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How Important are Online Communities to Fine Watchmaking...
Watch Stories

How Important are Online Communities to Fine Watchmaking Brands?

Thursday, 08 June 2017
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William McNish
Strategic Planner at RE-UP

“There is nothing quite as beautiful as the spark in a person's eye when you bring up something they are passionate about.”

Creative flare with an analytic mindset.

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15 min read

According to writer James Sanderson, “Companies can achieve intimacy between customers and their branded offerings by displaying to the customer that he/she is an important partner”. Partnerships with brands and their online communities are more present than ever, reflecting the growing importance of fan culture in the luxury world.

This philosophy has become more and more important to Fine Watchmaking brands with the growing influence of social media. It gives them so many touch points to connect to consumers and potential consumers.

For example at SIHH this year, brands displayed many techniques to attempt to connect to their fans, the most obvious being Montblanc running a competition in which they actually gave away a timepiece to the winner.

Another great example of brands connecting with online communities is the recent Autavia Cup, ran by Tag Heuer. For those not already aware, Tag Heuer recently re-released a 1966 edition of the Autavia. They asked online fans which 1960’s version of the famous watch they would like to be re-created. After two rounds and 50,000 fans voting, they decided on the 1966 Tag Heuer Autavia ‘Rindt’.

Brand love takes time to build

Brand love is built through satisfaction. The longer the satisfaction, the more the lover grows and deepens for said brand. Brand love is an antecedent to brand loyalty and satisfaction is an antecedent to brand love (Carroll and Ahuvia, 2006). Once created and built upon, brand love is an emotional relationship between consumer, brand and in time communities.

Like any other societal community, these online communities have their leaders. A person whose brand love is so ingrained, they have become a vital part of something bigger. These leaders, as well as spreading brand love, spread a wealth of knowledge to first-time buyers, potential buyers and even casual watch fans.

We caught up with David Chalmers, moderator of Calibre 11, Eric Ku, moderator of the Vintage Rolex Forum and Khalil Ghorbani, editor of Panerai Central to find out what makes these communities important and why they love their retrospective brand so much.

Calibre 11 - The voice of Tag Heuer’s online community
Why TAG Heuer?

The first year that I really followed Formula 1 was in 1988 when Ayrton Senna had just started driving for McLaren Honda, which at the time had the TAG Heuer logo on the car’s windshield. Around that time, I remember some of the kids at school wearing brightly coloured Formula 1 watches, so that was my introduction to TAG Heuer. As I learned more about the history of Formula 1, the Heuer logo kept appearing on the cars and overalls of drivers, so that led me down the path of checking out the watches, and pretty soon my interest drifted from the cars to the watches.

My interests today are both modern TAG Heuer and vintage Heuer. This is probably a bit unusual but my first love was the modern TAG Heuer watches and then I got into the vintage watches later.

What is your favourite watch of theirs?

Has to be the Monaco. It’s not only a crazy design – a big square case and a bright blue dial – but when it was launched in 1969 it also had a revolutionary movement called the Calibre 11, the first of the automatic chronograph movements, so it was a watch that was well and truly ahead of its time. The Monaco is one of those few watches that people can recognise after just a glance, because there is nothing else quite like it. You can choose the more subtle grey dial model, but for me the one to go for is the blue dial watch as worn by Steve McQueen. Blue dial, white sub-dials and then that bright red central chronograph hand. Perfect.

How did you get into the brand?

Like many people I got my first ‘good watch’ for my 21st birthday, which was a TAG Heuer 4000. Later I started collecting the TAG Heuer re-edition watches, which got me curious about what the original vintage watches were like. I was living in London at the time and found a few vintage dealers which started me down the slippery slope of collecting vintage watches. And that’s where the Calibre 11 website came from, back in 2009 – initially, it was just a way to catalogue the watches that I owned and some of the research that I had done on particular models.

Do you own other watch brands?

Yes, quite a few other brands in fact… everything from Jaeger Le-Coultre to Sinn. A few years ago most of my collection was made of vintage watches, but today it’s more modern.

What makes the community so special?

It’s a great community that has put blood, sweat and tears into researching and exploring the story of the watches and people are more than happy to share what they’ve discovered. Some of the collectors I’ve met and see every few years, while others I mainly know through the website, our forum and social media. The other reason that the community is so strong is because TAG Heuer have put more effort into engaging with collectors than anyone else over the last decade. Many brands were suspicious of online communities, but TAG Heuer have always supported and encouraged its online community and that makes a real difference.

