What a Luxury Watch can say About you

An assets worth is only as much as a buyer is willing to pay for it. Establishing that worth through the brand’s identity so that its products no longer appear just as commodities, more so as necessities, should be an aspiration for any luxury brand looking for a legacy. Some luxury brands do this effortlessly, their quality and heritage making them appear as a natural and essential integration into the everyday lives. A key factor that can assist in the tailoring of that identity is the relaying of information that informs what that luxury brand’s about; the fine art of advertising.

The art of advertising is getting more creative and heartfelt. In fact, ‘From the heart’ advertising now seems to be the most effective way in which to cut through the rain to reach desensitised consumers that have adapted to the daily flood of ads. Stories are the preferred vehicle in which this form of advertising is delivered through, entwining branded products with the emotions experienced through storytelling. They allow a brand to express its passion and desired image through a narrative which can portray a brand’s identity, themes and values, without directly raising awareness to the fact that it’s advertising itself.

Luxury Watch Brands in Film and Stories

James Bond’s Omega Watch

 “A luxury brand must tell a story.” (1)


You only have to read the YouTube comments of this clip to view just how effective product placement is, although the 20 fold sales increase (3) which the limited edition Omega James Bond watch gave Omega SA is probably more exemplary. The strategy of embedding products in films is one which can be very beneficial for a brands image (as well as the films budget), through indirectly placing a brands narrative within another narrative. It is the indirection of this form of advertisement which makes it effective, as it is not provoking awareness to the fact that you are being advertised to. The method can be said to synergise the product’s and character’s identity.

“When we watch a liked character use a brand, we can start to automatically identify with the brand as a way to vicariously experience that character’s life.” Ian Zimmerman, 2013 (4)

To say that if you own an Omega Seamaster you are like James Bond is a step too far, but as a result of the emotional link you establish to that character during the narrative, it can influence the way in which you view a product they may interact with, through the process of self-identification.

The Omega Moon watch is another model from Omega SA which is advertised through a means of self-identification. The story of the Omega Speedmaster, A.K.A The Moon Watch, was the first watch to enter space, journeying past the border into the final frontier on Buzz Aldrin’s wrist in 1969. It’s a historic event which was utilised by Omega thereafter to market the Speedmaster, with the inscription ‘The First Watch Worn on the Moon.’ on the newer models casing. The inclusion of the inscription gives the watch an identity as an iconic prop in the history of humanity, inviting you to participate in the story of how humanity went to the moon.

Rolex – Luxury, Success and Quality through Star Imagery

The original choice of watch brand for James Bond, Rolex is a luxury watch brand that has firmly made its mark on the world and established itself as an iconic symbol of the luxury watch world. James Bond wore a Rolex up until the Bronson years, but the product placement strategy of Rolex has seen the luxury wristwatch adorn the wrist of many other stars and actors. From American Psycho (2000) with the character Patrick Bates, played by Christian Bale, wearing a Rolex Datejust (but not in any of the scenes in which he murders people of course, bad for product image) to Ben Afflick’s main character wearing a Rolex Deepsea Sea-Dweller (DSSD) in Argo (2011), Rolex has gone through great lengths to ensure its image of high quality and value is reflected through the wrists of stars. It is a brand that’s value is portrayed heavily through its imagery and so its need for advertisement through product placement and star association is essential.

Rolex Deepsea Sea Dweller
Rruegger. Distributed under a CC BY 3.0. Rolex Oyster Perpetual Sea-Dweller DEEPSEA

It was a strategy that Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, began in 1927 when the Rolex Oyster was worn around the neck of the first woman to swim the English Channel – Mercedes Gleitze. As the Rolex Oyster was the first water proof watch, the gesture of the swimmer wearing the watch around her neck demonstrated its capability to eyes and ears across the world that were following Mercedes story (5).

