‘Luxury smartwatches aren’t worth the investment’

So, I recently read a piece by Nicholas Foulkes in the FT – in which he interviews Frederic Arnault, Strategy and Digital Director for Tag Heuer. The article basically just highlighted the opportunities that the luxury sector could play in connected devices and that they could provide more competitiveness in that sector. It was a short piece, but I could not help looking at the headline statement ‘Luxury smartwatches are worth the investment’ and thinking “Meeeehhh, this ain’t it”

You purchase a luxury smartwatch for virtually one reason only: to be able to wear a premium brand on your wrist and check your email notifications at the same time. That’s pretty much it.
The term “investment” suggests expecting some kind of future benefit and I don’t think that the idea of luxury smartwatches actually offers any significant value proposition to meet that criteria.

Does the average smartwatch wearer want to spend over $1000 on a timepiece?

A figure quoted by Frederic Arnault was that somewhere around a quarter of 15-35-year olds wear a smartwatch in the US, which was the basis of arguing that smartwatches have a high market penetration and therefore there is room to grow. My question would be how much of that ownership results in retention and what price points those watches are being bought at. In my personal experience, the actual role of a smartwatch has been relegated to a glorified step-counter, and the ones being worn by most people cost just over a hundred dollars. The most notable of which is the fitbit, seen on the wrist of many office workers and almost never used to actually tell the time. The Apple watch only costs a few hundred dollars and that’s still very expensive for most people looking to purchase a smartwatch. I wonder just how much growth is actually possible for the luxury sector.

 

The tech industry is too restless. The watch industry is too laid back

Back in 2015, Apple launched their top-end watch that went up to US$17,000 and Samsung had a short stint with de Grisogono and produced a custom gear S3 which was US$15,000. The reality was that customers could not see a value proposition with owning such products. Both examples failed within a short period of launch and the lesson tech pundits had to offer was that if a company on the scale of cultural influence as Apple could not break into the oligopoly that is the Swiss watch industry, then no other tech company will have the muscle power to do so. As it stands, both examples are defunct products that are only worth as much as the precious metals and gemstones that they hold.

I asked this question to Søren Jenry Petersen, former senior executive at Nokia, co-founder of luxury phone company Vertu (before private equity took over) and current CEO of Urban Jürgensen. He explained the core principle:

“The Iron rule of that industry is this: Advanced New Stuff is very interesting, sexy and very expensive. New Stuff is interesting, and you can probably afford it. Slightly New Stuff is not interesting and it’s cheap. And the stuff from a couple years ago is worthless”

The tech industry by its very nature is built on the grounds of obsolesce. There is a need to push out a new product every year and something barely over 12 months old is pushed to the sidelines. There is always a consumer drive to purchase the latest thing. Every year there is a new Thousand-dollar iPhone with the latest specs to stay relevant and every year there are millions of people buying them. Spending five figures on a product that loses its relevancy by the next year is just unappealing to even the vainest of consumers.

Let us look at Vertu as a tragic example of mixing luxury and tech. When they first started, the brand had a lot of promise: exclusive high-end mobile devices that were made of the best materials and had a button for a concierge service. The brand then was bought out by a private equity firm who removed the concierge service during the era of smartphones moving full steam ahead. The phones lost their core exclusive feature with their concierge service and they simply could not keep up with the advances in hardware and software. Why spend $10,000 on an outdated feature phone when you can buy the latest iPhone or Samsung which have great software, performance and cameras and then just subscribe to a concierge service?

Trying to stay relevant and exclusive

The hurdle of relevance is faced by the likes of LVMH and Richemont. Both were wise enough to use their entry level subsidiaries such as Tag Heuer and Montblanc and the watches produced in the luxury category tend to be at a low four-figure price point. Had labels such as Zenith or Vacheron Constantin been used, it would have been an instant death for the brands.

