By Jake Fogarty, founder of It's All About Watches:
Small note before starting: I haven't posted, but I’ve been busy changing a number of things around on the website. Most of the changes are invisible, but it should still help.
Alpina took to Kickstarter for their most recent release, making this the first time a large, established company has found themselves on the platform. The AlpinerX isn't a conventional release from an actual company (as compared to an entrepreneurial venture) however, since Alpina decided to add a watch configurator. The feature, if you can call it that, allows users to pick the colors they want on their watch from a lengthy list of options. Typically large companies refuse to do this for the simple reason that their volume is too large to justify the cost, extra time, and potential problems involved such as sending out watches with the wrong colors, for example. The extra cost comes along when they have to make more components in different colors to reduce cost and assembling watches with the different combinations will take a considerable amount of time since they will have to be careful to ensure the quantities of every combination requested are made. In general, it's a nightmare for companies who are selling large numbers of watches, however this evidently didn't exactly scare Alpina, who decided to give users a lengthy list of components in different colors including:
It's a lot of features, but Alpina refuses to confirm the number of sensors in the watch. They even have that specific question in their FAQ, but their answer is just:
“The AlpinerX watch uses advanced measurement functions benefiting from environmental sensors: UV, temperature, altitude, pressure and direction.”
Link to their entire FAQ, this particular question is the 6th in the list. Maybe they're planning on running for public office soon, who knows. It started at the super-early-bird price of 450 CHF (same in USD, about £330), but has now gone up to 530 CHF (same in USD again, about £390). The price will continue to rise as more watches are sold and more reward tiers sell out. For more info and to buy your own AlpinerX, you can just click this green link: kickstarter.com
I thought a little about what companies like Alpina taking to Kickstarter could indicate and what it means for the future. In my opinion it's the most interesting part of the story, but it's just conjecture from here to the end.
Alpina claims that their motivation to turn towards Kickstarter was so that they could bring the customers in earlier and get them more involved in the process. Their exact section on this actually says:
"By now, you're probably asking yourself why such an established brand is on Kickstarter. Alpina carries a long history of innovation and collaboration. Back in 1903, the Alpinists, a group of watchmakers and retailers would get together to decide on the future designs.
Damn the spacing on these block quotes is terrible and there's no way to change it. Whatever. Despite the heading of that explanation being "WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP", they still claim that they want to get the customer involved to "give...feedback and thoughts", but they didn't say they would change the design based on that feedback, in fact there's little to no chance they would, Alpina's already invested a good amount of money into the development and design, there's no reason they would sink more into it. Also, judging by the expected delivery date of May 2018, they've already begun manufacturing or this is a very optimistic date. I don't want to be too harsh since I really like Alpina as a company and using Kickstarter as a way to boost initial sales of a watch is a good idea and business decision, especially since they've sold nearly 2,000 watches, a number that will likely be exceeded by the time the campaign is over in 8 days (from the time of writing this) and raised over 1.1 million dollars. This is likely their largest launch in recent years and their decision to bring the watch to a different market that typically wouldn't see their products or know about them was, as I said before, a sound decision. However, I do wish they wouldn't change the definition for feedback and thoughts to "the amount of money people spend", I just wish they would be more honest. They changed their strategy to appeal to the "EDC" market. The people who make up "Everyday Carry" typically carry around knives, pens, notebooks, multitools, wear watches, etc. They're kinda a hipster-y crowd who would love seeing all the features they'll never end up using on the AlpinerX. I'm sure there are a good number of hikers, campers, and to a lesser extent athletes (since fewer of the features will be used by this group of people) who have bought the watch and intend on using all the features, but Kickstarter is dominated by the EDC crowd and Alpina targeted that market perfectly.
On a different note, it's no secret that as a whole the luxury watch industry, but the Swiss watch industry in particular, has been suffering and although Alpina is an entry-level brand similar to Hamilton and others, their watches are still expensive for the overwhelming majority of people who think spending a few hundred bucks on a watch is expensive and a few thousand is a watch you buy once in a lifetime. Large companies such as Omega and Rolex, although they are both still hurting (as is evidenced by Omega closing half their boutiques worldwide), aren't feeling the effects of the quickly-evaporating market as much as smaller brands including Alpina. Although it does appear they've already started manufacturing (as timelines of at most a month and a half until delivery are unheard of, especially when they have to change the colors to fit the customer's request), this was still an attempt to increase their sales at launch. Seeing Alpina possibly in this position makes me sad, but at the same time I am pleased to see how successful the campaign has gone. If Alpina chooses to do use crowdfunding platforms too often I'm fearful it will cheapen the name in the eyes of many who respect the company. Others won't care, I'm somewhere in the middle. It might be the choice of the parent company who owns both Alpina and Frederique Constant to make Alpina a more easily-accessible brand whose watches are more common and possibly cheaper to expand sales in order to move Frederique Constant to a higher, more exclusive position that might possibly see reduced sales. Clearly this last part is more than likely reading into a single Kickstarter campaign far too much, but it's just where my mind happened to go.
Jake Fogarty is the founder of It's All About Watches and writer for most of what you will read here. If you want to contact me you can visit the contact and advertising page.