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Instagram and the Watch World

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Instagram, the photo-sharing app that has become the social media conduit of choice for the world’s creative classes, is playing a big role in the luxury watch sector, too.

“Customers come in to the boutique having seen what’s just been posted, receiving it direct on their phone,” said Tim Malachard, global managing director at Richard Mille, the Swiss watchmaker.

A relative newcomer on the luxury watch scene, Richard Mille, a 15-year-old company, went from an Instagram following of 7,000 at the start of 2015 to 93,600 by year’s end. (It also has a Facebook site and a Twitter account with 12,800 followers.) In recent years the company has synched its marketing and press materials with its social media efforts, Mr. Malachard said, so that all external communications are part of the same conversation — illustrating and reinforcing brand identity.

The company’s 194 Instagram posts, for example, range from a recent photograph of the French racing driver Sébastien Loeb wearing a RM 36-01 G-sensor Tourbillon — which echoes the company’s tag line, “A racing machine on the wrist” — to a close-up of its RM 07-02 Pink Lady Sapphire.

Instagram’s visual nature is what makes an impact, many watchmakers say. And the detail shots of watches display “different angles, highlighting the complexities,” Mr. Malachard said, in a way that would be hard to duplicate in another medium.

Shiny dials, intricate cogs, lean leather straps and diamond detailing: For Jens Henning Koch, executive vice president for communications and product at Montblanc, Instagram “allows you to really talk and show more than you normally would.”

Cartier, with its 2.3 million Instagram followers, has taken similar considerations into account, according to its official comment: “Social media has become more and more influential in the past few years and has become a very important source of information for luxury consumers; it provides platforms for consumers to access directly the Cartier brand, following us to see what we are doing and what is new.”

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The house’s December posts included a variety of gift suggestions from its product lines, holiday greetings with Cartier’s iconic panther rendered as a cuddly baby animal and photographs of its decorated stores in locations as diverse as Paris, Milan and Chengdu, China. (The house also uses WeChat, the text messaging service popular in China, to extend its outreach.)

Even retailing outlets are using the app’s appeal to extend sales efforts. Harrods, the London department store, recently introduced an Instagram account dedicated to fine watches — @HarrodsTimes — recognizing that the account would be a useful addition to its social media array.

“Social media is an incredibly important tool for fine watch brands and retailers alike, who are becoming increasingly aware of its ability to enhance the brand experience and awareness,” Jason Broderick, fashion director of men’s wear, sports and fine watches at Harrods, said in an email.

“We have seen an increased number of customers telling us about their research using many forms of digital communication before making their final decision on a potential purchase,” he added.

Beyond marketing and sales, Instagram — and social media as a whole — has created a level of consumer interaction that the rarified world of fine watchmaking had never experienced before.

“We can get immediate, unfiltered and globally varied feedback on our work output from media and customers alike,” Zaim Kamal, creative director at Montblanc, said in an email. (Montblanc has 187,000 Instagram followers.) “This allows us to constantly review our design approach. We are much more in tune with the audience rather than second-guessing their perception, expectations and aspirations.”

His sentiment was echoed by Caroline Scheufele, artistic director and co-president of Chopard (589,000 Instagram followers). “Basically you can reach the world in a click,” she said. “We can communicate much faster with our clients who come back to the house year after year” as well as potential Chopard customers.

Fawaz Gruosi, founder and director of the watch and jewelry maker De Grisogono, agreed that “Instagram is a very interesting opportunity to discuss and engage with the brand’s fans and influencers.” But in an email, he added that the “likes” of its 120,000 followers did “not affect the design process, but it clearly provides access to receiving immediate feedback on the specific designs and products.”

Mr. Henning Koch briefly explained Montblanc’s overall approach to social media: “We look at it as: update, inspire and deepen.

“Update — you can talk about the launches and what is very new; then inspire: more interactive, a playful element of how you present things while still adhering to the brand DNA. There is also an exchange of feedback.”

“The third is to deepen the relationship with the fans,” he said. “There are certain behind-the-scenes elements you can play with” — like the precision diagrams showing how a watch is designed.

Four thousand and eighty-nine “likes,” and it isn’t even on a wrist yet.

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