Hands-On with Baume, Richemont’s Fashion Watch Experiment

When Richemont announced it was entering the affordable luxury or “fashion watch” segment with Baume (sans Mercier) it was a surprise for a number of factors. Not only is the market share of this segment rapidly closing due to the social media savvy of brands such as Daniel Wellington but smartwatches are rapidly encroaching on terrain that was typical of the quartz-buying, design-friendly audience that Baume is targeting. And, what was most surprising for watch enthusiasts was that Richemont was giving up its Swiss-made designation and utilizing Miyota movements (quartz and mechanical) purchased from Japan’s Citizen Group.

Looking at it from Richemont’s perspective makes a little more sense. I can imagine a Richemont executive saying something along the lines of: “There are millions of people wearing watches in the sub-$1,000 range that would never think of spending $8k on a [insert Richemont brand of choice]; why not bring them into the Richemont fold so when they’re older they’re fully indoctrinated. Why are we not actively pursuing those potential customers?”

A large part of Baume’s appeal is based on two factors that differentiate itself from other “fashion watch” brands: sustainability and personalization. All unused components are recycled, there are no animal-based products or precious materials involved in the production, and additional items, such as the interchangeable straps, are made from up-cycled fabrics such as sustainably sourced cork, cotton, and linen.

Baume also offers a timepiece builder on its website where you can customize a watch off a base of your choice. There are over 2,000 different design options so that distinction will be key when targeting a younger demographic.

With all that in mind, it’s important to note that while Baume shares a first name with Baume & Mercier and the two are technically related, the companies will be separately managed and won’t share similar designs or concepts. A few executives from B&M are now at Baume but that is where the similarities end.

After the announcement went live, we reached out to Baume to see if we could get some models in our office to review. While we had requested the mechanical option (priced at $1,100) we ended up receiving two quartz models, one with a moon-phase and day/date and one with small seconds.

Both of the watches we received were 35 mm, likely intended for the female audience (Baume offers sizes ranging from 35 mm to 41 mm). The models were surprisingly compact and the straps felt quality. Although the button clasp on the back of the strap didn’t necessarily feel like the safest way to keep a watch on your wrist, it’s there for the quick-change strap system Baume is highlighting.

The wire lugs are an intriguing addition that provides easy access to the crown at 12 o’clock. On that note, the crown’s location is an interesting concept and one that carries over through the entirety of the Baume lineup. I can imagine it being atypical to the target audience and is definitely something that differentiates the timepiece from the DWs and MVMTs of the world.

In gray, the symmetry of the dial apertures makes the watch feel attractive enough, while in the white, small seconds model, I feel it’s almost minimalist to a fault. The numerals are hard to see but, again, that probably won’t be an issue for the target audience. The date window in the small seconds is again, very small, but feels engaging enough floating by its lonesome at 6 o’clock. The small seconds is quite large and takes up almost a quarter of the dial.

While I haven’t spent any time playing with the configurator on Baume’s website, I can imagine that it will be a significant source of the brand’s business. Time will tell if this is a successful venture for Richemont and the Baume team but there’s little doubt that they’ve succeeded at creating an authentic “fashion watch” for the mass market. Over the next few months, it will be interesting to watch how Baume integrates with the rest of Richemont. Will the brand receive a booth or some way to exhibit its products at SIHH? And, how will the eventual name recognition of Baume impact Baume & Mercier’s market?

The small seconds and moon-phase models we reviewed in the office are priced at $560 and $630, respectively. We’re hoping to receive the mechanical version soon for a closer look as well. Stay tuned.

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  1. James Lourens

    This is a good marketing strategy in principle but, not at these prices. From what I have seen the people who purchase Fashion Watches tend to buy them purely on esthetic appeal and because they tend to be very cheap. This Baum range will compete with other fashion watches in a market which is flooded with watches containing cheap Chinese or Japanese quartz movements and that usually sell for under $300USD. What incentive is there for those customers to now pay double the price for essentially the same category of watch?

  2. Randy Rogers

    Myself, I don’t see it. First, there is SMART, whether Apple or Samsung, then new players, this product once the purview of Millennial’s, allowing them both something of their own (not their fathers Watch) and the latest and greatest technology that is functional in their world for an affordable price, but which has now become multi-generational. Secondly, we’ve been down this road before, possibly without the borrowing of 1/2 the Brands name, but whether RW’s 88 Rue de Rhone, or almost 60 years ago when Bulova, the then King of the Industry, launched Caravelle (from $10.95 initially Jewelled Mvt.’s before Quartz). The 3rd dilemma arises with the name, Baume & Mercier is a name with a certain amount of sophistication and sound to it, not necessarily recognized by all strata in the targeted demographic chain. This, by itself becomes an issue as it compromises the Parent or Brand from which it evolved, not unlike possibly a ‘C’ or ‘MB’ from other ends of the Richemont stable. I believe historically this is a mistake, I believe one is compromising the Brand B&M, which although of diminished value of late, still has opportunities if they would recognize the Hero, that every Brand has, in their case (pun intended) Riviera, updated, instead of these confused homage pieces with no real synergy to the Brand, but I digress. We had a similar trap early in our life at TAG-Heuer, there was the Racer, the Professional who knew the Brand, but in a brilliant approach, F-1 was created with Color and Size to meet the Market, at that time $125-$150 Braceleted, at possibly our 3rd Sales Meeting we were presented what appeared to be a 3 Register Chrono in Red, Black and Blue Fiberglass Bezels on SS Cases and corresponding colored straps. As I suggested at the Meeting, to Managements dismay, “we are compromising the entire ethos of the Brand, bringing out a toy Watch”, from the head of the table came a quick response that was a challenge, and it was met with my response, “we sell Chrono’s in SEL, 2000, 3000 and are known for them, why bring out a Watch that has the Month, Date and Day on Registers, when we’ve already become the benchmark in our price arena for 1/10 of a Second 3 Register Chrono’s with Hour’s and Minutes”. The Watch was gone almost immediately, between cutting back our order to what we sold, and quickly went up-market with a replacement that did not compromise the Brand. Lastly, I don’t think Baume can compete in the ‘Meatgrinder” segment with Citizen, Seiko, Bulova, Apple, Samsung, Casio, the only opportunity, is with Richemont Accounts, given the Customization option, would be as a Private Label supplier to the Retail Partner, not sold at their own Boutiques or Digitally, allowing that store to create a new Price Platform below which they have nothing already, hence “Plus Business”, if it works!

    • Completely agree! Seems a risky and somewhat desperate move for the company that does nothing good for B&M. I don’t see it creating enough interest for young budget savvy young consumers. Baume name probably would not do much for them to lure into this, while there are plenty of more affordable and even branded options

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