Ownership has always been a sign of success, while renting evokes images of Wal-Mart, U-Haul and the power tool department at Home Depot. But images can be deceiving, as private jets, yachts, villas and exotic cars are rented by the very rich every day.
Now add watches and jewelry to the high-end rental category.
Two recent launches illustrate the emerging trend of luxury item rentals among the rich.
Marquis Jet helped transformed the way private jets are sold after it was created in 2001. It expanded the fractional ownership concept by buying time shares from NetJets and reselling them as 25-hour jet cards that allowed consumers to purchase time on the NetJets fleet without buying a single piece of metal. Randy Brandoff was part of the launch team at Marquis Jet, eventually becoming chief marketing officer at NetJets after the Berkshire Hathaway acquired Marquis Jet in 2010.
Kings Jewelers has been a jewelry and watch retailer since 1912. Fourth-generation owner/operator David King says his company has always managed to stay ahead of the curve. With locations in South Florida and Nashville, the company serves a global clientele of high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth consumers, selling to them super luxe brands such as Breguet, Cartier, Chanel, Chopard and Harry Winston.
WIth their histories, perhaps it’s not a coincidence that Brandoff and King are each launching club-style rental programs in the watch and jewelry category.
“The concept of high-end rentals has affluent consumers of luxury goods adapting to a fresh and intelligent approach to affordable and accessible luxury,” King says. “This new mentality is a direct response to the demand from the savvy and conscious consumer.” His new company is called Hautevault.com.
Brandoff launched Eleven James, a watch membership program “offering access to curated collections encompassing the latest, most popular, and vintage watch styles.”
Both ventures provide concierges to assist their members in making their picks. In the case of Eleven James, members can wear timepieces for two-month periods and get access to different collections either three or six times a year.
King calls Hautevault.com “the luxury of jewelry and watch rentals.” There are four membership levels allowing rentals of items retailing for between $5,000 and $100,000. If you have a fancy event and you need a show stopper you haven’t worn before, a diamond and pearl necklace that sells for $98,500 can be rented for $2,450 a week. If you want to buy, rental fees are applied to the purchase.
King says sites such as Bag Borrow or Steal and Rent the Runway demonstrate how the luxury rental market has expanded beyond jets and villas.
Douglas Gollan, editor-in-chief of Elite Traveler, a magazine distributed globally aboard private jets, says, “Marquis Jet was one of the first companies that made private jet travel a lifestyle choice. Do you get home in time for your kid’s soccer game? Why can’t the family dog come to the house in Aspen? Both these concepts recognize while sometimes buying watches and jewelry like real estate is an investment, other times, like renting a house in the Hamptons, it is a lifestyle decision where one doesn’t want to have to think about future valuations.”
Brandoff and King think there is plenty of room in the luxury rental market. King says it’s in its “infancy.”