A few years ago, the daughter of an incredibly (I mean stratospherically) wealthy business mogul in Singapore shared with me that the Finders Keepers dress that she was wearing had been rented using a subscription service in Singapore. Me, a complete stranger who’d met her for the first time. It got me thinking: do the insanely rich not care about being seen as frugal, because well, Forbes knows how they’re much worth?
Or was it simply that subscription services make sense? The business model certainly has legs—a report by the World Economic Forum in 2017 noted that by 2030, people wouldn’t own anything anymore. We already subscribe to this notion when we hail a Grab or watch a movie on Netflix. This subscription service has now extended to the world of watches as well. As of 2018, there are three (!) watch rental businesses in Singapore, including Acquired Time, TenTwo Club and Specter One, all established within the time frame of a year.
The first two position themselves as the bridge between checking out a watch at a shop and making the actual purchase—basically, they rent watches to those who want a test drive before taking the plunge.
What a load of bullc**p. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that there are some who buy into the idea for that reason—but I am willing to bet that the majority do it for bragging rights, and to hear their friends say those sacred words: “Wah, new Rolex ah, someone is atas.” Because let’s face it: while there are die-hard collectors who buy watches for their craftsmanship and the anachronistic pleasure of winding them every day, there are many buyers who see it as a status symbol. And in Singapore, a society where people think about buying a Chanel bag before a condo, what you wear on your wrist is the ultimate symbol of “I’ve made it”. Without that Hublot on your wrist, how else can you endure one more year of pesky relatives asking “son, how much do you earn?” Or even subtler: “Do you have enough to save after you pay rent?” (Yes, that one’s real).
In Singapore, a society where people think about buying a Chanel bag before a condo, what you wear on your wrist is the ultimate symbol of “I’ve made it”
The million-dollar question is: would you tell your friends and relatives that the Audemars Piguet on your wrist is rented? Or do you wear it to make them believe that your bank account is really that hefty? To be honest, if I had a friend who wore Uniqlo paired with a Patek Philippe every day, I’d have so many questions. Mainly, have you been travelling to China lately?
If you’re going to act the part, you better look it too. Maybe you could invest in one of those fashion rental programmes too. Think about it: you’d have tons of wardrobe space at home to put your shoes. That is, until they start a subscription service for that.
Ultimately though, it boils down to whether you care about how people perceive you. If you can’t afford a watch, but want the pleasure of seeing people react to your Panerai in the same way they react to douchebags driving their Ferraris with their top down when it’s 35 degrees outside—to each his own.
C’mon, the fella is already able to afford a Bugatti, does he also deserve a preferential treatment just because his wallet is filled is fatter than ours?
Is it that point in the story where we pirouette and point fingers at the main culprits, society, for creating an environment that automatically gives preferential treatment to the haves rather than the have-nots? If wearing a Royal Oak gets you the nicest seat at the restaurant, or makes you the Van Wilder of your group of friends, then maybe we need to change the way we perceive wealth and the privileges that come with it. C’mon, the fella is already able to afford a Bugatti, does he also deserve a preferential treatment just because his wallet is filled is fatter than ours?
Ironically, maybe the poor little rich girl who uses a fashion subscription service has a point. If we normalise it, it could become a status symbol in itself: “Wah, you pay $375 a month to wear an expensive watch—you're eco-friendly and rich.”