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Abstract

People feel emotional attachment to historical events. Heritage is the representation of the sensitive response that many luxury brands developed in their customer. This paper examines how Rolex use heritage like a strategy that enhances the luxury level of a brand. Using heritage and innovation, Rolex has developed a brand that considers historical and current ideas to satisfy customer’s desires. Some existing literature mentions luxury understood as an experience. This paper will analyze how Rolex creates an aura of authenticity and luxury based on heritage. Authenticity gets customer’s loyalty. Rolex can involve customers in the personal experience of purchasing Rolex watches.
RFLU#1741169, VOL 0, ISS 0
History as Luxury Brand
Enhancement
Teresa S
adaba and Pedro Mir Bernal
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History as Luxury
Brand Enhancement
Teresa S
adaba and Pedro Mir Bernal
ISEM Fashion Business School, University of Navarra
ABSTRACT People feel emotional attachment to
historical events. Heritage is the representation of the
sensitive response that many luxury brands devel-
oped in their customer. This paper examines how
Rolex use heritage like a strategy that enhances the
luxury level of a brand. Using heritage and innov-
ation, Rolex has developed a brand that considers
historical and current ideas to satisfy customers
desires. Some existing literature mentions luxury
understood as an experience. This paper will analyze
how Rolex creates an aura of authenticity and luxury
based on heritage. Authenticity gets customersloy-
alty. Rolex can involve customers in the personal
experience of purchasing Rolex watches.
KEYWORDS: Brand heritage, Rolex, Luxury, History
Introduction
As a popular luxury magazine has observed, It is difficult to
sum up exactly what Rolex is. In addition to being one of the
most widely known names in luxury, it is a historic watch
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Luxury DOI: 10.1080/20511817.2018.17411691
LUXURY VOLUME 0, ISSUE 0
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maker, success story of modern industrialization, social (and argu-
ably actual) currency, and vertically integrated empire that guards its
secrets closely.
1
Understanding a corporate brands identity and
heritage is relevant and concerns many organizations and institu-
tions
2
as consumers tend to associate a brands longevity and stabil-
ity with heritage. Stability and continuity are crucial, especially during
times of crises.
3
Rolex, as an established brand has a history. Rolex
knows how important history is and has incorporated it as part of its
brand identity. Many brands have a heritage, but only a few can be
categorized as heritage brands.
4
Luxury must unravel from a story
that gives the product both intrinsic and extrinsic value.
5
Urde,
Greyser, and Balmer made a distinction between a heritage brand
and a brand with heritage.
6
Not all luxury brands have significant
heritage and heritage is not a necessary sign of luxury. Heritage is a
brand attachment. The Cambridge dictionary defines heritage as
features belonging to the culture of a particular society, such as tra-
ditions, languages, or buildings, which come from the past and are
still important.
7
Urde, 2007, defines brand heritage as a dimension
of a brands identity found in its track record, longevity, core values,
use of symbols and particularly in an organizational belief that its his-
tory is important (Figure 1).
Rolex, as heritage brand, is a brand with a positioning (loyalty)
and value proposition (luxury) based on its heritage. As said previ-
ously, heritage is not a necessary condition of luxury, but a recent
study demonstrate that from 100 ranking of leading global brands,
43% were at least a century old.
8
A brand is what allows the company to make emotional connec-
tions with people and to sell similar products for a high cost thanks
to their differentiation.
9
Emotions positively influence perceptions of
brand heritage. Brand heritage makes the relationship between fan-
tasies about past eras and brand heritage stronger.
10
This paper focuses on how the temporal dimension influences
brand loyalty and the perception of luxury. The main point is to dem-
onstrate that heritage has been used to enhance the level and the
authenticity of a luxury brand.
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Figure 1
Elements of heritage.
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T. S
adaba and P. M. Bernal
Luxury2
Objectives
The main goal of this paper is to analyze how heritage influences
consumers during their time of purchase.
Also understanding how the history of the brand is used in the
marketing of storytelling to its consumers is a second goal of
this paper.
Methodology
This paper combines historical and case research as methodology.
This is identical to the methodology used previously to explore and
develop similar papers.
The historical part of this paper follows methodological ways that
are well established for any historical research no matter what the
topic is.
11
Our purpose: amplify scholarship by offering an illustration in prac-
tice as other academics have previously achieved. This paper
attempts to demonstrate how brand heritage, luxury and loyalty
branding are inter-related and bases its conclusions on the explor-
ation of how the aforementioned tripartite brand identity influences
consumersbehavior.
There are different criteria to identify a luxury brand. One is high
price relative to competitors and another is social status gained by
the consumer, which, in turn, makes the consumer loyal to the
brand. As one data point, one of the stronger competitors of Rolex is
Omega, another watch brand. The basic Rolex watch is currently
priced nearly more than twice higher than the basic one from Omega
and more than ten times higher than a basic watch brand as Casio.
