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Kickstarter: A disruptor in the making?

Anna Wu-Chauvineau
Le 11 January 2017

Kickstarter: a revolutionary crowdfunding platform and proper catalyst for Business like few others. We dreamed about it. They did it. And we’re so glad they did. But…because there is always a “but”, whenever there is a surge of enthusiasm, there is also an unlimited amount of rubbish.

We apologize ahead of time for certain points of view that follow. We feel overwhelmed and consequently will be much less diplomatic today than usual. Not advised for the faint-hearted…

Cases in point. Take two projects that we have been following very closely and that have encountered enormous success on the internet: “Filippo Loreti” and the “Goldgena Project”.

The “Filippo Loreti” catastrophe

The example of Filippo Loreti (see here) is an amazing success story. No, correction, a disturbing success story.

How did this “brand” raise more than 4.8 million euros in orders with such products? Let us try to understand…

Filippo Loreti - Lineup

A solid Marketing and Products strategy misleads us to believe that we have lucked out on a good deal when in fact it’s nothing of the sort. Let us explain.

“Filippo Loreti” clients (not you, readers of Les Rhabilleurs we’re sure) were entitled to a good old fashioned sleight of hand trick worthy of a dubious second-hand car salesman off the highway.

The pitch: so-called “luxury” watches at a reasonable price thanks to the exclusion of the usual supply chain middlemen (carrier, distributors, resellers, etc.)

Certainly, but with what results?

To find ourselves with a low-end product of suspicious aesthetics and without any added value whatsoever.

The brand proudly advertises a pure design created by senior product “designers”, and a line presenting aesthetic codes from three emblematic Italian cities and noble materials. It’s nothing of the sort.

These watches are about as innovative as sliced bread, directly borrowing classic watchmaking aesthetic codes with incredible bad taste (very personal statement). In the mood for empty promises anyone?

Filippo Loreti Watch

Take, for example, a subject we know very well : the watch strap.

By “Italian Leather” we imagine something crafted by the hands of an Italian artisan, in an authentic workshop, with the most beautiful leather in the world. In reality we’re looking at basic low-quality leather, selected in Italy and sent to China for assembly. And out rolls a Filippo Loreti on the factory conveyor belt. Marvelous isn’t it?

Not needing any further development, Filippo Loreti illustrates that in playing with the public’s lack of knowledge and using easy-to-identify key arguments (Designed in Italy, Limited Editions, Best Deal Ever…) we can sell just about anything to anyone.

The whole, reinforced by Kickstarter’s “Good Deal” validation, has generated almost 5 million euros worth of a lot of bad taste and no added value. Kudos boys.

The “Goldgena Project” rebellion on Kickstarter

Goldgena Project. Another example of a promising initiative we have been wanting to share with you for quite a while. Yet another major disappointment at the revealing of the final result.

Goldgena Project Watch

The Goldgena Project (see here) boldly states at the beginning of their campaign: “High-quality watches at a fraction of their price”. Who will say NO to this? No one.

Here, the Best Deal starts off with a well-structured pitch. A storyline that gradually unfolds as the project, extremely critical of the current market and very realistic, progresses. A series of well-calculated theatrics. Bravo.

They say that the Swiss watchmaking industry is on the decline, that the prices are unjustified and that it’s an outright “scandal”. A revolution has been triggered by initiatives such as Goldgena.

Goldgena Project watch lineup

In short, a far left-wing revolt that places the consumer at the heart of decision-making to build an either Swiss Made or Made in China timepiece. Even better, the creation of the label TTO: Total Transparencey on Origin.

Result? Two automatic models made in China for the most part (volontary choice by the clients) with designs that disappoint us unfortunately (aesthetic codes, width and above all the thickness of the case) and an exclusively online distribution system.

A great initiative that charmed a thousand clients. Only time will tell if it’s sustainable.

Reasons for the common craze

First let us be honnest, this is a direct result of the current crisis in the watchmaking industry: unwarranted increase in prices for the past few years and poor analysis of the market by established brands.

Second, an impoverished offer. Creativity is at zero since Gérald Genta from the most renowned brands, a world of poorly made “reproductions” or groundless variations to fill up an already weak offer. The Swiss watches sector will have to step up, and quickly.

Third, the world of “luxury” (a word that no longer means anything today) that prefer “excessive pricing” more than the quality of their products. Much too many brands are joining in, in the watch sector as well as many others unfortunately.

Stepping out of the world of watches for a minute: how does one justify a poorly-cut Tom Ford suit jacket sold at 3400€? A sum enough to invest in two 3-piece suits from Artling, Willman and many others.

A fourth for the fun, and because we should share part of the blame nevertheless.

A lack of education among end clients. Why the rush to a digital false good idea when for the same price we can find a much more worthy selection on the second-hand market we ask ourselves. Truly.

What have we learned?

Internet and Kickstarter in particular represent serious opportunities for all types of initiatives to become reality. We’ve all known this for a long time. All the better.

However, internet has generated doubt in this well-established system for far too long. A system that has difficulty in understanding its inner workings, denying to see true opportunity and fearing the consequences of such a “public opening”.

As the system sat with its arms crossed and its head buried in the sand, what was bound to happen, happened. This is only the tip of the iceberg. It is time that the tight-knit watchmaking community wake up and take advantage of an immense source of inspiration and bank of precious client information.

But internet remains connected to human nature. All is not beautiful (far from it) and “good deals” aren’t always worthwhile.

Watch trio: William L - Baltic - Dan Henry

As much as the Filippo Loreti project breaks our hearts, we applaud initiatives like the Goldgena Project (even if we didn’t exactly fall in love with the overall aesthetics) and great new finds like William L 1985, Baltic Watches or Dan Henry.

It is the responsibility of each and every one of us, in his or her understanding of the watch market and sensitivity to watches, to pass on the message. For readers of Les Rhabilleurs, there is little concern. Even with a small budget, whoever takes the time to do some research will be able to indulge himself with a bit of vintage magic, or to give the up and coming brands a try, like the ones mentioned above.