Saturday, May 30, 2020

An Open Letter to Watch Town

(Editor's note - there is going to be some political content.  I realize that this is essentially a blog about watches, and this post is about the Watch Industry specifically.  I also realize that if you are solely looking for an escape from the day to day, today's post is probably not going to be your cup of coffee).

Dear Watch Town,

I am writing this letter from one of your largest markets - the US.  As you may know, hot on the tail of COVID-19 we have now been reminded that despite the fact that this is 2020, we still live in a world that is far from fair or balanced.  As you read this, several major cities across the US are in turmoil with active protests against the killings of unarmed African Americans taking place in what in several instances is the result of institutional racism.  Needless to say, most of us are not thinking about watches right now.  We are, I sincerely hope, struggling to understand how we got to this point and how we might take a step back from the brink before we (all of us) topple into the void.

Ultimately, the racial inequities in the US date back to the founding of our country.  But they have been kept alive in many subtle ways.  And as many of you are marketers, you know as well as anyone that marketing messages and themes are targeted to certain audiences.   And that is why I am writing you today.

While I do not think that the watch business is a microcosm of the world writ-large, I do believe that the power of brand messaging cannot be underemphasized, and that Watch Town, in its own small way, could maybe take some steps that might help improve the situation.  A pebble in the ocean, but it's a start and hopefully the ripple might be felt.

I once asked in a post - "Do Black People Buy Watches?" (spoiler alert - they do).  And this got largely ignored in some quarters, and also managed to hit some very sensitive right-leaning nerves.      

I had a look at a bunch of brand websites this morning to test a theory.  As Rolex is the big dog, I started there.  You can visit the official Rolex page here to view these famous and well-known influencers -

You will notice that there are 33 famous faces.  Of the 33, 11 are female.  Odd in that I am fairly certain that globally the population (and therefore market) split is closer to 50/50.  This means that 22 of these partners are men.  But then it gets, well, whiter.  As a white male (if we are going by stereotypes) I can absolutely identify with (if my count is right) 19 of them.  

TAG Heuer's ambassadors - at least the ones specifically indicated on their website are both white, male actors.

Omega has George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eddy Redmayne and Cindy Crawford.

Audemars Piguet does have Serena Williams - bravo for that. But then a raft of white golfers reinforces a certain theme. I will say that the Born in Le Brassus, raised around the world videos have the potential to expand the brand's influence to reach a larger scope of people.  I for one hope that they take that opportunity.

Here's the the thing - I am in no way, shape or form saying that brands or their marketing firms make a conscious choice to exclude people of color.  I am saying that based on the websites, communications programs, choice of brand ambassadors, partnerships, etc. many brands and their marketing firms frequently don't seem to consider or realize that it is even a possibility to include people of color in the conversation.  I also want to say, clearly, that while I have lived in Asia and Europe, my opinion is that of an American consumer and journalist, and not necessarily that of the watch world at large. And we can disagree without being disagreeable.

And one last thing - I am not so naive to believe that when a watch brand starts bringing in friends of the brand who are more representative of the global population that suddenly the doves of peace and harmony will circle the world, violence will end and racial harmony will magically occur.  But Watch Town is my beat, and therefore I have to cover what I know.  It's a small step  to take, but maybe one the marketing departments of Watch Town might consider exploring it. 

Peace -


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