Rolex competes directly in the category of top watch brands, includ-
ing TAG Heure, Hublot, Cartier among others.
Different sources were studied for the research. Primary sources
consisted of historical articles, Rolexs website, and collateral materi-
als prepared by Rolex. Additionally, secondary sources such as
books, academic articles and professional reports were consulted.
Many articles on luxury identify Rolex as a luxury brand.
The study is complemented methodologically by some business
case studies (Hartley, 2004; Gummesson, 2005; Yin, 2009) that
include interviews, site visits, and archival documents. Business his-
tory establishes the same main methodology for case research
Alfred Chandler.
12
Original descriptions of the brands marketing
specific language were developed and were complemented with por-
tions of the most distinct literature in the field. This, in sum, defines
our literature review.
The information was carefully interpreted subjectively and with
economical intuition. An interpretative method focused on under-
standing the heritage brand phenomenon in a comprehensive, holis-
tic way was used in this paper.
The type of research in this paper responds to a qualitative one.
Qualitative researchers aim to gather an in-depth understanding of
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History as Luxury Brand
Luxury3
consumer behavior towards the chosen brand. The discipline investi-
gates the whyand howthe heritage of a brand can affect con-
sumersdecision making in the time of purchase. The secondary
sources already mentioned (academic articles and professional
reports) were used to support the analysis of testimonials received
on the topic by persons of eminence in this field.
Literature Review
The brand is an important intangible asset for companies. It is an
item of differentiation; it is the products consumer-facing personality.
Some brands add value to their product on their own
13
with the goal
to achieve sustainability of the brand over the years.
14
Brand heritage
likely affects consumer choice by presenting a reliable offering in a
crowded market.
15
There are different methods to analyze the value
of the brand. In relation to the objectives of this paper, the most
appropriate is the method based on the consumer as explained
in Figure 2.
As already mentioned, there are criteria as heritage, high price or
social status for the consumer that allows to identify luxury
16
and
consequently the high value of the brand.
Luxury has been defined as anything that is desirable and more
than necessary and ordinary.
17
According to the dictionary, luxury is
an exhibition or manifestation of wealth. Luxury is a thing or set of
expendable things that involve a great expense of money. But luxury
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Figure 2
Methods to size brand value.
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T. S
adaba and P. M. Bernal
Luxury4
is also something else; luxury is quality, it is about the experience,
about being unique, and about becoming part of a high class. There
are several key elements to maintain a luxury brand. Some of them
are marketing communications, price, exclusivity, and heritage.
Adaptability is also a key to maintain a brands position over time.
18
The main difference between a luxury brand and a premium brand is
the management of temporality.
19
This connects with the theory of
different levels of luxury: luxury and non-luxury are the extremes of
the same line.
20
Luxury brands follow a timelessness strategy. They
try to make their brand appear as top of mind in the past, present
and future at the same time. Temporality as a phenomenon has three
dimensions in the heritage and luxury literatures. The first dimension
is maturity. This refers to the time a brand needs to create a his-
tory. It describes the kind of behaviors that happen during the life of
the brand. It also means that the techniques required to manufacture
products must be mastered over generations. This is the main cul-
ture in Rolex. The brands vision is to continue the long tradition of
excellence that the name of Rolex represents. As mentioned earlier,
a necessary condition for heritage is longevity. The second dimen-
sion is a synchronicity, a quest of timelessness; past, present and
future must interact simultaneously. Finally, the third dimension is
continuity. The products from the brand must remain the same or
undergo minor changes to recognize that they belong to the brand in
the future. Continuity is an important element of innate heritage and
provides evidence of authenticity.
21
According to the theory of the three different scales of luxury
(inaccessible luxury, intermediate luxury and accessible luxury),
brands are able to move their position from the lowest to the high-
est level.
Brands with a long history are able to increase distinctiveness and
transmit authenticity and credibility to the consumer.
22
Companies with brand heritage, like Rolex, must have a special
interest in innovating to maintain the essence of the brand without
breaking with their own history. Their luxury is based on the mainten-
ance of competencies over time and the preservation of methods.
23
Heritage brands have a dual personality: traditional and contempor-
ary. Rolex innovates in watch designs but maintains the way of work-
ing since the 1900s. Rolex successfully mixes emotional luxury
values with its heritage and creates an atmosphere of authenticity
and loyalty that attracts modern-day consumers. Luxury brands
must tell a story that includes their own past and history
24
to create
emotional connections with consumers.
Innovation is an important tool for heritage brands. It is defined as
the ability of heritage luxury brands to develop new design and
branding strategies in response to consumer feedback while retain-
ing the emotional core values of their heritage.
