Originally Posted by johanm
Thanks for the detailed response Dino.
On the topic of incremental design changes, Rolex and Panerai should be applauded, and brands like IWC should be chastised for their lack of discipline and year-after-year releasing several original designs that flop out of the gates. Anyway, this is not IMO the basis any dowdy/stodgy characterization of Rolex, but rather their association with unfashionable suburbia - the lifestyle of McMansions, large SUVs, shopping malls, office parks, etc. (cf. the rolexforums "Rolex and Attire" thread referenced above). Panerai, AP, and increasingly IWC have done a great job of creating associations with celebrities, athletes, and other rich/cool/young people. As they continue with the current pace/mode of advertising I think their aspirational factor and corresponding secondary market premium will only increase.
On pricing, I do wonder whether Rolex has fully thought through the psychology of consumers at the different price points. I'm not sure that the market is very large for $10k+ SS sport models, which is where the current trajectory of price increases is taking them. In my experience, past that point the average consumer of luxury watches is looking for either (i) genuine brand prestige (Patek, etc) or (ii) some illusion of brand exclusivity. As a side note, I saw you mentioned JLC - I put them, and to a lesser extent GO, in the "genuine prestige" rather than "illusory exclusivity" category on account of their commitment to technical innovation and performance and fair pricing, which I predict will pay dividends for their brand equity if they can improve their designs (I find their Master range dull/sterile, their sport range overdesigned, and Reversos awkward - none of which are helpful from a resale perspective).
You provided some interesting ideas and a very thought provoking topic, so thank you.
I am not sure that the lifestyle of McMansions, Large SUVs, Shopping Malls, and office parks are specific to Rolex owners. Although, I'm not sure what the association with shopping malls means? Whether that is the owners work in malls, shop at malls or something else? In any event a good friend of mine owns a Patek Chronograph 5070, a Patek Travel Time, a Lange 1 Moonphase, a Master Antoine Platinum 8 Day Reserve JLC, and his most recent watch purchase and bang around watch is a Rolex Daytona...guess what? He drives a large SUV and lives in suburbia...although his home is not a mansion. I asked why he went with a Daytona and not a Nautilus, RO, Overseas, JLC , or maybe a PAM (since he never owned one). He said he had owned a Nautilus an RO in the 1980s, he thought the Nautilus was nice but overpriced and too delicate, the RO left a bad taste in his mouth as his old one never kept good time, the Overseas was too flashy and ugly, JLC does a great dress watch but they have no clue what a sport watch should be and their sporty watches reminded him of the clunky watches Zenith made during the last 10 years, and he thought the PAM wasn't versatile, there are average movements in many, and he thought the thickness made it look like something for guys that need people to notice their watches as it doesn't easily fit under a shirt cuff and its so bulky people can't helpt but notice it. He said in the end a Rolex would give him a durable watch, its not cheap but not insanely expensive for a daily wearer, he liked the design, good resale, and it can be worn easily with casual clothes or a sport coat and dress pants. I also have another friend with a Patek Calatrava, GP chronograph and he lives in a "McMansion" and works in an industrial park. Also, as someone that has lived in various cities, they are fun when you are in school and going to clubs, but when you get a bit older you want a home, a yard with some space between you and neighbors, peace and quiet, and you don't want some of the hassels that come with living in the city... "suburbia" even if less fashionable than a big city like NYC, still has its advantages.
