Luxury Pricing: Top This!

Although I’ve said before that with luxury items, the price is the value, I’m still occasionally astounded. Now along comes one of the most absurd items I’ve ever seen. Swiss watchmaker Romain Jerome created a watch they call “Night & Day.” Why do they call it that? I’m glad you asked. Because it doesn’t actually tell time. It just tells you whether it’s day time or night time. How much would you pay for this? If you offered less than $300,000, you wouldn’t have got one, because they sold out within 48 hours.

Other luxury goods typically make a pretense that they offer some kind of functionality to justify their price. Ferraris are fast. Fine, rare wines are supposed to taste good– even if you’re not really supposed to drink them. Fancy jewelry is supposed to look nice. Even luxury watches, which are no more accurate than $10 digital watches, have complex mechanisms to tell you the phase of the moon or some other piece of not really useful information. But a watch that doesn’t even pretend to tell you the time?!?

As a pricing person, this is brilliant. This is about the story that you tell when someone asks you about your $300,000 watch. I imagine it goes something like this:

Nice watch. How do you read it?

See here? This means it’s day. If it was over here, it would be night.

Oh, I see.

Yes, it’s extremely useful when I’m in the media room of my yacht and I just really want to know whether it’s day or night, and my VCR is still flashing 12:00, so I just look at my watch.

Why don’t you just ask your butler?

Usually I do, but sometimes I’ve just sent him to get a bottle of that Chateau Lafite that you’re really not supposed to drink, but I’ve never understood senseless luxury, you know?

That’s great. Chronographic technology has come so far since man looked at the sky. I can never keep up with the time zone changes when I’m in my yacht. I should get one of those.

Sorry, they’re all sold out.

So can anyone come up with a luxury item to top this?


  1. Jon

    Yeah, I can top that…

    1. You can pay anywhere up to GBP600,000 to buy a watch from RW Smith, Chronometer Maker on the Isle of Man (and they do tell the time)

    2. You can get an analogue hi-fi system built to order from a company called Audio Note. Price start from GBP 300,000+

    3. Ladies can buy 75mls of their own custom made perfume from Roja Dove – price GBP20,000

    4. Guys, give SpadaConcept a car chasis and they’ll design and build a body for you for Euros 300,000, and

    5. Zepsa Industries make hand-carved metal and exotic wood staircases…from Euros 500,000.


  2. Reuben Swartz

    Jon, these are good examples, but:

    1. Actually tells time.
    2. Analogue hi-fi is supposed to sound better.
    3. Presumably the perfume is supposed to smell as good, or better than other less expensive perfumes.
    4. At least you get a car, which seems a lot more useful than a watch that doesn’t tell time.
    5. Staircases actually let you get from one floor to another. If they charged that much for a stairway to no where, that would be different.

    It’s not that we can’t find examples of less useful things or more expensive things, but the combination of uselessness and expense is impressive. 😉

  3. Henry

    I love the night and day watch, not about functionality, its in the product story. Jon’s examples bridge from the ‘real’ world, they all work and have stories which mainly come from customization – “one-off for me!!”. They demonstrate what we know, that as price disconnects from straightforward product or service attributes, higher implies better but the best practitioners work the ‘me’ factor hard.
    The watch is like gold flakes in brandy – all about the buyer not the product – no customization, no special service – its just about ‘me’ (via my capacious wallet).
    There is always someone who will pay $10^n to talk about him or herself.
    Still, those with enlarged egos and wallets to match have to be looked after, bless them.

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