“Why would Bentley need a watch partner?” commentator Sammy Toledo asks underneath yesterday’s post Breitling Bentley Partnership RIP. “If you can afford a Bentley, you should be able to afford one of those watches whose maker would never deign to co-brand, right?” Right! As a Bentley owner, I own a few tasty timepieces and precisely no Breitling Bentley watches. Looking at the selection at chrono24.com, I can see no reason to indulge. But Mr. Toledo’s comment raises some interesting questions about co-branded watches . . .
If we address the question “what’s the point?” from the manufacturer’s point-of-view the answer is obvious: money.
From Timex (e.g., Timex X Peanuts) to Grand Seiko (e.g., Godzilla), every major watchmaker has created co-branded watches – timepieces specifically designed to appeal to a niche market occupied by an otherwise unrelated brand. And appeal they do.
No question: co-branded watches invigorate the sales of slow-selling models lacking horological curb appeal. And they don’t cost much to produce; modifications almost always require little more than superficial changes to the dial and/or band. Even after shelling out for licensing fees, co-branded watches provide watchmakers with plenty of “extra” profit.
A $100 Timex Standard sans Snoopy costs $79 – a dearth of choices indicating the unadorned model’s lack of popularity. At the high end, a vintage yellow gold Tiffany-branded Patek Philippe Calatrava runs $34,900. The exact same watch without Tiffany co-branding sells for $25k. Production cost to either brand? Round it down to zero. Sales? Fabulous!
Co-branded watches operate under the same principle as commercials using catchy AF songs to sell products. Bonding the product to the song creates a powerful positive stimulus -> response pattern in the consumer’s lizard brain. It’s not just a beer. It’s m-m-m-my Corona!
That said, you don’t hear Geowulf’s Saltwater when you jam a lime into your Corona (tastes better than it sounds). But a buyer does see Snoopy and maybe Tiffany & Co. everytime they look at their watch. For manufacturers, it’s a risky business.
When watch and “lifestyle” brands mesh successfully, like Charlie Brown’s appropriately milquetoast horology and the Nike Apple Watch, it’s a hugely profitable double whammy for both brands. Sales for the watch brand, licensing revenue and free advertising/marketing for their partner.
When co-branding doesn’t work, it cheapens/dilutes both brands. The Domino’s Oyster Perpetual (top of the post) and other blasts from Rolex’s “your logo goes here” past are the dictionary definition of brand-defiling upmarket tat. Hence their discontinuation.
Grand Seiko may laugh off co-branding’s hidden/ignored dangers, what with their commercially successful Godzilla and Nissan GT-R watches. As might Audemars Piguet, having sold all 250 of their patently absurd $160k Royal Oak Concept Black Panther Flying Tourbillons.
From the buyer’s perspective, a co-branded watch is valued as a visible (if “secret”) signal that the wearer is in with the in-crowd, whether it’s anime fandom or Zen and the Art of Norton motorcycle maintenance. Not to put too fine a point on it, co-branded watches are tribal signifiers.
Critics decry these co-branded watches as cultish nerdiness, indicating low self-esteem. They point to millions of people wearing Ferrari-branded watches who don’t own a Ferrari. These amateur psychologists claim Ferrari watch wearers fly the prancing horse flag to boost their flagging egos. Not that the buyers or Ferrari cares.
Which brings us back to Breitling Bentley. A proper co-branded Bentley watch would serve as a tangible reminder – to Bentley owners and aspiring Bentley owners – of the luxury automaker’s existence.
Would the world be a better place for it? Not in any important sense. But it would bank big bucks for both partners and make hundreds of pretentious people happy. Win – win?