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Brands that wrongly perceive heritage as a type of static history
lack in innovation. Those brands are not able to redefine their
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History as Luxury Brand
Luxury5
essence and position themselves in the current and constantly devel-
oping marketplace. It is essential to separate heritage from history in
order to create strategies for innovation.
It should also be noted that a luxury watch is considered to be a
special gift. Substantial attention has been paid over several years to
the design of the product in order to be unique and exciting. Rolexs
goal is the personification the product. Brand heritage has been built
based on the personality of the founder or other famous persons as
important symbols that catalyze the connection between the prod-
ucts characteristics and its ensuing benefits for the consumer.
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The
social aspects of the brand therefore are as important as the physical
and design characteristics of the watch.
In the literature of brand heritage, it has been suggested that geo-
graphic locations could be used by the brand as a symbol to validate
the history of the brand.
27
The obvious geographic association for a
watch company like Rolex is Switzerland.
The Creation of Rolex
The status of Rolex and the unique identity of the brand are products
of a history driven by a passion for innovation and a constant quest
for excellence (Figure 3).
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Figure 3
Letter from Rolex owner.
T. S
adaba and P. M. Bernal
Luxury6
Rolex presents its own watches with two words: performance
and prestige.Each brand has its own identity. And identity implies
differences. So, for example, some brands are quantity-oriented,
others, like Rolex, put the emphasis on quality, on excellence.
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For
this purpose, Rolex is based on the history of the brand. Rolexs
search is mainly initiated in the field of quality watch movements for a
watch of precision work. The Rolex adventure began in the early
1900s. In 1905 Rolex created its first watch. Five years later, in 1910
Rolex received the first official Swiss chronometer certificate and in
1914 the Kew Observatory in Great Britain gave Rolex the certificate
of high precision. Rolex is a pioneer in watertight and dustproof
watches, in the perpetual rotor, in GTM-master watches, among
other firsts.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Rolex launched watches of great pres-
tige that appealed to influential people. Rolex used the testimonials
by these famous people as a marketing strategy. Those testimonials
demonstrate the status of the brand in the luxury market.
The leading brand in the Swiss watchmaking industry, based in
Geneva, Rolex enjoys an unparalleled worldwide reputation for quality
and know-how. The brand has filed more than 400 patents in the
course of its history. The Rolex watch is positioned as a higher qual-
ity product with a significantly higher price point.
Rolex is an international brand as all luxury brands are. It is pre-
sent in some 100 countries around the world and distributed through
more than 30 affiliates and after-sales service centers in addition to
its own network of official retailers who serve as guarantors of the
quality and authenticity of Rolex watches. Rolex is a global player in
social capital. Finally, it is a brand that is actively committed to the
support of the arts and sports.
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Brand Heritage at Rolex
Rolex is a brand recognized as one of the finest references in the
world of Swiss High Watchmaking. Such a legendary seal is due to
the enthusiasts, connoisseurs and lovers of the watchmaking art in
spite of being a desirable brand as far as access to the information
of their quality, craftsmanship and heritage is communicated and
shared to consumers.
Bertrand Gros explains that Rolex is positioned as a legendary
and top watch brand due to three fundamental reasons of historical
and chronological nature. First and foremost, the genius of our foun-
der, Hans Wilsdorf. He was a truly exceptional man who mostly
invented the automatic waterproof wristwatch. Underpinning every-
thing, he did was an obsession for excellence and performance,
which is also associated with his sports achievements, such as
climbing Mount Everest, immersing in the Trench of the Marianas or
swimming across the English Channel. These values inspire us and
form the basis of our marketing campaigns today. Mr. Wilsdorf
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History as Luxury Brand
Luxury7
wanted sports watches that were sleek and chic and would
withstand all the rigors of the weather.
The second reason appeared in the 1970s, the entire watch
industry turned to electronics - quartz watches. Our Director General
of the time, Andr
e Heiniger, remained firmly opposed to the idea. In
his opinion, the mechanical watch is the true realization of the skill
and craftsmanship of our watchmakers. The future demonstrated
that he was right. It gave us an advantage many years more than
certain competitors. Later, most of them returned to the mechanical
watches. The market shares in this segment were reduced accord-
ingly, but our market share was already established.
And finally, the third reason was Patrick Heiniger. He replaced his
father in leading the company in the 1990s. He quickly realized that
Rolex needed to become a fully vertically integrated company, in
terms of its production facilities, at four sites. In the last 20 years, we
have acquired most of our strategic suppliers and have integrated
them into our own structures. We have also modernized and
expanded our production centers. They are among the most efficient
and productive, and probably the best in the industry. This gives us
unparalleled autonomy, independence and flexibility, essential for our
expansion. I must admit, however, that the worldwide reputation of
Rolex, as shown in the converging results of brand reputation sur-
veys around the world, across all industries, has surprised even me.
