How Bulgari Cheapens A $10,000 Watch

Memo to luxury good companies: Now is not the time to start cheapening your image or, worse yet, ripping off your wealthiest customers, like Bulgari seems to be doing. As the rich try to seem fashionably frugal, thus damaging the economy for everyone, it seems they are buying fewer emerald-and-sapphire-encrusted watches. Bulgari is loath to reduce prices — "that is totally wrong" for the brand, the CEO tells the Times — but to save money it is cutting corners on its products. Which, as Anna Wintour recently told everyone, is a dumb idea.

To save a few euros on a $10,000 watch, Bulgari stopped polishing the underside of the band to a fine gleam. It's using cheaper boxes and bottles for its no-doubt obscenely overpriced perfume. And it's trying to find a way to pay less for its jewels.

Which is stupid. To save .05 percent of the price of the watch, and by giving an interview to the Times about it (dumb!), the company is just going to piss off some of the few remaining suckers otherwise happy to pay five figures just so they can tell time.

This sounds like sort of thing Vogue editor Anna Wintour railed against at an even last week:

In response to a question from Auletta about whether the economic downturn poses temporary or fundamental problems for magazine publishing, Wintour cautioned first against "over-reacting."

"I see a lot of people in my industry who are over-reacting. Stores that are over-discounting, designers who are creating collections for the price and what sells rather than to reflect who they are." Straitened times, she said, should not mean the end of luxury.

If slashing prices is a dumb move, cutting quality while keeping prices the same is reckless. Not that we shed a tear for the unpolished band on a rich man's new watch, but we'd hate to see Nicola Bulgari have to sell his "collection of vintage American automobiles" just so he can become a case study on how to run a luxury goods retailer into the ground.