Sensation Transference – WHY We Buy Luxury Watches?

When someone buys a watch from me, I like to ask what inspired them to buy this particular watch…?

Then I love to sit back and listen to their reply….
They usually go on to tell me cool stories; mostly nothing to do with the watch itself – but events that happened long before or after the watch was purchased.

That’s because the watch that we choose to put on our wrist, has more to do with our memories, thoughts, feelings, emotions, experiences and stories; than it has to do with the actual chunk of cold metal, springs, coils and cogs that tick away on our wrist.

This “connection“ phenomenon is called ‘Sensation Transference’.

If you’ve ever wondered WHY we all love watches like we do – and WHY we spend so much of our money on high end prestige watches – I’d like to try and shine a light.
Really, luxury watches make no rational or economic sense – we could all be wearing £10 digital watches. That would last for years and be highly accurate. Or even no watch at all – and just use our smartphone.

We don’t NEED a watch; just like we don’t NEED music, art, literature, movies…. but just imagine how barren and bereft life would be without these things to enjoy. What is it about our relationship to watches in general – and… in particular… the watches we actively hunt down and purchase?

Sensation Transference - WHY We Buy Luxury Watches? Prestige Watches
So…. TRANSFERENCE was first coined by Sigmund Freud in his book ‘Civilizations and Discontents’ in 1929. it describes a situation where feelings, desires, thoughts, expectations and then consequential actions – move us forward from preconceived notions that we have about a person. memory or vision. I own a creative marketing company that specialises in designing highly creative marketing products to help brands and agencies to engage and interact with their customers. So I take a genuine interest in the psychology and science of marketing and copywriting that goes into “What works and What doesn’t” in selling, marketing and advertising.
We all create Sensation Transference. It connects us to things we love. In this case…. the watches we love to buy. I want you to remember this because watch brands and manufacturers work hard to create ‘Sensation Transference’ to connect us to their products… They do this with their cool watch Ads, product placement in movies and their memorable brand storytelling of watches and history. They use Sensation Transference to capture our attention – then they hijack our personal stories to romance us. Reminding us about their engineering and precision. The ingenuity, craftsmanship and complexities… Of the finishing, technical Innovation, history… The full pedigree of their watches.
For watch brands to be able to profit from their customers it comes down to one core thing. The ‘emotional investment’. The more emotionally invested we are in anything in our lives, the less critical and the less objectively observant we become. The greatest emotional investment of all is ‘falling in love’. This is because it resembles a “good story” where this weird revelation hits you from nowhere. We long for something, we yearn and we think about it all the time. In this instance it’s watches! With so many watches and brands to choose from out there WHY exactly do we LIKE and purchase the watches that we do..? What was it – that formed the strong connection that pulled us in..? What was the source-point that made us SO happy, that it created enough emotion and feeling for us to pull the trigger and make the purchase? What compelled us? Well us humans are social creatures so we not only think about how a watch purchase will make US feel but we also think about “what” the watch tells our tribe about us.
As social creatures our watch choice is like a little personal-brand advert on our wrists. Whether consciously or subconsciously – it tells others in our tribe A LITTLE about ‘who we are’. That personal brand advertising is very real! The gentle need to feel significant or appreciated, to be connected – or respected – or even loved – within our tribe…. In the case of a watch enthusiast – our tribe is other watch collectors, enthusiasts and sometimes even the general public as a whole.
For me personally, I am drawn to watches that suit my lifestyle and tell the world a little about me at the same time. Once I saw a cool looking gentleman wearing a 2-tone Rolex Submariner – black & gold – at an airport. I noticed it on his wrist as he glided effortlessly around the airport and sat sipping a coffee calmly in front of me – looking cool. The watch exuded what (for me) was the perfect blend of ‘love of adventure’ and ‘luxury’. It portrayed a slightly more refined debonair look over the more common all-steel sports Rolex. It was a classic, great looking gentleman’s watch.
Sensation Transference - WHY We Buy Luxury Watches? Prestige Watches
My situation at the airport wasn’t so effortless…. as I was with my wife and 5 and 3 years old children. While we were “trying” to calmly enjoy a coffee before boarding the plane after a 3am start to the day, my wife pointed out to me that my little son didn’t have his backpack with him. This was totally my fault as, despite me assigning the responsibility of his backpack to HIM – as a little ownership and responsibility teaching opportunity, I knew exactly WHEN we had taken it off and set it down to take out one of his little Avenger figures. I knew precisely where it was and when after a long(ish) run back to retrieve it, I arrived at FOUR heavily armed airport security personnel all standing around guarding it. I couldn’t see what the problem was – it was only a small black rucksack full of avengers toys and kiddy snacks Howevr of course, they didn’t know that, and they were quite quick (and stern) to remind me of the dangers of leaving unattended backpacks in an airport. I politely agreed – lesson learnt – and headed back to my family in a bit of a sweaty mess.
Coincidentally, I sat next to the Rolex wearing gentleman on the plane. Even without talking to the man, his watch told me so much about him. I ended up purchasing one for myself and it became one of my favourite watches. And if I had to choose ONLY ONE WATCH – this would probably be it If someone sees me at an airport and glances at my watch, I hope it will do the same job of telling them about my love of watches and “adventure” and also my appreciation of little finer things in life.
When I think about my favourite watches and brands – there is usually a story attached to them. You may have never thought too deeply about why you chose to buy the watches that you have. However in the back of your head, maybe deep in your subconscious just like my story about the man at the airport or the story about my dad’s old 1960’s Citizen dive watch. Which reminds me now – of a little 9 year old me in 1985, pretending to be James Bond in “A View to a Kill” talking into it and controlling satellites in space, You too, will most likely have a story, a memory or a feeling that creates sensations and connects you to that watch. Somewhere along the line you would have created Sensation Transference and you locked-in this positive connection.
