THE LUX­URY OF COMMON SENSE

Plaza Watch International - - The Big Picture - Wo r d s : Rolf Studer, Vice Pres­i­dent of ORIS

For all that I love this in­dus­try and its heady cock­tail of lux­ury, tech­nol­ogy and global in­flu­ence, there are days when it drives me crazy. The lux­ury watch business is all about sell­ing a dream. I get that. A lux­ury watch is a largely spon­ta­neous pur­chase, as op­posed to a nec­es­sary one, and there­fore those of us be­hind the vel­vet cur­tain need to make sure we en­ter­tain on an emo­tional level as well as a cere­bral level if we’re to suc­ceed – after all, we’re not sell­ing in­su­la­tion here.

But when we lose per­spec­tive and that dream be­comes an ab­surd fan­tasy, it both­ers me. Some­times the in­dus­try is guilty of prey­ing on peo­ple’s gulli­bil­ity, of en­cour­ag­ing a Ve­blen good, or con­spic­u­ous con­sumerism. Re­mem­ber the I Am Rich iPhone app, which cost $999.99 to pur­chase, yet when launched sim­ply showed a red glow­ing gem on the screen and a va­pid mes­sage about how you the user de­served your wealth? That’s the kind of thing I’m talk­ing about.

And I’m in­creas­ingly con­vinced that right now lux­ury watch cus­tomers are start­ing to feel the same. Let me ex­plain. As we emerge from the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis, blood­ied but un­bowed, there is a mood of con­ser­va­tive op­ti­mism in the air. The pre­vail­ing feel­ing is that re­cov­ery is on the way and that we’ll embrace strate­gies that stim­u­late growth. But for good­ness sake, let’s not over­in­flate the bal­loon this time.

One of the prod­ucts of that is an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of value as well as qual­ity, and a need for authenticity, even in our in­dul­gences. We still want the best, but we also want to know that the best will last, rather than go bang with all the spec­tac­u­lar fi­nal­ity of the last fire­work at New Year.

This, for the record, has been the Oris mantra for 110 years, and is why I love work­ing for the company. When our found­ing fa­thers set up their watch­mak­ing business in the small Swiss town of Hol­stein in 1904, their in­ten­tion was to make a great prod­uct that didn’t cost the Earth, a sim­ple phi­los­o­phy that has en­dured through the good times and the bad, and con­tin­ues to in­form our de­signs and our de­ci­sions to­day.

We like to say we of­fer ‘the lux­ury of common sense’. Yes, we know the prod­uct we make isn’t as ac­ces­si­ble as a mass-pro­duced quartz watch, but that’s not the point. I have no is­sue with any­one who prefers such a watch to an Oris watch, or to any other lux­ury Swiss time­piece. That’s the lux­ury of per­sonal choice.

My point is that while an Oris watch is a lux­ury item that’s made to the ex­act­ing stan­dards im­plied by the Swiss Made des­ig­na­tion, it also of­fers tan­gi­ble value to our cus­tomers. That’s not an easy claim to make, but we cling to it and strive to im­bue our watches with it.

Take three in­no­va­tions we’ve in­tro­duced in re­cent years by way of il­lus­tra­tion. First, the Aquis Depth Gauge, launched last year. Its depth gauge func­tion works by ap­ply­ing the ba­sic prin­ci­ples of physics, al­low­ing wa­ter to en­ter a chan­nel cut into the sap­phire crys­tal via a hole at 12 o’clock. It’s a bliss­fully sim­ply so­lu­tion to a tech­ni­cal chal­lenge, and pro­vides divers with a le­git­i­mate func­tion. And it costs less than €2,900 – around a fifth of the price of the next most af­ford­able me­chan­i­cal Swiss watch that per­forms the same task.

Then there’s this year’s 110 Years Limited Edi­tion. Inside that is the first move­ment de­vel­oped in-house by Oris for 35 years. Its head­line func­tions are a 10-day power re­serve and a non-lin­ear power re­serve in­di­ca­tor, two com­pli­ca­tions that have never been com­bined be­fore. In a steel case, it re­tails for un­der €5000.

And one more be­fore I start bang­ing the drum too loudly – our lat­est in­no­va­tion, the Oris Big Crown ProPilot Al­time­ter, the world’s first au­to­matic me­chan­i­cal watch with a built-in me­chan­i­cal al­time­ter. That comes in at touch over €2,900.

Each of th­ese is an au­then­tic prod­uct sold at a price that re­flects their value hon­estly – we use the word ‘real’ in our ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns. We be­lieve – and in fact our cus­tomers are very gen­er­ous in re­in­forc­ing this view with us – that they are ro­bust watches that serve a real pur­pose while simultaneously bring­ing an enor­mous amount of plea­sure to their own­ers, over a long pe­riod of time. They en­able peo­ple to live a dream with­out the need to invest un­duly in the no­tion of ‘brand’ (and note I’m not say­ing per­cep­tions of a brand aren’t im­por­tant – they ab­so­lutely are), which ul­ti­mately of­fers very lit­tle real value.

That’s the lux­ury of common sense. That’s Oris. And that’s why this in­dus­try hasn’t driven me com­pletely crazy – yet.

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