Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by gdl203, May 20, 2007.
I bet you're Mr. Cool LOL
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).
Prices in Singapore for luxury goods are generally inflated relative to other industrialised economies, much like HK and mainland China. Prices for designer goods, including luxury watches, in Singapore often exceed those in Europe. For example, the MSRP for Church's shoes or other Northhampton shoemakers is often twice of what the MSRP is in the UK. MSRP for many luxury watches in Singapore are typically 10-20% over the MSRP here in Europe/the UK, to the extent that basically even with the customary discount, you're still paying the MSRP in Europe! I was looking at Reverso 1931s in Singapore last year and they were quoting me on the order of £6000 before discount. The 1931 can be had for £5350 at full MSRP here in the UK, and around £4500 if you pick it up in Heathrow in duty free. They weren't offering me much more than a 15% discount, so really not much of a savings if any. Basically I put it down to a hyper-materialistic, super money conscious, upper middle-class and noveau riche for whom wearing a luxury watch, driving a luxury car, etc. is a must-have status symbol, and for which they are willing to pay silly money.
The boutiques are least likely to discount well, whereas some of the larger multi-brand dealers (e.g. Sincere, HG) are more likely to swing a deal. I think the parent companies keep the boutiques on a tighter leash. I've often found that the stand-alone boutiques often offer less competitive pricing than Sincere, HG, etc. when I've enquired.
Many thanks - . Any accuracy issues?
No problems with mine. Keeps great time.
The only problem is finding them. I wouldn't mind a silver face one myself.
Agreed, one other thing though besides the whole hyper-materialistic money conscious people driving the prices up. When i lived in singapore about 10 years ago, prices for Gucci, Prada etc were about the same as they were in the USA. I.E a pair of Gucci shoes was about 700ish SGD which divided by the exchange rate at the time worked out to about 400ish USD. When i came back the exchange rate is now 1.2 and the prices are still like 700ish for a pair of shoes.
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.
^^ no doubt i am biased, but i think that although they will never be considered top tier, some of the top of lines JLC are right up there with the best imo ^^
thanks, that will provide with some late night reading.
i quite like them both, the speedy will be easier to dress up, but its a really a personal decision imo, they are both great.
very cool stuff, but the zeitwerk is one of my grails, you make me sad with this report.
IMO, IWC has really taken off in Asia/Oceania. It is one of the "default" options considered by newbie or aspiring WISes, the sort that do a little internet searching and reading up before purchasing.
I would attribute the "unfashionable association with suburbia" for Rolex to the very very high visibility of Rolex ad copy, as opposed to some inherent tackiness with the brand.
The "lifestyle of McMansions, large SUVs, shopping malls, office parks, etc" is IMO to a significant degree one of conspicuous consumption and social signalling, and it would logically follow that a popular, high visibility prestige brand like Rolex does well with that segment of the population, not unlike BMW. Sort of like the lazy way out for someone who wants something "better" but doesn't want to do tons of research prior.
Think about the reverse scenario - a, say GO or JLC, would be completely unfit for the purpose of signalling wealth/achievement to fellow middle-upper class peers.
That is of course not to say that all Rolex owners are lazy with research or into conspicuous consumption, but I think it's a fair statement to say that there are Yachtmaster or Leopard print Daytona or jeweled Day-Date owners...
...and then there are Explorer I or no-date Submariner owners.
Yes there are people that buy a Rolex in an effort to show off. However, there is also a huge segment of Rolex buyers that are not WISs. They walk into a dealer with the idea of treating themselves to one good watch to last the rest of their life (they may even buy a his & her set). They have heard of Rolex, the dealer tells them its a good, sturdy, reliable watch. its versatile, and will last them the rest of their lives. They walk out with a DJ in steel or steel and gold, or if they splurge they buy a Day-Date. They want one watch to wear forever, they were never going to buy something exotic and delicate such as an FP Journe or a Calatrava, as those are not going to fit their lifestyle...those are for a WIS. In addition, the pricing on a steel and gold model is far below something from PP, AP, Lange, etc...so those were never going to be considered. You get some overlap in pricing on an all gold Rolex and some "Moderate to less expensive" Pateks, APs, VCs, but realistically as much as I love those brands...if I could only have one watch to last the rest of my life for every activity, I would easily go with some form of Rolex...the others are just more delicate and I don't think would hold up as well in say 30 years of daily use.
