An interesting article on The Hour Lounge and other official

forums/clubs published on The Watch Lounge

the original article can be found here

the French version can be found here

Clubs: A Work in Progress 

Traditionally a number of brands have created exclusive clubs for their clients where they could gather and discuss their watches, sharing their unique passions and interests. In fact, clubs were the very first expression of communities.

Over the past few years, however, the astronomical growth in popularity of the various social media platforms has led to the evolution of these clubs and the consequent creation of “web 2.0 communities”, the official playground of Community Managers. Powerful, rapid in their growth and most importantly of all uninhibited by boundaries of time or location, these online communities can present a powerful marketing tool for savvy brands, and indeed well-run web communities appear to be the ultimate version of Customer Relationships Management.

Is there still a use then for these traditional clubs, these places where owners used to have a privileged access to the brand, especially now that this access is seemingly wide open to all through other channels?

Unfortunately it seems the answer is no.

Competition and Cannibalization
In fact, what was originally designed to be complementary has ended as competition. Web communities appeal to so many clients and prospective clients that the idea of traditional clubs suddenly sounds old-school. Moreover, at these times when the return on investment of each dollar is closely tracked, Marketing & Communication Directions don’t want to spend (waste?) money on two overlapping initiatives.

Nevertheless, some brands, such as Vacheron Constantin, have chosen to convert their club into a forum, for one main reason: while a number web communities are based upon public platforms like Twitter or Facebook, the Vacheron Constantin forum is hosted by the corporate website. Consequently, it brings the (potential) customer directly into the universe of the brand, much closer to buy than any other physical space.

For its part, Jaeger-LeCoultre and its “LeClub” have chosen to adopt a more traditional approach: one space, access through registration only, with exclusive previews, invitations and other VIP events. Nothing really special but basic items working well, and a brand new version expected in Spring 2011.

Hublotista – The Personalized Experience
Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Biver (CEO of Hublot) has recently launched his own version of the on-line club; Hublotista. The concept is clearly centered around exclusivity, as it is not available to anyone but Hublot’s owners, who must authenticate their membership through a chipset and a USB card reader provided with the (new) watch. According to Mr Biver, the Hublot tribe already existed : “It’s wide and well spread around the world. With Hublotista, we simply gathered it, centralized it, and provided it with tools”.

Jean-Claude Biver highlights the importance of the “user generated content”, but really it’s not much different from the traditional way of running any forum or public web space, generally speaking. In fact, apart from the Secure ID Card and the encryption process provided by WISekey, there’s nothing really new on Hublotista.

Hublotista goes one step further : as each client is identified by his watch (serial number, date & location of purchase, etc.), it’s quite easy then to target him with watches that have a similar design and will be soon be available in his location.

The Final Word 
The internet is full of sponsored but so-called ‘independent’ forums. As a matter of fact, and almost as a surprise, in-house forums and thus transparency (at last) sounds to be a good way to attract customers without anything left unsaid. However, this is largely dependent on the brand’s communication strategy and their willingness to disseminate accurate information to their community members.

The on-line platforms are still largely unknown places for many brands, and often the tendency is to misuse them; for example Facebook has a tendency to become ’Brandsbook’. Thus while the industry continues to open new channels of communication via social networks, it might be time to remember that in-house and sponsored communication had its advantages. Clubs are clearly sponsored places, and thus provide customers with the requested transparency and accessibility they crave, as well as the exclusivity.

Perhaps, therefore, the way web 2.0 communities and traditional clubs can co-exist for mutual benefit has still yet to be invented? 

