Tourneau Minutes: Making of a Franchise?

Leading up to this summer, my colleagues at VSA and I did a fun project for Tourneau, the high-end watch retailer. We created a print and web magazine out of thin air, called Tourneau Minutes.

I ended up wishing it could’ve gone a step further, because I worry we missed an opportunity for Tourneau (and us) to create a branded-journalism franchise.

Tourneau’s idea was to put out something better than a catalog — something people would want to read and look at and pass around even if they weren’t in the market right then to buy a watch.   Since it sits in the middle of the industry, selling all the top watches, Tourneau is — in a kind of hilariously ironic way — the Switzerland of watches. So it could credibly sponsor a watch magazine.

In my mind, the right approach would be to create a Cigar Aficionado of watches — Watch Aficionado, if you will. Cigar Aficionado is a lifestyle magazine — it’s not so much about cigars as about the kinds of people who smoke high-end cigars and the lives they lead. It actually makes cigars aspirational (in a marketing, not pulmonary, context).

So the idea was for Tourneau to make a magazine that was similarly about the kinds of people who wear high-end watches and the lives they lead. The more the publication was like that and the less it bore the marks of marketing…the better the chance that the public would embrace the magazine. If Tourneau could help widen the interest in high-end watches beyond the usual suspects, some of them would come to Tourneau to buy. That would make the investment net positive.

If done well, and maintained over enough time to prove itself, such a magazine could become self-sustaining. As Rapha has shown with its magazine, a sponsored publication can actually become impactful enough to lure advertisers who might even be competitors — a sign of a truly successful branded-journalism product in a satisfying in-your-face way.

This first issue, out this summer, is a lovely design, has some beautiful images, and some good writing. (OK, I wrote one piece, too — about time and baseball.) But it didn’t quite reach the level of great branded journalism. First tries rarely do.

Tourneau is taking the next Minutes magazine in-house. I hope they invest in real branded journalism and don’t slide back toward catalog. We’ll watch and see.

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