it was OK to drop the cash at last. So what we have here is not only a win for charity but a win for Hublot, particularly when this initiative was only run through the brand’s own stores where margins are higher.

This example of an altruistic campaign is only one of a swathe of initiatives that watch brands are involved in, with houses aligning themselves to a plethora of good causes from protecting reefs and providing music therapy to cancer charities and eyesight-saving initiatives. The scope is wide and varied, much like the brands involved, but the opportunity to raise awareness for both parties is undeniably attractive, offering marketing for the brands and the charities, as well as giving retailers an opportunity to promote the timepieces in question locally or host related customer events to help drive sales.

In the UK there are plenty of opportunities for brands and retailers to seize. Findings of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Charities Aid Foundation, based on 2010-11 charitable giving in the UK, shows that six in every 10 adults give to charity, with an estimated £11 billion donated to charity, by adults, in 2010-11. When broken down, about 27% of giving was through buying charitable products, something said to be undergoing resurgence, while 15% was through the hosting of charitable events, certainly food for thought for retailers or brands considering the benefits of bringing watches and charity together.

Help at a local level
Here in the UK a number of watch brands have collaborated with retailers or otherwise UK charities to build wider awareness.
In October London retailer WatchWarehouse took stock of an exclusive pair of Marc by Marc Jacobs timepieces to raise money for Andi’s Fund, a breast cancer charity. The black and steel models boasted hot pink details on the dial, in reference to the pink colour associated with breast cancer charities, and WatchWarehouse put 200 of the watches up for sale, with 50% from each sale being donated to Andi’s Fund.

Similarly, in late October Northern Irish retailer Nigel O’Hara sold a Guess timepiece for more than 10 times its RRP, raising funds for a children’s ward at Craigavon Area Hospital. The gent’s NYTLYF Tiesto Rigor Multifunction watch typically has an RRP of about £150 but sold on the night for £1,500. It also sold a D&G model for £1,100.

“We knew people would bid on the watches we had given, but even we could not have predicted that one would be snapped up for £1,100,” says Richard O’Hara director Nigel O’Hara. “We are so glad to have been part of it and it was really fantastic that the money raised amounted to thousands of pounds.”

Sweet sound of charity
While a charity single might be a musical way to raise money, several watch brands have also been savvy enough to team up with musical charities or music-based initiatives to combine two specialised areas to win funds and support.

Raymond Weil UK has supported the Silver Clef Awards for 11 years, an event that acts as the main fundraising platform for the Nordoff Robbins charity that provides musical therapy for people of all ages.

On the day of the 2012 event more than £425,000 was raised for Nordoff Robbins and was attended by music stars including Kylie Minogue, Sir Tom Jones, Tinie Tempah, Jessie J, Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Emeli Sande and Michael Buble. Raymond Weil donated a VIP night out at the O2 arena to see Jessie J perform as well as a limited-edition Freelancer watch from this year’s BRIT Awards, which was bought by singer Buble, who battled it out – at the end bidding against himself to raise the price – to win the lot, ending the frenzy at £10,000, all of which went to Nordoff Robbins.

Last month in London Glam Rock, an American fashion brand distributed by IBB London, hosted an auction to raise money for the Amy Winehouse Foundation, a project created to combat the effects of drug and alcohol misuse in young people, following the star’s death from alcohol poisoning last year.

One of four bespoke, interchangeable watches was sold to raise money for the initiative, with the other three due to be auctioned in the coming year. The watch was sold with a box, four click-on bezels and three straps, and on the night of sale raised a total £2,000 at auction.

Big brands, big benefits
At the mid to top end of the market, luxury brands have long worked with charities to both show their support of good causes and give customers a chance to buy into being beneficiaries.

For the past 10 years Chopard has worked closely with the Elton John Aids Foundation, producing a new timepiece each year that helps to raise funds for the charity this year, this year hosting a special afternoon tea and Elton John concert in Moscow.
The latest model, designed with a large case, rose gold and diamond details, a self-winding movement and in a numbered series, was jointly designed by singer Elton John and Chopard boss Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele, who are long-time friends.

“We initially met at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival and it was then that I chose to support his fight against Aids,” says Gruosi-Scheufele. “Elton is a connoisseur and collector of watches and jewellery. I hope the new Elton John-designed watch collection will appeal to others as much as it does to him. The fight against Aids is an ongoing struggle, tirelessly pursued by the Elton John Aids Foundation.”

