Monday, March 15, 2021

Breitling's "Breitling Select"

Well, watch fans, if I am being brutally honest, I am truly conflicted by this one.

Breitling, and all credit to Mr. Kern, has been (by all accounts) doing quite well since he took over the flying a few years back. To wit, the word around the campfire is that sales are good - some say very good. And again, that is to be applauded.

Breitling (at least in the US) recently announced an initiative somewhat recently that now seem to be inextricably connected to the new "Breitling Select" concept and how it might help it be viable. That would be the "trade in" program. Back before the turn of the century during my brief tour of duty at Tourneau San Francisco, we too had the "Trade in - Trade up" style program. What this typically meant was that you, gentle customer, would receive .10 - .25 on the dollar (of what we would later retail your watch for) and you could apply that amount towards a new purchase. It was not a "cash out" option, you could only get "store credit". Some watches we were very happy to get as we could pump them into our "pre-owned" inventory and get a quick pop. Others we took with the full knowledge that they would be consigned for scrap, or organ harvest. The key issue was that at no point could the trade-in value exceed what you would have been willing to discount the watch in the first place. Back then it was not unusual for our managers to step into a sale and offer 20% off (so long as it was not a Rolex). So long story short, you were never destined to get as great a deal as you might have thought you would.

Breitling is now offering a trade-in program. My suspicion is that Breitling has not gone 100% into the pre-owned business.  Rather, my gut tells me that they have partnered with someone like Watch Box or some other large scale pre-owned watch vendor and are receiving what was referred to as a "spiff" (essentially a cash bonus) for every watch they take in and forward on. The then have that amount and have a little room to discount the purchase of the person who traded in.  Now this deal works well for Breitling because they "control the means of production", meaning that as the brand, their cost of goods is significantly less than that of their retail partners. If I am honest, it takes a little shine off the concept of luxury, but in fairness these are financially challenging times.

But then we get into the whole "Breitling Select" venture. You can read the pertinents here -

It seems like a pretty straightforward concept.

You pay a one-time subscription fee of:


And then you pay a monthly fee of:

$129 x 12 = $1,548

for a total of: $1,998

The concept is that it gives you an opportunity to kick the bezels on 3 different watches. Oh, and after 2 months you will start receiving "offers" by email to get a special purchase offer. I am not sure if that means that you are required to participate for an entire 12 months or if you can exit if you purchase prior to the 12 months being up.

Oh, one other thing - your "lease" is not a new Breitling, but what Breitling describes as coming from:

a selected, dedicated assortment of fully refurbished watches to ensure the full experience of Breitling’s high-quality products. 

Now the other thing that, if I'm honest, I find a wee-bit obnoxious about the whole proposition, is that not unlike "magic beans", Breitling provides you, the participant with "Squad Points". And no, that does not mean how many fighter jets you shoot down playing online flight simulator games. I suspect that Squad Points are the Breitling equivalent of Green Stamps -

Shamelessly Borrowed from the World-Wide Infoweb

But instead of a new table setting or frying pan, you can put it towards one of the refurbished watches you have already paid for the privilege of wearing for a few or more months.

And then, what happens if you don't opt to buy a watch?  Well, for the price of what you could probably have bought a pre-owned Breitling for on the open market, you get some swell memories and some unused Squad Points to carry with you as you travel down the Highway to the Danger Zone! And the folks at Breitling have some extra cash to invest in their next famous squad member.

Now in fairness, the concept is a nice one - try before you buy. But ultimately, it seems that this program is, by and large, a way to sell now unsellable (as new) watches from former retail partners or trade show display models. And in fairness, I see nothing wrong with that. But my honest opinion is that you should simply sell those watches in that format. NOMOS - who make great watches, (and the less said about some of their marketing and sales staff the better) have tried that concept through their online store. It is straightforward and clear - you are buying a used watch. The Breitling Select program is clear in many ways (terms and conditions, length of contract, costs, your assumed liabilities if you participate, warranty) but what it does not (at least as far as I can see) tell you is how many of these mysterious Squad Points you get per dollar put in, and will that amount ever come close to putting a serious dent in your purchase of a pre-owned Breitling. 

It could be a great deal, but without knowing how many Squad Points you will receive (which honestly should be a very knowable number as your deposit and subscription fee are exactly the same as anyone else's), and exactly how many US dollars each squad point is equivalent to, and lastly - just how much is the proposed retail of this watch that has potentially been with A LOT of previous participants AFTER the original instance of use that made it a refurbished item in the first place? Blockchain technology is all well and good, but ultimately you are entering a 12 month "rent to own" contract to buy a pre-owned watch for a price that you will not know at the beginning of the contract, but only when you either paint (buy the watch) or get off the ladder (pay your 12 months and leave without any "parting gifts"). 

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