Raymond Weil, Hublot Start ‘Second Life’

Swiss luxury watch brands Raymond Weil and Hublot this month each started a “Second Life” on the Internet, and are among the first luxury brands to do so. Each says it represents a new and unique direction for marketing and reaching consumers.

“Second Life” is a popular Internet Web site, an imaginary “virtual” world “inhabited” by user/resident-created characters called “avatars,” who travel between virtual islands, socialize, buy, communicate, and do business with each other. Almost 10 million people have already registered and created their own avatars, says Second Life, which has some 200,000 daily users. It says its marketplace does millions of U.S. dollars in monthly transactions.

Raymond Weil launched its Second Life island on Sept. 3, citing its “passion for new means of communication … to get closer to its customers.” Second Life lets it present its brand values and collections “in a new, interactive and entertaining way. The potential for experimentation is fascinating,” the brand says, as is “creation of a new type of relationship with customers.”

Initially, Raymond Weil is focusing on its new Nabucco collection. Visitors to “Nabucco Island” can view it and provide feedback, visit a Nabucco movie theater, and wear a virtual Nabucco watch. They can also “live” the story of the brand’s “Nabucco” hero, in a tour that puts visitors into obstacles he must overcome to free himself from an oppressor and gain his independence.

Jean-Claude Biver, chief executive officer of Hublot S.A., on Sept. 12 in its Nyon, Switzerland, headquarters, officially unveiled Hublot’s virtual island to both Second Life residents and real-life journalists at a press conference held simultaneously in the real world and in virtual reality. Biver was also in both places, in Nyon, and on Hublot’s virtual island waiting to greet the avatars of journalists.

Hublot calls Second Life an “exciting new playground,” where people can “create the life of their dreams” and “an excellent way to increase visibility of the brand around the world.” Hublot’s virtual island, shaped like its H-shaped logo, presents the “entire Hublot environment,” from an animated catalogue to a giant screen broadcasting Hublot TV.com, even to windows in the shape of portholes. (“Hublot” is French for porthole.)

Visitors can view Hublot’s design capabilities “down to the very last detail” and even try on a virtual reproduction of its Big Bang timepiece.