Is Demanding Perfection Asking For Too Much??

Browsing through a few forums this weekend, I came across a few posts discussing perfection being achieved in watches. One quote that I really liked from Park on ThePuristS (need to give credit where credit is due) was the following:

“The search for perfection remains an approximation, at best.”

In another forum, someone was complaining about PP, saying that he had bought a watch for $80k and that one of the pushers came out, just like that. He said that it was unacceptable, that at that price PP should be offering perfection – which of course sparked a big debate, with some supporting him, and some claiming that perfection could never be achieved, and that is was basically crazy to expect and ask perfection from PP. One analogy often used was if you bought a car, and a door fell off after the first week, would you find this acceptable or not?

I found this debate interesting and it got me thinking about my own views on the subject, and my expectations regarding VC products. I think when one is purchasing a watch from VC, he should expect and demand “near perfection”. Somebody buying a Bentley or Ferrari should be able to drive off with the car from the dealership, and should not expect the doors to fall off after a week. The same way, a watch should function properly when delivered to the customer.

I completely understand that the watches are complicated and that sometimes things can go wrong. But customers are paying such a high price for the brand that in the rare occasions when something does go wrong, the response of the brand should be impeccable. My view is that when I am buying a VC either through one of VC’s Boutiques or an authorised source (buying from a grey dealer would be awho,e different story IMO), I am effectively paying for a “perfect product”, as well as the adequate customer service and support. We do not live in a perfect world and I need to accept that there is the slim possibility that the product I am buying might be faulty. But if that is the case, then I didn’t get what I paid for, and I think that I should somehow be compensated for this “loss of value” by the watch manufacturer. Resolving the problem quickly is an absolute must, but it doesn’t solve the issue that the customer has being short-changed…

Using the purchase of my VC as an example:
The first time I bought the watch, it was delivered to me with a broken moonphase, which was turning on the hour. VC apologized and said that they would repair it as soon as possible, but for me that wasn’t enough. I really started to feel bad that I was paying so much money on a watch, and that ultimately wasn’t even working properly. I felt that I paid for perfection, but didn’t get it, and so I felt like a fool. My feelings were probably exacerbated by the fact that I had been dreaming about that watch for years, and that it represented a huge financial commitment from my part – had I bought an Overseas, I probably would have been more relaxed about the whole situation. It was a though decision, but in the end I decided to return the watch.

The second time I bought the watch, it was a much more pleasant experience. The watch still wasn’t delivered in “perfect” condition, with the day and month wheels not being properly aligned in the windows. A small point, but still one that should have been made correct. Also, the watch winder was faulty, and scratched the case around the crown the first time I used it. I wouldn’t say that I didn’t care, but I found those mistakes acceptable, and just moved on. I’ll get the month and day realigned when I get the watch serviced… and VC is currently fixing the automatic winder. The fact that I had been able to get a better deal probably also helped a lot, making me feel like I was getting more value for my money. The fact that I had already returned the watch because it was faulty, I think I was relieved that it was working properly the second time around. To be honest, I am not sure what I would have done if it had been a significant default the 2nd time around.

I would be interested in hearing the views/ reactions to bad experiences from my fellow Loungers…

Cheers,

Francois
these posts caught my attention too....
03/17/2009 - 14:37
and that prompted me to send an email to a brand telling them my experience of servicing the same watch twice and coming back each time with a different problem. i was pretty upset after the watch returned the second time with a minor problem of a wobbly and soft strap as if it was soaked in water, but i kept mum as i don't want to appear a fussy customer till that post got me thinking " am i really a fussy customer or asking for perfection?" fact is, i am a forgiving person merely asking for my consumer rights and providing feedback of possibly an isolated incident of a faulty watch. however, the company odd to be aware of our feedbacks as they form statistics of same incidences. asking for perfection within REASONS is not a crime. however, empathy must be had as afterall watches are hand-made objects. brand owners should have the courage to admit to their mistakes, however honest, and rectify the problems to retain the brand's equity. all-in, i believe customers and brands should be resonable and resolve problems amicably.
I support you in being a fussy customer :-)
03/17/2009 - 16:59

