Really Expensive Watches Need Product Managers Too

by drjim on February 28, 2011

This Isn't Your Father's Timex…

This Isn’t Your Father’s Timex…

Take a look at your wrist – are you wearing a watch? These days a lot of us have foregone watches because now we have cell phones that seem to always know what time it is. However, there is another group of people who wouldn’t be caught dead without having a watch on. In fact, they insist on wearing very, very expensive watches. When you could run to the nearest drug store and get a perfectly good watch for $10, how the heck do product managers convince some people to pay 10,000x more for a watch?

It Really Is Complicated

High end watch product managers realize that if they are going to have any hope of charging a five or six figure price for their watches, then they are going to have to find a way to make them different from the $10 variety that you and I can pick up at the local store.

First off, digital is out. Any watch that you can slap together using a chip and a battery is clearly not going to be able to command the prices that these product managers are looking for. Instead, the watch lines that they are managing are all mechanical. Sure it’s harder to build these types of watches, but that’s why customers want them.

Next, they add complications. No, these aren’t the types of complications that we product managers face every day. Rather, when you are talking about watches “complications” — complex movements each of which can contain up to 600-700 individual parts in order to provide its functionality.

So just what is a complication you ask? Well simple examples include watch functions that measure split seconds or even keep track of dates including both years and leap years for the next several centuries. If you want to get even more fancy, there are complications that log moon phases or create audible chimes using miniature hammers and gongs.

Can You Say Branding?

At this point we’re no longer really talking about watches any more, rather we’re talking about finely tuned works of art. The customer base for this type of product consists of both watch collectors and enthusiasts. Combine this with celebrities, politicians and businessmen / women who want to show off their good taste, and you’ve got yourself a market. Sounds like it’s time to do some branding.

In order to justify high prices for these watches, product managers carefully manage the supply. They create limited editions and one-of-a-kind pieces. Customers realize that there is limited availability and so they don’t hesitate to add their names to months-long waiting lists.

As you may have guessed by now, this type of watch is not something that you can just pick up anywhere. The number of manufactures of these watches is limited to perhaps 20 firms worldwide. Some names you may recognize such as Tag Heuer, Zenith, and Ralph Loren. Others are only known by watch collectors such as Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Breguet.

The key thing that watch product managers realize is that by limiting the number of manufactures and thereby the supply, they can build a mystique around each watch that is created and thereby allow it to command a higher price.

What All Of This Means For You

Most product managers struggle with sales teams that are all too eager to slash prices as they try to sell their products to as many people as possible. In the rarefied atmosphere of high-end watches, things are done differently: there are no thoughts of discounting the price, and you only have to sell a few of these to have a very good year.

The way that high-end watch product managers make their products so desirable is by making them complicated. Complications are the complex movements that add more and more functions to these marvels of mechanical design. Couple that with a great deal of effort that has gone into establishing distinct brands of watch manufactures and you have a product that both stands out and is seen as being very valuable to potential customers.

The rest of us regular product managers can learn a thing or two from these product managers who have time on their side. Creating unique products and taking the time to explain to our customers just exactly why they are unique can create desire among our customers. Add some branding to make sure that customers know that what our firm is offering is special, and you’ve got a winning product formula. You can apply these ideas to making your product more successful, all it takes is time…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How do you think high-end watch product managers defend against lower price products?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Who hasn’t heard of YouTube by now? It’s that Google owned web site where anyone can upload videos that they’ve made to share with the world. Every once in awhile a video will “go viral” and literally millions of people will take time out of their day to visit the YouTube web site and spend a few minutes watching the video. Sure sounds like something that a Product Manager would like to make happen for your product…

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