Bringing Luxury Watch Leasing to Reality
By Steven Joseph
Bob Dylan once sang, “The times, they are a changing.” And yes, we live in a very exciting time, when technology has made almost everything more readily available than ever before. Including, well, time. No, you can’t buy more years, hours, or minutes. But you can rent them, in the form of luxury watches. And Eleven James, the brainchild of former NetJets and Marquis Jet CMO Randy Brandoff, has created a revolutionary platform that is making these signature timepieces more accessible than ever before.
“At Marquis Jet (a private-jet-share company) we were making private aviation accessible for the first time to individuals who weren’t necessarily Fortune 500, in a way that was more robust, full-service, and compelling than one-off charters.” Brandoff’s employment gave him the know-how to pursue his passion of high-end watches. “I’ve loved watches since I was 16. My buddy came to school one day and I looked at his AP Royal Oak, and I looked at my Tag (Heur) and I was like, ‘These both tell time, but they’re not the same.’”
While the concept of offering a literal ‘time share’ of high-end items has existed for a while, with companies like Bag, Borrow or Steal, or Rent the Runway targeting fashion-oriented but perhaps budget-conscious women before, Brandoff sought a way to combine his love of watches with his experience at NetJets and Marquis Jet. “I heard a story, that at the start of every James Bond film, they used to present 11 different watches and gadgets. And since James Bond was the prototypical member, and the choice of 11 different watches was directionally what we were doing, it just sort of fit.” And so, Eleven James was born.
“This new generation of luxury consumers are really defined by their desire for access and experience, over outright ownership, or a collector’s mentality,” Brandoff explained. The members of his program come from different generations and income levels, but generally fall into one of three categories. About 60 percent of his members are already Luxury watch owners, looking to expand their collections without committing to a purchase. Brandoff elaborated, “There are some members who prefer some brands for collection and ownership, but who view other brands as, ‘Well I don’t know if I want to own one of these, but it certainly might be fun to wear.’ It’s like, ‘Dating watches I don’t want to marry.’”
Another 30 percent are brand-new to the market and looking for a less-permanent method of entry that still allows them the experience of a high-end timepiece on their wrist. And finally, about 10 percent of his members are corporate purchases. “As someone who in my professional career has received two different watches, which I never would have bought for myself, incentivizing someone with an Eleven James membership allows them to personalize it, and get exactly what they want.”
The collections are available at four unique levels, depending on price-point of the watches in each collection, and the number has grown far beyond the original James Bond reference of 11. “At this point our collection is in the low-thousands, with many hundreds of unique references and models,” expanded Brandoff. The levels themselves are distinctly named to describe both the watches available, and reflect the personalities of the members, a tactic Brandoff learned at Marquis Jet. “Even the people in our entry-level program were spending 6 figures. So you had to find a way to give a little something extra to the guy spending 7 figures without denigrating the fact that every member was still spending substantial money.” The names of the collections are the Enthusiast, the Aficionado, the Connoisseur, and the Virtuoso, the latter containing watches in the 30-50 thousand dollar price range, retail.
The luxury timepiece community is one of respect and admiration, and Eleven James further fosters that with personalized concierge service for their members, as well as hosting social gatherings for fellow enthusiasts. Brandoff recalled, “When I was at Marquis Jets events, I would look across the room and see only people’s shoulders, because they were all looking down at each other’s wrists.”
More Member Awards And Options
Moving forward, Eleven James has plans to revamp their rewards program, but also to expand their women’s collection. “I came from a private aviation world that was very male-dominated. And the luxury watch market isn’t necessarily male-dominated, but it is a male-majority.” Eleven James launched their women’s collections at the end of 2016, after building the brand in Brandoff’s comfort zone of a male audience. “We always had an eye on expanding and becoming unisex.”
And so, the times have changed indeed. As co-founder of Drew Estate Cigars and Eleven James customer (and now part-owner) Marvin Samel put it, “Thirty years ago, nobody leased their cars, twenty years ago, private jets were only for owners, ten years ago, yacht ownership was the only way to enjoy the high seas. Today, technology allows access that was but a dream until recently.”
For more information on the watches available in the Eleven James collections, or to begin your membership journey, visit www.elevenjames.com.