The Watch Appreciation Thread - Page 1438
Styles mentioned in this thread:
Great recent posts from Dino, mimo and stitchy about the evolving relationships of ADs and manufacturers. There are a few 100+ year old relationships that Patek has with the Tiffanys and Wempes of this world that might stand such tests, but all I've heard about Rolex is what others have posted about it too about tightening the screws on their dealers, past relationships be damned.
On a lighter note, a friend of mine is headed up to Geneva for a week to be wined and dined by the Patek higher ups, all expenses paid. Perhaps Sandrine Stern will tempt him with ornate engraved cases and other such "innovative" new designs. This one is c/o one of Patek's leading ADs in the US so obviously if you're moving inventory for a manufacturer, it is in their interest to keep their relationship with you.
Not even close, ChicagoRon!
The AT's dial/hands are a direct reference to the Omega Ranchero, a model which debuted in the late 1950s. In turn the design DNA of the Rachero has its origins in 3 iconic Omega models - the (original) Speedmaster, the (original) Seamaster 300, and the (original) Railmaster - all released in the mid 1950s.
(the original Ranchero)
Note that the Rolex Explorer has only been around since the early 1950s, and in the form we recognise today only since the mid 50s.
So a contemporary, yes. A homage, no.
Edited by apropos - 6/5/13 at 7:43pm
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i tend to agree with dinos prediction, if things continue to move in this direction.
im honestly not sure how i feel about it. essentially, its the concept of a manufacturer going straight to the public. not too different than if ford or chevy or jaguar started opening up their own dealerships and selling direct to the public. or if general mills or quaker oats opened up little stores and pulled their foods and drinks from grocery stores. there are many examples, they are not all exactly the same, but the idea in basic form is pretty similar.
i always assumed that the notion was, that manufacturing and selling to authorized dealers to then sell to the public, was a simple business structure decision. selling to the public one person at a time, and servicing that sector is very different than manufacturing and selling "wholesale." for them to go into the retail business is no small change, and essentially requires building an entire secondary business within their business. more employees, more real estate, more and smaller single transaction values, service.... all the things that go into the retail industry, and that is not a simple task. and until now, they felt that is was not worth it to enter that mix.
for one reason or another, the manufacturers have decided to take on that hurdle. hell, you can even buy online direct from cartier, JLC and chopard, and im sure there are more.
now is this unfair to ADs? if you ask them, im sure they will say yes. but on the other hand, they have essentially been a middle man for manufacturers that did not want to go into the hassle of selling to retail customers, when they are producing such large quantities of product, and can sell in bulk to retailers. now they have decided to change that.
does it suck for ADs? sure. does it suck for people who want cheaper prices? sure. (side-note, to bring prices down, all people have to do is stop buying, and supply and demand will dictate price drops, but there will seemingly always be buyers at full retail, and so, the machine keeps churning.)
but as far as the brands are concerned, they are in the business of making money. especially nowadays when almost al brands are only subsidiaries of giant corporate luxury conglomerates. and they feel this investment in selling direct to the public is advantageous to them. its certainly well within their right to sell their product as they see fit, is it not?
do they owe it to the public to continue getting discounts, essentially making their MSRP a joke? do they owe it to keep supplying ADs and stay out of the way, so those business owners can make a living, or get rich, off of the brand product while the ADs continue to discount and effectively under value the brand? hard to say. im not sure what the right answer is.
its certainly interesting, and only the future will tell if the brands are making a brilliant move, or setting themselves back by years and will eventually implode. i for one, am watching closely.
I think the boutique idea can be very successful for large volume companies or companies under a very strong umbrella (Richemont). Cartier has had boutiques all over the world for decades. They have a business model and they know how to make it work. Supposedly they closed down more than 140 ADs within the last 3 years. Some boutiques will go into markets that have enough sales of their products through ADs. In midsize markets and more remote markets they will leave AD's in place if they do enough business. Small ADs...adios! I think lower volume Richemont companies like VC we will see boutiques here and there more to show a presence (NYC, Vegas, BH) rather than as a true business necessity. Really, small production companies, such as Lange, we may or may not see 1 boutique say in NYC (for show).
A brand like Rolex has money to blow, so even if it costs them some money to set up some boutiques, and I while to find the right model to make it work, they have the money to weather out the storm and eventually make their boutiques profitable.
