Professional Jeweler Archive: When Marketing Meets Reality

August 2004

Timepieces/Education & Repair


When Marketing Meets Reality

Learn customers' lifestyles and match the watch to their expectations


Watch consumers have endless sources from which to learn about the products, directions and competition in the world of fine timepieces. They can pick up any consumer watch magazine, go to any Web site, stop by any fine store with a variety of great brands or get a manufacturer’s catalog.

These sources overwhelm customers with tales of derring-do on land, underwater, in the air, at high speeds, at unfathomable depths and seemingly unsurvivable altitudes. Customers also will learn fine watches are heirlooms, valuable and sentimental functional objects that will fascinate us and enthrall generations to come.

The Time?

Incidentally, watches also tell time. They also might display the date, perhaps the day of the week and phases of the moon. And they’re typically worn by folks for much more normal and mundane pursuits – say, driving to work rather than over the Bonneville salt flats – than the various timepiece marketing departments would have us imagine.

As retailers, then, we need to prepare to handle situations when the marketing and the reality of everyday wear come into conflict and a watch just plain doesn’t perform as advertised.

Most of us have had this experience. A customer just bought his or her first fine watch and something has gone wrong. Sometimes, it’s simple. Sometimes, it’s much more complicated. In either case, your customer comes to you for a solution to this collision of marketing and reality.

It’s possible the problem may have started with the original sale. The customer may be wearing a luxury watch that’s more delicate than his daily activities warrant. If your customer is active and golfs, gardens, bowls, raises children, moves heavy objects and is not a couch potato, a thin gold watch on a leather strap may not be the best choice. It’s often up to the salesperson to uncover likely patterns of use and guide the customer to select the appropriate watch.

Marketing vs. Reality

Here are some examples of how you can be caught in the gap between marketing and reality.

A wealthy woman selected a thin, high-end, manual-wind luxury watch for her husband, a gentleman in his 70s. I reviewed all operational details and wearing instructions with her. But the husband had thick, heavy fingers and could no more wind that watch than my cat could. He did manage, however, to pull the crown completely out of the watch. Because this was a world-renowned brand, imagine his chagrin at the performance. I might have done a better job had I directed her to a luxury quartz watch from the start. But I needed more information to do so.

Too Tough on the Watch

Another customer was ready to graduate to one of the world’s top luxury brands after years of wearing more mundane watches. My colleague sold him an expensive gold watch with complications. The customer insisted this was the only choice.

Our knowledge of his wear patterns should have been a warning. While advertised and presented as a great watch for daily wear, his “daily wear” proved to be too rough and resulted in very costly repairs early in his ownership. Needless to say, his expectations were soundly smacked about by his reality.

What about a customer who somehow manages to damage a workhorse watch, a piece that’s truly tough and has great water-resistance? This does happen, as we all can attest.

Know the Customer’s Lifestyle

Many problems can be avoided at the point of sale. Find out all you can about the wearer’s profession, lifestyle, habits, physical size and activities. I might not have learned that my customer had fat fingers, but I might have done a better job discussing other movement choices.

In the case of Mr. Complication, knowing him as we do should have caused us to redirect him to a more durable but equally prestigious choice.

And when someone damages a bulldog of a watch, we might have suggested a cheap plastic knock-around is a good choice for certain activities.

As in many endeavors, honesty is the best policy. Be straight with your customers. Tell them what they can expect from the fine brands. Support but don’t exaggerate the product. Be totally candid about what they should and should not do while wearing the watch. Let them know how the timepiece works, thoroughly and completely, including all service and warranty information. Help them make the best choice so the beauty and truth of these great products meet everyone’s expectations.

By Paul White, Watch Division director, Reis-Nichols Jewelers, Indianapolis, IN

Paul White regularly fills this column with tips for retailers who want to sell more watches. If you have suggestions for topics, questions for Paul or examples from your store, send them to Professional Jeweler, 1500 Walnut St., Suite 1200, Philadelphia, PA 19102 or timepieces@professionaljeweler.com.

Copyright © 2004 by Bond Communications