There’s a new trend in marketing luxury products, and that involves renting them, rather than buying them.

That makes sense for a number of products, especially the sort of thing that you don’t use all that often.  Men have long been able to rent a tuxedo, for instance, for that rare occasion where they might have to wear one, and in recent years, we’ve seen companies such as Rent the Runway, which allows you to rent a designer dress at a fraction of the cost of buying one.  If you have a special event, why buy a dress for $1000 when you can rent it for $50 instead?

eleven james audemars piguetA couple of companies, including industry leader Eleven James, now allow you to rent some surprisingly expensive wristwatches.  They company offers a number of plans, ranging in price from $149 (“Enthusiast”) to $899 per month (“Virtuoso”).  For that price, you get to wear a high end watch for three months.

At the end of that period, you return it to the company in the provided mailer, and they’ll send you another one.   When you sign up, you’ll be assigned a personal “concierge” who can help you find the watches you need and who will help ensure that you’re getting the right sized watch for your wrist.

For the price, especially at prices of approaching $1000 per month, you’d expect to see some quality watches at Eleven James, and that’s exactly what you’ll see.  Brands include Baume & Mercier, Cartier, Jaeger LeCoultre, Patek Philippe, and Rolex.

You can browse the watches on the company’s Website, and each watch indicates which level of membership is the minimum required to be able to rent it.

eleven james cartierOf course, in order to placate the manufacturers, Eleven James suggests that they’re actually just giving you the opportunity to “try before you buy,” and actually, they will give you the chance to buy the watches if you like.  I have no idea how that works, or if they’re selling you new watches or previously worn ones.

I do know that you can apply a portion of the amount you’ve been paying in rent towards the purchase price.

Eleven James has hundreds of models available for men, and they all appeared in a continuously scrolling page that appeared to have no bottom.  I never did find out how many men’s watches they had on the site, but it’s a lot.

They have considerably fewer models available for women, but that is changing, as the company has recently had an infusion of capital that they’re likely to use to acquire more inventory.

At the moment, they show about 75 watches for women if you use the filter to show only women’s models.  Be aware that about 40 of those watches are from Rolex, and I’m not sure they’re actually all women’s models.

Still, it’s a start, and the company discovered early on that women were renting watches from them in smaller sizes.  It was only a matter of time before they started to cater to do them directly and in time, I suspect they’ll have a lot more to offer women.

It’s a great way to try a few watches and see what you like without having to spend a fortune.