The days of big discounts on watches from ADs are gone. I won't bore you guys with details, but lets just say, my father could get 30-40 off Pateks, I could get 35% off VCs and JLCs, 25% off Cartiers, 15% off steel Rolex(except Daytonas). AD's are afraid of being punished, with loss of franchise, being sent large batches of harder to sell merchandise, being forced to carry ridiculous amounts of inventory etc. The deals that were available 10 years ago or more are gone.
Beyond being disappointed about not getting the deals I used to be able to get, I am sad to see ADs I liked lose brands I am interested in purchasing. It makes it tougher for me to continue a relationship with them.
However, I do understand why some brands, want to open more boutiques. They have control over pricing, stock of more sought after models, and the profit from a sale goes completely to them. They are not merely getting a portion of the sale, so that a middleman/AD can make a profit even after a discount.
Either way, whether one lives in an area with ADs or Boutiques or both, I think discounts will be much smaller than what we were traditionally used to years ago, and in some cases they may be non existent.
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I think what they're doing with outlets doesn't necessarily mean they are owning the outlets themselves. Certainly internationally, local agents remain the owners. But the point is control, by minimising the number of outlets, controlling stock and keeping a fierce eye on pricing. In the small market where I live, I think there's been a good demonstration of these trends over the last year or so:
- One leading dealer (PP, AP, AL, JLC and many more) has had to open two expensive new boutiques for Patek and Panerai, right next to their large new outlet. Or lose the agency. No negotiation. Last time I looked, the Patek boutique had four watches. Panerai opened with ten.
- Swatch group have now consolidated every one of their brands except Breguet (still with the guys above), with a regional agency covering several countries. That company has NO service centre in this country! The long-standing Omega agent of old, thankfully, does, and fixed mine in a day despite no longer being the official dealer. The new super-agent dicked me around for three months. I doubt they care; it's all about the brand prestige of designated, high-profile outlets. There is now a designated Omega boutique, two Swatch-only outlets, and several others divided in groups of brands - mainstream Swiss, and tacky pseudo-designer. The boutique that carries Blancpain and GO has three of the former and only one of the latter.
- Rolex have kept their agents (who also have Cartier, Chopard, Piaget, GP, IWC and a few others) and share a boutique and service centre with those other brands. But the boutique, that cost $2.6 million to set up (I had a meeting with the owner the other day), was effectively designed with Rolex in mind. They chose their space and designed it. Cartier and Chopard squabbled for second place, and each in turn specified their "section". Of course, every stick of furniture and decor was Swiss-made and specified. Actually the opening of the Panerai boutique above was delayed several times while they quibbled over finishing on the (compulsory) furniture and fittings). The service centre is the Rolex service centre, with everything down to tools and coffee coasters, Rolex branded. Whichever brand they're actually dealing with.
Another interesting thing re. discounts: a mutual friend of mine and the Rolex-and-others boutique owner's, told me he got a "20% discount on Rolex" through that friendship. Normal practice in this market is to over-price, because everyone expects a discount. They gave me 15% in the shop as soon as I walked in the door, but that's a BS discount that took it down to equivalent US RRP. So basically, even the billionaire owner of the Rolex dealer was only giving 5% to his billionaire friend. I figured from other things he said that there is just no room to mess with Rolex, on any level. When we met last week, he'd been in Switzerland recently. He was visiting Patek (as a customer), and chatting with the top people. He tells me the PP and Rolex sites are almost next to each other, with a L'Oreal factory in between. PP have bought the latter. But as they put it, they could only buy it "because Rolex allowed it"!
So what does all this add up to? Well, it means if you're a small family business, forget about landing (or keeping) any watch agencies. They want major investment and increasingly, their own designated boutiques, even in a small market.
And it also means never, ever fuck with Rolex.
I've seen several family owned jewelry stores in our area that were Rolex ADs for 50+ years recently lose their contracts with Rolex.
Rolex is quite possibly the most important brand a dealer can carry. I remember one AD telling me Rolex can make or break a month for a store, while brands like Lange, Patek, AP, VC, etc are nice window dressing for collectors...but most ADs can't survive on them alone.
So basically if an AD has Rolex or can get them (very tough to get a new account with them these days), ADs will do anything it takes to make Rolex happy.