Although Rolex can be said to rely on the image of its brand to sell the watches it makes, it has also achieved other feats of horology advancement as well as creating the first waterproof watch. The brand also improved the design of the self-winding watch, used as the foundation for the Rolex Oyster Perpetual model. One feat which a Rolex also came under the spotlight can be found in the history of the Rolex Submariner; a watch created out of the desire to create a wearable luxury sports watch. It was in September 1953 that Rolex proved the brands capability, with the stunt of attaching a Rolex watch to a Bathyscaphe deep-diving submarine that went 3131.8 meters down into the ocean depths and emerged with the watch still ticking (6). A similar stunt was achieved in 1960, when a prototype Rolex Oyster was attached to the outside of submarine Trieste which reached the deepest point in the ocean, the Challenger depth in the Marina Trench, and came out of the test running as it had done so above water (6).

Tudor Wristwatch Campaign

The history of Tudor watches shows it being strongly promoted in the 1950s as the working man’s affordable Rolex; an entry level luxury watch. The advertisements gave focus to the men adorning the watch in laborious professions helping to shape the identity of the watch for the working man. It was a brand of watch that came to be used in the French and US military, which gave further credit to its identity of robustness and practicality (7). The Tudor brand’s shift from a rose to a shield captured the brands assertion of this identity.


The reintroduction of the Tudorwatch in 2014, saw the marketing strategy for the watch collection include a short film for the separate models. Each short artistic film contains a small subsequent story positioned to assign an identity to each watch. It’s this identity that they have associated with each model that is attempting to get the viewer to identify with the story through the narrative and emotions experienced within the film. The narrative through which the product is advertised that through using this product you will in some way inhabit the identity portrayed within the short film. The establishment of these identities in the short films allows the brand to reflect its own identity. It is the identity of the brand and its products which gives its consumers the means to express their own identity through its products.

The Interstellar Hamilton Watches (SPOILERS)

Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014) was arguably the science fiction story of last year, taking the viewer on a journey through the stars and how humanity was saved by the perseverance of a family and a Hamilton wristwatch. At special request of the movie makers, Hamilton produced two watches for the film in a matter of weeks, the first of which was based on the Hamilton Khaki Pilot Day Date and the other created for the specific requirements for the film’s plot (9). The first Hamilton watch is used as a direct conduit for the emotional bond between one of the main protagonists Cooper and his daughter Murph; a relationship that the film revolves around. The watch itself becomes the only way in which the father and can communicate with his daughter.

When the Product Speaks for Itself – Patek Philippe Watches

Advertisement for well-established luxury brands is still essential for their survival, but due to their success they have collated a strong brand identity and history to promote through. For example, Patek Philippe timepieces have established themselves as the luxury collection of watches, but before that, they were the watchmaking company and arguably still are today. The brands story (10) was built as a by-product of achieving remarkable feats in horology and evolving their product to adapt to the needs and desires of watch lovers and innovators. These range from creating the very first wristwatch for a Countess in search of a new stylish piece of jewellery, to fashioning the world’s most expensive watch as part of a friendly competition between friends.

They are a brand whose quality of product, innovation and heritage has built up a solid legacy based on a sense of timelessness instilled in their watches. Royalty (11) took to wearing the Patek Philippe brand long ago and now modern famous musicians (12) have even become part of the Patek Philippe customer collective, such as Ed Sheeran who owns a Nautilus model. It is this idea of an enduring legacy that Patek Philippe has built an advertising campaign around, using the bond of father and son to tie in the value of quality and timelessness with their product.


While the quality of Patek Philippe watches was enough to maintain the product placement is not above the brand (nor should it be). The unnamed wheelman of Drive (2011) is arguably one of the coolest characters to feature on the big screen and so would anything other than a Patek Philippe do for him to monitor the golden 5 minute window of which he is getaway driver without equal? No, no it wouldn’t. In the original book on which the film was based, the Driver owns a watch passed down to him by his father so the choice made by the prop master to make it a non-functioning one of a kind Patek Philippe (with Gosling’s input) is an ideal selection.

They portray their watches as heirlooms and it is the quality of the products they produce, like the Patek Philippe Calatrava model, combined with their centuries of mastering horology that has ensured their brands legacy. In a sentence, Patek Philippe made their story more so than focusing on telling it (14).

“Advertising (wherever you can!) is central to effectively marketing a product and is a process of indoctrination (…)” Blake-Coleman, 2005 (15)

Patek Philippe is a brand that watch enthusiasts have always respected and aspired to. This has carried over into the digital age. Across forums, list blog posts and articles, all agree to some extent that Patek Philippe is one of the most superior watch making brands there is. It is the quality of the product that has carried this identity along Patek Philippe’s road and has assisted with the brands marketing, with digital word of mouth helping to maintain their brands reputation.

