Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Searching for Signs of Life at Vulcain

It is really hard to be in a one-sided love affair.  When you love someone (in this case a brand) and it does not return your affection...

Courtesy of Vulcain
I have been a Vulcain fan ever since I discovered them in that out of the way jewelers in Helsinki while killing time before a class I had to teach.
It's safe to say I was entranced.  And when I heard that the brand was re-launching I was desperate for any sort of information.  Emails, letters, even phone calls went unanswered.

Distribution was meant to come to North America, and like fart in a whirlwind, it disappeared.

Fast forward to 2010 and new owners and a new distributor was announced.  And this is where perhaps one of the all time cases of brand indifference took place.  Almost LESS THAN ZERO brand communication.  Requests for information from people who had business cards that said "marketing" or  "public relations" must have had incorrect email addresses and phone numbers, because once again there was almost no communication.

New models were really more discovered than announced because apparently it was too much effort to knock together an email newsletter and hit "send all" to an email group.  And while the distributors would smile and say confidently that "business was great", a quick Google search would reveal the truth - several online grey market stores featuring Vulcain with nearly the entire Cricket collection on the block, and an EBAY "store" based in New York/ New Jersey that carried what appeared to be the entire Cricket collection along with several NOS (New Old Stock) ORIS watches.

Did Vulcain HAVE TO fail?  Was it inevitable?  I don't think so and neither to quite a few other folks in the industry.  What could have made the difference?  A few things:

1.  What the f&*^ was the message?  It was never really made clear.  It started as the "watch of the presidents" and took a few drunken turns, with a brief flirtation with Jazz legends and a "Herbie Hancock" limited edition… and then really nothing.  Had the message been clear and REPEATED, the Vulcain Cricket might have had a chance.  And this would have given the chronograph and time only models a much more solid platform to build on.

2.  What was the product range?   Kind of went all over the place - seemingly hundreds of different alarm models that only served to dilute the range, and then some sensible watches (time only, chronograph, etc.) that were added too late to the party and never appropriately announced or marketed.

3.  Pricing - Claiming it's an in-house movement, etc. and therefore it should cost "a gazillion" dollars.  Well, it seems that the buying public felt differently.  Think about it - Favre Leuba, Wyler, Vulcain and other brands were not so flipping expensive "back in the day".  When you try to "re-birth" a brand, you have to accept that dipping it in "magic pixie dust" will not magically endow it with a storied past of price exclusivity.  People have memories, and it is hard to try and convince them of something that doesn't necessarily match up.  You have to punch your weight.  Where is Wyler now?  Favre Leuba?  Exactly.

So now it seems, new management and new distribution are set up, but again really almost NO NEWS.  So we will wait and we will see.  And perhaps it's time that I accept that sometimes love is unrequited, and it's time for me to move on ; )

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