As well as Hublot’s bid to help sufferers of Hurricane Sandy, it has many other charitable endeavours, including a very special boxing night held this year that raised $1 million (£627,000) for charity World Boxing Cares, an initiative that takes famous boxers on tours of children’s hospitals, orphanages and youth centres to “encourage them to keep up the fight”.

The fundraising evening in September brought together boxing talent from past and present – including Mike Tyson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Lennox Lewis – in Las Vegas to auctions off one-of-a-kind Hublot timepieces.

Hublot has also teamed with Manchester United football club for charity catwalk shows that support the Manchester United Foundation, an initiative that supports young people to develop confidence and skills on a global level.

Providing lifelines
Other charitable initiatives led by brands put money back in to health and medical charities, with Omega flying the flag – quite literally – for a charity called Orbis, which operates a flying eye hospital on a plane, an initiative that has helped to cure avoidable blindness in remote communities in 89 countries.

The brand took its ambassador Daniel Craig on a trip with the Orbis team to Mongolia where the 007 actor met villagers having eyesight treatment made available through the charity and shot a promotional video about his experiences. Omega also released a special-edition timepiece, the Hour Vision Blue, with Omega pledging at least US$1 million (£627,000) from its sales to Orbis,

Richard Mille has also used star power to promote its charitable endeavours when it signed actress Natalie Portman, golfing star Bubba Watson and tennis ace Rafa Nadal as the faces of limited-edition timepieces designed to raise funds for international charity Free The Children. Portman herself will no doubt place an ethical slant on the timepiece she designs, having been snapped at Richard Mille’s announcement of the intended charity lines wearing a conflict-free diamond-set RM 007, complete with natural rubber strap.

As noted, children are often the focus of charitable giving, and this year IWC launched its sixth drawing competition for a child’s handiwork to adorn the back of a special edition chronograph, the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation watch. The winner of the competition was eight-year-old Kumara Wadu Parami Apsara from Sri Lanka, who interpreted the theme of the competition, “time to inspire”, with a picture showing four young girls happily playing sport.

Five times Olympic champion Steve Redgrave, a supporter of Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, visited Apsara at one of the foundation’s community sport projects in Sri Lanka. “You could see the delight in her eyes and her pride in what she had achieved,” he says. “It’s wonderful to think that the drawing she has made will travel around the world on the back of this watch from IWC and raise money to help other youngsters like her.”

Apsara herself received a laptop as her prize, while IWC made a donation to the project.

Naturally does it
The sea is also a fitting cause for many watch brands, especially those that create divers’ watches, as it can provide a perfect link-up to supporting marine projects or protection charities.

Both Oris and Luminox are involved in such projects, with the former launching its Kittiwake timepiece this year to support a man-made reef project in the Cayman Islands. A percentage of sales of the titanium watches, limited to just 500 pieces, will be donated to the Kittiwake artificial reef project, and the collection has already raised US$15,000 (£10,000) to date.

“The Kittiwake Reef is a desirable diving destination which attracts diving enthusiasts and tourists from around the world,” says Oris vice-president Rolf Struder. “By supporting the project with proceeds from each Oris Kittiwake Divers watch sold we are helping to safeguard the reefs future as a valuable marine ecosystem and source of income for the close knit local community”.

Luminox meanwhile has been producing collaborative timepieces with US Special Ops counterterrorism combat dive instructor, underwater explorer and marine researcher Scott Cassell. Luminox and Cassell have created a number of special-edition watches, including the 3954 Colormark Special Scott Cassell and the professional model, the 1525 Deep Dive Special Scott Cassell. Proceeds from the sales of these dive watches help to support the work carried out through Cassell’s Sea Wolves Unlimited LLC and his Undersea Voyager Project which aim to explore human influence on the sea, as well as protecting marine life.

It is clear that there are endless opportunities for brands at all levels to do their bit for charity, and even if it means starting small and building on the donations through regular events, as the famous phrase goes, every little helps. And in the case of teaming charitable causes and watches, there is no time like the present to take advantage of the benefits of giving.


This article was taken from the December 2012 issue of WatchPro. To read the magazine online, click here.





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