Configurators Go configure!
Why customise when you can configure? In an age of personalisation, online tools are bringing watch enthusiasts the luxury of bespoke, without leaving home.
For brands, the connection between customer and product is a two-way street. Print, social media, events and spokespersons are all ways for watchmakers to get close to their clients and offer them the most complete experience possible.
Turn that around, and it’s the client who spontaneously reaches out to the brand, with touchpoints that range from visiting one of its stores to personalising one of its watches – either directly through the brand or using a configurator.
Some Czapek models, like this Quai des Bergues Black Enamel S, can have a personalised set of needles © Czapek
Late to the party
The watch industry is a recent (not to say late) adopter of online configuration technology. Compared with heavily automated industries such as car manufacturing, where configuration is an established practice (see here, here and also here), for a segment such as watchmaking, which requires a certain amount of work to be done by hand and involves numerous outside suppliers, offering customers the possibility to personalise a product becomes a more delicate task.
This is why some brands, such as Cabestan and HYT, have chosen to provide a bespoke service instead. This can be the creation of a fully custom-made piece or simply options to modify certain external parts.
Armin Strom leads the way
The configurator at Armin Strom is probably one of the most advanced there is, with a multitude of possibilities to customise dial, hands, mainplate, case, clasp or strap. It’s a dangerous game, as the temptation is strong to go ahead and buy your finished watch. You have been warned!
Armin Strom configurator, one of the most advanced on the market © Armin Strom
When Alpina launched its AlpinerX Alive online, the first buyers were invited to design their own configuration. The most popular of the 1,500 customisation options will soon be introduced into series production. For the brand, configuration proved an effective and interactive way to identify the most saleable variations.
A growing number of possibilities
In the configuration game, the strap is the most obvious place to begin, as it’s something you can swap in and out yourself. It’s an option Hublot proposes through its configurator, as does Maurice Lacroix, including for its Aikon, and Panerai for several of its models. At Czapek, it’s also possible to choose your watch’s hands, on the Quai des Bergues for example, while Genus lets you personalise the time display on its GNS. Trilobe, meanwhile, is one of the few brands that lets customers choose case size.
At Maurice Lacroix, a dedicated page on the brand's website allows the client to choose a personnalised watch strap immediately after purchase © Maurice Lacroix
Certain watches have a longstanding tradition of personalisation thanks to engraving. Jaeger-LeCoultre has developed a specific configurator with a choice of font and colour, plus the possibility to engrave one or more lines of text. Norqain, a relatively young brand, also provides a bespoke engraving service – an option, more than an actual configurator, that has long been available from one of the pioneers of engraving: Baume & Mercier.
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