The cyberworld of mobile gaming, digital avatars and animated stickers may not seem the most natural environment for a 137-year-old Swiss watch house, but Breitling has moved in anyway.
In January, it became the first watch brand on the mobile fashion gaming app Drest, where users do virtual styling sessions for their avatars with fashion and accessories from more than 200 brands, including Gucci, Prada, Adidas and Bogner. (The avatars resemble real supermodels, including Natalia Vodianova, Precious Lee and Irina Shayk.)
“We wanted to get women to interact with the brand and just create awareness and image,” said Tim Sayler, Breitling’s chief marketing officer. Women account for only 10 percent of the watchmaker’s business, he added, so a fashion-led platform like Drest was one way to grow that group.
And while all the items on Drest can be purchased through the app, Mr. Sayler said sales weren’t an immediate priority. Fifty-seven percent of Drest’s users are between the ages of 21 and 39, the majority of which are women, so joining Drest was more about attracting future customers. “Our expectation is a long-term play,” he said.
While several fashion and beauty labels have been involved in gaming, like Louis Vuitton’s skins for League of Legends, industry observers say Breitling is the only watch brand — so far.
Gaming is big business. According to the technology research firm IDC, 2020 revenues worldwide amounted to around $205 billion, nearly double the 2015 total, with mobile gaming providing the largest share. And one billion games are downloaded onto smartphones every week, said Paul Lee, global head of technology, media and telecoms research at Deloitte.
And the stereotype of gaming’s being a universe of teenage boys also has been changing. According to a 2019 report by the marketing agency Mediakix, 63 percent of mobile gamers are women.
Breitling’s debut on Drest invited users to create a mood board with the brand’s new Chronomat for women range, a retro-style, sport-luxe design introduced in 1984. Misty Copeland, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theater and a Breitling brand ambassador, chose the winning design, with the winner receiving a watch (priced at $4,700). Last month, it started another challenge with the Chronomat Automatic 36 South Sea capsule collection, which features bezels set with colored gemstones.
Drest would not disclose how many people participated in the initial three-day event, but said it was more than 34 percent of all its users on those days. It also said that the average time spent creating the mood board was 10 minutes, compared with the app’s average of 7.5 minutes (Drest’s average session time over all is 33 minutes, driven mainly by fashion-shoot styling games). And a survey that Drest conducted with participants found that a majority of the respondents had visited Breitling’s website and social accounts after playing the game.
Drest is not Breitling’s only venture into gaming. To promote its sporty Endurance Pro collection, it partnered with the running and cycling app Strava and last August introduced a virtual 500-minute, triathlon-style race, where users entered into a drawing with prizes that included a Breitling Colnago C64 bike and Endurance Pro watches.
And the brand has become a sponsor and official timekeeper of the Drone Champions League, where pilots race their drones — although the most recent events have been just online.
“Gamification is a huge trend and more and more of our media platforms will automatically be gamified, because they work better” than traditional advertising methods, Mr. Sayler said.
Mr. Lee of Deloitte said fashion games still were just a small part of gaming’s options but that he expected that to change as smartphone technology improved — which, ultimately, would fuel growth.
“With impressive screens and increasing processing power on smartphones, there is a great foundation to build lots of revenue-generating capabilities,” he said.