As for advertising and celebrity assocation and special editions that go with them, I am actully not very impressed with AP or IWC. I prefered their ads in the 1980s and 1990...AP going for being exclusive had the slogan "AP...Known Only By Those Who Know." IWC had some clever ads about being watches for men and discussing the attributes of their watches. IWCs recent ads to be honest, I can't really remember the theme. Patek has photos of a dad and son (you merely take care of the watch for the next generation), VC had their ads about showing significant milestones in human achievement and then mentioned how old the brand was when the milestones were reached...but I draw a blank on IWC so I'm not sure how great their current ads are. AP's ads of the last few years have shown a watch with a tribal mask or sculpture...I don't understand the ad or see its significance. Thankfully, more recently they have been more focused on the 40th anniversary of the RO. AP is associated with Quincy Jones, JayZ, Lebron James, IWC has been afiliated with Boris Becker, Cousteau, and all great people in their fields, but so what. I wouldn't buy an AP because Jay Z is their ambassador or an IWC because Borris Becker is their ambassador. These are people that get all sorts of perks (be it publicity, watches, or money) for their associations with the brand. Years ago when Carry Grant wore Cartier, or Paul Newman wore a Rolex, it had more meaning because they personally chose these items rather than the brand selecting them and saying please wear this and we will do X,Y and Z for you. I think kids like things that their heros wear, drive, or have...but I've out grown the age of having althetes or musicians as heros.
Also, I find that AP, IWC, and Omega should stop making a tons of limited editions...it waters down their importance and cheapens the brand image. AP has had limited editions for Qunicy Jones, JayZ, Lebron, Juan Pablo Montoya (I believe who left them for another company after just a year) and NSYNC. Not to mention some hideous Montauk Edition Royal Oak, named for a traffic clogged highway in snobby Long Island (my wife is from Long Island and couldn't figure out why they would create a tribute to it). Then there is IWC with a Cousteau watch, Borris Becker Watch, a Prada Edition, Galapagos Edition, Miami Vice, Jackie Chan, and thats just a small fraction of their limited editions. Their only really worth while tributes are to Kurt Klaus (developer of the the perpetual calendar mechanism in the original DaVinci and an all around gentleman) and FA Jones, the founder of the company. And since I'm talking about limited editions...Omega ought to get off the band wagon...there are too many 007 watches, colorful Speedys for Michael Andretti and Michael Schumacher (who is now with AP), and anniversary Moonwatches every 5 years, and the Snoopy Speedy Pros. Colgate and Crest make good toothpaste, perhap AP would like to make a Colgate Edition Royal Oak, and IWC could do a tribute to celebrate feminine hygene and create the Summers Eve Edition Portugese, and Omega could go on to celebrate 50 years of the Pilsbury Dough Boy with a Speedy Pro Dough Boy Edition. The race to make more limited editions to work collectors into a frenzy has really become ridiculous!
As for Rolex pricing, any company hitting the $10,000 mark tends to lose a lot of potential customers. However, they are only are headed toward ranges that have already been vacated by the top brands such as PP, AP, and VC. Many of their steel watches are in the high teens or 20s. Although, those companies have a much smaller annual production figures so they don't have to find as many customers. As someone that bought his first good watch a steel GMT master at roughly age 14, for $900 ...the current prices are tough to swallow...then again in 1999 a steel Nautilus had an MSRP of around $9,600 and I could have bought it new from the AD with a discount for around $6,000...now a Nautilus is in the mid 20s so prices have gone up across the board. I guess Rolex better hope that their customers incomes go up as quickly as the price increases...although I'm not sure that is likely in this economy or where they say the current generation might be the first generation to NOT do as well financially as their parents.
As for JLC...I think they make a fantastic watch. Based on an article I read I see them as in between the top tier brands and the brands just below. Everything you said about them is true. However, they have always given their best movements and products to top companies such as PP, AP, and VC and then used slightly lesser movements in their own pieces so as not to compete with the top brands they supply. I think they are a great brand and they could be a top brand if they chose to be, but traditionally they have chosen to stay just slightly below the top brands. They represent a great value and have a loyal following, but it will be tough for them to reach beyond the point where they are. Names like PP, AP, and VC have status and reputations...that JLC doesn't have and may never attain. Still the advantage is it provides true enthusiasts with a great product at a reasonable price.
Edited by Dino944 - 2/2/13 at 7:13pm