Skip to main content Navigation

Articles and News

The Easiest Way to Create a Wristwatch with Emotion is to Explain Why You Made It |  October 05, 2022 (0 comments)

Ariel Adams

Ariel Adams of A Blog To Watch wrote the article below to address watch industry professionals, however, jewelers who carry or may want to carry watches will find this thought-provoking analysis of why watch models are introduced and what makes them sell to be totally fascinating--Ed.

Los Angeles, CA--Deciding what to produce next is a challenging question for any company, especially watchmakers in the 21st century. While wristwatches still take the shape and form of instruments and tools, the reason people purchase them is usually not utilitarian. People purchase watches as emotionally charged objects that allow them to feel a particular way, as opposed to tools that allow them to perform in a particular way. This important distinction is familiar to most people in the watch industry space, but understanding this core consumer psychology has become increasingly important to managers at watch brands keen on making sure their products do well in the market. I’d like to dedicate this month’s essay to exploring the question of why your new wristwatch product exists, and how brands can understand why consumers may or may not be interested in your products.

In my experience, there are two main answers to why a watch brand decides to invest in a new product. The first answer is (crudely), “because the market demands it,” and the second answer, broadly speaking, is “because we, as a brand, decided we wanted to make it.” Let’s explore each of these rationales with a bit more detail. Companies don’t want to lose money, so they invest in products that they feel have the highest chance of success in the marketplace. To learn what the marketplace wants, it is common to investigate what other products are supposedly doing well in the market. Translated into watch industry terms, if the market is buying a lot of steel watches with blue dials priced at around $5,000, then logic seems to suggest that investing in the production of a steel watch with a blue dial? that has a retail price of around $5,000 is sound. Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t actually always translate into market success, but it is true that an attempt to produce what a company observes consumers are buying is among the most common answers to why a new watch is being produced. For now, ask yourself how consumers respond when they identify that a luxury watch brand is producing something merely because of the perception that items like it are commercially successful for their competitors. Is that “a product story” that gets enthusiasts excited?

The second answer to why watch brands produce new products is entirely different from the first response — but it is just as fraught with risk. In fact, there are nearly no examples of a watchmaker having guaranteed success when it comes to the production of new products. An integral part of being in the watch industry is a certain degree of “unknown” when it comes to how the market will initially and eventually respond to product offerings. The most celebrated reason that a watch brand makes something new is because developing that item in the first place fits in line with the goals and values of the brand. In other words, the brand itself makes an independent decision, with limited market signals, that a particular product is both of sufficient quality and personality to hit a stride with consumers. This is where watch brands position themselves as inventors, artists, and overall creative thinkers. The type of novelty and originality that comes from producing a product that the market did not previously seem to want or demand, and ends up adoring, is where serious success comes in — even if it doesn’t happen with all new products.

Of course, the two above “answers” to why new products are created in the first place are positioned at opposite ends of the spectrum. A lot of product decisions can blend elements of the two approaches, but, at core, these two ideas really cover the gamut of why new watches come about. The point of this conversation isn’t to promote one market development strategy over the other but rather to help brands openly identify why they are producing a product so that they can integrate that rationale into their marketing materials and “product story.” Effectively creating and communicating a coherent narrative is really the goal. What does an ineffective product story look like? In essence, most ineffective product stories are not stories at all. When the mere visual look of a watch is what brands hope will lead to sales, managers are usually in for disappointment. An important piece of wisdom that many brand managers have learned over the last few years (especially in the direct-to-consumer era) is that new watches that are not accompanied with a story related to why they exist in the first place often fail to gain traction in the marketplace. The short reason for this outcome is that the market simply doesn’t “need” any more watches. There is no deficit of gold watches, sports watches, large watches or small watches, or any types of watches at all. The reality is that the marketplace is utterly saturated with wristwatch products and has been for a very long time.

Why, then, do some watches sell very well? The reason is because they aren’t selling a fungible good but rather a story tied to a product you can wear that conjures a range of emotions. The watch serves as a vessel for the story, as opposed to being a practical utility item meant to survive environmental abuse and reliably tell you the time. Most experienced luxury watch industry professionals intuitively understand this logic, but a relatively small number can articulate the psychology in as succinct a manner. The outcome is that watch brands are saddled with two very challenging goals crucial for success when it comes to selling a watch. The first is to produce a superlative wristwatch product from an engineering and design standpoint. The product must be beautiful and of high. The competition for watches is so steep today that only the best watches have long standing in the market. And yet, being good at this thing alone is not nearly enough to ensure strong sales or consumer demand.

The second goal is to craft a relatable and emotionally charged tale that grabs the attention of at least some consumers. The goal isn’t to satisfy everyone (because you won’t), but to develop a story that a consumer not only wants to listen to, but also live in is the ultimate desired outcome in this phase of marketing development. Sometimes, those stories are very straightforward, such as, “Rich people wear watches like this. So, if you wear it, people will believe you are rich.” Other stories are more nuanced, such as, “Professionals who do this sort of activity and risk this type of danger choose to wear a watch like this. So, if you wear this watch, people will view you as an adventurer.” There are truly no limits to the kinds of stories, myths, hopes, values, and goals that watches can be connected to, emotionally. Sometimes, those stories happen naturally, such as when a watch is owned by a cherished family member who passes it on to you. Most of the time, however, the a watch’s story is communicated by the brand directly. Failure to communicate a good story, or no story at all, is the most common reason that otherwise excellent watches stumble when it comes to sales.

The most difficult-to-digest truth here is the reality that watch brand managers need to spend not only time and effort on making a great watch, but just as much time and effort creating materials that allow new watches to connect with compelling stories to consumers. That leads to a double commitment and cost, which is not an expense most watch factories have historically had to take on. Traditionally, distributors and retailers bore much of the cost of specifically targeting consumers with wristwatch marketing. Today, as many watch brands adopt a more vertically integrated approach and seek to sell watches directly to consumers, they bear the cost and responsibility of also creating consumer demand. Many are learning that doing so is a lot more complicated than canvassing Instagram with pictures of their watches. It requires practiced storytelling in which a watch isn’t just an instrument worn on the wrist, but also a token of personal value, prestige, taste, accomplishment, and independence.

Now, for the good news. The easiest way to create a wristwatch with emotion is to simply explain to consumers why you made it. More often than not, new watches that come out today have interesting reasons and inspiration behind them, and are created by truly talented professionals. This means that merely telling the actual story of a watch’s creation, without much embellishment at all, is a very effective way of sharing the emotion and story behind the product — no marketing embellishment or artistic license is necessary. Brands merely need to invest in the creation of media that discusses what they are actually doing, as opposed to creating a fictional narrative about a watch. More often than not, the actual truth is compelling enough for enthusiasts to fall in love with a watch. I look forward to seeing more excellent stories shared by my favorite watch brands soon.

Ariel Adams is founder of A Blog to Watch

Share This:

Leave a Comment:

Human Check