For the premium prices paid for such pieces (for any brand) you would expect the top shelf components and the best features. And this is where the luxury sector is lacking. It took three generations for Tag Heuer to finally add a heart-rate sensor to their connected watch, and it still doesn’t have cellular connectivity. Montblanc’s original summit watch didn’t have GPS for workouts or NFC for payments.

Then there’s knowing the quality behind the hardware. It’s hard to find comfort in knowing that the majority of components are third party and produced in a factory alongside multiple other cheaper watch brands. The exclusivity found in a mechanical watch movement or dial through craftsmanship is thrown out of the window. The internals of most current smartwatches are powered by the Snapdragon 3100 SoC (System on Chip, which houses the CPU and connectivity of the device). The problem is that the snapdragon 3100 is two years old and is based on a five-year old architecture – luxury smartwatch brands simply can’t keep up with innovations in tech. How do LVMH and Richemont think that a one day battery life is something to brag over?

Competitors such as Apple and Samsung produce devices that cost less but have the latest hardware because they’re able to produce in-house (Apple has their S5 chipset and Samsung has Exynos). Ironically, a Samsung Galaxy watch is arguably more exclusive than anything from Swiss luxury labels.
Unlike a watch movement, where stating that a certain model has been around for a few years, therefore is a sign of tried and tested quality, outdated internals of a smartwatch just show poor value. And Qualcomm – the world’s largest mobile chipset maker isn’t exactly rushing to produce new models of SoCs for wearables (Mobile phones are where you actually invest resources in). The market was so bad that even intel ended up quitting the game altogether.

Further to the idea of exclusivity, is the software experience. Luxury has a core element of convenience and comfort. Most watches use Google’s WearOS – so the experience of using a smartwatch is effectively determined by Google; in terms of app functions, security features and connectivity between devices. Smartwatch companies are at the mercy of third-party vendors in terms of keeping up: last year’s hardware and features are junk because they’re not compatible with this year’s software. A buggy software experience for the current generation is just as worse.

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What about hybrids?

This is a point raised by many proponents of luxury smartwatches. The idea is to have a traditional mechanical watch that also implements “smart” features. The example I can think of is the Frederique Constant Hybrid Manufacture. It combines an mechanical watch movement and a battery powered module that houses features such as sleep tracking and activity tracking. This is all done in tune with a phone app.

But here’s the thing once again: the tech obsolescence is still there. Whilst a mechanical watch can be serviced, the electrical components are vulnerable. And the longevity and usefulness of all those feature is only worth as much as the actual watch company offering software support. Look at the below complaints from google:

 

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The idea of a hybrid smart watch appeals only to those who are emotionally struck by the idea that there’s no unwinding mainspring or “heartbeat” of a balance wheel in a normal smartwatch.

You might purchase a hybrid watch and expect it to last a lifetime. But you know what you’re likely to purchase on a yearly basis? A new smartphone – introducing a new bucket of compatibility issues. And it’s the obsolescence argument all over again.

 

To conclude: Luxury smartwatches aren’t worth the investment. A luxury smartwatch is simply a tiny niche that even the actual manufacturers themselves aren’t even seriously investing in. An object in which its very nature is to become obsolescent and irrelevant in the future, cannot be called an investment.

The catch-22 of limiting Swatch group’s competitive practice

So there’s been some news floating around that ETA (owned by Swatch Group) will be barred from selling movements to third parties larger than 250 employees in 2020. As someone who’s not part of the industry, I thought I’d have a go at trying to figure out what’s going on.

The rundown:
Take a seat. Grab a drink. We’re going on a field-trip through history.

At the end of the last century, the mechanical watch industry was recovering from the quartz crisis. A small number of companies had the capacity to both produce mechanical movements as well as pump in the research and development required to innovate. These mass-produced movements were sold to small watch labels who didn’t have any of these resources. This relationship became the status-quo for a while and there wasn’t anything to challenge it…

… But then in the early 2000s, Swatch group announced plans to stop supplying movements to brands outside the Swatch group – citing concerns that it didn’t make sense to supply competitors who were selling products that would compete directly with Swatch group’s subsidiaries at the lower end of the market. This caused Swiss regulators to step in and try to reverse this on the grounds of maintaining competitive practice.
Eventually an agreement was reached between Swatch Group and Swiss regulators in 2013 to essentially allow ETA to limit the distribution of movements to third parties – with the provision by 2020, Swatch could decide to stop production entirely or continue business as usual. The idea was that the space of seven years would allow the market to wean off the embrace of ETA (throwing in some middle school level literature to jazz things up) and companies would move to alternate suppliers or figure how to develop stuff themselves.

