Overall, the watch industry is a very conservative one. This is less visible in the watches themselves and more so in their marketing and advertising campaigns. Although marketing channels have shifted from exclusively offline to include online media, the messages have remained pretty consistent.
Of course, there are always a few exceptions to the rule! Several brands have used campaigns to show a different and more creative side to their products. Let’s look at five recent campaigns that have showcased the industry’s creativity.
1. Rolex: “Luminaries, Visionaries, Champions”
First on the list is one of the most iconic watch ad campaigns ever created. Rolex was behind a good number of ad campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s that were creative, smart, and funny. They often showed their watches in real-life situations, making it easier to relate to the watch itself.
One of their better campaigns in recent years is built around the incredible list of famous people that have previously worn or still wear Rolexes. Each person has made a difference in the world with outstanding achievements in the humanities, sports, arts, and sciences. They truly are luminaries, visionaries, and champions.
Seeing so many different iconic figures in a single ad makes you realize just how special Rolex is and helps explain why people are drawn to the brand. It’s refreshing to see that it’s not just about the watches but also about the people who wear them – something other brands could learn from.
2. Linde Werdelin: “The Perfect Five”
Linde Werdelin is not particularly well known to a wider audience. The brand has only been around since 2002 and produces modern sports watches inspired by mountain and sea exploration. Their timepieces are some of the best designed sports watches on the market and are built to withstand extreme conditions.
They also stand out in the way they communicate. “The Perfect Five” is a comic that Linde Werdelin released – together with French illustrator Dominique Bertail – in 2010. His images were not only used for the comic itself but also for an online campaign, the product sheets, and all other promotional materials.
The characters in the comic all wear Linde Werdelin watches, which are central to the storyline. This creates a direct link to the physical products. The individuals behind the brand also play a role in the story. I think this is the most creative campaign in the watch industry yet.
3. Omega “We Choose to Go to the Moon”
This is one of the most iconic Omega campaigns in recent history. The ad was released as a print and TV campaign in 2009 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Moon landing. Omega collaborated with the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum to create a campaign around the famous ‘We choose to go to the Moon’ speech.
The speech took place in front of a crowd of 40,000 people at Rice University in Houston, Texas on September 12, 1962. The speech was intended to garner support for a possible Moon landing and get the American public behind the efforts of the Apollo program, which Kennedy had initiated.
Public opinion at the time was divided, as the Apollo program was costly and people were not sure if a Moon landing would even be possible. As we all know, a little less than seven years later, the Moon landing became one of the most historic moments in human history.
4. Hublot “See What People Will Do for a Hublot”
When this ad was first released back in 2010, people were shocked. Why would you use the face of an old man with a black eye for your marketing campaign? Isn’t that a bit tasteless? The tagline “See what people will do for a Hublot” only added more fuel to the fire.
People who recognized the face, however, knew it was the beaten and bruised face of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. Hublot was the “official watchmaker of Formula 1” in 2010, so the link to Ecclestone was a logical one. But why this image? As it turns out, the then-80-year-old was violently robbed and his Hublot King Power F1 was among the things that were stolen.
The plot twist? Ecclestone himself sent the image of his bruised face to the brand and told them to use it. Jean-Claude Biver, Hublot’s legendary CEO, knew exactly what using the image would mean – and he was prepared to do it. The conservative watch world was in shock, but Biver knew this would give the brand a lot of exposure, which it did. After all, there’s no such thing as bad press, right?
5. Patek Philippe “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”
The last campaign on this list is probably the most famous of the five. To be honest, I am conflicted about this one. Why is that? Well, this is conservative watch advertising at its best, so it doesn’t really appeal to me.
So, what is it that makes it so special? It’s the sentiment that “you never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.” I am a sucker for great stories connected to watches, and the best stories cross multiple generations. Leagas Delaney, the London-based advertising agency behind the campaign, understood this really well.
As a result, this is the longest-running watch ad campaign ever. The first ads were released back in 1996, and the campaign has since been modernized with new pictures and watches. I don’t know if modern is the right word, however, considering the images are of perfect families that don’t really reflect reality. Nevertheless, the simple lines of text tell a far greater story than any image – and that’s why this campaign is on the list.