I agree that both customers and brands should be reasonable and resolve problems amicably, but you need to make sure that you get your money's worth.  The Luxury Industry puts a huge emphasis on client services - look at the top restaurants, the five star hotels... Service has to be impeccable. Every time I have been in a luxury hotel, if something was wrong the establishment made sure to more than make up for it. No hot water? The response is not: "we're sorry, please bear with us while we try to solve the problem", but rather: "we are VERY sorry, here's a free upgrade and bottle of champagne for your inconveniences".  And the really nice thing about it is that you don't even have to ask for anything, there are the ones being proactive and trying to remedy the situation...    Watch manufacturers do not have this emphasis on customer service IMO. They offer good service, but not excellent service. If a product is faulty, it shouldn't take 6 months to get it sorted... If you take your BMW or Mercedes to be worked on (and let's agree that cars are a lot more complex than watches), you get a replacement car for the duration of the works, and I have never heard of a garage taking 6 months to change the oil and check the pressure in the tires.  If you let go of your watch for a few weeks, it should come back good as new the firt time around. It shouldn't take watch manufacturer 3 times to repair your watch. It is a small and complex mechanical device, but they build it in the first place - it should work!!! If after a while they still can't fix it, they should offer you a brand new one.  If the faulty products are indeed isolated incidents, going beyond the call of duty will not cost the watch manufacturer a lot of money, and its can actually come out of such situations improving its image and brand (one company that is really good and focused on customer service is Hublot, and I think that this strategy explains in part its success). If there are too many faulty products for the manufacture to compensate generously its unhappy customers without hurting its P+L, then maybe it is not offering such a great product as advertize and it should be honest with its customers and re-price its offering accordingly.  Another load of 2c from me...

I have double standards on this
03/17/2009 - 15:14
it depends if I'm buying from a "brand" or an "independent".  If from an indpendent who makes a few watches a year I can accept that shit happens even though in theory since volumes are low the watch should be as close to perfection as possible but then again I know tham I'm full of contradictions and thisis one of them. When buying from a mainstream brand I don't expect perfection but I want to have something which approaches as much as possible. I can understand that something can go wrong within the movement and unlike a car a movement functions 24/7, the parts are tiny and these are hand made / hand assembled objects and once again I can be forgiving BUT if there are any aesthetic flaws which can be sen with a naked eye such as a ding on the case a car on the dial etc... then I blow my fuse and things get dirty!!! It will also depend on how the brand and the retailer deal with the issue. I want them to look really upset and take a very sorry voice and promise that it won't happen again, then I can be forgiving (if it doesn't happen again) if the brand has a superior attitude then they won't be getting 1$ of my hard earned cash in the future. Great question François, so to sum it up for me perfection is a situation not only what I expect from the watch....
I agree with you on the points about the whole Situation, and
03/17/2009 - 16:28
about the independents.  I would also be ready to be more understanding if I was dealing with independents. I goes back to the response I gave Kazumi, and getting value for money. Because the independent don't have the production capabilities of the larger guys, to justify its existence (make a profit) the Company will have to include a greater proportion of Costs of Good Sold per watch.  But if Roger Smith triples its price from Year A to Year B, then I would treat him the same way as the larger guys.  I think we all agree that we should accept that mistakes can be made, but judging from your response a simple "I'm very sorry" and a nice comforting hug would satisfy you in the case something went wrong.  Faulty Product + Apology and Big Smile/Hug would not make a perfect situation for me... I woul want something more, to show that the Company really cares and it ready to share the pain of their screw-up.  Either by knocking off a few % of the total bill (it always feels nice to get a little discount), getting to enjoy a "replacement watch" while yours is being worked on,... but for me I need something. Call me materialistic...
well a kiss and a hug would be great but
03/17/2009 - 16:55
only once the watch better come back in great condition after that. However since I deal with the AD I would expect a better discount for my next purchase
My 2 yens worth...
03/17/2009 - 15:26

