Opinion: Conversations with a WIS and a non-WIS about the same watch brand

Being a WIS, many friends approach me for advice about watches.

It could be how does a particular complication work? [Google it.]

Why makes 1 watch brand better than the other? [Perception.]

How to get the best deal for a particular model? [Snipping on online auctions helps.Otherwise buy it on the grey market.]

How best to maintain their mechanical watch? [Hmm, how about avoiding water and regular servicing?]

Where can they get a watch repaired? [Authorised Service Centers if possible.]

Many times, I also neglect the fact that WIS and non-WIS process watch-related information very differently from each other.

Case in point happened very recently with regards to the same watch brand which was very hilarious in how differently they turned out.

The watch brand (here on known as X) which I shall not mentioned by name but do take note that I have nothing against them. They are one of the most well known Swiss watch brands in the world, spending the most on marketing each year and they also have the most number of submissions to COSC. Due to their marketing prowess, it is no wonder they are the default go to brand for people looking to get their first luxury mechanical watch.

Conversation with a non-WIS looking for his first renowned luxury watch (edited for content)

This friend is a commercial pilot who started off with a quartz Tag dive watch, then a quartz Tissot chronograph, and now has both a Seiko cocktail time and green alpinist. He has enough Seikos and wants a Swiss mechanical watch next. This is a completely understandable evolution for anyone making his mark in life and it does not get better than being a pilot.

HE: All the X watches are damn nice. Model 1! Model 2! Model 3!

ME: Get one! The Model 4 Perpetual has some new models this year and they are powered by a new movement. They are also probably the cheapest of the X watches.

HE: But I don’t need a perpetual. There’s also a half gold series right?

ME: Perpetual for X doesn’t mean perpetual calendar

HE: Really? What does it mean then?

ME: And never buy half gold, Totally no value. Just get a full gold X or a full stainless steel X

(at this point, I completely forgot to explain what perpetual for X means)

HE: When I want to buy, I’ll ask you along

ME: No need. Their watches are boring. Nothing complicated. Every year, they have the same designs. Even their sister brand is more interesting.

HE: But that’s because their watches are classic!

At this point, I realised that the overwhelming majority of consumers will agree with my friend and buy a X watch thanks to their superb and persistent marketing. I have nothing against X and they make good watches for their price, just that I would rather spend the money on more interesting brands. Also, I’ll never buy a hideous half gold watch, no matter the brand.

Conversation with a WIS (edited only for privacy, contents completely untouched)

This friend is a fellow WIS who owns many notable watches from Seiko and non Seiko alike. He has a fantastic vintage Doxa dead beat seconds, and a vintage Oris alarm watch!

ME: (Shares a picture of a half gold X watch, egging him to buy one)



Opinion: Why Buy from a Mono-Brand Luxury Watch Boutique?

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.