Originally Posted by mimo
I resent the implication that wearing such a thing would be ungentlemanly! Had I not been about to order your watch, the alternative purchase would be a reasonable match to this description!
But seriously...I wanted to chip in on this subject. We've all had the occasional irritable rant online, that felt terse and logical at the time, but in retrospect sounded a little harsh. As Nuke said, it's a testament to the quality of this thread and its participants that no jackets had to be removed and honour remains intact. We are all friends here indeed, and fine ones it seems.
So to the matter at hand: firstly, as B has acknowledged manfully, the "Made in China" brand has its problems, and not entirely without justification. But to my mind, that's really why what he's doing is so admirable. When I was a young child in the 70s, the expression "Jap crap" was not uncommon when talking about imported goods. Considering the woeful state of British manufacturing at the time, that stereotype was rather ironic, but nevertheless not completely wrong. Japan had moved to an export-driven economy, with many products based on duplication, incredibly tough demands on industrial workers, and a competitively-priced currency. The results were a mixed bag: some manufacturers began to move their supply chains to Japan, and the resentment at "exporting jobs" from Europe and the US only fueled the prejudice against lower-cost Japanese imports. After about twenty years of trying, Japan made its serious entry into Western consumer goods and technology markets. It wasn't really until the 80s that the idea of a premium Japanese brand became credible: I'd give that credit to Sony, that managed to deliver both its own innovation and a reputation for quality, that transformed the subconscious associations of the phrase "Made in Japan". And so Datsun becomes Nissan becomes Infinity. Etc. Some people even buy Seikos.
The same process can be applied to Taiwan, and Korea: initially known for cheap rubbish, now I'm personally working with top technology from the former, and as for the latter, well, Samsung is bitch-slapping the ghost of Steve Jobs and you can buy a big Hyundai V8 and forget it's not German. China will eventually go the same way, at least in part. So back to our friend B. It takes some big balls, I think, to resolve on single-handedly creating a premium product from China, when China is probably still a decade behind Korea and three behind Japan in its coming of international age.
And I admire people with balls. I'm a great believer that nothing is impossible, there are just varying degrees of difficult (and, in most cases, difficult just means expensive). In this case, I do think B has some issues with the Maison Celadon brand, that I hope he doesn't mind my raising in public, as a response to Apropos' initial polemic:
My concern, put simply, is that it's too cheap. Not that I mind from a personal point of view - I'd love to have one of these watches and indeed more than one. What's going into them is so full of heart, purpose, purity of intent and integrity, that I find the prospect of being "in at the ground floor" so to speak, compelling. But what I'm asking myself is how many like me are there?
There are maybe tens of people who read this thread. Hundreds, even thousands, who've read the posts on watch forums and as a result, the Tumblr page with the details. For argument's sake, let's say there are ten thousand people who, however fleetingly, have been aware that B has designed a watch and is having it made in China. It's a fair assumption that some of them are planning on buying a new watch in the near future. But how many options do they have? How many other threads are there on that forum, or how many have been mentioned in this thread in the last month? If one in a hundred are planning on buying a watch soon, that's a hundred people ready to buy this. But how to persuade them that this is the one over, say, a similarly-priced Stowa mentioned above. This is more special than a Stowa. But it's also completely unknown. In fact it doesn't exist yet. And it's not made in Switzerland on the inside and Germany on the outside. It's Chinese. to the bone.
Hence the emphasis on premium brand, which is right. But then the price doesn't reflect the positioning: logically speaking, a $1000 watch should be showing itself off in the "Poor Man's" thread (where I should probably be, too, but this one is just prettier..), emphasising that for the price of a Tissot or a Longines, you can get hand-finished uniqueness. And the prices aren't any higher than a mid-range mass-produced Sea Gull. That would be one way to go about it. But the brand identity of tiny, obscure, artisan ateliers, of venerable Chinese masters in exclusive Swiss watch-elf elites, of golden chatons and hand-engraved balance cocks, doesn't play the "value for money" card. Value for money is a Kia. But the language around this brand is of a Morgan.
And if you don't mind my beating the car analogy to death, there is a problem with that: a Morgan is an old-fashioned looking car on a modern chassis, made in a shed by skilled artisans. But so is a kit car. One costs $100k+, one costs $20k. And even if the cheaper one looks just as nice, is made with just as much skill, and goes even faster, it's not as desirable. Part of the desirability, the credibility
of a Morgan made in a shed, is that it's expensive. That's reassuring. It matches the brand identity of specialness, originality, exclusivity. It matches the siren song to the collector that says "only you men of taste and knowledge would get this".
A thousand dollar watch based on a BWC movement is always going to sound like a kit car. A cheap base, put in a case made up by a small company and marketed as looking like something retro and expensive. Now I believe that B is actually building a Morgan: the Celadon isn't just a fibreglass body on top of a Nissan Sunny. It's a hand-crafted alloy wonder, with significant bespoke engine modifications and an artisan-stitched leather interior. But something tells me that it needs to sound just a little more like what it is, and cost a little more as a result.
