Posted by Sheila Shayon on April 22, 2010 02:24 PM
The world of fine watches is a rarified one, and has preserved its status quo for many years. Watch companies controlled sales through authorized dealers only. Condescending salespersons peddled snobbery and pushed extravagant sales tags for parts and materials worth half the advertised price.
Longines, a venerable Swiss watch brand since 1832, has a tradition as “official timekeeper at world championships and as a partner of international sports federations.” Known for its elegance and winged hourglass emblem, Longines just stepped into the 21st century with its first online store.
Now you can buy directly from Longines with a guarantee of authenticity and warranty support – as well as an uninflated price.
The average price per timepiece is around $2,500, and loyal Longines ambassadors include Andre Agassi, Stefanie Graff, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, and Aaron Kwok Fu Shing.
With the advent of the Internet, authorized watch retailers would sell their wares to buyers who would resell them online at mark-up. This created a ‘grey market’ of inflated price and faux imitations. Counterfeits were hard to distinguish, and the world of horology was upended.
According to Chronocentric, the ways to identify a grey market product include if the dealer's price is more than 20 percent below the manufacturer's listed price; if the warranty card is missing or not stamped by an authorized dealer; and if the watch's serial number is missing.
Horologists are historically resistant to change. CrunchGear notes how when Texas Instruments first developed the quartz movement, Swiss watch companies were disinterested so Japan and China ran with the technology.
While just joining the Web, Longines is moving fast by launching an iPhone app featuring videos, wallpapers, world wide point-of-sale locators, and a numerical simulation function that lets you virtually try the watch on your wrist.
In a $35 billion corner of the economy, an old guard brand is adapting to a digital marketplace in a—yes—timely fashion.