Time for a Change
In a world of limited fashion accessories and jewelry options for men, the wristwatch is an important element of style. But luxury timepieces are also significant investments. Some may love the idea of choosing between a Patek Philippe, Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, Audemars Piguet, or Girard-Perregaux, for example. Others may desire only one of those but may have difficulty deciding which one is right for them. In either context, Randy Brandoff can help. In December, Brandoff founded Eleven James, an annual membership program that allows its members to enjoy up to six luxury timepieces over the course of a year. “Luxury has been redefined as prioritizing access and experiences over outright ownership,” he says. “Luxury consumers now want what they want when they want it, and having witnessed two massive economic downturns, they are wary of the potential hassles of ownership or residual-value risk.”
What’s more, Brandoff explains, there’s a segment of the luxury audience that hasn’t grown up with wristwatches. They’ve been conditioned to check their phones for the time, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still intrigued about luxury timepieces. “With Eleven James, they can find out if they like wearing luxury watches while wearing many of them for a fraction of the price of owning a single one,” he says. “And they can do it while being a member of a club and enjoying a myriad of complimentary services and benefits.”
So how does it work? First, members must decide how many watches they would like to enjoy over the course of the year—three or six, since Eleven James offers them in two-month increments. From there, they choose which collection is right for them. The Aficionado collection includes timepieces that are valued between $7,000 and $15,000; the Connoisseur collection includes newer offerings in precious metals, which are valued between $15,000 and $30,000; and the Virtuoso collection includes rare complications and limited-edition pieces with values ranging from $30,000 to $50,000. Based on those variables, an Eleven James membership could cost between $2,700 and $17,250 per year (or $249 and $1,599 per month).
Once members join, they must construct a unique watch profile, which is made up of about 15 questions relating to their likes and dislikes, their current watch collections, and so on. They are also asked to rate the various watches that Eleven James offers through its collections. From there, Brandoff and his team match members to watches based on their profile. It’s like eHarmony for watch aficionados. “We match their profile with what we think will make them most happy,” Brandoff says. “So there’s an element of controlled surprise, like opening a present from someone who knows you well. Of course, if they don’t like what we send to them, we want them to let us know immediately and to send it back, and we’ll send them a desired alternative.”
As Brandoff sees it, his company is really about solving every watch need that any of his members may have; and for most of those members, the opportunity to temporarily own and wear many of the best timepieces on the market is its greatest asset. “For collectors, some watches have emotional connections. Maybe it’s a watch that you coveted for 10 or 20 years and could finally own. But not every timepiece means the world to you,” he says. “Sometimes it’s just an attractive thing that you’d like to have or wear.”