The explosion of watch brand accessories

Hublot-bike.jpg

When a customer buys into a brand it is no longer just about owning watches. Today brands are offering a lifestyle through leather goods, cufflinks, jewellery, and even skis and bikes. Kathryn Bishop gets accessorising.

In this age of changing consumer spend, watch houses need to really engage shoppers with their brands, but how? The answer is increasingly found in accessories – the little lifestyle accoutrements that allow consumers to buy into more than just a name, but a lifestyle.

These accessories can take a variety of forms, from cufflinks, leather goods, wallets and sunglasses through to items such as bikes and headphones. These are the add-on sales, the gifting products, those desirable objects that enable shoppers to feel like they are part of the brand’s world for, typically, a smaller price tags that its watches.

Story continues below
Advertisement

TOUCH OF LUXE
Two of the leading brands in the accessorising arena are Montblanc and Omega – luxury companies that specialise in creating a lifestyle for their fans. At Montblanc, while its pens have become synonymous with its brand name, it has been manufacturing leather goods since 1935, and today has ranges including smartphone cases, sunglasses and perfumes.

Montblanc has long specialised in leather goods tailored to businessmen, but in 2005 the brand decided to shift its focus to a growing number of affluent female clients, launching key collections aimed at women. In 2012 it has released two women’s collections, La Vie de Boheme and Signature, the former a sugary collection featuring textured leathers and designs such as agendas, keyrings and the aforementioned smartphone cases, all reasonably priced ways of buying into the brand. It also offers a bespoke service, with leather goods made to order according to the customer’s taste.

At Omega, its choice of non-watch luxury goods spans from watch boxes and leather iPad cases to women’s jewellery and men’s fragrance. Its scope of target customer fits with that of its watches; consumers who want others to know what they own, but without too much ostentation. Its leather goods, for example, are often embossed with a repeated pattern of the Omega logo – a subtle but recognisable piece of branding that will speak volumes to someone who happens to recognise it.

Omega’s men’s fragrance – Aqua Terra, named after the popular line of Seamaster models – was first launched in 2009 and is made in Switzerland, a USP that it uses in its marketing for the scent. The marketing message for the fragrance plays on the notion of its products being close to the skin, aligning the morning routine of putting on a watch with spritzing Omega’s fragrance in a similarly routine, subconscious fashion.

The brand hired master perfumer Alberto Morillas, the “nose” behind some of the world’s most popular perfumes, to develop a fragrance that would “express the essence of Omega: authenticity, substance and innovation”. The resulting product was launched initially in Omega’s boutiques and online through a dedicated Omega fragrances website before being rolled out to wider stockists.

At the higher end of the spectrum sits Patek Philippe. It has answered a call for product beyond timepieces with luxury trinkets. While its watches are globally renowned for quality manufacture and desirability, Patek Philippe also makes solid gold cufflinks referencing elements of its watch design, such as the Calatrava cross. Its lines also include women’s fine jewellery including gold and diamond-set rings and earrings, some totalling 6cts of stones.

Mark Hearn, Patek Philippe’s UK managing director explains that the brand’s gold jewellery collections were launched in reaction to consumer interest in wearable products to compliment their Patek Philippe timepieces. “We decided to start producing our jewellery collection because Patek Philippe owners were often asking for and looking for complimenting jewellery to their timepieces,” he explains. “Ladies were interested in having matching sets of rings and earrings and gentlemen were looking for cufflinks to match their watches. So, it was logical for Patek Philippe to be able to offer something their clients were asking to have.”

Hearn explains that Patek Philippe’s jewellery lines are manufactured with the same level of “meticulous quality” as its watches and are presented in yellow, white or rose gold. “All pieces are set with flawless diamonds or semi-precious stones like onyx, lapis lazuli or agate,” he adds.

FASHION FORWARD
For most fashion-led watch brands the introduction of a range of sunglasses or accessories is often regarded as a natural progression once the timepieces are established among consumers. Their arrival occurs when the need, or demand, for further product to buy into arises, enabling shoppers to show their allegiance to the brand and its portrayal of a particular lifestyle, as is the wont of fashion and trends.

For watch brand Skagen the evolution to becoming a lifestyle brand began when it was bought out by Fossil Group in 2011, a company with a specialist background in licensed watches and corresponding branded products. Skagen owner Charlotte Jorst says she hopes the deal with Fossil Group will double the number of countries the brand is sold through to 120, adding that accessories will form part of the strategy. “We’ll do handbags, shoes, clothes – everything with the Skagen name,” she says. “They’ll [Fossil Group] make it a much bigger company.”

