Corders column
Rob Corder, WatchPro co-founder and editor-in-chief.

CORDER’S COLUMN: Pizza watches, MoonSwatch and F.P. Journe

FOMO and physical contact are driving watch sales more than ever today.

F.P. Journe, Swatch and Studio Underd0g all make watches, but most would say that is where the similarity ends.

Or does it?

A few articles I have written recently got me thinking that they may have more in common than at first glance, and provide lessons for other brands and retailers in the watch business to ponder.

F.P Journe makes fewer than 1,000 watches per year, and there are thought to be fewer than 15,000 in the wild.

Swatch is selling around one million MoonSwatches per year.

We don’t know how many watches Studio Underd0g makes, but a recent social media post by owner Rich Benc said he sold almost 6,000 on the single day of the British Watchmakers’ Day, thanks in part to a promotion with Time+Tide to make and sell its special edition pizza watches at the event.

Studio Underd0g, like Swatch, is a brand that predominately sells online directly to consumers, but the pizza watches can only be bought in person at events. MoonSwatches can only be bought in Swatch shops.

A roadshow, of sorts, sees Mr Benc and/or Time+Tide’s Andrew McUtchen attend various events around the world to “hand-deliver” pizza watches. They cannot be bought online, a technique probably learned from Swatch with its MoonSwatch.

Click here for details of future opportunities to buy the Studio Underd0g pizza watch.

This creates fear of missing out (FOMO), with people queuing at the British Watchmakers’ Day to buy one just as they swarm around Swatch shops on the day of a new MoonSwatch launch.

Studio Underd0g has created scarcity because demand outstrips supply leading to waiting lists for its watches, and profits — albeit relatively modest profits — for people flipping their watches on the secondary market.

It has also created the dream of all retailers, a stream of customers beating a path to its door. This physical contact is imperative at strengthening relationships between consumers and brands that go well beyond the transactional. This is the essence of brand-building.

Which brings me to F.P. Journe, a watchmaker who was appreciated by a tiny cohort of super-collectors until ten years’ ago, but is now one of the hottest independents on the planet.

How did it happen? It goes without saying a genius who invents and makes such a small number of exceptional watches has every chance of seeing demand exceed supply.

But the business also had a helping hand. First, Danny Govberg, owner of FPJ’s former authorised dealer Govberg Jewelers in Philadelphia, and later co-founder of WatchBox (now The 1916 Company) became a cheerleader for the master watchmaker and started buying as many of his pieces as he could.

F.P. Journe, supported by new investors and astute commercial leadership, has also been buying-back its own watches, refinishing them and selling them back to other collectors at well above their original retail prices.

This combination of rising demand and tightening supply made FPJ watches even more scarce, leading to soaring prices at high profile auctions, which drew even more interest to the artist’s pieces.

Luxury watch trading businesses typically operate online, but The 1916 Company recognised that F.P. Journe watches needed to be touched and talked about to be fully appreciated, so the business set up collectors’ lounges and a roadshow that touched down in several world cities last year and is currently popping-up all over the United States.

1916 generations miami 4
Collectors gather at the F.P. Journe event in Miami by The 1916 Company.

F.P. Journe is the draw, but The 1916 Company wins on two fronts by selling its watches while interacting with customers who might be tempted by timepieces from other makers.

Of course, retailers understand all of the economic forces and business techniques at play here, but most miss a key point.

They are great at holding lavish events to keep their regular buyers of Patek Philippe and Rolex watches stimulated, but this is customer relationship management, not customer acquisition of the kind Studio Underd0g and The 1916 Company are pursuing.

This is why I urge retailers to spend time in Geneva next month looking for watchmakers with exciting stories who can bring new customers to their doors, even if it is for one night only.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *