Is The Swiss Replica Watch Industry A Victim Of Its Own Marketing Success?

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When people buy a luxury Swiss replica watch, they are first buying a name and second buying a product. In fact, you might say the same thing about most luxury products in general. People are more interested in being part of a brand that they have been marketed to, versus acquiring the utility or craftsmanship of a particular item they will appreciate. Of course, there are occasionally buyers who are more (though not completely) immune to marketing, and who tend to focus on particular elements of a brand that they subjectively appreciate. With that said, while they may not be buying into a brand’s particular flavor of product marketing, there is often “quiet marketing” in the form of storytelling that they are attracted to within that brand (such as how they make products or the materials they use). In most instances, people aren’t buying luxury products for utility any longer – and that is something which is difficult to deny. It is also something the traditional watch industry knows very well.

The purpose of this discussion is to explain why I feel that the Swiss replica watches industry today needs to take a very hard and long look at their marketing practices. It might surprise you that I am advocating for them to market more – but to do so in a more intelligent and organized manner. This comes at a time when the high-end watch industry is doing very poorly. No, they aren’t hurting simply because of competition from smartwatches – but the advent of emerging technology certainly doesn’t help them. The luxury replica watch industry (mostly Swiss brands) is hurting due to stubborn reliance on archaic business practices in the form of sorely outdated distribution and pricing models. On top of that, the industry massively overproduces inventory – and the volume of unsold watches both in the market and being hoarded by brands is appallingly high. Some analysts contend that actually up to 50% of some watch brands’ claimed value is in the form of unsold inventory assets.

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The luxury watch industry is where it is today because of marketing, and that is coming from someone who has traditionally been rather hard on marketing because I am always skeptical of techniques used to persuade consumers. There is just too much opportunity for unethical conduct – but I digress. I recall a few years ago seeing a chart of the top luxury replica watches marketing spenders in the United States and comparing it to another list I had of the top sellers in the US. Guess what: those lists were exactly the same. Early on in my reporting on the watch industry, I noticed a very strong correlation between marketing spending and success in the market. Why is this?

Luxury watch marketing is actually quite weak. For an industry that sells much of its goods to men, they have taken a few too many lessons from women’s fashion marketing. In fact, the only upside of how luxury replica watch brands market is in that they know consumers like to buy from “famous brands.” How does a brand become famous? Easy: populate the world with your name. The most success luxury watch makers have with marketing is name awareness. Rolex replica does happen to make a truly outstanding timepiece, but that isn’t why they are so successful these days. Rolex replica is successful because of wide awareness of the brand name. Rolex is smart about the fact that their consumers want other people to notice the name on the watch on their wrist, and because of this the brand continues to enjoy wide demand. Having a well-made product without wide awareness will only make you a cult hit at best. Luxury brands like fake Rolex who spend money on both marketing and product have it figured out.

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Unfortunately, many other luxury replica watch brands don’t. When times are tough, most companies inevitably cut back on marketing and advertising spending. This might seem like a wise short-term solution, and it can be if the brand is going through some type of temporary change or reorganization and sales aren’t a priority. When sales are a priority and the strengths of a brand must be asserted in order to assist in sales success, that is when smart marketers must be put to work.

In addition to having deep-rooted systemic problems, the luxury watch industry also has an innovation problem. Marketing success during the 1990s and 2000s helped many brands earn a lot of money by placing status symbols on people’s wrists, and making toys for rich boys (adults). Watch design and internal componentry has been for the most part stale. Innovation has been in the form of some new materials, and a small amount of new technology, mainly at the most high-end side of the industry. For the most part, consumers were being asked to buy new products that did not fundamentally offer anything different from previous generation products. Brands relied on collectors and value speculators in enthusiast communities to help them sell product. The problem was that these same collectors and communities are quickly becoming disillusioned with high prices, poor marketing, and a culture of discounting which has led to boredom at best, and distrust at worst when concerning many of the brands that formerly relied on their spirited enthusiasm. Thus, adding insult to injury, the luxury replica watch industry not only has to deal with the fact that they need to make some very painful changes to how they price, distribute, and sell their watches, but they also have a serious image problem when it comes to many of their core clientele.

