Thursday, May 17, 2018

Richemont Drops the Baume

Courtesy of Baume
Baume is a new brand spun out by Richemont this past week.  And I have to be very honest here - this was a beautiful, wonderful idea.  A watch brand that sought to position itself as a less flamboyant, more down to earth enterprise that would work hard to embrace eco-friendly ideals, that was, sadly, not executed very well.  If we are to take the concept of Baume at face (or PR pitch) value, it is meant to be a less expensive watch collection that speaks to Millennials and/or hipsters due to it's (by comparison) low entry level price and purported goal to offer an "upcycled" watch that contains potentially recycled and environmentally friendly materials.  And in principle, again, I love the idea. 

Sadly, the execution is lacking, and the actual communication of the brand and its ethos is not helping.  Hand to heart, word to God - I really do love the idea.  But, unfortunately, it is just that...  
a very charming, (we hope) sincere idea.  But it is also one that underscores what is really wrong with the watch industry as a whole, and the big groups in particular - FEAR.  Fear that if you take even a moderate stand (no more crocodile or alligator skins) you will suddenly lose market share.  Fear that if you try anything different with your established brand, you will lose market share.  Fear that if you take an existing brand, and try to help it rediscover where it was always meant to be (a more realistic price point), you will lose market share.

Baume & Mercier could very easily have said - "You know what?  Those videos of the poor animals being skinned alive to make handbags and watch straps and shoes that will be thrown away after one year were pretty bad.  How about we say that we won't use that material for our watch straps any longer?  We can still use leather, but let's do things that are elegant and ethical?"  

And in truth, that is a tone that not just Richemont, but every brand could take.  

But getting back to Baume, the price points while low for Richemont, are startling steep for the watch itself.  This is brought into sharp focus when considering that $560 buys the quartz (Ronda) versions, and nearly double that will get you the "Iconic"  41 mm automatic version (Miyota).  And this was another particularly baffling choice given the glut of Swiss mvts. currently available, and is somewhat anathema to the notion of cutting down on carbon footprints created by unnecessary shipping.  Unless Citizen is now manufacturing movements in the European Economic Community ; )

Customization is a big part of the marketing pitch as well.  And if I am being fairly honest, it is not really as diverse as it could be, and I while I did search for automatic version customization options, I was only able to select from Quartz options.

I am trying to imagine what the pitch meeting was like to come up with this brand concept.  My suspicion is that comparisons were drawn to some truly interesting micro brands that are using Miyota.  And I have no doubt reference was made to Daniel Wellington. 

I guess what this all boils down to me is what I can best describe as a "test case" for Richemont.  Not tons of effort on the press communication front (granted, outlet X got their usual exclusive and gave the anticipated levels of appropriate praise), but otherwise, not a lot of chatter.  

Baume is, in many ways, trying to approach two markets.  The Daniel Wellington crowd, and the idealist.  Both are very real, very tangible markets, but (forgive the pun) only time will tell if this test balloon flies.

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