Anyone who spends even a modicum of time with me will undoubtedly learn I’m a wristwatch tragic. Naturally, as an advertising student, the Venn diagram of these two passions nets a pretty deep interest in the well-treaded world of watch advertising.

As wristwatch technology exploded post-war alongside the birth of modern advertising as we know it, the worlds admen got to work creating some truly excellent ads for the newly created category of sports watches, built to survive deep sea plunges and trips to the moon. The result, a ton of expertly crafted ads, brimming with clever concepts, cheeky taglines and fascinating art direction. Today I’d like to share with you three old-school print campaigns to show what tricks the old dogs can teach modern advertising.

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When it comes down to it, an ads one purpose is to intrigue then convince, and from that perspective this series of Rolex ads nail it. The late 1960’s ‘You’d Wear a Rolex’ campaign struck consumers with their clean black and white lines, perfect, succinct copy and intriguing imagery. The campaign ran across multiple Rolex sports watches, conjuring up fantasies of deep-sea diving and Pan-Am pilotry. Naturally, these ads have aged alongside their modern counterparts, though with some trimmed down body copy they would be just as effective.

What can modern watch advertising learn from this campaign? There’s nothing wrong with going to the tried and true method of appealing to consumers fantasies. Wearing a sports watch is about presenting to the world an ideal version of yourself, and be it dreams of being a navy diver or Apollo astronaut. These are powerful emotions, so don’t be afraid to tap into them to seduce customers.

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Rarely does a brand let its creative department properly let their hair down, though I reckon this is one of those rare occasions when a crack-shot copywriter gets to flex their creative muscles. This simple run of print ads for the IWC pilot’s and diver’s watches ran from 2002, injecting a dire need of attitude and flair into the boring timepiece ads of the era. These ads are cheeky, smug and quite frankly brave of IWC to take such a risk on, though the truthful campaign paid off massively, infusing IWC with a brand image miles apart from their competitors, appealing to the target market who appreciated this charming, renegade approach.

Of course, these ads aren’t perfect, there’s a whiff of sexism to a couple of them, but it goes to show that in often times consumers are crying out for a brand to mark themselves as an outsider, be honest, admit their products aren’t for everyone and embrace it. Cause trust me, the average consumers going to enjoy these ads a thousand times more than the average safe, soulless sap thrown at them from luxury brands.

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Rule number 1 in this game is there must be truth in advertising, and when we get down to the nitty gritty, yes, many wear a Rolex solely to be more attractive to the opposite sex, though try getting modern Rolex to admit it. Today, luxury brands take themselves far too seriously, and this Rolex Submariner ad from 1965 does just the opposite, poking fun at themselves, their products and customers. Through this ad, Rolex takes their biggest negativity and embraces it, doing so through probably the most effective, convincing copy I have ever read. Hugely outdated and sexist today, you have to consider the mindset this ad was born in, one with vastly different gender politics where these topics were taboo in conversation, let alone in advertising.

It takes guts to go after your own brand image, and even more to own it like this, a great lesson to luxury brands that the best approach may just be a truthful one. Honesty never devalues the product or brand, if anything, like in this case, it further strengthens it.