Watch brands know this and they create Sensation Transference too. They give their watches charming, romantic personalities and tell you brand stories. They are your stories with their products woven in. They remind us that their watches are mini brand museums! Precious artifacts that can be worn on the wrist and are adored by watch lovers around the world. Adverts, articles and commissioning of influencers and product placements in movies and brand ambassadors. Websites, cool video content and well timed TV Ad’s and Social Media promotions… The brands build in a little familiarity by playing with our nostalgic thoughts, our dreams, our needs and wants and desires….
Sensation Transference - WHY We Buy Luxury Watches? Prestige Watches
CLICK ‘just like that’ the watch brand has connected their product – to you – using Sensation Transference. Pretty clever and powerful marketing and advertising – designed to make you WANT and NEED what they are selling. In today’s information driven world, there is no shortage of rich history and information deep-dives about particular watches or brands. This really helps to strengthen the Sensation Transference and the PULL of the watch towards you.
Sometimes sensations are wrapped up in a much larger package. If you’re anything like me and enjoy watching James Bond movies on the big screen, then the experience starts the minute you step out of your car and you wander into the enormous building. Alongside some friends, you buy some popcorn and a drink and you make your way into the darkened room. You sit in what will be “YOUR SEAT” for the next few hours. You enjoy the trailers for upcoming movies and then – along with a load of other people in the room, get taken on a movie experience for the next few hours.
It is for this reason the release of the Bond film No Time To Die was held back for a year and a half because the studio wanted it to be a big screen cinematic experience. After watching a movie at the cinema – we drink it ALLLL in. And straight after the movie, Sensation Transference is a light! The movie companies do a great job of creating Sensation Transference. It is a full experience! Everything you saw, heard and imagined – influenced our thoughts. For some people, it REALLY influenced thoughts. Although Bond is a totally fictional character – they enjoyed the movie so much some hardcore followers leave there thinking… “Man – I like Bond”… I REALLY like Bond. “I want to be more like him” “I’d like to walk like him” “I’d like to talk like him” And then they wonder “How I could be more like him?”
From his suits, demeanor, sunglasses, car, watch, hairstyle to his choice of drink. There is a big emotional pull towards this character that is created by the writers and the movie studios. This could be said of any movie or documentary – not just a James Bond one. It could be any programme about a person, hero or subject matter that we have an interest in and make time to watch and study. This is the magic of Sensation Transference. It works because we crave these positive-connections to our watches.
I personally love watches that I have a connection with at any given moment in time. They form an association with other people that I admire. For me, it’s this emotional attachment that creates the soul of the watch. This is where “Sensation Transference” is at its most potent. A good watch SHOULD create “Sensation Transference” because that unconscious assessment we make about a product based on how it makes us FEEL, is an additional “value add” on top of the actual material parts of the watch itself.
Going back to the Bond movie example….Bond lovers come out of the cinema feeling pumped and eventually those feelings subconsciously drive them to want to feel more like Bond. When they see an Omega Seamaster in the store with a great big Bond display next to it with pictures of the man, they may be compelled to purchase the Omega watch. To feel a little closer to Bond and the watch purchase was born out of ‘Sensation Transference’.
Sensation Transference - WHY We Buy Luxury Watches? Prestige Watches
Perhaps you love Tony Soprano and so you buy a Gold Rolex day-date with a champagne dial to celebrate that fact. Wearing the watch connects you and brings you closer to him. It reminds you (and maybe others) of your love for the character. Maybe even makes you feel a little like him. Or wearing your Casio CA-50 calculator watch, the same watch that Michael J Fox wore as Marty McFly in Back to the Future in 1985. This may evoke nostalgic feelings for bygone times and places that make you feel happy.
With watches, this happens all the time – whether it’s Pilot or Field Watches making us feel adventurous. Dive watches making us feel rugged and manly. Gold Dress watches making us feel suave and sophisticated. Chronographs connecting us to the race track… Movie stars. Musicians. Politicians. Presidents. Celebrities of all walks of fame (past and present)… The list of connections and feelings of Sensation Transfer goes on and on. We can all feel a little closer to these heroes by wearing the watches that they wore. Whether watches connect us to a place or a dream or a memory or a person, the stories around them and the link to them create an overwhelming emotional desire. Enough to make us go out and spend money to buy a watch like the one that THEY chose to wear. Just like dress sense and sunglasses and cars and so on…
The greatest hook brand-marketers aspire to, is for you to fall in love with whatever it is they’re selling – not in the traditional sense, but in a product placement sense. Carefully creating powerful advertising strategies to drive you to spend your hard earned money on their product. They know that their storytelling will be injected into our brains, flooding us with feel-good hormones like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, endorphins and triggering our emotions enough to deepen our connection with their product and happily spending our money. They play with our feelings and desires and tap into our needs and wants and dreams. Brands and Movie Makers are not silly. They know what they’re doing.
If it’s not the brand marketers doing it intentionally with their fictional characters, then it’s the most powerful and successful brand promotion of all. The one that creates an almighty pull. It’s that of our heroes wearing a watch not because of brand endorsement, or paid sponsorship or because they were contracted to. But because they chose to…
Watches are part of our culture and they connect us with stories and desires. The same is not only relevant to celebrities, but also a strong connection to family members and friends. A watch given to us by a loved one represents a symbol of love and thought, kindness and meaning. Enriched with deep values and a spirit of powerful memories that can (and should) never be taken away. A gifted watch can help you to feel close to a lost family member and remind you of them and help take you deep into distant memories. They can become cherished mementos and help you to feel their presence. The connection I have with my late Mothers watch, my Dad’s old diver watch and my grandfather’s old pocket watch is off the scale. In fact – I know of collectors that buy watches just to leave them to their next-generation family members as tangible and very personal reminders of them and their love for them.

