Can Baume Survive as An Independent Brand?

I only ask the question because having worked for a few years in a pawbroker’s shop I can honestly say that not only have I seen no interest at all in the few Baume & Mercier watches in stock, but nobody ever enquired about a particular model either. Two people in two years came in Baume & Mercier watches to sell and were shocked at how little they were offered. Yoy may say that was because the pawnbroker was trying to buy them super cheap but you would be wrong. Fact is, most TAG quartz watches, nearly all modern Rado, Tissot and Longines, struggled to sell for over £700-£900 pre-owned, even in mint condition. Same story with B&M, they just don’t have the luxury cachet – or fanbase – associated with Omega, Breitling, IWC, JLC etc. The net result is that as a business, with huge overheads to pay every month, you end up offering £200-£300 on  watch that you might sell – might – for £600-£750 a year down the line. It’s just business, nothing personal.

So it was interesting when B&M announced that Baume would become a hip, younger brand. Looking at the 2021 Baume product line up, I can see the doughty Clifton Club and Baumatic models are still there, which is understandable, but I kinda expected a clean break with watch designs which look like something from the 1990s. These are mdoels which you dad, or grandad might buy, and imho you’ll never win new customers with that strategy. Nobody under 30 wants to wear the same watch as their dad, even if it’s a Rolex Oyster.

Baume have some entry level quartz watches, which at £450 are not too expensive, plus 2% of that cost goes towards projects that remove plastic waste from the oceans. This is a good idea, definitely.

Now the Baume Ocean Upcycled automatic watches are also a very good marketing idea, plus 5% of the price goes to the plastic waste clean-up. This new BAUME watch is created in collaboration with Waste Free Oceans (WFO) and SEAQUAL Initiative, two partners that collect plastic debris from the seas to transform them into innovative products. “The BAUME OCEAN Limited Edition from the BAUME collection is much more than a product. It symbolizes our determination to support our partners – WFO and SEAQUAL INITATIVE – in their daily combat against marine pollution, and to participate in a global consideration of the Brand’s role in today’s society,” explains David Chaumet, CEO of Baume & Mercier.

The 42mm case on the Ocean model is crafted using a recycled plastic cap produced by the NGO WFO, a historical partner of BAUME; and the case is then sheathed in blue or green anodized aluminum. The cap is made up of 80% recycled plastic gathered by the partner NGO Waste Free Oceans and reinforced with 20% glass fibers to increase its resistance. Baume say they spent time selecting the plastic debris from the ocean that offers the highest performance, durability, and quality. This is anew direction for the B&M factory and it might just be the right road to take.

You see, today’s wokerati generation demand a product back story; full of cuddly dolphins, happy islanders dragging in plastic-free fishing nets at sunset and fewer product miles, so that Instagrammers who spend 9 months of their year taking private jets to exotic locations for photo shoots, can blog about sustainability. It’s all drivel of course, but if it makes people feel good about using less of the earth’s resources in manufacturing new watches, then that can only be good news. Because in the end, if the watch industry doesn’t play this game, it WILL get cancelled. Make no mistake.

So being eco-friendly, supporting the circular economy, is a way that Baume can win over a new, younger collector audience. It could well be then that Baume eventually survives at the expense of the old B&M brand name which seems a bit old hat by comparison? Much depends on the popularity those hipster upcycled automatics and I would suggest Baume urgently needs a smartwatch that also helps clean up the oceans. Meantime, if you want to go a different, more sustainable path as regards your watch habit, then The OCEAN BAUME Limited Edition is available for sale at £1290 on www.baume-et-mercier.com and on partner sites such as www.mrporter.com

As a footnote, there is a huge opportunity for Omega to make its Planet Ocean watches the ultimate marine life badge of virtue-signalling, with a minimum 5% donation to plastic waste gathering and backing various recycling projects around the world. Just saying.

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