CORDER’S COLUMN: Richemont makes bold bid for credibility with millennials

Rob Corder, managing editor, WatchPro and managing director of Promedia. (Photo by Ausra Osipaviciute/ITP Images)

Richemont’s creation of a completely new brand in the form of Baume is a bold and necessary step to appeal directly to a younger audience.

Some of the launch language is a little too breathless for my taste, but then I am a generation older than the millennials at whom it is aimed.

To recap: Beaume has been created in every respect with modern younger customers in mind. It will sell only online; it is made up of four base models that can all be customised and configured on the website; and the designs are all described as ‘genderless’ by the watchmaker.

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The watches are even promoted as sustainable. “We use no animal-based or precious materials and unused components are recycled or re-used,” says Baume Brand leader Marie Chassot.

Baume launches with two minimalist collections: the Iconic Series housing Miyota automatic movements and the quartz-based Custom Timepiece Series, each of which will be updated seasonally for customers with short attention spans and different wardrobes for Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter.

 

 

What I love about this move by Richemont is its clarity of thought and execution. Lip service has been paid by so many venerable Swiss watchmakers about reaching out to younger customers, but this generally equates to slightly cheaper steel versions of established collections, signing 20-something brand ambassadors, photographing them in a hipster coffee house and splashing the pictures on Instagram.

Results have been mixed.

Baume is different. It can only be bought online, where the watches can be personalised to individual tastes. Prices start at a reasonable £430 for quartz-based minimalist pieces and £850 for automatics. They are described as gender-neutral and environmentally friendly. There is even an early collaboration between the brand and London’s famous fashion design school, Central Saint Martins, the epicentre of creative cool in Britain.

If they could claim to be vegan and a favourite timepiece of Jeremy Corbyn, the marketing package would be complete.

There are only two small niggles from a business perspective. First, I am not a fan of the name. Baume sounds too much like a diffusion line of Baume & Mercier, another Richemont brand. The vast majority of its target market will never have heard of Baume & Mercier, so this may not cause too much of an issue, but I’d have preferred an entirely new name.

Secondly, the decision to only sell direct online excludes Richemont’s thousands of world-wide retail partners, who would be useful ambassadors and influencers for Baume. The prices give little room for adding a margin for retailers, but perhaps the company could include partners in click and collect services and after sales support. After all, one of the great benefits of winning young customers is that they can be turned into long term fans of quality watches, and that might lead them to other brands as they age.

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