Apart from a few rare, exceptional timepieces that are kept by Houses for patrimony purposes, watches, from the simplest to the most beautiful and complicated, are made to be sold. And to sell them, a brand must identify a target, define the brand persona, and develop key messaging to correctly communicate the values it wishes to convey.
At Baselworld 2010, the late Mr. Nicolas G. Hayek expounded upon the importance of ‘the message’. “It is the message, not the image that sells,” he explained. “Every brand has a message. From the beginning of the Swatch Group, I do not like to hear talk about the image of the brands. Because image is something static… I have always said to talk instead of messages. What is the message of the Swatch watch brand?” “When we launched the Swatch brand,” he continued “we hung a poster, 140 meters high, on the highest skyscraper of a bank in Frankfurt. We wrote on it: ‘Swatch. Swiss. 60 D-marks.’ We had everything there: high-quality (Swiss), low cost, and provocation – a plastic watch with the Swatch label, placed on a marble and gold skyscraper that cost 800 million D-marks. Within six weeks, everybody in Germany knew what Swatch was.” At the other end of the scale, for Breguet, “the message is the conservation of the most beautiful European culture. That is why I spent millions of Euros to renovate the Marie Antoinette palace at Versailles, the Louvre in Paris, the Pushkin Café in Moscow, everywhere.”
“The medium is the message”
Finding the best medium to convey the right message is a key factor to construct the brand identity and value perceived by the public. In 1964, Canadian professor, philosopher and communications theorist Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message”, describing “the ‘medium’ as an environment of services and disservices” where the character of the medium is its potency or effect – its message. He went so far as to define media as hot or cool depending upon the level of our sensory involvement – our ‘participation’- required to complete the information sent out to us, characteristics that could evolve with time as our perceptions and the environment change.
In 2016, Vacheron Constantin conveyed a message of humanity, tradition, movement and modern travel with its Overseas Tour in partnership with US photographer Steve McCurry. Starting with Vacheron Constantin headquarters in Geneva in February 2016, the Overseas Tour went on to photograph twelve (for hours) different sites around the world over a period of twelve months. The excellence for which the House is known was also conveyed with the quality of the photos. And while ancient sites reminded us of the historical value of the House founded in 1755, the modern world tour was also a perfect message for the widely acclaimed revamped Overseas Collection that included the superb World Time model.
A very hot message
Jaeger-LeCoultre, in sponsoring the works of photographer Philippe Halsman last year at the Jeu de Paume Museum in Paris, perfectly conveyed the importance of a single second. Known for his “jumpology photography”, Halsman captured famous people as they leapt in front of his camera, among them the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Salvador Dali or Marilyn Monroe. Photographs that harness a “true second” of expression were the perfect way to convey the values of the new Geophysic® True Second® and Geophysic® Universal Time, each with a true second system that causes the seconds hand to move forward while “beating the second” or performing a “jump” every second. Going beyond the images, visitors were invited to jump in front of a camera to personally experience a “true second”, thereby becoming a medium themselves.
More recently, in May 2017, Panerai watches sponsored the Submersion exhibition as part of D’Days, the annual festival of design held at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. Amid the works inspired by the sea of a dozen invited designers and artists, Panerai exhibited its latest collection of Luminor Submersibles along with the LAB-ID™ for a plunge into the future. The marine atmosphere of the Submersion exhibition was part of a larger display with furniture, objects, artworks, even games designed for people of all ages. Panerai sponsors similar events in Milan, London, Miami or Tokyo every year, for a message that conveys the importance of design for the brand, in terms of both functionality and aesthetics. When linked to the sea, it’s even better.
Hublot and professional football teams, Richard Mille and F1… there are many examples where the medium – in these cases convivial stadiums and high-performing football players, or Formula 1 circuits and precise, lightweight automobiles – convey the perfect message.
One of the most powerful messages came to us on May 15th 2017, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the extension of its global partnership with Official Timekeeper Omega through to 2032. The medium in this case is all the Olympic sites, transmitted to people all over the world via all the media we know today. And that makes for a very hot and cool message!