Long post regarding Belli's post earlier...
Response to Mr. Forster’s article:
I really enjoyed reading this article, and it brought to my mind a lot of the criticisms that I have with regard to the watch industry. I have only been passionate about watches for a few years, so I am a novice with this whole thing. But I have to say, as a “student” of various luxury goods, the watch industry is a very different animal (note: I know nothing about cars).
I have noticed the “toothlessness” of almost all editorial content covering all things horological. Even the toothiest of sources are, well, not that toothy, to keep the analogy going. For example, Hodinkee had a post on a LUC Chopard the other day (link for posterity: http://www.hodinkee.com/blog/hands-on-with-the-luc-1937-classic-pink-gold-an-elegant-in-house-chronometer-from-chopard-live-pics-pricing
), and it really got me thinking. Now, I did not post that nasty comment, but I do kind of agree with some of the content. I read through the post, and I really did not find one remotely negative comment. It is a nice watch, but it is not that nice. And it has some clear “faults,” or at lest drawbacks. It is 42mm, which is pretty gigantic for a watch like that, and that date window is egregiously terrible. Not to mention, the odd amalgamation of Roman numerals, Arabic numerals, different fonts, etc. Now, Hodinkee I usually find to be a pretty honest source. But I feel like big brother is always in the background. Everybody is afraid of biting the hand that feeds. And I think that is a big problem. But how the heck do we change this problem? Honestly, sometimes a spade just needs to be called a spade. If a watch is ugly, it NEEDS to be called ugly. I think in this hobby we are all novices to an extent. There is a lot to learn, and a whole lot of it is incredibly technical.
I think Mr. Forster had a good point when he talks about the “qualifications” that the “ideal” watch journalist should have. Such a person should know something about design, he should know something about engineering, etc. And it is funny when you think about it. Very rarely do I ever read anything that has much “substance” to it. Rarely do you read about the architecture of movements, the quality of the finishing (other than “it has geneve stripes, wow!”), or anything too in depth. It is normally all so superficial. Is this journalism a product of catering to readership? Or is it a product of not knowing enough to intelligently comment? And when you think about the product… it is kind of absurd. We are talking about a product that is just exorbitantly expensive. As much as a darn house. But we barely have any information about it.
I think that the conclusion is particularly… frightening for those that enjoy this hobby. “Selling Veblen goods to a progressively narrower and narrower slice of the affluent uninformed is not a particularly sustainable business model.” Shit, the man has a point. Where do we go from here? How do we change this? This is just such an incredibly difficult problem to solve. And I feel like the watch companies are going in the wrong direction. Right now, they seem to be maximizing profits by targeting that percentage of people who are going to buy watches for whatever price they charge. But I feel like this is really only sustainable in the short term. Many of these brands are completely alienating a younger following.
I also don’t feel like there are many “honest” producers out there. There are “honest” producers in many other categories of luxury goods. Carmina, Sam Hober, etc. People who say “this is a luxury good, suck it up,” I think are incorrect. Yes, it is a luxury good. But I feel like for the “luxury” price, you are not always getting a “luxury” good. There is so much concealment, false advertising, predatory practices, etc., within the industry, it is kind of nauseating. Sometimes I hear about a new watch, and I read a statement that goes something like this: “‘x’ watch presents a great value proposition, it is only $1,800 for an industrially finished sellita movement, with a branded rotor …” How on earth is that a great value proposition? The cost of making these watches is probably shockingly low. But how do we demand a more reasonable mark-up? And unlike other luxury goods, the after-market service is frequently atrocious. And expensive. If your watch malfunctions within the first couple of months, normally you have to send it back. That takes three months. They take it apart, ship it back and forth, and you often have to pay for shipping and insurance, etc. Honestly, if that happens with a $10,000 product, they should just be taking that thing back and replace it. But somehow these problems are not being rectified, and no one is really talking about it.
And it is not like honest pricing is not possible. Nomos is a small brand, an offers an in-house product for under $2,000. Frederique Constante offers a moonphase with date, and a world-timer for a little over $2,000 with an in-house movement. Neither of these brands have the economies of scale and size that SWATCH or Richemont have, yet they are able to price their products much more reasonably.
And the sources to “actually” learn from are dwindling. That is one of the things I love about this thread. I feel like everyone is pretty damn honest. Everyone is respectful, but people are not afraid to disagree. And that creates intelligent discourse. Just a couple thoughts I had!