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When I said that the Swiss replica watch industry is a victim of their own success what I meant was that they relied on marketing for so long that they failed in many ways to adapt their business models and products to modern times. Moreover, I say “Swiss watch industry” often and not only “luxury watch industry,” because the majority are Swiss brands. Nowadays when consumers are increasingly being offering alternatives to traditional mechanical replica watches (smartwatches) and when luxury watch marketing is mostly of a poor quality (enough so that the majority of it casts a relatively unflattering light on the industry as a whole), the Swiss watch industry needs to focus on making marketing a priority once again.

So what is wrong with luxury watch marketing today? Before talking about the overall reduction in intelligent marketing activity, I’ll remark on what is fundamentally wrong with luxury replica watch marketing. In short, it doesn’t explain very well why people should spend so much on their products. One of the fastest growing areas in the watch industry is small boutique brands with production coming out of China. Many of these brands use suppliers who produce parts for the big luxury brands. While the larger brands typically have a more polished product, these newer brands come to market with prices so much lower it begs the question to many consumers why there are so many brands charging so much more money. Not only does the watch industry desperately need to realign their pricing models with consumer expectations, but they need to be more aware of the competitive market. In fact, many of these brands have decent reasons why their products cost a lot, but they don’t explain that very well in their marketing materials.

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Much of the blame goes to the conservative decision makers in Europe who are scared to death of sharing the wrong message with consumers. For all they claim about boldness and originality, much of that is absent in the vast majority of their marketing and advertising materials. It has gotten so bad that a large proportion of luxury watch marketing actually doesn’t say anything at all. Imagine just a picture of a product and brand name. That passes for an advertisement in the luxury replica watch world. They forget that consumers don’t have a built-in need for timepieces any longer. People still to a large degree need things like cars and clothing, so the companies making those products don’t need to tell consumers why to want them in the first place. The same is certainly not true in the luxury watch market. If the brands that produce luxury watches do not tell people why they might want them, then many people are never going to get the message.

In fact, only specialized members of the media such as myself are helping consumers to understand why a high-end timepiece is a desirable idea – and frankly, I’m not compensated nearly well enough to do that as best as I can. All humor aside, this is actually a serious issue. The luxury watch industry has pulled away so much marketing budget that the entire media industry dedicated to discussing it with consumers is dying out. The luxury replica watch industry currently still doesn’t seem to fully understand that a strong luxury watch media is good for business. In a vividly self-effacing move, the watch industry has allowed the slow painful death of many business entities whose sole mission was to get people excited about purchasing a luxury watch.

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So, if watch marketing isn’t creating enough desire for people to buy luxury timepieces (look at the market), and if there aren’t enough strong media voices promoting it (trust me, I am one of very few people) then how are people receiving luxury watch industry marketing? The truth is that many people aren’t. The only growth area is social media media marketing which brands hope is the answer to their woes. Will it be?

Social media marketing will have some success, but it certainly isn’t cheap. Moreover, brands need to invest in quality creatives and advertising campaigns so that they do not continue to make the mistakes of the past. For example, if you are going to market to men, then it is a good idea to produce marketing that is meant to be appeal to men. Further, the luxury replica watch industry has long been a fan of “exclusive” experiences, products, and availability. How will that be preserved if they use mass marketing techniques to shotgun blast their marketing to audiences who mostly cannot afford their products (even if, technically speaking, prices should go down).

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This isn’t an easy time for my industry – the watch industry – but not all hope is lost. At some point, the watch industry will appreciate my claim that a strong market for smartwatches will be a strong market for luxury watches. Why? Well in any situation where you have a large population of people using a particular type of product, there is by default interest in a high-end segment for well-to-do people to show off their status. Thus, if more people wear replica watches (many people currently wear no watch), the higher degree of attention on that product will lead people to luxury watches who can afford them.