Why Do People Like To Buy Luxury Watches?

It’s not just “love”. It’s not lust. It’s not JUST the thrill of the hunt.

The feeling of “Watch Love” is an intensely deep ‘appreciation’ of both the physical attributes of the watch and also powerful storytelling around the watch by the brand. It’s the coming together of respect, admiration, craftsmanship, design, history and prestige. The insane emotional feelings of Sensation Transference. These feelings and emotions merge together to form a sensation explosion that then goes on to create a deep sense of ‘desire’.

We fall for the history of the brand’s inception and the story behind its growth and the spirit of “WHY” their watches were created. Then the satisfaction of the journey – from “wanting” to “hunting”, and then “obtaining” – the thrill of the hunt in order to arrive at a point of sensation and satisfaction.
It’s to do with the identity that the watch makes you feel. The sensations that you undertake just by putting it on. Whether your watch is a status symbol, a token of love or achievement or success.
Maybe an heirloom, a collectible. a display of wealth, a memento of a loved one….
Ultimately, we are buying and wearing feelings, not products. We are not purchasing “things”, as much as we are ‘buying identities’….. state of minds and far off dreams.

We are wearing emotional connections to distant memories and future dreams. For most of us, watches are far more than just a tool. They are a passion. We are wearing and appreciating the art, the soul, the sentiment and the joy – that watches are made to give us.

If you’re looking to buy a luxury watch, please get in touch. My email address is I look forward to hearing from you.

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