Monday, July 3, 2017

Those Who Do Not Remember the Past...

So a quick shout-out to that other noted commentator on the watch industry, George Santayana for reminding us the importance of studying history, in particular the importance of knowing and understanding your company's history.

By now, those who follow these things are well aware that Vulcain has been bought yet again, and apparently everything is going to be golden from here on out!

I'm not going to beat around the bush, but I am going to call bullshit right from "Jump Street" on this one.  Unless there is a fundamental change in approach and a true "come to Jesus" moment, Vulcain is going to dangle out there much the way another much mishandled brand had been, Anonimo.

And that is not the only thing that they have in common, as they now are both owned by the same folks out of Luxembourg.

So we are now a few years into Anonimo version 3.0, and if we are going to be honest, it has not been a booming success.  Anonimo has had several misfires up to this point, and apart from sponsoring a sail boat, motorcycle racers and God knows what else, I am seeing precious little in the way of actual watches.  In other words, as someone who covers these things, I have absolutely NO IDEA what Anonimo is or does these days.  There is now truly no connection to the founding idea of what Anonimo was supposed to be about.  A few years on and there is precious little "Anonimo-esque" about what they are producing.  It could be pretty much any Swiss watch.  If we recall what made Anonimo notable it was the Italian made watch cases, and the Kodiak straps.  Neither of which you will find now.  They have kept the Militaire which is good, but they are still, to some extent, not really there yet as a brand.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Anonimo was like that slightly zany girlfriend you had in university who would borrow your car to go visit an old boyfriend while you were out of town, rack up 20 parking tickets without telling you about it, and manage to drive it off a cliff.  But there was something about her that you just couldn't walk away from.  It wasn't logical, it was visceral.  There was a "there" there.  Sadly, today Anonimo is just another Swiss brand trying to repackage a story without actually bothering to have read the story that they are repackaging.

So what does that have to do with Vulcain?  Fair question!  Just as the latest stewards of Anonimo have pretty much eradicated any vestiges of the Anonimo DNA, the previous brain trust that brought back Vulcain have consistently bungled it.  Sounds harsh, doesn't it?

Well, let's consider what Vulcain was known for.  The Cricket, the "watch of the presidents".  An often forgotten fact is that connection to the presidency was primarily the work of a US based watch association, and later the Paajanen family through their store in Helsinki, Finland.  These were the folks who sought out and gifted Vulcain Crickets to the US presidents both current and past.  The new owners made, if I'm honest, a pretty half-assed attempt with little to no media coverage.

But what Vulcain was really known for "back in the day"?  It sure as HELL was not  a limited edition watch with Pandas on the dial (note - this is a limited edition of 30 pieces that unless I am mistaken was introduced several years ago and apparently still has not sold).  And if you have $54,100 it can be yours!  Or a Herbie Hancock model?  Limited to 250 pieces, and "priced to sell at $6,800".  Let's hope that includes a private concert with commemorative CD from Mr. Hancock ; )

Vulcain was not noted for outlandishly expensive watches.  They were very much considered a quality watch at a fair price.  And unless the new ownership is ready, willing and able to embrace the realities of the economic situation in the watch world, and relearn their ACTUAL history, they will be heading down the same slippery slope that they've already gone down with Anonimo.

These are potentially viable brands, but they actually need to remember who they were, and in terms of pricing and presentation?  They need to punch their weight and start living in the real world.

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