More so, the appeal of luxury watches hasn’t been about strict utility for a long time. Luxury watches are items of artistic craftsmanship often with appealing historic connections. The stories inherent to their heritage and construction are what get people excited about them. Luxury replica watch brand marketers need only to connect with many consumers on the right level to trigger their interest in the products. I’ve seen it happen countless times in person, and all the watch industry needs to do is refocus its marketing creation efforts on high-quality messages that reach the right people. They also need to dedicate resources to market to those people. The fastest way for the luxury watch industry to increase its pain is to further stop marketing. Again, the luxury watch industry is a marketing-driven industry. So they better put some more effort into it.

The Indian beauty on the Swiss replica watches

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The replica watch was purchased at an auction and is now in the Jaeger-LeCoultre museum

Her portrait has remained a mystery for almost 80 years. Could she be the royal who last ruled a small state that is today a part of India?

“We refer to the replica watch as ‘the Indian beauty’ because we haven’t been able to exactly identify the person represented on the enamel potrait,” Marc-André Strahm, antique watch expert at Swiss luxury replica watches brand Jaeger-LeCoultre, told topreplicaswatches.me.uk.

The headquarters and production facility of the 182-year-old watch company is located in the sleepy little Swiss town of Le Sentier in the Jura mountains. It is part of the famous Vallée de Joux, which is widely regarded as the birthplace of Swiss watchmaking. The imposing Jaeger-LeCoultre complex dominates the rural skyline. At first glance, there is no indication that the utilitarian buildings house an unsolved mystery with an Indian connection.

But hidden inside the bowels of the Jaeger-LeCoultre complex lies a museum that pays homage to some of its most exquisite timepieces from the past. All the ornate replica watches and clocks displayed in the museum are described in detail except one – the so-called “Indian beauty”, which dates back to 1936.

swissinfo’s interest in this watch was sparked by an idea for a story that would explore the links between Indian royalty and Swiss watchmaking. The so-called “Swiss period” that spanned from 1890 to 1947 was when Swiss timepieces dominated the Indian market.

They were more affordable than British replica watches but also offered rich clients the opportunity to showcase their status through ornate work such as fine engraving and enamel portraits – something that was much appreciated by Indian royalty. Many Indian maharajahs commissioned fancy pocket replica watches that boasted a combination of complicated watch movements and elaborate cases featuring jewels and self-portraits in enamel.

While researching Swiss timepieces commissioned by Indian royalty the Jaeger-LeCoultre Indian beauty replica watch cropped up. It stood out because it featured a portrait of an Indian noble woman – a rarity as most replica watches were adorned with portraits of maharajahs. This, plus the fact that the lady’s identity is still a mystery after almost 80 years, kicked off an investigation into her origins. But it would prove to be a hard puzzle to piece together.

Needle in a haystack

Purchased in 2004 by Jaeger-LeCoultre for a sum of US$77,526 (CHF77,391) at an auction, the identity of the woman on the back of the watch case still remains a mystery.

“The watch was bought in the 90s by a Lufthansa captain in Mumbai,” Stefan Muser of the Mannheim-based auction house Dr. Crott told topreplicaswatches.me.uk. “Unfortunately at that time we did not have much information about this particular Reverso.”

With not much to go on, the only course of action was to sift through hundreds of vintage photographs of the various Indian royal families from that period. Not an easy task considering there were over 500 Princely States in British-ruled India.

To add to the difficulty, there were several glamorous princesses and queens from the period to choose from. While previous generations of female royals were confined to the royal palace, this new breed of blue-blooded ladies travelled around Europe buying the finest jewellery and attending the most talked-about parties. A few notable examples were Princess Gayatri Devi of Jaipur, who was ranked among the ten most beautiful women by Vogue magazine, and Princess Sita Devi of Karputhla and Princess Sanyogita Bai Holkar of Indore, who were muses for famous photographers like Cecil Beaton and Man Ray.

Could one of these dazzling royals have served as an inspiration for the mysterious woman on the watch?