Apart from the price, the other thing that sets a premium brand apart from an economy brand - of similar quality - is the fluff. The brochures, the website, the fancy boutiques with wood paneling and well-tailored sales associates. It all appeals to that air of snobbery. Omega sell a decent watch for under $3000 dollars. But their solus boutiques are every bit as marble-clad and carefully colour-themed as those where I looked at pieces priced a hundred times higher and more. And of course, that's why their cheapest watch is $3k, not $1k. I'm under no illusions that a basic three hand Omega on a strap costs significantly more to produce than a Hamilton. But it costs a lot more to sell. The boutiques, the brochures, the advertising...have to be a thousand bucks per watch in themselves.
So that's where all this stuff meets: I'm not suggesting that James Bond has to wear a Celadon in the next movie, or that B's Maison
has to sponsor Wimbledon and the Americas Cup. But I do think that at some point, in order to actually survive and grow, Maison Celadon has to look like an established maker with a few of an established maker's trimmings. There are only so many romantics reading watch forums who are going to sign up at the beginning. Sooner or later, Google has to know the name, a website has to inform on a network of retailers or just contain an online shop. A glossy ad, even a glossy Facebook ad, might have to exist somewhere at least. A review on a watch site shouldn't be hard to engineer. The principles and the stories can sell this watch to the non-aficionado just as well, and at some point will have to, and that means acting like it's something for sale as well as an exclusive club for watch-lovers.
I believe that this product can exist as that genuine unicorn, the premium Chinese brand. But for the next batch at least, a Tumblr page and posts on a forum will be inadequate, even a hindrance. It needs to act bigger, even if that means a bigger price too, and the bigger price in itself would be a mark of confidence. Get a proper website, with real pictures and a means of ordering. Don't "save shipping costs" with a lighter packaging: that's all well and good, but shouldn't "premium Chinese" mean a heavy, lacquered, monogrammed hardwood case, even if it comes with a leather "travel case" inside? And a "basic leather strap" is OK, but show some of those fancy upgrade options, costed, and at least put a croc or something interesting on the top model as standard - the word was "premium". Act more premium and don't be shy.
Thanks Mimo for the very well-thought out response. You clearly spent a fair bit of time and effort on this, much appreciated. Apologies also for not replying sooner - this week has been very busy for me as the prototype arrived with me on Monday and there has been a flurry of publicity with various blogs and magazines, professional photography done by myself, testing of the watch, and deciding a few key elements on the watch.
No problems with bright blue shoes! As I said in the earlier post, bright colours can work with the right ensemble. The problem starts when you wear bright blue shoes with, for example, a navy suit. With a navy blazer and cream trousers, it would look dapper. Same with watches - they should be matched just as any accessory.
And thanks for ordering one of my watches! Good to know I'm eating into your shoe fund! If it's consolation, my watch will last many decades more than shoes!
You raise several interesting points that I have thought about myself. Let me respond to them in succession, and let me know if you need clarification with any of my explanations (sorry lawyer bug acting up again!)
When you say that I must have some cojones to launch such an endeavour, I must agree with you (at the risk of sounding immodest!). It is easy to sell Swiss and German watches to Europeans and North Americans, and also easy to sell the same watches to the Chinese market (Greater China accounts for about 25% of all Swiss watch sales). It is also very easy to sell Chinese watches to the Chinese market, and they would be willing to pay a much higher price than what I am chargin right now. The most difficult preposition of all is to try and sell a Made in China watch to the Western market, and to position it as a high-end brand, which is what I am doing.
But anything truly worth doing, will be difficult. I cannot tell you the amount of frustration, obstacles (financial, technical, emotional etc), hiccups and naysayers I have encountered. But when I reflect on what I intend to do, what I have already accomplished, and what I and my luxury house will eventually become, and the consequential effects of that, I have nothing but tremendous pride and immense satisfaction. I have several other business ventures, but none give me as much pride and inspire as much passion as Maison CELADON.
To me and many other people, what I wish to do is like the Mount Everest of the watch industry. But where there is an Everest, there is an Edmund Hilary. You are right that difficult often means expensive, and I am not a man of unlimited means, so it is all the more difficult, but all the more satisfying, in the final analysis.
I know what you mean when you say my Imperial is too cheap. However do note that the retail price is actually 2000 USD (rising to 2400 USD for the next series given the rising Yuan), and the Connoisseurs Circle price is 1400 USD (the price offered to friends and early adopters as a reward for support. The pre-order price of 700 USD which is what I offered you is clearly significantly less, but accounts for the full prepayment 2 months (as of now) before delivery. Remember that there were folks who I had never met before that paid me in full with no recourse for refunds all the way back in last September when I started this endeavour. I am SO appreciative of such faith in me that the reduced price reflects this.
