There’s a certain stratum of brands that rely on film stars and athletes to communicate their brand message to their customers. There is a noticeable congruence in price point rather than stylistic similarity: Brands whose products mostly retail between one and five thousand pounds lean heavily on celebrity endorsement. And so this raises two simple questions: Why? And: Is it a good thing?
Why Brands Invest in Famous Ambassadors
There’s a pretty easy (and quite scathing) answer to why these brands focus on this marketing strategy: They need to. The lower down the price brackets you slide, the more value becomes a major sales proposition; the higher up the same scale you climb, prestige and intrinsic quality take over as the main drivers. It’s the awkward middle ground where the majority of industry action takes place. The resulting competition is understandably fierce.
Creating market separation on a level where retail margins prevent mind-blowing complications or the use of incredibly rare materials is very difficult. In this sector of the market, companies rely on branding. Employing a reputable spokesperson is seen as a cost-effective alternative to the painstaking establishment of artificial heritage in the minds of consumers.
With a glance George Clooney can communicate the suave culture of Omega; with a screeching overtake Lewis Hamilton can remind us of TAG Heuer’s willingness to push boundaries and exist on the edge; with a loving family portrait Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf express a grace in retirement that is an emboldening counterpoint to the win-at-all costs attitude they expressed during their careers. In short, it works, but should you, as an investor rather than a consumer, put any stock in it whatsoever?
Stars Fade While Quality Endures
In short, no. As a conscientious investor you should focus on the product and its significance within the wider context of watchmaking, rather than the reputation of the celebrity backer. Unless the watch is a stonewall classic associated with an unpaid hero or heroine (think the Rolex Daytona and Paul Newman or the Heuer Monaco and Steve McQueen), don’t buy a piece based on the guy or girl who’s paid to tell you it’s class.
As cringe-worthy as the Patek Philippe adverts can sometimes be, their products will always have high investment potential, because of their genuine heritage and their intrinsic quality. Look for eternal elements in watches, in design, in materials, in horological mastery; steer clear of fads and fan-boy watches. They won’t stand the test of time, so beware. Buy with one eye on the past and another on the future, never on the brief moment for which a paid celebrity ambassador is at the top of the tree. There’s only one way they can go from there, and you can bet the value of your investment will follow suit.
About the Author
Fell Jensen is a Swiss-trained watchmaker working as an industry analyst.