The last queen

The hunt finally led to the tiny state of Tripura in north-eastern India. Around a quarter the size of Switzerland, the state is home to the over 600-year-old Manikya dynasty of rulers. Even though Tripura became a British protectorate in 1809 under colonial rule, the Manikya maharajahs were still recognised as sovereign rulers.

However, Tripura ceased to be a kingdom soon after India gained independence from the British. Interestingly, the last royal to rule Tripura was a woman. The death of the maharajah of Tripura Bir Bikram Kishore Debbaraman in 1947 – he built Tripura’s only airport – meant that his son Bikram Kishore Debbaraman became the de-facto ruler overnight. However, since he was only 14 years old at the time, his mother Kanchan Prabha Devi took on the responsibility of ruling in his name as the Regent and ran state affairs from 1947 to 1949.

And she is the most likely candidate for the mystery woman whose portrait adorns the Jaeger-LeCoultre Indian beauty watch.

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Kanchan Prabha Devi was the last royal to rule the kingdom of Tripura

Prabha Devi’s likeness to the portrait on the watch is remarkable, especially the pose, hairstyle and the zig-zag pattern of the saree she is wearing. It very likely that the artist painted the portrait using the same photograph, as is the practice even today.

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It takes skill and patience to reproduce an image only slightly larger than a postal stamp

Her grandson and current head of the royal house of Tripura, 38-year-old Pradyot Debbaraman, confirmed to topreplicaswatches.me.uk that the black and white photograph did indeed belong to Kanchan Prabha Devi.

“There is a very strong resemblance between the portrait on the watch and the photograph of my grandmother,” he told topreplicaswatches.me.uk.

However, he is not 100% certain they are the same and plans to contact relatives and search the family archives for more information.

Born in 1914, Kanchan Prabha Devi was the eldest daughter of the Maharajah of Panna and became the second wife of the Maharajah of Tripura on her 17th birthday. It was she who signed the merger of Tripura with the Indian union on October 15, 1949 that signaled the end of monarchy.

“It is my desire that, as early as conditions permit, steps will be taken to set up a constitution-making body representative of all sections of the people…,” Prabha Devi said in a proclamation on the administration of Tripura.

“She is a very important person in the context that Tripura was the only state in the north-east to willingly merge with India,” says Debbaraman.

As Regent she faced a serious test when India was partitioned after independence in 1947. The Hindu-dominated West Bengal province became a part of India while the Muslim-dominated East Bengal (later to become Bangladesh) joined the newly created country of Pakistan. Tripura faced a significant refugee influx of Hindus fleeing bordering East Bengal and the state risked being involved in a tug-of-war between India and Pakistan.

“A strong well-organised internal security force has to be build up, the finance of the state have to be rehabilitated, a scheme of road construction to provide internal communications as well as direct link with the Indian union has to be put into effect, supply of essential commodities of which there is an acute shortage have to be made available to the people, and the machinery of the government has to be general, tightened up,” she stated.

As the last ruler of Tripura, she did an admirable job in safely steering it through the perilous transition from independent kingdom to a part of the Indian union with a democratic government. She died in 1973.

Indian inspiration

The Indian beauty watch is a Reverso, one of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s most popular replica watch models. In 1930, Swiss businessman César de Trey was visiting British-ruled India. At the end of a game of polo he was approached by a distraught player whose watch lens had broken during the course of the match. He entreated the Swiss visitor to come up with a watch that could withstand the rigours of polo. De Trey had recently become a distributor for his friend Jacques-David LeCoultre’s high-end Swiss watches.

The Swiss businessman outsourced the challenge to engineer Alfred Chauvot who came up with a solution one year later and filed a patent for “a watch able to slide in its cradle and swivel over completely”. They turned to Jacques-David LeCoultre to produce the aptly-named Reverso watch commercially.

Besides its obvious role in protecting the watch from damage, the flipping dial system of the Reverso also allows the case back to be personalised through engravings. This was a unique selling point at the time because the utilitarian wristwatches lacked the artistic flair of fancy pocket watches.