Word on the gold-paved street is that there’s a new luxury for less player in town, and the buzz has just begun. Eleven James, dubbed as the Netflix or NetJets of luxury watches, is here to help you live beyond your means for a modest fee. The premise: pay a monthly membership fee for access to a collection of luxury watches that they’ll lend you for two month periods before you can swap it for another luxury watch. Membership starts at $249 for three watches per year ($449 for six) and grants you access to collections “The Afficionado” (IWC, Panerai, Rolex, Hublot, Zenith, Cartier, Jaeger) and for an additional amount “The Connosiuer (all those, plus Patek, Audemars, Vacheron Constantin and Girard-Perregaux).
My initial thoughts? Waste of money. Why would you throw money at something you’ll never own when you could just take your annual membership costs and buy a pre-owned luxury watch? These watches have all been worn before anyways and while they’re insured by Eleven James, it’s recommended you take out additional insurance in case of “incidents”.
Founder Randy Brandoff, former chief marketing officer of NetJets, insists that his experience with the luxury rental market proves that this is an in demand service. According to Randy via Forbes:
“At NetJets and Marquis Jet, I experienced firsthand how many consumers of luxury products are increasingly interested in access rather than ownership. Private jets, vacation homes, classic cars, and many other historically prized possessions have all become accessible via various club and shared ownership programs.”
Right, Rando, but I don’t need (or even want, really) access to a private jet, Italian Villa, or vintage Mercedes every day. Maybe every weekend, but not every day. Luxury watches? I want to
hoard collect them and treasure them daily, even if I do own 20 and have to bother with reminding myself to switch them.
But it’s not for me. It’s for the guy who’s leasing his Lambo and his mansion. It’s for the guy who already has 10 watches and is cool with paying $1599 a month for the opportunity to play dress up with The Virtuoso collection. It’s for the guy who owns a TAG or maybe even a Sub and has the taste for grail watches but not the budget.
Again, it’s not for me. This company is geared specifically towards men. I get it, it makes sense, but chicks love watches too. And no I don’t mean a diamond studded J12, I mean I think I’d look pretty baller in a rented Milgauss 116400GV or a rose gold and chocolate dial Daytona. It’s nice that “a gorgeous brunette” will deliver it (only in NYC though), but for a format like this, one that oodles of women and female teens have proven they’re very comfortable with, it seems like a misstep not to include us in all the scuba-diving-in-the-Galapagos-with-“your”-Rolex fun. The website does say more collections are pending though, so here’s hoping they can find some US Olympic swimmers to deliver the lady horology.
And why are the ladies so comfortable with this concept? Bag Borrow or Steal, Le Tote and, of course, RTR. Eleven James is less like Netflix and more like attainable luxury juggernaut Rent the Runway…which has its drawbacks. If you’re a dude, no that is not the name of a runway model escort service. Rather, it’s how your female Facebook friends can afford to wear a different designer cocktail dress to the seven weddings they attend each weekend. It is pretty awesome, but the dresses’ exclusivity have been diminished thanks to RTR’s immense popularity. There’s a finite number of dresses to rent, so you end up seeing the same Herve Leger dress on four different girls in the same month. Things that make you go “Hmm”: a surge in 24-year-olds rocking $1000 spandex on the regular.
Now, the same thing might not (probably won’t) happen with Eleven James, simply because it’s a hell of a lot more unexpected that you’d be borrowing a $40,000 watch like it’s your sister’s favorite sun dress. But I have a feeling this news is going to spread fast, especially because the company only launched in December 2013 and I’m seeing fairly aggressive coverage of the company on finance and luxury blogs. It’s only a matter of time until Watch Snob goes HAM on this and every trader you know is wearing a different Patek Philippe every two months.