|Rolex 5100 By Derk Marko Reckel - DMR (own picture taken of own watch) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Brand Identity. A brand is many things. On the surface, a brand is simply all of the logos, designs, slogans, and names applied by a company to a product, product line, or the company itself. But, a brand also encompasses all the perceptions that customers have about the company and products marketed under the brand. Most companies have marketing gurus, MBAs, and customer service specialist who try to shape that customer perception. They try to put together products, advertising, and service to shape and nurture positive perceptions that are fundamental to a powerful brand. But, in the luxury watch market, the watch makers have something more that often pre-dates MBA degrees and the marketeers. They have quality and passion that has been nurtured for decades and in some cases even centuries on fundamentals like craftmanship, ingenuity, and value.
Achievement Symbolism. Some brands embody all that a person aspires to become, but high end watch brands announce that a person has arrived. Whether a luxury watch is a flashy Rolex or an unattainable Ulysse-Nardin, it is a powerful symbol of wealth, personal taste, and social status. While it is easy to scoff at a status symbol, it isn't so easy to scoff at an achievement symbol. When a high achiever glances at their wrist, they may see more than the time of day on a luxury watch. They may see the results of diligent study, hard work, faith, perseverence, risk, and long hours.
Heritage. Luxury watches almost always have a story. That story conveys a sense of connectedness to long traditions of watchmaking art and engineering. When you buy a watch from Vacheron Constantin, you are buying from a company that has been refining the art of watchmaking since 1755. Today, it's refreshing to hear a story that doesn't begin with "some entrepreneurs in a tropical city found a watch factory in Asia." When G. Gagnebin & Cie make a watch, they are putting their good family name and reputation on the line. When each watch represents four generations of watch makers, you can bet they are making a watch that will make them proud.
Relevance. Luxury watch brands stay relevant to the passions and pursuits of their market. When watchmakers sponsor auto racing, yacht racing, golf, and tennis, they are staying relevant in the eyes of watchbuyers. Every week, Rolex sponsors a television show called "Rolex Spirit of Yachting." They are an integral part of the active lifestyle of wealthy yachtsmen.
Authenticity. Luxury watch buyers want their watches to be part of a broad and authentic traditions. For many years professional mountain climbers and undersea explorers were sponsored and prominently featured in Rolex advertisements on the back covers of National Geographic magazine. It was Rolex that Sir Edmund Hillary wore when he conquered Mount Everest. The idea that real adventurers wear Rolex watches is deeply planted in the western psyche. When the British luxury watch maker, Bremont, used actual metal from a classic P-51 fighter plane in their limited edition P-51 chronograph chronometer, they were creating connection to history.
It is indeed the intangible things about luxury watches that add to their mystique and make them a magical addition to any collection. When making a luxury watch purchase, any prestige watch buyer would do well to use their spirit as a guide.
G. Gagnebin & Cie website