Hang­ing up on lux­ury hand­sets

Financial Mail - - DIAMONDS & DOGS -

Alas and alack, Vertu is no more. Founded by Nokia in 2002, the man­u­fac­turer of hand­made, lux­ury mo­bile phones was de­signed to at­tract those true be­liev­ers in the power of the con­sumer-led eco­nomic re­cov­ery — those for whom pay­ing a small for­tune for an iphone X was just not enough.

Be­fore its demise, Vertu man­aged to flog 500,000 phones, rang­ing from a stan­dard stain­less steel and ti­ta­nium model to a jewel-en­crusted

Boucheron ex­trav­a­ganza that was yours for a cheeky £1m.

The top end of the lux­ury goods mar­ket has proved re­mark­ably strong as the re­ally rich get ever richer, but Vertu found it­self caught be­tween two stools. Too bling by a fac­tor for the av­er­age civil­ian, and yet by many re­ports in­suf­fi­ciently os­ten­ta­tious to at­tract the eye of the gold Lam­borgh­ini mar­ket, sales started to wob­ble af­ter Nokia sold the com­pany in 2012. Then the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment pulled the plug on the party of “busi­ness gift-giv­ing” — spelt B-R-I-B-E-S — and the com­pany wob­bled through a cou­ple of own­ers un­til it col­lapsed into liq­ui­da­tion in July in cir­cum­stances that have now got the lawyers drool­ing.

Per­haps the real prob­lem was that lux­ury goods need a de­cent shelf-life — Swiss watch­maker Patek Philippe’s iconic ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign tells you, for ex­am­ple, that “You never ac­tu­ally own a Patek Philippe. You merely look af­ter it for the next gen­er­a­tion.”

This is al­ways go­ing to be a hard sell to repli­cate in a niche where tech­nol­ogy is mov­ing so rapidly that a phone looks like a mu­seum piece five years af­ter it was state of the art — and it proved too much for Vertu.

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