On a Tuesday evening at a restaurant within the vigorous Shinjuku district, 10 individuals have been gathered round a protracted desk, chattering and sharing appetizers and drinks. Nothing uncommon right here — besides every was sporting a Maurice Lacroix watch and, on the finish of the gathering, they shaped a circle and prolonged their arms for a collective wrist shot.
It was the Maurice Lacroix Watch Membership Japan, a bunch based in 2019 by a fan of the Swiss watch model.
“I fell in love at first sight with the Aikon Automatic model at Baselworld in 2018,” stated Koji Nakazawa, 43, who organized and now leads the membership. “I fell in love not only with the watch, but also with the brand. As I learned more about it, I felt that it would definitely grow in the future.”
Golf equipment began by watch aficionados are nothing new: Tudor, Nomos, F.P. Journe and lots of others have them. However in Asia, such teams have been proliferating in recent times.
Group tradition is one purpose, in keeping with Pierre-Yves Donzé, a professor of enterprise historical past at Osaka College’s Graduate Faculty of Economics, who’s a specialist within the Swiss watch trade and luxurious trend.
“Individuals like to feel they belong to groups over the long term,” particularly in Japan and East Asia, Dr. Donzé wrote in an electronic mail: Japan has the form of deep-seated information of luxurious labels that simply interprets to model affinity.
“The Very First Time”
The Lacroix membership, for instance, was the results of a lunch that the corporate held in Tokyo in August 2019 for collectors and pals of the model.
“I could really feel the fans’ enthusiasm and passion for our brand and products,” Stéphane Waser, Lacroix’s managing director, wrote in an electronic mail from its headquarters in Saignelégier, on the Swiss border with France. “One of those fans was Koji Nakazawa. His motivation and dedication were immense.”
(As a model, Maurice Lacroix has a a lot shorter historical past than many different Swiss watches. It was based in 1975 by Desco von Schulthess, a Swiss distribution firm, and named for one of many executives; it now could be owned by DKSH Holdings, a enterprise providers firm.)
Just a few months after Mr. Nakazawa established the membership, he prompt that Lacroix create one among its Aikon timepieces for members. “This was the very first time we produced a limited-edition model for a watch club,” Mr. Waser wrote, referring to the 250-piece mannequin now bought in Japan that he described as a collaborative effort with membership members.
A Lacroix fan, Edward Wong Kar Fai, began a form of worldwide digital membership on Fb in 2017, however the Japan membership was the primary Lacroix-focused group to combine digital and in-person occasions. “Watch fan clubs seem to be more of an Asian phenomenon, as watch enthusiasts seem to share and discuss more spontaneously on that side of the globe than in Europe,” Mr. Waser wrote in a later electronic mail. “If there are clubs in Europe (e.g. Oris), it seems to be a brand initiative and moderated directly by the brand.”
The unfold of Lacroix golf equipment in Asia in all probability influenced his perspective. After the founding of the Japan membership, one was established in Thailand, then Malaysia and, most not too long ago, Hong Kong. All of the golf equipment have been based by people — the Malaysia one by Mr. Wong, truly, of the Fb group — and Mr. Waser stated that all of them function independently of the model.
There isn’t any official tally of the Lacroix Japan membership because the membership doesn’t require registration, however its Instagram web site has 2,050 followers and its in-person occasions, held 5 or 6 instances a 12 months, draw as many as 30 individuals. Mr. Nakazawa stated visits by Mr. Waser and different Lacroix executives appeal to the biggest numbers, though boutique excursions even have been widespread.
On the Shinjuku gathering, the attendees have been all male (though ladies usually come to occasions, Mr. Nakazawa stated) of their 20s to 40s.
Over pizza, draft beers and delicate drinks, they largely talked about watches and in contrast wrists. “I joined the club because I wanted to see how other people wear the watches I like,” Hiroharu Uematsu stated, noting later within the interview: “There are not many watch enthusiasts around me, and I want to talk with people who like the same things as I do.”
One other member, wearing a enterprise go well with and sporting a Lacroix mannequin with a chrome steel bracelet, talked about his plan to purchase one of many model’s brightly coloured Aikon #Tide fashions, manufactured from upcycled plastic and beginning at $760. “I can share it with my wife,” he stated.
Mr. Nakazawa frequently attends the membership meet-ups in Tokyo, though it requires a round-trip prepare journey of greater than three hours on the quick Nozomi prepare. He lives in Nagoya, a port metropolis west of the capital, the place he designs his personal leather-based merchandise model, known as Celieu, producing watch instances and coasters from discarded cuts (his collaboration with the French leather-based home Jean Rousseau Paris debuted early this month).
The camaraderie is nicely definitely worth the effort, to his mind-set. “I am very happy to have a fan club,” he stated, “because I have been able to connect with people from all over the world.”
In August 2010, a fan of the Paris-based watch model Bell & Ross organized a membership within the Okayama prefecture, on the southern a part of the primary island of Honshu. (It isn’t the model’s solely fan membership; the BR Gang gathers in France and Belgium.)
“We formed this group because we simply like Bell & Ross,” Hiroki Negi, 51, its founder and chief, wrote in an electronic mail. “We have individual personalities, talents and colors, and we can create new possibilities by connecting people with each other through the ‘and’ mark,” referring to the model’s ampersand.
Bell & Ross was based in 1992 by a designer, Bruno Belamich (the Bell within the title), and an entrepreneur, Carlos Rosillo (the Ross). It’s identified for its watch’s sq. instances and aviation-inspired design.
The Okayama membership has about 80 registered members, half of whom, Mr. Negi wrote, often attend main occasions like an annual product presentation by the model. Small conferences over drinks or meals are held three or 4 instances a 12 months, often drawing a handful of members from Okayama and the encompassing space.
“People of different genders, ages, careers and areas have come together through their encounter with Bell & Ross and have become connected as a big family that is more than just friends,” he wrote, describing how members have shared recommendation about profession adjustments and life struggles.
Franck Dardenne, the managing director of Bell & Ross Japan, stated, “Having such a club of fans is extremely precious. We try to support by attending some gatherings, inviting fans to some events or sharing information in advance, but we can’t interfere.”
In spite of everything, he stated, “a brand control would kill the spontaneity.”