April 26, 2011
by Ariel Adams
I decided to cover both of these Horological Machine Number 3 variant watches together to illustrate just how creative MB&F can be with their models and marketing practices. The original HM3 debuted in 2009 and I did a review of the watch as well here. Since then MB&F has offered a range of HM3 based models, including these two watches which are the HM3 Chocolate Frog and the HM3 ReBel.
These two watches are not only unique collector’s pieces from an incredible brand, but are also linked to MB&F’s ongoing and creative way of approaching the sale and marketing of high-end timepieces. MB&F’s founder Max Busser is hailed as a key innovator of the watch industry today, and is also responsible for helping to bring the watch industry into the modern age. As such, Max has had to think outside of the box when trying to make his boutique brand big. His gambles often payoff, and these two timepieces further represent ways in which MB&F reinvents the rules to the betterment of the industry.
Let’s look at the HM3 Chocolate Frog. This is a brown PVD coated version of the HM3 Frog, which is a variant of the original HM3 that I first covered here. You can click on those links for more information on the HM3 Frog and the Chocolate Frog. Aside from being a nice looking watch in chocolate crown and gold, MB&F offered the limited edition of 10 pieces for sale through the enthusiast watch forum the PuristsPro. Something like this had never been done, a very high-end watch with a retail price of $79,000 being sold exclusively through a non-retailer website. MB&F went straight to a place that had been good to it in the past, and offered a special piece direct to the consumer. MB&F was originally skeptical of the idea, believing that not many pieces would sell, but most have so far, and they haven’t even been delivered yet. With the HM3 Chocolate Frog MB&F took a calculated gamble on experimenting with an alternative way of selling watches using the internet through fan-based communities and it succeeded.
While it won’t happen right away, the result of the Chocolate Frog sales experiment will not only further add importance and credibility to online sales, but it will reinforce the fact that working with importance voices and communities of internet based watch lovers can be a powerful way of selling timepieces. MB&F will likely continue to look strongly at internet based sales, and other brands will follow suit. It further helps dispel the myth that no one buys watches they can’t see and touch. Collectors have been ordering limited edition watches for years that they never see before the pieces are built, and a lot of the industry is based on the concept of pre-order financing. The lesson is that consumers will buy watches sight unseen granted they are able to validate the purchase via a combination of the brand having a very strong reputation and the product some manner or endorsement or approval from trusted opinion leaders.
The second watch I am wearing in the images is the MB&F HM3 ReBel (which I first wrote about here). This is a left-handed version of the original HM3 Sidewinder. The case is black coated 18k white gold, with a matching 18k white gold rotor. The design of the watch has been flipped to make it wearable on the right hand (as a left-handed watch). Only 18 of these pieces are being made, and as always, there is a demand for more lefty MB&F watches. In this case the unique business approach MB&F took was from a marketing perspective and not necessarily a sales perspective.
One reason for MB&F’s success is of course the watch lover and collector. The other side of the equation is the retailer. MB&F has select retailer partners all over the world that sell its timepieces. These retailers come with their own passion, marketing expertise, and client bases. So MB&F experimented by making a retailer the star of the watch – a sort of ambassador to the limited edition set. In the past brands have offered limited edition models for specific retailers, but that isn’t what is going on here.
MB&F chose to first work with the characterful Laurent Picciotto of Chronopassion in Paris. The marketing campaign focuses on him, the watch, and Max Busser. MB&F makes him a star and dedicates the watch to him. The watch itself will be sold through Chronopassion, as well as other MB&F dealers. The concept is interesting because both MB&F and Chronopassion have reason to market the watch. While highly symbiotic in its approach, MB&F seeks to unlock the incentive both parties have to promote the product and the relationship.
In the marketing campaign Max and Laurent were photographed in black and white, with an electric guitar – emphasizing the Rebels behind the ReBel. MB&F’s plan is to continue this practice and continue to work with some of the world’s best watch retailers to be ambassadors of specific limited edition collection.
By the way, I have to say that it was a challenge to photograph the HM3 Rebel on my right wrist. The camera I use is a dSRL and is made to be held in only one way – with your right hand. I therefore needed to awkwardly hold the heavy camera with my left hand to get the shot. The two pieces are very cool, and I can easily say that the Chocolate Frog looks better in person than I thought. Look for additional HM3 variants in the future, and keep note of the unique ways that MB&F helps the watch industry keep up with the times.