Rolex follows a campaign strategy, the main objectives of which
are its positioning as a high-end luxury brand that is the ultimate
aspiration of consumers, precisely because it offers a fashionable
alternative to using a cell phone to tell time, as well as being
a status symbol.
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Figure 4
Rolex advertisement.
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T. S
adaba and P. M. Bernal
Luxury8
The luxury watch brand takes advantages of its history. It is pos-
sible to see evidence of this in Rolexs website or in alternative adver-
tisements: performance and prestige: Rolex watchesor in other
advertisings as Figure 4.We cultivate essential and immutable val-
ues in this company, the values that we respect and that will last.
30
Rolex consistently sponsors many sports as a strategy to remain
top of mind with the public and in association with preeminent sport-
ing events the reputation of which lasts for years. For example, Rolex
sponsors prestigious golf or tennis events as well as Formula1.
These are all sports that convey elegance, precision, and talent.
These are exactly the qualities that a Rolex watch is meant to project
and transmit to the wearer.
Rolex communicates a lot. But we focus primarily on the product
and what surrounds it. Beyond traditional advertising, we communi-
cate a lot about the events with which we are associated, whether in
sport or culture, - as well as in our philanthropic programs, such as
the Mentors and Disciplesand the Rolex Awards Initiative.
31
Conclusion
Terms as heritage and luxury are completely related to history,
authenticity and brand loyalty. Rolex is a brand with more than
100 years of history. It offers to customers full guarantees on the
products of the brand due to the reputation that the brand has built.
The historical references and testimonials from famous persons that
Rolex has received have been used by the brand as an advertising
technique. Among other reasons, thanks to these references and
testimonials the brand is consolidated in the top of luxury
watch brands.
Rolex should keep on using its heritage as a key to create an
emotional relationship with the contemporary consumer. This is also
how Rolex will be able to strengthen its position.
Notes
1. Adams, Inside Rolex: Understanding the World's Most Impressive Watch
Maker,(Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 2013).
2. Urde and Greyser, The Nobel Prize,(2015).
3. Merchant and Rose, Effects of Advertising-Evoked Vicarious
Nostalgia,26192625.
4. Urde and Greyser, The Nobel Prize, 36.
5. Keller, Building Strong Brands,139155.
6. Urde et al., Corporate Brands,(2007).
7. Heritage.Cambridge Dictionary. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/
dictionary/english-spanish/heritage (accessed March 15, 2020).
8. Hudson, The Prevalence,1421.
9. Lamelas, Marketing, 210112.
10. Green and Brock, The Role of Transportation,701.
11. Mary Fulbrook. Historical Theory (London: Routledge, 2002).
12. Kantrow, A., Why History Matters to Managers,8188.
13. Nieto, Innovar o Morir: c
omo Obtener Resultados Excepcionales Con Baja
inversi
on: Innovaci
on, internacionalizaci
on.
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403
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History as Luxury Brand
Luxury9
14. Kotler, and Keller, Direcci
on de marketing.
15. Menkes, Heritage Luxury.
16. Kapferer and Bastien, The Specificity of Luxury Management,311322.
17. Heine, The Concept of Luxury Brands,21931208.
18. Urde et al., Corporate Brands with a Heritage,14.
19. Dion and Arnould, Retail Luxury Strategy,502520.
20. Tynan et al., Co-creating Value for Luxury Brands,11561163.
21. Balmer and Hudson, Corporate Heritage Brands.
22. Urde et al., Corporate Brands with a Heritage,10.
23. De Barnier et al., Do Consumers Perceive Three Levels of
Luxury?623636.
24. Kapferer and Bastien, The Specificity of Luxury Management,311322.
25. Morley and McMahon, Innovation, Interaction, and Inclusion.
26. Balmer and Hudson, Corporate Heritage Brands.
27. Burghausen and Balmer, Corporate Heritage Identity
Management,23112323.
28. Alegr
ıa, Entrevista De Le Temps a Bertrand Gros, Presidente Del Consejo
De Administraci
on De Rolex.
29. Rolex Website, www.rolex.com.
30. Alegr
ıa, Entrevista De Le Temps a Bertrand Gros, Presidente Del Consejo
De Administraci
on De Rolex.
31. Alegr
ıa, Entrevista De Le Temps a Bertrand Gros, Presidente Del Consejo
De Administraci
on De Rolex.
32. Urde et al., Corporate Brands with a Heritage,8.
33. Siabato and Oliva, Evoluci
on y caracterizaci
on de los modelos de Brand
Equity,158168.
34. Hilo: Rolex & Publicidad - Rolex.
Acknowledgements
The authors thank Silvia Rivero for her contribution to this paper and
Clarissa Halvorssen for comments on a prior draft of this article.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author(s). Q1Q2
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