Watch Brand Ambassadors – Yes?

Cara Delevigne brand ambassador for TAG Heuer

Time out. Would you buy a watch just because a celebrity wears it? Careful. Focus on the word “just.” While I’m sure you take a number of factors into account when selecting a watch – brand heritage, design and quality – there’s a part of you that responds to celebrity endorsements. Maybe not consciously. It’s probably more of a “feeling” about a watch. For example . . .

Sylvester Stallone wearing RM 25-01

I have a thing against Panerai because of their closerthanthis association with Sylvester Stallone.

While I respect the craft of Mr. Stallone’s movies, they’re a seemingly endless serving of cinematic Happy Meals. What could be a more perfect horological analogy to Sly’s dumbed down dialogue and steroidal physique than Panerai’s dumbed down watch face and steroidal size? In a word, nothing.

Truth be told, none of us are safe from the influencers’ influence. The process operates on a very subtle level, or a very obvious one. Either way, it works.

 

Do vekiss_2’s  followers view Tudor and Rolex differently because she’s forged a blatant indeed unavoidable connection between the watches and her obvious ability to trigger the procreative urge? Yes. Yes they do.

Veronika’s images have convinced them that Tudor and Rolex aren’t just for old fat white guys. Or if you are an old fat white guy, wearing a Tudor or Rolex will earn you brownie points with women who look like Veronika.

Brownie points? Who even says that anymore?

OMEGA brand ambassador Zhang Ziyi

“Celebrity endorsement” is another term that’s gone by the wayside. Veronika and other watch-wearing influencers now fall under the term “brand ambassadors” – as if wearing a particular watch is like bringing fresh water to an African village, or negotiating a trade deal with a country that unleashed a pandemic.

Saying that, the term is usually reserved for pros under contract. OMEGA’s got an army of ’em: George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Cindy Crawford, Eddie Redmayne, Daniel Craig, Kaia Gerber, Presley Gerber, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Michael Phelps, Chad Le Clos, Liu Shishi, Michelle Wie, Abhishek Bachchan, Zhang Ziyi, Buzz Aldrin, Thomas Stafford. Who ARE [half] these people?

Kaia and Preston Gerber - OMEGA brand ambassadors

Whether or not celebrity endorsement – sorry “ambassadorship” – sells OMEGAs is an open question. Unless and until the Swatch Group’s marketing mavens share their survey data, we can only assume that the strategy is effective, or watch company execs are using corporate cash to rub elbows with celebrities. Or both.

Diane Kruger - JLC brand ambassador

The watch brand ambassadors biz is changing. Highly staged, posed and photoshopped ads like the Eiffel Tower spread and the Diane Kruger promotion used to be the done thing. Glamorous! Brand-building! The ads are still seen in airports, but they’re a holdover from the heyday of the magazine – a medium that’s now only slightly more influential than bus bench signage.

Instagram is where it’s at. Cheaper, faster, better. While Ms. Kruger has a not significant 938k followers, Jaeger-leCoultre’s own account is bumping on a million – and it’s free! Both of the accounts together are a rounding error compared to Ms. Delevigne’s 44.4m followers. But TAG Heuer does just fine with its 2.4m followers – and it’s free!

Interestingly, neither watch brand ambassador posted a recent image where they’re wearing their sponsor’s watch.

I reckon that’s because brand ambassadors are on a pay-per-play basis. Their contracts spell it out in lawyerly detail. I agree to wear your watch at X events, participate in X number of photo shoots (green M&Ms only) and slap it on my wrist whenever I’m skateboarding for charity.

It’s a lot cheaper for watch brands to use their own social media and hit-up the hardcore horological community via HoDinkee, aBlogt0Watch, Fratello and the usual suspects. And anyway, they all drool over and pimp celebrity wristwear, regardless of the VIP’s ambassadorial status.

And that’s why Richard Mille is the man. No one is more adept at getting the press to cover his watches for bupkis. He gives or heavily discounts one of his hideous creations to a celebrity, the celebrities, then tells the media the watch costs a million dollars, and bam! Coverage.

Mille’s trailblazing celebrity-centered success indicates that the watch brand ambassadors’ future lies in Crazy Town. Those soft-focus ads featuring glamorous people looking glamorous? They’re a thing of the past.

Colin McGregor's new Patek

Colin McGregor (left wrist above) and Vekiss_2 know the score. In today’s Internet Age, if you want attention for a watch you have to GET attention for a watch – by going over-the-top. So to speak.

Which still leaves brand ambassadors in an enviable position. They still get access to Grail Watches, huge discounts on hugely expensive timepieces and/or free watches. For some of us, that’s worth a lot more than fame. But don’t blame yourself for that. Blame your role models.

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