Having had the opportunity to work at a mono-brand luxury Swiss watch boutique for the last few months, I would like to share some thoughts on the customers and also the reasons for buying from a mono-brand luxury watch boutique from the point of view of a WIS.
Events leading up to my work in a Luxury Watch Boutique
Having been interested in watches for close to 5 years now, I always wondered how it would be like working at a watch boutique. Given my impending relocation to another country, I got the ball rolling and managed to find a stint in a renowned Swiss watch boutique located in Singapore which is one of the major destinations for luxury watch shopping in this part of the world. The boutique was located strategically in a high-end shopping mall in the Orchard Road shopping belt alongside other esteemed mono-brand boutiques.
What I thought I was getting myself into
Having landed the job I thought I would be in Heaven, handling entry level Swiss watches and super complicated watches, that sell for couple hundreds of thousand, alike. I also expected to hold intelligent and technical conversations with nearly all walk-in customers and also finally have a chance to meet in person all the famous watch bloggers in Singapore whenever they drop in for a visit. I was well aware that a certain percentage of customers would only be interested in the cosmetic aspects and price of a watch and I was mentally steeled to handle these customers and to educate the unwashed masses of watch consumers so that they look beyond the superficial.
What actually happened
1) I did get my wish of handling the entry level two hander watches to the super complicated watches. Think minute repeaters, tourbillons spinning on so many axis that it gets dizzy for me to look at them for long, skeletonised watches, high jewelry pieces that weights a ton, perpetual calendars, etc. Some watches are so complicated I cannot even tell what all their complications are despite referring to the technical guide.
The pain in the ass part is winding each and every single one of them on a daily basis. I finally understand the need and appeal of onion crowns and big crowns. The singularly most difficult watches for me to wind daily are the ladies’ models with the correspondingly small crowns.
2) 99% of watch consumers care only about the looks and the price. WIS are an extinct breed. Technical and intellectual discussions about the merits of certain movements are destined to fail. Having said that, I must also so that on days when I meet true WIS, we can have a lively discussion that last for an hour or two, going from the brand I’m working for to countless other brands. However these are the exception rather than the norm. Is it any wonder then that most sales people only know about the price and the cosmetic aspects of the watch rather than the true technical aspects of the products that they are selling?
3) I did have the opportunity to meet many of the famous watch bloggers in Singapore given that the official boutique opening occurred when I was around alongside the display of SIHH 2015 novelties and also historical pieces. It was truly an eye-opening experience to finally be able to see them in the flesh and hold discussions with fellow WIS.
4) As mentioned above, 99% of watch consumers care only about the price and I must say that we have extremely rich customers as well who can drop tens of thousands of dollars at the blink of an eye. Also most of the customers from a certain part of Asia only likes the most blingy watches that they can get, usually gold pieces with diamonds, and we are talking about guys’ watches here. -shudder-
Why Buy from a Mono-Brand Luxury Watch Boutique?
Back to address the main question of this post: Why buy from a mono-brand boutique when authorized multi-brand dealers can give you a much better price?
We first need to understand why brands want to set up a boutique in the first place. Boutiques are established by watch brands in order to frame the kind of image that they want to portray in the consumers’ mind. Hence the ambience and decoration are all key to establishing this. Compare this to a multi-brand retailer where each brand only has a small display case to portray the image they are trying to bring across.
Given that mono-brand boutiques are here to bring across the image of a brand, it does not then make sense for boutiques to offer discounts as authorized dealers as this will only “cheapen” the image of the brand.
An additional advantage of buying from mono-brand boutiques is that they can offer you swag gifts or brag gifts, which are basically accessories carrying the brand’s logo which can be used in everyday life. For example, name card holders, pens, Colognes, cuff links, watch travel pouches, tie pin, watch winder, notebooks, red packets, cleaning cloth, strap pouches, etc. These are usually not available in multi-brand retailers.
Being a regular customer of boutiques will generally ensure that you will be invited for special events like boutique openings, product launches, etc. These are to ensure that the other brand customers have the opportunity to mingle and show off their time pieces (cross-poisoning each other in my point of view). Many customers also use this opportunity to network with other people with the same interests.
Boutiques usually also have a wider range of time pieces including watches which are boutique-exclusives and are always the first to have any new novelties. Sometimes they are also able to get hold of novelties prototypes which can be tried on by customers who are contemplating to pre-order them.
Boutiques will almost always offer a better service as service is key to upkeep the image for the watch brand.
To conclude, buy from a boutique if you envision building up a strong relationship with a particular brand, or when you are buying a boutique exclusive where price is a secondary consideration.