Skagen launched a range of steel jewellery at BaselWorld in 2010 and has already rolled out other accessories in the US, such as jewellery featuring the same mesh as its watch bracelets, stacking rings set with faux pearls and crystals and sunglasses with RRPs upwards of £25. This perfectly aligns the brand with its target consumer who might have spent £100 on a Skagen timepiece, but might like a matching piece of jewellery or pair of oversized sunglasses to complement it.

In the UK, new watch brand Holler simultaneously launched watches and a sideline of other products – items it has dubbed “gear” – such as T-shirts, caps and record bags emblazoned with its yellow winged logo. While it is predominantly a watch brand, accessories have been a key part of the strategy from the off and its wealth of ambassadors, including urban dance troupes Diversity and The Pussycat Dolls, are all photographed wearing Holler T-shirts and timepieces as part of its PR drive.
The additional non-watch product offer is what makes Holler a lifestyle brand and one that can become part of a person’s daily life, according to Darren McCormick, founder of DMJ which distributes Holler in the UK.

“Holler is a watch brand and more, it is a lifestyle brand,” he says. “The music and culture which inspires Holler influences so many different aspects of everyday life that Holler has to be more than watches. Holler created a number of different lifestyle products and styles to reflect people’s [individual] lifestyles.”

Another young brand in the UK is Kennett Watches, which was launched in 2009 by Tom Kennett and makes men’s and women’s timepieces, and now cufflinks, something that Kennet says has been a long-held goal.

Fifteen years since it launched, American watch company Nixon is one of the most established and successful brands for developing its range of accessories – enough so that many consumers fail to realise that it originated as a watch brand.
Nixon launched as a reaction to a supposed lack of quality watches that simultaneously “do the talking” for the wearer and deliver what they need from a watch when working and playing. Today it produces brightly coloured headphones, hats and even clothing, and its products are distributed in more than 65 countries. It launched its headphones lines some three years ago, and they have since become one of its most recognisable accessories.

Brands that are watch companies first and foremost might well place less emphasis on the research and development of their accessories offer, but Nixon has gone out of its way to offer the utmost functionality, not just interesting design. For example, its latest headphone line, The Stylus, has a folding design to make them easier to carry, as well as inbuilt buttons and a microphone on the headphone wires to answer calls should the wearer be listening to music on a smartphone. Nixon says that, despite the technology and functionality of the product, it strove to keep prices appealing to consumers, stating that The Stylus headphones match items that cost nearly twice as much on sound and design quality.

ADVENTURING ACCESSORIES
Taking its product offer to an adventurous level is Hublot, a brand that continues to release new product at such a rate that it threatens to leave brands of a similar calibre in its dust. Hublot has launched a swathe of accessories under its All Black product range, including a bike, sledge, skis and pens – objects that have tested its R&D team’s skills and carry the characteristics of Hublot’s timepieces, such as carbon fibre and ceramic.

The brand created a limited-edition run of skis with Swiss manufacturer Zai before applying the same ideology that steers the production of its watches to develop a limited-edition of 30 racing bikes with Swiss company BMC. The All Black bike was built to be lightweight thanks to a carbon fibre frame, while its pedals are made using ceramic to reduce friction.

As a play on Swiss culture, Hublot launched one of its most light-hearted products when it created a limited run of 10 branded sledges in collaboration with the University of Art & Design in Lausanne, Switzerland. These luxe objects, dubbed a design concept by the brand, feature details such as hand-sewn leather for the seats, carbon fibre for the handles and steel for the runners, with the design based on a competition sledging model made by sled and ice skate expert Graf. The effort put into the model makes it almost too striking for use, and Hublot offered that, while it would be superb on the slopes, it would look equally as slick on display in a Swiss chalet.

For a brand to offer products beyond watches – but that also compliment them – might seem like a simple move, but the main challenge, as Hublot has slickly overcome, is to marry the traits of the brand’s timepieces without distracting from the individuality of the accessory itself. While a fragrance might bottle the assumed essence of a brand, and a T-shirt or hat allows for a logo or motif to be worn more obviously, the true beauty of the accessory is the ease at which it streamlines itself with everyday life.

The average shopper might need another reason – or three – to continue to buy into a brand, but luckily watch companies are continuing to be reactive. And this is good news for retailers that might also be looking for ways to build add-on sales, and can do so with lower-priced products or alternative items that uphold a brand’s core values but give the owner a chance to say something about themselves through more than just their wristwatch.

 

This article was taken from the December 2012 issue of WatchPro. To read the magazine online, click here.

 

 

Authors

*

Related posts

Top