I agree that a higher price should carry with it a guarantee of BETTER quality and after-sales service, but I do not think it is realistic to expect "perfection".  For one thing, we are talking about watches that involve manual labor (and nobody is perfect)...and there is always a lemon or a runt in the litter.   To play the devil's advocate, it would be nice to know what a good price would be for perfection.  Can we really afford perfection?  Demanding perfection BECAUSE we paid $100,000 could very well mean one is still not rich enough to accept/forgive imperfection?  Maybe Bill Gates wouldn't make a big issue if his $100,000 watch broke down.  He'll just have his assistant send it back for servicing (while he wears his $150,000 watch in the mean time). Just being philosophical guys.  I am sure I would raise hell if it were any of my watches!! Cheers, Kazumi

For me it's not a question of price, but rather value
03/17/2009 - 16:08
As you pointed out, for someone $100,000 is a lot of money, and for others its pocket change.  I wrote that if it had been an Overseas, I would have been maybe more relaxed about the whole thing, but that's from my point of view. For somebody else, buying an Overseas might be the biggest financial sacrifice ever.  So it would be better to judge in terms of relative value, which IMO has 2 angles: 1) value of product compared to competitive offerings: If the VC OS is 4x more expensive than, let's say a ROlex, than the 300% premium should be justifiable in some way. Cost to produce the watch (cost of materials, and man hours) is part of the price. Obviously more hours are invested in finishing the movement, and if it is done by a more qualified worked, that is worth something. That can go some way to explain the value differential - the rest attributable to the value of the brand, its image. The more someone is paying for the brand value, the more it should stand for something, which would include Quality.  It is in a way paying some sort of premium for quality insurance. If the quality is there, then you got what you paid for. If it ain't, then you paid for somethign that you didn't get2) Value of the Kool-AidSimilar to 1), but from a different angle. Richemont's EBIT margin is from meemory somewhere around 20%, which is very good for a manufacturing company with no real economies of scale, but not outrageous. I am VERY fine with VC making a 20% margin on the products it sells, and I feel that I am getting good value for money in that exchange (even if I am the one financing the marketing expenditure - wise of them to not show the gross margin...). But the problem here is that the margin that Richemont makes is based on the price sold to ADs, not to the end customer (or at least this is how I understand it). If the MSRP is roughly twice the price paid by the AD (using rough estimates...), then one cynical way to look at it is that there a lot of money/value thrown out of the window (this of course depends greatly on the relationship one has with its AD, and what is the ultimate price negotiated... but IMHO a sale service should not represent more than 10% of the final price). So, the % of value allocated to the "Intangibles"/brand value - in this case, I'll call it the Kool-Aid value to differentiate from premium on alterntiave offers discussed in 1 - goes up quite quickly. The Kool-Aid value is a result of the distribution channel used by the watch industry, and does not create any value per se. (the one advantage one gets is the assurance that the product an authentic one).  So, because one pays x% premium for 1) and y% of total value for 2), the whole experience must be close to magical... As Alex said, it should be about the whole experience. If the product is faulty, because of (x+y) value spend on an image/concept, the watch maunfacturer better make sure that this concept so dearly paid for remains intact.  A lot of rambling on, I know... I apologize Cheers,  Francois
Re: Is Demanding Perfection Asking For Too Much??
03/18/2009 - 01:58

Francois, I'm pleased you liked my quotation and appreciate your having credited me.  (Now, of course, I'm hopeful that I didn't hear it somewhere else first).  I, too, followed the debate elsewhere that you reference. Missing from the discussion elsewhere is any explicit mention of the importance of context.  All else being equal, the following contextual points seem to magnify the impact of discovering any perceived flaw in a new purchase: * The earlier in one's experience with fine watches * The earlier in one's experience with the brand * The longer one has searched for it * The longer one has waited since ordering it * The longer one has dreamed of it * The longer one has saved for it * The higher the ratio of price paid to MSRP * The higher the fraction of one's disposable income that was paid * The more perfectionistic one's personality (an obsessive-compulsive personality trait prevalent in our hobby) When disappointed in these ways, I find these quotations apt: "The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances." --Aristotle  "Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them." --Epictetus  Kind regards, Park