Olivier Muller

agree HL is probably more independent than most
11/24/2010 - 22:09
So called unsponsored forums. Kudos to Alex and the Loungers
Master or Servant?
11/25/2010 - 01:15
Personally, I object to "members-only" clubs as elitist for sure, but more subtely as very manipulative of the customer.  By enticiing one to adopt a very narrow perspective, the marketing types seek to remove your choices and quell your criticisms.  Sure its hard work to support a forum like this, but the fans here are true afficionados, not sycophants.
Re: An interesting article on The Hour Lounge and other official
11/25/2010 - 03:03
Hmmm ..."the Vacheron Constantin forum is hosted by the corporate website. Consequently, it brings the (potential) customer directly into the universe of the brand, much closer to buy than any other physical space." I've always recognized that THL is hosted directly by VC, but I never really considered it "closer to buy".  Sure, VC's main and specialized product line websites are just a link or two away, but they are at most informational sites...I can't buy directly through the sites, well at least not yet. I think a lot of what the Hour Lounge has become is due to the efforts of Alex G., with solid support and backing from VC at the highest levels (recall Mr. Torres' initial interview when THL was initially established).  Our club has become a standard that others are trying to emulate (open, frank, friendly, courteous knowledgeable, passionate, etc.), and that should be a compliment to us all:
  1. Alex for leading the charge and creating this virtual Lounge
  2. VC for providing the platform and support - now if they would be willing to let us in on more of their many secrets,
  3. All of the members for creating the content, interaction, and quality of this forum - "Vacheronistas" to the end! 

Best Regards, Dan P.S.  I felt ill when I read "Hublotista" 

Well said Dan! (nt)
11/25/2010 - 05:29
with The Lounge VC has a site but its the Loungers who make it a
11/25/2010 - 12:04
forum and a great one too yeah the Hublonista pissed me off too
I much prefer the term "Lounger" than "Hublotista"...
11/25/2010 - 16:20
...and I agree with Dean's comment, it is much better when it is open to all rather than closed (even if it means having a feww visitors who need to be referred to Shady Joe's post on fake VCs...) Cheers,  Francois
remember this one?
11/25/2010 - 18:11
Yes I do! ;-) (nt)
11/26/2010 - 21:21
Les Hublots
11/25/2010 - 19:03
En francais le mot "hublot" veut dire... the small window on an airplane. So maybe the Hublotistas or is that "hublo-titsa" just want the window-seat on their flights :-) JB
LOL :-)
11/26/2010 - 03:21
Hi JB,  Now I'll have to check the wrists of the people on my flights to/from Geneva for SIHH and see if the ones with window seats are wearing Hublots.  Look forward to seeing you there! Best Regards,Dan
11/25/2010 - 19:13
The successful watch companies have always had to innovate. Innovation is not just making better watches, but also improving communications with their patrons. For VC, the company's very name points to the importance and significance of someone dedicated to spreading the news. I think The Hour Lounge is a significant and positive step in reaching out to patrons and prospective patrons (though I am not calling for a change in brand name to Vacheron Constantin Ghotbi; not yet, anyways!). The corporate backing and Alex's wealth of knowledge and pictures makes this site a rich extension of the VC website, with invaluable information and articles. And the transparency of this forum and its thoughtful posters make the place not just a great resource, but truly special. The Hour Lounge was a major factor in my favoring VC over PP for the first watch that I ever bought myself. I joined as a non-owner, but am now an enthusiastic fan and proud wearer.
I agree with every word!
11/26/2010 - 10:02
I, if anyone, can declare that Vacheron Constantin
11/28/2010 - 01:40
really let Alex run in all directions. I still consider me as part of the birth of this Forum, in form of 'sounding board' when it was created and released. I don't know how many emails and phone calls there were, 24 hours a day. It was a magic period in my life, and I believe in Alex' too. BUT there were nobody from VC, absolute nobody, who pointed in any direction, we also said that if we should put our energy, Alex wasn't employed by then, into this enormous project, which it was, we should be free to write about everything, and that should go for all the members 'in spee'! We hadn't the slightest idea of the success that it has become and I belive that's the main thing! That's why I can show a GP now and then, and Joseph a wonderful Jürgensen etc.! Thank's Alex for that time, more thank's for still putting your heart in this Lounge, we all love Doc
Doc, you were instrumental in the creation of the Lounge and you
11/28/2010 - 10:37
Kept pushing me to start it and the freedom of speech and knowledge here has become fantastic! Merci Doc for your support and tzrust :-)
I perhaps had some part in the birth of the baby,
11/28/2010 - 12:15
but you, Alex has in the best way let it grow up, with your careful hands and given it a good education and a polite manner, full of heart Doc