Do celebrity endorsements reduce the desirability of a watch? These were your responses… Do celebrity endorsements reduce the desirability of a watch? These were your responses…

Do celebrity endorsements reduce the desirability of a watch? These were your responses…

Zach Blass

Most big watch brands today leverage celebrity ambassadors as a means of promoting their products. This is by no means exclusive to the watch industry: celebrity endorsements have long been a marketing tactic whether for cars, cereals, apparel, or even insurance policies. Once upon a time, we ran a series called Fantasy Watch Ambassador in which the Time+Tide team curated hypothetical matchups between figures in pop culture and watch brands. It was a fun exercise, but we did notice some people in the comments taking it far more seriously than we thought – disgusted by the concept of watch ambassadors in general.

Fast forward to this week, we posed the following question to all of our Instagram followers: “Agree or disagree? Celebrity endorsements reduce your desire to own a watch.” With over 300 comments on the post, we saw a lot of people express their agreement or disagreement with the prompt. Below, I have highlighted a selection of comments that raise interesting points on the subject.


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Celebrity ambassadors influence buyers, but less so “true watch collectors”

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Within the niche watch community, there is at times a bit of bitterness in regards to ambassadors. Superficially, there is the element of undeserving celebs getting free watches that mere mortals can not afford or receive an allocation for. But, digging deeper, there often seems to be this sense of ego or pride that a “true” watch collector does not get influenced in their purchase decisions by pop culture figures. Rather, a “true” collector develops their own tastes and preferences after educating themselves – engaging in “purer” purchases.

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One keen-minded commenter raised a good point about the possible bias of our polling pool. The level of enthusiasm and knowledge of our readers certainly falls on a spectrum, whether a die-hard watch snob, a newbie just getting into the watch hobby, or even well-versed watch lovers who just don’t take it all too seriously. But something anyone entering the niche watch bubble has to understand, as is pointed out in the comment above, is that we represent the minority. The average watch consumer does not necessarily have the same parameters or sense of judgment that we down-the-rabbit-hole watch enthusiasts have. While not the result of official ambassadorships, part of the reason watches from Audemars Piguet and Hublot have become so popular is due to the permeation of their products in popular culture.

Low risk-to-reward ratio, it can only be a “turn-off”

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While I personally think there is more of an upside than a downside to enlisting ambassadors, in a more-than-ever polarised black-and-white society where individuals in the spotlight can be “cancelled” at any given moment, there is certainly some risk in investing in an ambassador. Very few famous individuals are universally loved by the populace. With any given ambassador, you may be positively targeting a certain segment while completely alienating another.

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Many commenters, however, suggested that a celebrity ambassador would never be the catalyst of their watch purchase – but they could be the reason they are put off by a brand. Were the watch community representative of the larger watch-buying market, this would be a major cause for pause in the ambassador practice. Watch brands who can afford celebrity ambassadors can also afford to have marketing and public relations staff who strategically select and measure who the best celebrities to partner with are. That being said, some brands do a better job of this than others. Roger Federer is the perfect pairing for Rolex, but many to this day, at least within the niche-collecting community, question Lady Gaga’s tenure as a Tudor ambassador.

An exercise in generating awareness rather than instant purchase conversion

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In advertising, there is a metric or benchmark known as an impression. In reality, impressions just signal the number of views an advertisement banner receives, but the nomenclature is apt as it does in fact make an impression on the viewer. For those already familiar with a watch brand it may mean less, but for those passing by an advertisement in the subway, or even scrolling down a website, these celebrities could be the very thing that grabs their attention – and better yet, get an individual to look up or click through to a brand’s page. For a watch geek completely addicted to the hobby, a hero shot of simply a watch may be enough. For the mainstream masses, however, a well-known celebrity is more likely to catch the eye.

Strategic tie-ins are better than random representation

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Until now, we have discussed actual people being ambassadors, but many commenters raised the key point that fictional characters can be a better strategy. The most legendary fictional ambassadorship is the James Bond and Omega partnership, which remains to this day the pinnacle of horological product placement. There are also plenty of other watches that have cult followings, whether from newbies or die-hards, like the Seiko Ripley and Captain Willard among many others as a result of their cameos in film and entertainment. Hamilton has had immense success integrating their watches into films: their Interstellar Murph is just one example of a massive movie+watch integration success.

It’s less about just the celeb wearing it, and more about what they do while wearing it…

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The last recurring point I want to highlight is the idea that the most effective ambassadors do not merely pose with their watches. As the thread above suggests, it can be more effective to see how the watch can be used or worn. Seeing a Richard Mille endure a gruelling five-set match on the wrist of Rafael Nadal can be a much more meaningful placement than a celeb rocking up to the red carpet wearing a watch loosely to ensure it is photographed by Getty. Most of us will never experience suiting up for the Oscars. It is presumably far more relatable to see a watch worn during an activity we mere mortals may take part in.

As always, we appreciate your engagement and participation! We really enjoy bringing the conversations we have with our readers and followers on-site when we can, and your participation ultimately makes that happen.