Well I wonder how many people will read this heading and think to themselves:- ‘Who or what are Rolex?’
Not that many I presume. And I guess this will go some way to answering this question, or does it? It depends in what terms are we thinking? Design? Marketing? Innovation? Popularity? Quality? Luxury? The desire to own one?
This article will hopefully touch on these separate aspects as questions and I may alleviate some of the myths about the brand on the way.
OK, let’s safely assume a large majority of the population of the western world has heard of the name Rolex. A name thought up by the brand creator Hans Wilsdorf to be deliberately easy to say, recognise and spell.
Even a large percentage of the population of underdeveloped countries will probably recognise the name. I have been fascinated by this brand since I was a small child, and have followed its rise and rise to the unparallel and continued success it sees today. Here is what I have come to know and understand about Rolex.
Marketing and Branding
Taking anything and everything into consideration, the marketing and branding of Rolex is almost untouchable, and really, can be labelled a continual master stroke of genius. Even the off the cuff flippant casual remark of ‘so what are you going to do now, buy yourself a Rolex?’ This can be viewed either way around. To some it shows as a symbol of arrogance, showing off, wanting to be noticed. To others they may applaud thinking yes, good for you, celebrate your achievement, the milestone reached.
Owning a Rolex means something, whether good or bad. It has stature and presence. They do various designs, some subtle, some not so, some understated and elegant, others ghastly and crude.
Rolex did make some pioneering moves within the industry, they were the first with many designs and innovations but there maestro move definitely has to be marketing and branding.
In the early 1970’s they patented the idea of a watch sitting in a tank of water, showing off its water resistance. This was in display windows everywhere. It was simple but very clever. That is in a nutshell sums up what Rolex’s are. Even when other manufactures caught up with the water resistance Rolex could offer, they still couldn’t show it. Sure, in an advert you can say whatever you like, but as you walked past a shop, here a Rolex watch was, working and submersed in water. Very physical, practical and eye catching.
This for me sums them up from a marketing standpoint. And branding, well they kind of do pretty well in that area too. Rolex make you want their watches. The brand is shown as successful, kind of honest, hard working, and the message is that you’ve made it in life when you can own one, and more importantly you deserve to have one.
Other clever ploys, and they have many more than I mention, are to:-
• Stop and start production of models
• Introduce very subtle changes to the models available
• Regularly increase prices
• Fundamentally keep the same design
• Intersperse existing models with new innovations
An example of the latter would be the new ceramic Bezel design they have come up with for certain models. If you don’t know, the Bezel is the part of the watch that sits on top of the case and it holds the glass in place. This new design of Bezel is crisper than the old, non fading and to top it off, they’ve made it in colours they haven’t used for a while.
An example of the first point and others is the Milgauss. One of my favourite models, even though it’s design harks back to a solution to customers who worked in power plants etc. It was introduced in 1956 to offer protection for any customers who worked extensively near excessive magnetic fields as in a normal movement of a watch; this would play havoc with its timekeeping. They discontinued it in 1988 amidst an uproar and price soar of the existing models as few were sold at the time.
They then made a couple of design changes and re-introduced it in 2007. In 2007 there were 3 model variations, one in particularly being more popular and sought after than the other two. Naturally in the Rolex world, you paid a premium for this one. As an example of their fantastic price hiking, in 2008 after being re-introduced, a GV variant’s list price was just under £4,000. In 2012 the list price for the same model was £5,500 whilst showing no hint of any changes whatsoever. The Milgauss range has since seemed to have slowed down in popularity and thus their new version with a gorgeous blue dial, introduced this year retails at £5,500 too. It is worth noting that at the time of re-introduction ‘change hands’ prices of these models was widely reported as being double the retail price at the time.
End of Part 1 Mark Scotchford © 29/08/2014