On a Tuesday night time at a restaurant within the energetic Shinjuku district, 10 folks had 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 fashioned a circle and prolonged their arms for a collective wrist shot.
It was the Maurice Lacroix Watch Club Japan, a bunch based in 2019 by a fan of the Swiss watch model.
“I fell in love at first sight with the Aikon Computerized mannequin at Baselworld in 2018,” mentioned Koji Nakazawa, 43, who organized and now leads the membership. “I fell in love not solely with the watch, but additionally with the model. As I discovered extra about it, I felt that it might undoubtedly develop sooner or later.”
Group tradition is one motive, in response to Pierre-Yves Donzé, a professor of enterprise historical past at Osaka College’s Graduate College of Economics, who’s a specialist within the Swiss watch business and luxurious vogue.
“People prefer to really feel they belong to teams over the long run,” particularly in Japan and East Asia, Dr. Donzé wrote in an electronic mail: Japan has the form of deep-seated data 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 buddies of the model.
“I might actually really feel the followers’ enthusiasm and keenness for our model and merchandise,” Stéphane Waser, Lacroix’s managing director, wrote in an electronic mail from its headquarters in Saignelégier, on the Swiss border with France. “A kind of followers was Koji Nakazawa. His motivation and dedication had been 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.)
A couple of months after Mr. Nakazawa established the membership, he urged that Lacroix create one in all its Aikon timepieces for members. “This was the very first time we produced a limited-edition mannequin for a watch membership,” Mr. Waser wrote, referring to the 250-piece mannequin now offered 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 golf equipment appear to be extra of an Asian phenomenon, as watch lovers appear to share and focus on extra spontaneously on that aspect of the globe than in Europe,” Mr. Waser wrote in a later electronic mail. “If there are golf equipment in Europe (e.g. Oris), it appears to be a model initiative and moderated straight by the model.”
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 lately, Hong Kong. All of the golf equipment had been based by people — the Malaysia one by Mr. Wong, really, of the Fb group — and Mr. Waser mentioned that all of them function independently of the model.
There is no such thing as a official tally of the Lacroix Japan membership because the membership doesn’t require registration, however its Instagram website has 2,050 followers and its in-person occasions, held 5 – 6 instances a yr, draw as many as 30 folks. Mr. Nakazawa mentioned visits by Mr. Waser and different Lacroix executives entice the most important numbers, though boutique excursions even have been widespread.
On the Shinjuku gathering, the attendees had been all male (though ladies usually come to occasions, Mr. Nakazawa mentioned) of their 20s to 40s.
Over pizza, draft beers and mushy drinks, they largely talked about watches and in contrast wrists. “I joined the membership as a result of I wished to see how different folks put on the watches I like,” Hiroharu Uematsu mentioned, noting later within the interview: “There usually are not many watch lovers round me, and I need to speak with individuals who like the identical issues as I do.”
One other member, wearing a enterprise go well with and sporting a Lacroix mannequin with a stainless-steel bracelet, talked about his plan to purchase one of many model’s brightly coloured Aikon #Tide fashions, fabricated from upcycled plastic and beginning at $760. “I can share it with my spouse,” he mentioned.
Mr. Nakazawa recurrently 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 circumstances and coasters from discarded cuts (his collaboration with the French leather-based home Jean Rousseau Paris debuted early this month).
The camaraderie is effectively definitely worth the effort, to his mind-set. “I’m very completely happy to have a fan membership,” he mentioned, “as a result of I’ve been in a position to join with folks from everywhere in 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 principle island of Honshu. (It isn’t the model’s solely fan membership; the BR Gang gathers in France and Belgium.)
“We fashioned this group as a result of we merely like Bell & Ross,” Hiroki Negi, 51, its founder and chief, wrote in an electronic mail. “We have now particular person personalities, skills and colours, and we are able to create new potentialities by connecting folks with one another via the ‘and’ mark,” referring to the model’s ampersand.
Bell & Ross was based in 1992 by a designer, Bruno Belamich (the Bell within the identify), and an entrepreneur, Carlos Rosillo (the Ross). It’s recognized for its watch’s sq. circumstances 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 yr, often drawing a handful of individuals from Okayama and the encompassing space.
“Folks of various genders, ages, careers and areas have come collectively via their encounter with Bell & Ross and have develop into related as a giant household that’s extra than simply buddies,” he wrote, describing how members have shared recommendation about profession modifications and life struggles.
Franck Dardenne, the managing director of Bell & Ross Japan, mentioned, “Having such a membership of followers is extraordinarily treasured. We attempt to help by attending some gatherings, inviting followers to some occasions or sharing info upfront, however we are able to’t intervene.”
In any case, he mentioned, “a model management would kill the spontaneity.”