Check out Calibre 11 or have a look at their Twitter and Instagram.

Vintage Rolex Asylum: A wealth of knowledge and unprecedented passion
Why Rolex?

As far as brands go, there really isn’t a watch brand as romantic as Rolex. From its association to exploration and testing the limits of human endurance, to its unpaid association with icons of cool, there really is no other brand quite like it. Rolex is the perfect example of a brand that has carefully and organically grown its reputation for making the finest and most durable watches available.

What is your favourite watch of theirs?

My favourite Rolex is the Explorer. I find it’s simple and rugged, good looks balanced for any occasion, and the association with exploration to be really compelling. The first watch to summit Everest looks just as good on top of the world as it does on your wrist at a wedding!

A post shared by Mr. K ? (@fumanku) on

How did you get into the brand?

Since a young age, I’ve been fascinated with mechanical watches, and the first watch I can recall my father having was a vintage Air-King. I’d sneak into his room often to look at and play with his watch. That left a deep impression on me that endures to this day.

Do you own any other watch brands?

I love all watches and have quite a varied collection that touches on all the mainstay brands as well as dipping into many of the independent makers.

What makes the community so special?

VRF (Vintage Rolex Forum) is special for many reasons. It is perhaps the oldest single brand resource on the internet dedicated to Rolex, and it is a website where both seasoned collectors and new ones engage one another and share information and discoveries. Several historically important watches have been ‘discovered’ on the forum, and many facts we now take for granted were discussed and debated on the forum prior to them becoming fact. Its power lay in its diverse user base which has collectors from all parts of the world participating together.

To find out more check out the Vintage Rolex Forum or have a look at their Instagram pages here and here.

Panerai Central: Fans from the start
Why Panerai and how did you get into the brand?

That’s an interesting question, actually. So I have always been into watches from a young age. I remember going into department stores while my mother shopped and just staring at the cases at all the watches. Back then $100 was a lot of money to me so these watches were definitely out of reach for me at the time. As I grew older and slowly took steps up the ladder in terms of price point, I remember a good friend that worked at my office come in with a watch I had never seen before. It was big, pronounced had a very visible dial and this interesting crown guard on the side. Naturally I asked him what type of watch it was and he said, “Panerai”. This was in the early 2000’s so it was the early stages of Panerai coming to the masses so I started spending hours and hours researching, reading, and trying to figure out all that I could about the brand. Over the years I started to really fall in love with them and I told myself when the time is right for me to jump into the luxury market that would be my first. Fast forward a few yeas and through some hard work I was able to finally get my first luxury watch, pulling the trigger on the very versatile Panerai PAM312. I was so excited to show my friend that I had got one as well so I rushed over to his place and unboxed it. He fell in love with it and it was there that he let the cat out of the bag, his Panerai was a fake. So long story short, it was a fake Panerai that got me into the brand which I never would have expected.

What is your favourite watch of theirs?

There a lot of pieces that I really love so it’s kind of hard to narrow it down to just one, so how about I cheat and give you my favorite at the moment in each collection. In the Luminor family, I will have to go with the PAM317 Luminor Marina Chronograph Ceramic “Black Knight”. Radiomir, The Panerai PAM249 or PAM448 California Dial with blue hands. Submerisble, I have to go with the original bronze piece, the Panerai PAM382 “Bronzo”.

Do you own other watch brands?

The question I get asked the most is if I only like Panerai. The answer is definitely no. I am a watch lover to the bone and love watchmaking in general so I have a real appreciation for all the brands. More and more I have come to love the independent brands after visiting a few of their facilities when I was in Geneva last time. Currently, I actually own one luxury watch which is the Panerai but I definitely have my eye on a few pieces in the near future. I love the AP, Patek F.P. Journe, A. Lange Sohne, just to name a few.

What makes the community so special?

I think the reason the community has really become so special as opposed to a lot of other brands is because most of the collectors and original fans of the brand started at the beginning. The brand itself is really old, but it wasn’t until the 1993 that they started selling watches to the public so a lot of people were able to get in at the ground floor so to say and really build a tight knit community and grow with the brand itself. Over the years with the evolution of social media etc, a new generation of fans that appreciate the brand have taken the torch so to speak and tried to keep the community going and bridge the gap between the brand and consumers.

Check out more from Panerai Central on the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube!

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