From Luxury Daily
July 24, 2015
By KAY SORIN
Swiss watchmaker Hublot is celebrating the legacy of South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader Nelson Mandela with a special-edition watch.
Hublot partnered with the House of Mandela foundation to create the Classic Fusion House of Mandela watch to commemorate the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner’s life and philosophy. Recognizing important culture figures can help a brand connect with consumers and celebrate important moments in history.
“Hublot is not the first luxury brand to align itself with a notable person or cause. Certainly, Nelson Mandela fits that role,” said Fred Reffsin, President of brandGrowth, a New York luxury brand consultancy. “However, like other brands, Hublot appears to be on that never-ending pursuit of the elusive personality who can elevate the brand. The challenge lies in creating a relevance or link between the person and their perceived image of the brand.
“When it works it can be successful,” he said. “When the consumer can’t make the connection or if it’s not consistent with the brand’s image, it won’t.
“Beyond the philanthropic goal, of which I believe Hublot is quite sincere, there appears to be a disconnect for a brand that is known world-wide for its big-bang, over-the-top personality.”
Mr. Reffsin is not affiliated with Hublot, but agreed to comment as an industry expert. Hublot was unable to respond by press deadline.
A prize for peace
Nelson Mandela is known for his role in establishing a democratic and multi-racial South Africa and serving as the country’s first black President. In 1993, he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his revolutionary work.
Mr. Mandela passed away in 2013 at the age of 95. In recognition of this, Hublot is limiting production of the Classic Fusion House of Mandela watch to 95 pieces for men and 95 for women.
The unique edition features the image of a bear with branched wings, a symbol of the Mandela family. The wings represent the many branches of the Mandela family, while the bee represents courage, sharing and compassion.
The bee design was inspired by Mr. Mandela’s Xhosa name, Rolihlahla, which is translated as “he is brave enough to fetch the honey from the honeycomb.”
The watch will come in two styles for men and women. The men’s watch is 18K King Gold with a black alligator strap, while the women’s watch has a smaller diameter and includes the addition of 35 diamonds on the bezel.
Hublot also created a video to announce the release of the Classic Fusion House of Mandela watch and shared it on social media. The video features a conversation between Hublot’s chief executive officer, Ricardo Guadalupe, and the president of AdF International Public Relations, Rui Alvim de Faria.
The video may make the project more accessible to consumers and help further spread the message of Mr. Mandela’s philosophy.
The dedication of this watch to Mr. Mandela is unusual for Hublot, as the brand has primarily focused on athletes in the past. Last year, however, Hublot took a more political turn.
The Swiss watchmaker created an official commemorative watch to honor the Free Trade Agreement between the People’s Republic of China and the Swiss Confederation.
The watch celebrated the manufacturing business of both countries and the newly adopted agreement between them that will dismantle tariffs to facilitate trade. Hublot’s immediate involvement with the agreement likely helped place the brand at the front of the Swiss watch market in China under the new agreement
While Hublot has not honored political figures in the past, it is not the first luxury brand to celebrate Mr. Mandela’s influence. German automaker Mercedes-Benz honored Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, with a video that illuminated how a team of South African factory workers crafted a vehicle for the international hero following his release from prison in 1990.
The “Labour of Love” short film portrayed a team of a Mercedes-Benz employees that worked for free to create Mr. Mandela’s vehicle. Uncovering this resonant film colored in Mercedes-Benz’s heritage and authentically aligned the brand with a profoundly influential figure
While honoring Mr. Mandela is admirable, it may not serve Hublot in the long run.
“Clearly the goal is to elevate the brand in the mind of the consumer by aligning it with a person of unsurpassed integrity and stature,” Mr. Reffsin said. “The hope is that these qualities have a halo effect on the brand. However, deep rooted, make-me-change-my-behavior lies with the consumer’s ability to connect the brand on an emotional level, to the cause or person.
“The test here is whether Hublot can convince consumers that this connection is consistent with and thereby enhances their perception of the brand. Based on years of experience with cause-related marketing, I believe Hublot does not pass this test.”