Being in the business of wooing watch lovers with their magnificent timepieces, luxury watch brands are always on the lookout for ways to stay popular and relevant among their customers. And partnering up with high-end sneaker brands has been one way to do this. Such a strategy seems to have helped watch brands cater to individual style requirements of both millennials and Gen Z. In fact, both segments have performed rather well in recent times, thanks to watch and sneakers enthusiasts being unflinching in their cravings, never mind the premium rates.
For one, the demand for statement sneakers worldwide has been driven by their comfort factor. Moreover, like luxury watches, sneakers have become coveted items, thanks to their bold designs and patterns with intricate details and cool colours.
Bound by Unconventional Ties
Nike x Tiffany & Co. Air Force 1 1837 is the latest in the world of sneaker collaborations: Tiffany and Co. (in addition to being one of the world’s most coveted jewellery makers, the brand has also been commissioning and selling watches since 1847) adds its signature touch to the iconic Nike AF1s. The black suede shoes come inside the striking blue boxes and are accompanied by other cool accessories including a silver shoe horn, a silver shoe brush, a whistle, and a dubrae (the metal shoelace ornament commonly found on AF1s). It is expected to retail at $400. However, combined with the other accessories, the total cost is expected to be in the range of $250 and $450. It’s likely the resale value of the shoes will be even higher once they show up on e-platforms like StockX, FARFETCH, GOAT or eBay and at sneaker consignment stores like Flight Club or Stadium Goods. The limited edition will be unveiled on March 7 and the shoes will be available globally through Nike’s SNKRS app.
A fascinating example of watch and sneaker brand collaboration is that between independent watch brand H. Moser & Cie. and streetwear brand Undefeated.
Being unconventional lies at the heart of what both brands stand for. It was this common denominator that brought them together for the first time. Eric Cheng, co-owner of Undefeated, is said to be a huge fan and collector of H. Moser watches; he is said to have taken the lead by calling Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser, for this partnership. The result of this endeavour was the new Streamliner Chronograph — a bold timepiece boasting geometric curves, a black tiger camo fume dial and remarkable finishes. The brands also worked together on a limited edition clock, based on the watch, and this too was received very well.
Encouraging Online Sales International e-retail platforms, such as Farfetch, Mr. Porter and eBay, have also witnessed soaring sales of watches and sneakers. For instance, Farfetch has become more active in the domain of watch-and-sneaker pairings after its acquisition of the iconic British boutique, Browns, in 2015 and that of Stadium Goods in 2018.
2019 saw Stadium Goods get on board with prominent watch retailer Watches of Switzerland so as to pair 15 exceptional timepieces from luxury watch brands — think Vacheron Constantin, Hublot, HYT, Tudor, Bremont, IWC Schaffhausen, Girard-Perregaux, Omega, Longines and Breitling — with the right kind of sneakers.
In essence, these pairings have made the fashion industry take a moment to pause and strongly consider watches and sneakers as an inseparable collectible luxury sector. Not surprisingly, post-acquisition, Farfetch continues to work closely with Stadium Goods and Browns for watch-and-sneaker pairings, and it realises that there is still a lot to do on this front.
Asked about the reasons behind these two domains joining forces, Eric Wind, a seasoned vintage watch expert, says, “Sneakers have certainly been on fire over the past few years, the same holds for watches. Both have a ‘coolness’ factor and a strong following, but, obviously, sneakers have an even larger and younger audience, compared to watches. The best collaborations allow two different companies to come together and combine their strengths to create something that appeals to not only both their dedicated fan bases, but also something that goes beyond that synergy to reach new customers.”
Another online platform where both luxury watch and sneaker enthusiasts can get their dream pieces is Mr. Porter. However, Alexander Pickett, senior fine watch specialist at YOOX Net-a-Porter Group, feels that they have adopted a different approach. “We’re a bit different in that we often don’t utilise the concept of watches paired with sneakers to sell timepieces to our clients. I would say it could be with anything we deem fit, such as outfits, perhaps, and not just sneakers,” he says.
Anand Ahuja, owner of the label, Bhaane, and a well-known sneaker and watch enthusiast, also likes the concept behind Sneaker Time, the collaborative project between Watches of Switzerland and Stadium Goods. “It's nice to see this as a starting step and I’d love to see this continue to develop in a more holistic manner that factors in the rarity of the watch, shoe, or some element of technicality and maybe even the whole outfit,” he points out.
A United Front Driven by Similar Positioning?
Another common thread that binds luxury watch brands and sneaker brands together is how they strive towards delivering superior quality to their customers. “Both luxury watch brands and coveted sneaker brands must be disciplined even as they produce items of good quality. They also need to remain on the cutting edge and not let themselves get stale in terms of their product offerings and brand ambassadors,” says Wind.
Interestingly, about a decade ago, such a scenario didn’t seem possible. But the change is now noticeable. Watches and sneakers have become a powerful association today, according to Joao De Brito E Faro, category manager, watches, at Farfetch. Says Faro, “It’s one of our proudest marketing franchises as it’s part of our vision of bringing fashion and hard luxury into the same ecosystem. If we take a closer look, we’ll see that both segments have similar positioning of products through limited editions and rare collaborations. Both are built upon scarcity and desirability, but they have not always been associated with one another.”
Wind echoes the same sentiment. However, he’s a bit apprehensive as he gauges the viability of such a collaboration for both parties. “We have to wait and see. It’s not like we’re going to see a Nike-Rolex joint venture come out anytime soon, but I do think that the interaction between fashion companies — including sneaker brands and watches — is an area where we can expect to see more exciting collaborations,” he says.
On his part, Ahuja is excited about how both watch collecting and sneaker collecting foster a sense of community. “This is the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect. Meeting people and learning what is important to them and why they make certain choices in footwear or horology is absolutely relevant,” he says, adding that he’s a big fan of Urwerk and H. Moser & Cie. “Now, under the influence of my two friends — Pranav Saboo, CEO of Ethos Watch Boutiques, and NYCWatchGuy — I’m slowly starting to build my watch collection again, but in a very informed way!” he says.
Support from the Icons
The wide reach of social media and the rise in streetwear culture as well as its icons have also contributed to this trend of watch-and-sneaker pairings. “Back in the day, watches were associated more with classic aesthetics or motorsports. They were seen on iconic figures, such as James Dean, Paul Newman and James Bond, but there wasn't much of a sneaker culture back then. Nowadays, we’ve Roger Federer, Kevin Hart, John Mayer and LeBron James, who are legendary personalities known for their passion for both watches and sneakers,” says Faro.
All of which brings us to the question: Are watch lovers really lapping up such collaborations? Wind points out, “Some traditional watch lovers may turn up their nose at these types of collaborations, but I think many watch lovers would support watches reaching new audiences as long as it’s done well. The H. Moser & Cie. x Undefeated Streamliner Chronograph was certainly an exciting approach for this type of collaboration, as it showed us how a streetwear brand and an independent luxury watch brand can do wonders together, with both playing to their strengths.”