What time is it? Pretentious watch ads seem to think its 1985.

January 5, 2015


The headline for IWC’s Pilot watch: “Engineered for Aviation.” While the Rolex Yacht Master is “a chronograph created specifically for yacht racing.” I’ll get to the third ad later but if these two 4-figure watches were designed specifically for airline pilots and fancy boat racers how come it’s trust fund babies and hip hop stars that are wearing them?

This is basically a rhetorical question. The answer is obvious: pretentious myths appeal to pretentious people. The makers of these watches know as much. So do all of us in advertising. Hell, we make a pretty good living coming up with these silly fables.

Still, it seems oddly passé coming across such blatant paeans to materialism and SUCCESS. So eighties. With millennials wearing social causes on their sleeves it strikes me as odd to offer them something so bling-y to wear on their wrists.

Likely young people aren’t the target. Maybe these watches are for Gen-Y or Boomers trying to reconnect with their boyhood dreams of flying planes and sailing ships.

Or perhaps the copy is going for the authenticity vibe, you know, to try and impress people who assume watches made “specifically” for deep sea diving or flying jets must be damn fine watches.

The problem with all that is pilots have instrument panels for measuring barometric pressure and altitude, to say nothing of telling time. Honestly, I’m guessing most pilots wear the watch his/her spouse gave him/her for Christmas.

And who races yachts… really? Like one percent of the so-called 1%? Honestly, the concept of yacht racing is so f-cking annoying I can’t imagine anyone relating to it. Even the average rich person thinks yachts are for sheiks and douchebags. But that’s Rolex.


The third ad, for Tudor, suggests their watch is made for “several days walk from any trace of mankind.” It is what one wears on an “epic journey to the frozen expanse of the Arctic.” I’m not sure how this message would appeal to anyone. I guess with the oceans and skies already spoken for there was no place left to go. Oh well. Over the years, Automakers have sold untold millions of SUV’s promising their ability to traverse places none of their customers will ever go either.

(Full disclosure: With no intention of deep sea diving, I purchased a Rolex Submariner in 1996. I wanted something iconic and grown-up to replace the Seiko I still wore my mother gave me when I graduated high school.)


6 Responses to “What time is it? Pretentious watch ads seem to think its 1985.”

  1. Bill Daniel said

    There are only 2 writers that I wish I had worked with. You and Bill Hamilton.

  2. Steffan1 said

    Bill- Much obliged for the compliment but there are MANY, MANY good writers in Adland. And better bosses 🙂

  3. Ian K said

    Hi Steffan, (Ian here from gyro days of old) as someone who has rather a large invested interest in the Swiss Watch communications game, I respectfully beg to differ 🙂

    “In the 1970’s, after around 1000 companies and 55’000 place of work disappeared, many analysts left the Swiss watchmaking industry for dead as it missed out the electrical revolution and was facing tough competition from cheaper Japanese watches. Today, the watch industry is Switzerland’s third largest exporter after the machine and the chemical industry”

    – Currently worth about $25 a year and growing.

    In large part they are an amazing example of what a shift in communications strategy can do. Where once you would talk about it’s waterproofness (functional benefit) they have created a whole market from the embers of Quartz by extolling the metaphorical.

    I’ve been told often “we spend money in advertising telling other people how rich, successful and adventurous’ our wearers are, so they don’t have to.”

    Seems to work insanely well.

    • Steffan1 said

      Totally get your points – I’ve concocted myths for brands for 25 years. I just found these particular come-ons a bit obvious and dated. Thank you for reading and commenting. -SP

  4. I am going to be a junior in high school in a month when school starts and I want to start looking at schools. I am really interested in creative writing and literature. What are some good schools for that? I also want to study philosophy. . . Thanks!.

    • Steffan1 said

      U of Iowa famous for creative writing but honestly many schools will provide excellent creative writing opportunities. Equally important one must always be writing outside of classroom, be it a journal or for school paper. I did both. And reading a book a week… Good luck!

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