I like your quotes... :-)
03/19/2009 - 16:11
Agree with you on the importance of context from the customer's point of view... Cheers,  Francois
Re: Is Demanding Perfection Asking For Too Much??
03/18/2009 - 04:21
I don't think perfection is ever attainable. We can see it in some areas such as mathematics and physics (or something close to it). "Mans reach should exceed his grasp,  Else what's Heaven for" But I think as fas as manufactured goods are concerned, be they watches or anything else, we are entitled to a significant quality control; something certainly possible with modern production techniques and a staff devoted to satisfying their customers' needs. In the area of watchmaking or any other endeavour where  there is a tremendous amount of custom work done usually by hand, one must depend on peoples' expertise to produce a quality product. But in such cases rigorous testing should be involved to produce a product that is of high quality, will not break down after leaving the factory or for a very long period of time thereafter. I don't think the question of money is relevant. A product should have excellent quality control regardless of its cost. The design, engineering, machine production and any hand finishing all must be superb and lead to a quality finished product.. Final testing should ensure it. Several factors need to be considered: The initial design, free of flaws, The quality of the raw material, the component pieces, their individual complexity and the greater complexity of their interaction the quality of assembly. Each piece contributes and the total is greater than the sum of the parts. A fault in a small component can lead to overall failure. Thus meticulous care needs to be exercised. But unlike, say, computers, watches require considerable more hand finishing, which can be tricky and is sometimes trial and error to get just right. It can be inspired workmanship in which case the finished product will be extraordinary; or it can be ordinary in which case the final product will be less than pleasing. Unfortunately we do see bad results in areas where they should not occur. And if the design is correct (tried and true), then failure of the work is usually human failure. It cannot be eliminated but only reduced. As a percentage of output, such failure is much much lower than it used to be and thus we continue be be on an asymptote continuously approaching perfection but never reaching it. Joseph
great response JB
03/19/2009 - 16:21
the only point on which I don't agree with you is that money is irrelevant. IN a perfect worls, yes, everybody should strive for perfection, but in reality it doesn't happen this way. Some products are made cheap, for people who rather pay less money and care less about quality - in those cases minimum, or no quality control will help increase the desireability of the product...
Re: great response JB
03/19/2009 - 17:24
You're right, Francois. In the real world that's how it is. But a company that prides itself on the quality of its work and wants to maintain a reputation of excellence should value all its customers. New customers who start out with relatively inexpensive purchases, often graduate to much more expensive ones. A company that takes all customers into consideration will create a loyal following. Its not just self-respect for the company and pride in a job well done, but it's also a good business ethic. Joseph
Mistakes happen. The response is everything.
03/21/2009 - 02:35
If a high-end watch has a flaw under warranty, it should be the watch company's highest priority. It should come before normal repairs. If it requires taking a watchmaker out of the production process, so be it. The company has use of the buyer's money; the buyer should have use of the watch. Maximum turnaround time for a simple watch should be 10 days; for a complicated one, at most a month. Repairs should be checked and rechecked so that nothing has to be sent back a second time. The procedure outlined above would cost the watch companies considerable money and inconvenience. With that financial incentive, I think they would find it in their best interests to improve their manufacturing quality control, which I think generally could use some improvement. My observation is that a single bad experience usually ensures that the customer will no longer buy from the brand. The brand will then never have a chance to offset the bad experience by a good experience. It is also very bad for a brand's retail profile, since (1) a customer who has suffered a bad warranty service experience may actually prefer buying in the gray market to buying from an AD and (2) such customers will tend to flood the used watch market because they decide to sell instead of facing the rigors of factory service.