I might need to add that small IWC portuguese to my short list
Dino, thanks again for an excellent post which I think reveals that we're not very far apart on substance but are approaching the question from somewhat different directions. Responses to a few points raised:
1. I'm also not terribly impressed with watch advertising or any advertising for that matter as, like most educated people, I try to avoid being manipulated by marketing or paid celebrity endorsements. I did enjoy your rant about limited editions, which have clearly gotten out of hand. My point was about the mainstream perception of the brands in the retail and secondary markets, and how such perceptions may be evolving due to (i) increasing associations with unfashionable subcultures in the case of Rolex or (ii) focused and consistent marketing campaigns in the case of some other brands.
2. On pricing, it's plausible that Rolex wants to fill the void left by Patek etc. for $10k-15k SS sport watches. The wrinkle is that Patek's brand had always been associated with expensive precious metal watches so one could more easily understand the tradeoff of substantially increasing margins on high-volume lower-end models while only slightly diluting their brand for higher-end pieces. I'm pretty skeptical that Rolex has the "luxury" (pun not intended) to "borrow" brand equity from elsewhere in their product range in order to justify such price increases to the market. I'm probably too interested in watches to be objective but if I saw this narrative in a different industry I'd think the brand is recklessly abandoning market share at its current price tier. No surprise that Omega is rapidly expanding its range of SS sport watches with MSRP $4-8k.
3. On lifestyle, I'd note that I do actually like many Rolex watches and if stranded on a desert island, I may choose a Rolex to keep me company. However, I view "desert island" and "urban living" as two ends of a spectrum, with suburban living somewhere in between. I've lived in the suburbs and enjoyed the feeling of autonomy and independence because everyone does their own thing with little competition or social pressure to conform to norms and standards, at least with respect to personal presentation. In contrast, in a city there's a great deal of transparency with respect to what people are up to, and a widespread preoccupation with being associated with what cool and informed people are up to (plus a pathological fear of being left out, or missing out, cf. Styleforum). A few reasons for this phenomenon include (i) exposure to brands and advertising, inspiring curiosity for further research into those brands and markets (ii) exposure to wealthy, famous and/or trend-setting people, (iii) close quarters at home, bars/restaurants, offices, and public transportation, (iv) a snobbish perception of rural/suburban culture as backward. I'm painting a caricature of some monolithic "urban culture" as pretty rotten and shallow, but it's not all so negative. For young and materialistic people, it's (perversely) enjoyable to be surrounded by people who are well dressed and conversant with luxury goods.
Returning to watches, if I was truly in love with a Rolex model maybe I'd think differently, but as it stands I'd personally be uncomfortable to wear a Rolex as I'm pretty sure that people around me would notice and draw undesirable inferences without a chance for me to respond and make the WIS arguments in its favor. Frankly most people I know don't wear watches or wear Casio-type utilitarian watches, so to wear an expensive shiny watch in the first place is pretty expressive. To wear a Rolex is to make the statement that you felt the need to spend [$5,000] for the same luxury experience desired by a McMansion-dwelling frat boy
I've also noticed that IWC has made huge leaps in brand recognition. It's more explainable with AP, given all the references in Jay Z and Kanye lyrics, but I've been surprised how IWC invariably comes up when I try to talk about watches with non-watch people. My guess is a combo of a modern and serious sounding brand name and good internet presence (not to mention the watches!)
sidebar - rolex is the number one advertiser in terms of money spend per year, they are often double the #2 spot. they are the most visible high end watch brand. with a lot of eyeballs, comes a lot of scrutiny. for better or for worse.
also, i do think the prices have gotten a bit too high. however, even if they are abandoning their previous price tier/market share, if they are still crushing it in their new higher price point, there is really no reason in the world they should stop.
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