Watches to Tell your Story

The desire for these products is constructed from a portrayal or a demonstration of the way in which someone’s own story should play out. It sets a standard to relatable life scenarios (who doesn’t want to fall in love or have something they can leave behind for the people that matter the most?). Self-identification can take place through these narratives and put into pictures lives that people can aspire to. They portray a standard of living that can be achieved if you purchase the product that’s used in the narrative. That is why one of the best strategies a luxury brand can deploy is to convince its audience that it’s not a luxury brand at all, that it is in fact an integral prop to your story that can help express who you are. The idea of legacy has also been demonstrated in the advertising of some luxury brands. It was inherent in marketing strategies like the De Beers ‘Diamonds are Forever’ campaign and is still present in Patek Philippe’s through the story ‘You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.’. It suggests that the stories these products symbolise have become legacy items. It’s something that lends to a feeling of securing an identity and permanence, something that is hard to come by in our modern ever-changing world.



(1) Brittonmdg, 2014. What Makes a Luxury Brand?. [online] Available at: <http://www.brittonmdg.com/the-britton-blog/what-makes-a-luxury-brand/> [Accessed 14 May 2015]

(2) Romackas, 2008. Omega. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB5hzlDe10c> [Accessed 14 May 2015]

(3) TheJewelleryEditor, 2014. The Watches of James Bond: A Journey through 007 Watch History as Bond Rehearses for his 2015 Role. [online] Available at: <http://www.thejewelleryeditor.com/2014/09/james-bond-watches-007-rolex-omega/> [Accessed 14 May 2015]

(4) PsychologyToday, 2013. Product Placement Can Be A lot More Powerful Than We Realise. Available at <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sold/201303/product-placement-can-be-lot-more-powerful-we-realize> [Accessed 14 May 2015]

(5) CrownandCaliber, 2014. The Rolex Watch Brand Image. [online] <http://www.crownandcaliber.com/style-guide/the-rolex-watch-brand-image/> [Accessed 20th May 2015]

(6) Fratellowatches, 2014. Rolex Submariner – Historical Overview of a Diving Legend. [online] <http://www.fratellowatches.com/rolex-submariner-history/> [Accessed 20th May 2015]

(7) Hodinkee, 2015. Hans Wilsdorf’s Intuition. Available at <http://tudorwatch.hodinkee.com/heritage/> [Accessed 15 May 2015]

(8) TudorWatch, 2014. TUDOR Style. Available at: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZoRBPuhc5Q> [Accessed 21st May 2015]

(9) BusinessInsider, 2014. Watch Lovers are going Crazy for the Model seen in Interstellar. [online] <http://uk.businessinsider.com/the-watch-from-interstellar-is-remarkable–but-its-not-for-sale-2014-11> [Accessed 20 May 2015]

(10) Patek, 2015. Origins. Available at: <http://www.patek.com/en/company/origins> [Accessed 14 May 2015]

(11) Wikipedia, 2015. Patek Philippe & Co. [online] Available at <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patek_Philippe_%26_Co.#Watches_owned_by_royalty> [Accessed 14 May 2015]

(12) Monochrome-watches, 2014. Watching Celeb Watches: Ed Sheeran, a Young but Tasteful Collector. [online] Available at <http://monochrome-watches.com/watching-celeb-watches-ed-sheeran-young-tasteful-collector/> [Accessed 14 May 2015]

(13) Leeds & Son Fine Jeweler and Watches, 2013. Patek Philippe 2013 Commercial: Leeds & Son Fine Jeweler and Watches. Available at:  <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPCGRg8yGEA> [Accesed 21st May 2015]

(14) Patek, 2015. Product Advertising. Available at: <http://www.patek.com/en/communication/news/product-advertising> [Accessed 14 May 2015]

(15) Blake-Coleman, B., 2005. Brand Names & Product Dynasties. Cirencester: Management Books 2000

About the Author:

Adam is a freelance writer that focuses on luxury asset trends for Borro Private Finance.