But yes, the 2400 USD retail price is still a bargain imho for the quality of watch you receive. I just examined the prototype an hour ago and was bowled over by its quality in dial print, guilloche and movement for example. And I have seen so many of Beijing's watches that it is hard to think I could be further impressed. But I consider my Imperial the equal of a time-only JLC for example (I have several by the way, including the Reverso 1931 and MUT, so no bias here). It has the same standard of finishing and blued screws. In fact arguably my watch is better with its hand-engraved gold balance cocks (on the special edition) and gold chatons (erstwhile available only on pretty expensive German watches). A time-only JLC costs roughly 10,000 USD depending on model, so mine is a quarter the price.
In the watch industry there is haute horlogerie finishing (AHCI independents, Lange, Vacheron, Parmigiani) which is mostly done by hand (especially the anglage on bridges), and there is industrial finishing (JLC, GO etc) which uses machine-finished bridges and machine polishing in general. Patek (at the time-only level) and AP stand somewhere in between these two tiers (eg Patek uses chemical polishing on the cal 215; compare this with the vintage 23-300 which is a true grande dame in every regard). I would peg my Imperial at the high-end of the industrial finishing level.
When you say "what's going into them is so full of heart, purpose, purity of intent and integrity", you clearly read my mind.
Also I believe in rational pricing (something I espoused in one of the earliest posts on my blog). As a watch collector in addition to being a watch entrepreneur, I understand the many frustrations that punters have with the brands, with everything from servicing costs and long durations, information obfuscation, and simple bullcrappery. You have it on record that I will NEVER commit these crimes against my customers, whom I consider personal friends. Even if I can charge more in future (and I have no doubt I will), there will always be a limit that I will not breach as a personal principle. If you read my earliest few posts, you will see that I offer de facto free lifetime servicing. In other words, as a firm declaration of my belief in the quality and reliability of Chinese watchmaking, I am willing to forego servicing revenues (which is a HUGE revenue stream for the brands). And to add to that, my servicing will not take 6 months, but 1-2 weeks. And as for obfuscation of information, I have endeavoured to be as transparent about my watches as possible. My blog exists as a record for posterity, akin to watching a bespoke suit slowly come to life, from idea to fruition. It is incredibly satisfying.
About your point on exclusivity and that maybe thousands of people are buying my watch, even if my watch is currently not extremely high in price, its exclusivity is still preserved because of the extremely small first series of only 100 pieces (divided into 4 categories of numbers 1-25). We never intend to produce more than a small high-end boutique brand like Lange, even at full strength of our business in future, which is 5000 pieces. I know every single owner by name, and I can tell you from my ledgers which country each of my watches is in.
And also, I am not viewing CELADON as a purely profit-driven enterprise. Sure, we must turn a profit eventually, but I have easier ways to make more money. I have other business ventures, so CELADON is a passion project; a mission actually. The watches are heavily subsidised by my other business ventures.
The norm in the watch industry is a markup of 4x, whereas mine is less than 2x. Ie if you buy a watch for 40,000 retail, then the price out of the factory is 10,000, which includes all the overheads, adverts, endorsements, staffing etc. The actual cost to produce the watch is likely 5000 in this example. Think about it, after a certain threshold, which is really about 500 dollars, most of the trimmings in high-end watches are available in less expensive watches (sapphire crystal, gator straps, well-made dials, industrial finishing etc). And gold does not cost much - a gold watch is usually 2 ounces, and most of them have hollow cases with base metal fillers or spacers. Also many brands use 3-piece cases which use much less gold than a 2-piece case (what my 18k gold watch uses).
I decided on using special bespoke leather watch cases (details on the blog) even though I did not have to, simply to give an added feel of quality. This comes straight out of my pocket, as it was not factored into the cost initially. Likewise with the strap that will come with the watches. Another thing is that I forewent all the revenues from the blued steel upgrades on the Imperial Red dial, because of aesthetic reasons. If I was only out for profit, I would surely not have bothered. To me, the aesthetic purity of my design is very important, and I wish to preserve it.
My watch is indeed Chinese to the bone, that was my design brief for myself. Though I agree it is more special than Stowa (better movement, better story behind, a year of my life embodied in every piece), I think that Jorg Schauer is a great watchmaker and a very passionate man. He is a stickler for quality and I fully respect him. I have a Stowa and a Schauer Einzeiger myself. They are very good watches for the price range they target. And very beautiful.
But truth be told, and again sorry for the immodesty, but my SB18-6 movement is superior in finishing and architecture than even the Nomos (which uses a Peseux 7001 design made in-house, an economy design).
Ok... continuing onto the next postEdited by ~ B ~ - 9/11/13 at 11:57am