Thursday, April 1, 2021


After a quiet 5 year sleep, the dream is finally a reality - Sleeping Beauty has awoken and ready to take on the watch world again!

Of course if you've checked your calendar, you realize that while this is not The Onion, it's also not actual fact.

JEANRICHARD lives on as an example of how to build, and then wipe out goodwill in the press and the watch fan base in three short years.  

Shamelessly borrowed from the world-wide infoweb

Let's hop in the WABAC Machine to those thrilling days of yesteryear - 2012.  It was November (I believe), and I had been surfing around various sites looking for content, and stumbled upon this -

It was followed a little over a month with this one -

Curious to relate, I got a very warm and fuzzy email from the newly minted head of JEANRICHARD North America inviting me down to Los Angeles in January in a few weeks to view the new collection.

And thus began my personal obsession with all things JEANRICHARD. My interactions with the JR folks were an early lesson that relationships with watch brand folk are more frequently than not, transactional. Which in and of itself is not such a tragedy, but underscores the transitional nature of the reality of life working as a brand manager, sales manager or even CEO - you are more often than not simply a place holder waiting to receive your pink slip.

The marketing plan behind JEANRICHARD was, well, baffling. Brand partnerships included a (literal) tight rope walker, a B list actor, multiple rugby teams and players and the coup de grĂ¢ce - Miss France herself back in 2016. A few curious facts about the arc of JEANRICHARD partnerships - they went from global (including the Arsenal Football Club), and petered out to almost exclusively French ones. 

So what went wrong?  Well, as early as 2014 brand loyalists were pointing fingers and those who hadn't already jumped ship were plotting their escape routes. In 2013 GP had made their triumphant return to BaselWorld and in an equally impressive booth right next-door was JR.  The next year, the JR booth had shrunk to half its size.  By 2015 pretty much everyone had departed, and the entire JR operation had been compressed into ONE room which looked like a storage closet had exploded inside of it, with a harried PR person (external) in tears as she handed visitors baseball hats, year-old catalogs and looked as if she was about to walk out herself.

And then JR was put to sleep, and Prince Charming still has not shown up to awaken her with a kiss (or massive cash injection).

But really, those are more the effects.  Let's talk about the causes -

1.  Cockiness 
Interestingly, the brand management was very good at making quick friendships, but then forgetting that the watch business is a relationship business. Retail partners were frequently left screwed when the grey market would (not infrequently) be flooded with the same product that they had just purchased for their stores. This then trickled down to the customer, who felt like a total rube for paying full price 2 weeks prior only to find it on a grey market super-store website for 50% off.  And finally, we members of the press. Those of us who were early supporters were jettisoned once more "attractive" outlets came into view. Curious to relate? Once those big outlets had sucked all the money they could out of JR, the moved on to the next warm body.

2.  Short term tunnel vision 
The brain trust at JR decided if they could sell 100 pieces, then surely they could sell 10,000 at an even higher price.  Moreover, if people are happy with black, silver, blue, green and aubergine (I owned and loved that one), then let's have 500 different SKUs!

3.  They felt the need to have the best looking date at the Prom
Step 1 - get a partner
Step 2 - get a better looking partner (and 86 the first partner)
Step 3 - get an even better looking partner (and 86 the second partner)
Step 4 - get dumped and go back to the first partner and act as if they were always their first choice. I spoke to several retail partners who felt that way - and I certainly felt that way as a member of the press.

4.  Refusal to admit that mistakes were made, and refusal to adjust the plan
Watch brands make knuckle-headed decisions several times a day. The trick is to recognize when things are not going to right themselves, and GO BACK to the plan that was working.

Here's the irony - there are STILL a lot of people who even though they got burned, would likely embrace JEANRICHARD again.  For my part, I would be the leery jilted partner in the Rom Com who would have to be won over again by the end of the movie.

JEANRICHARD could still be awakened, could still be something, but it will require a good, hard look at what went wrong, and a cautious, thoughtful approach. If my memory is correct, before he bought and reinvigorated Girard-Perregaux, Daniel Jean Richard was the first jewel in the Macaluso family crown. It deserved a better fate than the one it is currently enduring. Let's hope someone, somewhere is ready to salvage what truly could be an interesting brand.

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