mbassadors 2.0 directly participate in product development, which can also reduce the risk of the discrepancy – or even sheer hypocrisy – associated with a purely financial agreement.
In the last few years, ambassadors and partnerships have become legion in the watchmaking world, from cinema stars to famous athletes to celebrity chefs. At the beginning of this type of collaboration, partnerships actually went beyond simple brand awareness operations: they reflected major technological breakthroughs.
Take the example of Omega, which collaborated with NASA in 1969 to develop its Speedmaster “Moonwatch” which accompanied Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in their space conquest. In different field, Rolex also got involved in the first ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 with the development of a unique watch that would become the ancestor of the Rolex Explorer.
Through the years, the number of partnerships has steadily grown, and each one has become a powerful tool of communication and storytelling. However, certain companies have decided to enrich and develop the concept.
Today, there are two distinct types of collaboration:
• Partnerships based on values (or passive collaborations), which highlight a brand or product through an ambassador who shares the brand values, but who is not particularly involved in the development process.
• Co-creation partnerships (active collaborations), which go beyond image coherency to result in the development of a new product: a partnership both in technical terms and in terms of the aesthetic and design dimension.
A few concrete examples illustrate the difference between the two
Hublot & Lapo Elkann
- Lapo Elkann
The collaboration between Hublot and Italia Independent, led by eccentric director and co-founder Lapo Elkann, has given rise to several far-reaching projects since 2014.
The play on textures, materials and decoration – as well as the entrepreneur’s creative strength – join forces with the expertise of the Swiss watchmaking brand to capitalise on this partnership, bringing forth a number of bold projects with a resolutely Italian style.
The two organisations are thoroughly involved in the development of these unique collections. Each one brings its own expertise to the table, and the result is an absolute alchemy. The unusual personality of Lapo Elkann showcases this synergy to breathe life and backstory into the creations while maintaining the brand’s codes.
TAG Heuer & Alec Monopoly
- Alec Monopoly
The master graffiti artist Alec Monopoly joined forces with the famous watchmaker TAG Heuer to become the brand’s “artiste provocateur”. The artist was given an opportunity to express his creativity with a totally reworked “Formula 1” watch model. By decorating the dial with an ironic self-portrait and brand iconography, Alec Monopoly was able to bring his sardonic touch to the brand’s new creation.
Rolex & Deepsea Challenge
- James Cameron
Through a partnership with the famous expedition Deepsea Challenge by the film director and world explorer James Cameron, Rolex supported one of the most ambitious maritime operations of the decade.
This collaboration enabled engineers to develop an experimental watch able to sustain the strongest pressure of the ocean depths while being worn on the human wrist. Equipped with this watch, the submarine descended for more than seven hours to a depth of 10,908 metres within the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of all the world’s oceans. It surfaced with a watch that had maintained the exact time throughout the expedition.
This collaboration enabled Rolex to take advantage of a widely publicised event and to get more specifically involved in the creation of a technically new product.
Rado & Konstantin Grcic
- Konstantin Grcic
The Swiss watchmaking brand reinterpreted its famous Ceramica model through a partnership with a famous German designer. The watch was redesigned by Konstantin Grcic, and it grew into a full collection in a brilliant combination of shapes and materials.
Following the success of this operation, the company decided to take the collaboration strategy one step further. By calling on the services of six designers from a variety of horizons, Rado reinterpreted several of its emblematic products with innovative designs. The designers have become brand ambassadors, and in turn their expertise is showcased through the creations.
Omega & Cindy Crawford
- The Geber family
Yes, even the oldest ambassador of the Omega brand, Cindy Crawford, can be called upon to contribute... The model has been developing a very personal collaboration with the watch company for more than 20 years.
What was initially a simple image-based partnership has become a collaboration on a whole new level. In addition to participating in promotional campaigns, Cindy Crawford was actively involved in the design development of the Constellation watch collection.
The relationship even became a family affair when her children became ambassadors; and the actress has participated in humanitarian actions alongside the brand.
Hublot & Richard Orlinski
- Richard Orlinski and Ricardo Guadalupe
Through a collaboration with Richard Orlinski, Hublot carried off more than a simple communication operation with the world’s best-selling contemporary artist. Together, they brought forth an artistic creation: the Classic Fusion Aerofusion Chronograph Orlinski. Representing Richard Orlinski’s graphic universe, the watch design is based on plays on angles and reflections.
This creation constitutes the encounter between the artist’s Pop-Art with the brand’s pursuit of perfection and use of exceptional materials.
Richard Mille & Rafael Nadal
- Rafael Nadal
Richard Mille capitalised on a long-term partnership with the famous tennis player. In addition to the obvious visibility that the athlete provides to the brand, the collaboration has resulted in a co-creation process with a view to developing tennis watches equipped with a tourbillon regulator.
The partnership has also led to several world records, including the world’s lightest watch and the world’s most resistant watch.
Co-creation partnerships (active collaborations) go beyond image coherency to result in the development of a new product.
Two types of partnerships destined to coexist
Although partnerships with prominent personalities generate visibility and commitment, sometimes they are not enough!
The profusion of operations, the overexposure of products and the lack of depth inherent to certain partnerships reduce the impact and differentiation brought to each brand and company, although such partnerships can still generate considerable visibility. An active collaboration between the ambassador and the company makes it possible to lay additional groundwork for storytelling, providing stronger brand identification in the minds of consumers.
The success of such partnerships therefore depends on a two-level strategy:
• The “principal” ambassadors are associated with a brand in a co-creation dimension, forming that forms the basis of the strategy. They also enable companies to stand out in the eyes of target clientele in terms of content and fan involvement.
• The second level includes all the partnerships that simply aim for visibility, increasing the brand’s presence with very influential personalities and/or platforms.
These two forms of partnership are therefore destined to coexist, since they mutually promote each other. However, beyond image associations, we are faced with the eternal question of the luxury industry: how to turn these partnerships into real profits?