As I began seeing more Furlan Marri watches shared on Instagram, I asked myself why someone would choose this watch in the morning, when looking at their watch box. I won’t go into the background story of the brand and the reasons this is an enormously popular release; Wei Koh wrote all about it here and you can read that if you want some background.
So, let’s start with a comparison. If you really wanted a Paul Newman Daytona, but you couldn’t afford one, then there’s an alternative called the Gevril Tribeca. This watch is a fraction of the price of the Rolex which inspired it, and happens to be one of the most faithful recreations you could possibly find – read more about the watch here.
For some people, this simply won’t cut it, and they’d rather do without it – and for others who really love the design, it’s close enough – to each their own. Incidentally, there’s an even cheaper homage to the Paul Newman Daytona made by Alpha, which isn’t a limited edition and is below 200 bucks; Admittedly its not as faithful an homage and the size isn’t the same, but again, if you really wanted that look on your wrist, the option exists.
That Daytona example was to introduce this hypothesis: Furlan Marri customers want the ‘look’ of a Patek Pilippe 1463 “Tasti Tondi”, a Vacheron Cornes des Vache or a Roger Dubuis Hommage, but simply don’t want to pay the price; as a result, this watch will not scratch that itch they have, and it will remain unused… but they won’t care, since it only cost a few hundred bucks anyway.
Before you start insulting me, read on and allow me to qualify this hypothesis a little bit.
I’m talking about the affluent collectors who have spent potentially hundreds of thousands on other watches, and still buy this Furlan Marri. I am not talking about the people who can’t access haute horology at all, but still appreciate the design; that’s a different category of enthusiast/collector, and the argument for them buying this watch for the ‘look’ is totally plausible – and by the way, for this reason alone, we could applaud what Furlan Marri have created. There are other things they have done well, so let me take this opportunity to clarify that I have no axe to grind with Furlan Marri, and I think they’ve run an amazing campaign/launch – and their products appear to be incredibly beautiful. This isn’t about Furlan Marri per se, and whether they are making a good product – this is about the collectors, and some of the customers of Furlan Marri who are buying this watch like blind sheeple.
Back to the argument… these collectors who can afford the watches which inspired the FM creation, have a vast array of fine watches to choose from – why then, would they ever pick up this watch? We only really wear one watch at a time, and so, having spent several thousand or hundreds of thousands on fine haute horology… what would make you pick up this Daniel Wellington level, quartz watch and wear it on any day? Surely you want to maximise your enjoyment of the other watches?
I hear you… I’ve heard many of the arguments. Maybe you are worried about being robbed, and you’re going to a sketchy neighbourhood… maybe you’re concerned about damage, and you’re going hiking or playing with the kids. How often do these situations coincide with the need for, specifically, a dressy watch? I think, rarely.
The other argument is that we cant always simply wear ‘heavy hitters’, and in fact, wearing cheap watches from time to time keeps us grounded, and allows us to better appreciate the heavy hitters when we do wear them – this is a point made very often by my friends Thomas (@watchadmiral) and C (@running_sands). Incidentally, another two awesome gentlemen, who I would recommend you reach out to, and speak with. Anyway, I would argue that’s why we have G-Shock, Swatch, Unimatic, Halios, Baltic and so on. They are affordable, and yet still entirely original and appealing, without being imitations of something you probably cant afford or don’t want to spend money on.
The Furlan Marri is totally different. It isn’t simply an affordable watch – it is an affordable watch which is inspired by the designs of much more expensive watches, and in wearing one, you’re effectively wearing what looks like something else – but which costs far less. This is basically the hypothesis described above.
So why are wealthy collectors buying it?
Well, it turns out the marketing campaign by Furlan Marri was nothing short of extraordinary – covered (positively) by almost every relevant media outlet in the industry, and even beyond the watch industry, i.e. the fashion sector etc. This is no accident, as the people behind the brand have the reach to make this happen – fair play to them, and not a criticism, but simply highlighting how this all targets a buyer’s perception.
Around the time this brand was first announced, Clubhouse was enjoying its peak with watch collector discussions, and almost every time I logged in, there was some talk about Furlan Marri – many people were singing its praises, and enamoured by the design, and pledging to buy them when they launched – it was any un-launched brand’s dream situation.
What this did, was create that sheeple mentality which I speak about so often. There seemed to be an inherent FOMO with regards to this watch, and deciding not to buy one would seemingly be a foolish decision. Yet, this feeling had no basis at all, and everyone was affirming one other without any meaningful consideration of how this watch would fit in to their collection – but because it was so cheap, it didn’t really matter.
A previous post about “liking vs wanting” talks to the point a little bit – the key area is faulty predictions, People buy it thinking it will make them feel like they’re wearing one of the above mentioned ‘haute’ pieces, and in fact when they wear it, it ends up being exactly what they paid for: a cheap quartz watch. This doesn’t take away anything from the brand or the product, which is arguably extremely good value for the money; But these people already have paid for higher quality, and know how it feels – so they aren’t likely to get much satisfaction from it. As another friend H (@horolygrail) said, “this watch costs less than my father’s household McDonalds bill“!
Therein lies the genius of this launch; the product is basically so cheap, that the affluent collectors who are buying it, are doing so BECAUSE of the price alone. Before writing this, I reached out to many of these affluent collectors who I know have purchased one, and asked why they bought it, and what they think would make them choose this out of the watch box in the morning…. some of the replies:
- a CdV is too costly to justify spending that much just for looks alone, and this is cheap enough to scratch the itch without caring too much if it doesn’t
- I just wanted to support the brand
- I have no idea, it seemed like everyone was getting one, and it was cheap enough to gamble
- I don’t want to spend that much on another dress watch, but for the money this seemed like a no-brainer
- It costs the same as a strap, who cares?
- I wanted to support my friend who founded the company (more than one reply along these lines)
This is, as another friend Yeo (@lifethroughmyphonelens) puts it: “a Daniel Wellington for watch enthusiasts“. I think that summarises this post quite well.
Please bear in mind, this is not intended to insult anyone who has purchased one, and I wish you nothing but enjoyment with your new purchase. This is also not a criticism of the brand, the design or the owners either – I have nothing but respect for their new product, and the wide acclaim speaks for itself. I am just here to offer a different perspective and challenge the status quo by sharing alternative opinions 🙂
If you do have one, perhaps consider tracking how often you wear it, and what the use-cases are, and we can revisit it after a year to see whether the hypothesis holds or not. I maintain these Furlan Marri pieces will gather dust in the watch boxes of all serious collectors who own many other, more expensive, watches.