When examining luxury consumer profiles, it’s important to first define luxury. Where does the concept of luxury come from? There’s nothing innate about it; no magic formula you can execute without verve, passion, or insight; no well-trodden path with a single destination awaiting you at its end. Luxury occurs when an object is created in a moment, by the moments that surround it, for the moments we will remember.
In these trying times, manufacturers are tying themselves in knots to accommodate an evermore-demanding client base. A noticeable spike in special and limited edition watches can be attributed to the clamorous call for exclusivity. How this notion of exclusivity manifests, however, is a question in itself, and one any designer/marketer/manufacturer must bear in mind when tailoring their output to customer demand.
Broadly speaking, there are three types of luxury consumers. Knowing each one is imperative for companies when they hit the drawing board, because it’s imperative to pitch your product effectively.
The first of these characters, and undoubtedly the easiest to satisfy, is the connoisseur. A connoisseur of quality seeks that and that alone. These buyers are likely to buy a commonly regarded stalwart like a Rolex Submariner, or an Omega Speedmaster etcetera. These watch lovers require less of a story (and a lot less massaging) to make a purchase. Their decisions are generally based on rationale and value propositions. But owning something universally regarded as ‘solid’ is not enough for many luxury consumers, much less the ones with the real money muscle…
The Clubman seeks out limited editions as a way to access an exclusive enclave of the industry. Sure, a Speedy is cool, but a limited Speedy? That automatically elevates you above all those thousands upon thousands of connoisseurs who recognise your choice as one of quality, and identify your superior wealth or access by your watch’s limited nature.
This stratum of customer is always growing. Certain brands that run their watches at extremely low numbers appeal to this group. High concept brands like HYT and MB&F focus on this demographic intensely. With almost every model created in restricted numbers, you’re guaranteed a level of exceptionality brands boasting ‘core’ pieces simply cannot match.
Trailblazers don’t want to be like anyone else. These luxury consumers want to stand out from the crowd by sporting one-off pieces created for the super rich, or more standard models sporting high quality after-market modifications (as often performed by Bamford Watch Department and Made Worn).
The bread and butter pieces chased by the trailblazer are often obscenely expensive, but remarkable for their uniqueness and execution. For truly trailblazing watchmaking, look to the independents producing true one offs – Voutilainen, Romain Jerome, or Richard Mille offer excellent examples of off-the-wall creations that will mark you as a man or woman of discernment.
About the Author
Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.