So that seems like a really amicable situation right? The industry has a rough decade to adapt and ultimately everyone benefits from the deal. Ah. That’s where a reverse uno card is played.

It turns out Swatch Group continued to dominate the sector and had an essential monopoly to do whatever it wanted. A report commissioned by the Swiss Competition Commission apparently lead to the announcement that instead of giving the option of allowing Swatch Group to sell ETA movements if it pleases, it will instead prepare to ban the sale of movements to third parties altogether – with the exception of companies with less than 250 employees. I decided to share my take on the possible impacts.

How do I get my watch repaired?

I remember a short while back that there was a legal contest between third party watch spare parts suppliers/repairers against Swatch, ETA and Rolex. The argument was that by choking the supply of spare parts, organisations like Swatch Group were in breach of fair competitive practices since all parts or repairs will have to be sourced from first party channels- leaving customers at the mercy of whatever Rolex or Richemont repair centres decide is the correct price to have a watch serviced. It was argued that this is an abuse of being in a dominant position and in breach of competition practice. This was ultimately overruled in favour of the Swiss megabrands on the grounds that limiting spare parts protects a brand’s reputation in terms of quality and service and prevents the rise of counterfeits. It was also shown to the court that competition exists among authorised repair channels.

In this instance, ETA is the largest Swiss watch movement supplier. An outright ban on selling movements to medium size repair companies will straight up cripple the sector. It turns out that the vast majority of ETA movements are sold in the upper mid bracket of companies – removing the incentive for ETA to keep producing parts. You can probably expect a flooding of grey-market components at unreasonable prices.

Suddenly servicing your Tissot or that weird ‘affordable luxury’ watch that you picked up from Kickstarter might be a bit more of a dear choice.

Let’s use the other Swiss suppliers?

I’m not in the watch manufacturing sector so you’ll have to take my comments with a grain of salt, but here’s what I think.

First of all is the notion of buying “Swiss” parts. This is critical for the hundreds of small to midsize Swiss watch labels that won’t be able to outsource. If you disclude ETA, you essentially have two options in the mass-produced sector: Sellita for mechanical movements and Ronda for the quartz side. On the high end side, you have Vaucher and APRP ect (which are in a different league) Surely the possible ban means that these companies can just fill in the demand left by ETA?

The short answer is no – for the short term. There might be a short term flood of stock that has been sitting in a warehouse, but it’s not sustainable. Sellita has apparently sold through pretty much all of their movements for the 2020 production year. Ronda is unlikely to meet demands either.

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The Vertex MP45 is powered by a manual wind Sellita SW510 MP

 

Wait! There’s obviously Citizen, Seiko and Seagull. Just Switch to Asia!

This is an option to consider for companies not reliant on the ‘made in Switzerland’ branding. I see this from multiple perspectives.

If you take a look at Seagull, they single-handedly produce more mechanical movements than the entire Swiss watch industry combined. With the Japanese side; Citizen and Seiko have a solid reputation of building reliable movements with the movements produced for Campanola and Grand Seiko being considered cream of the top. Not to mention, Japanese and Chinese movements are substantially cheaper than Swiss movements. Just finish them up a little and you’ll be fine.

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Seiko stand on top when it comes to quality commercial mechanical movements from Asia

Well it’s not that easy. There are a whole load of trade-offs. If you’re outsourcing movements, there’s a good chance that you’re designing a watch around an existing movement and not the other way around.

ETA mechanical movements have more variety such chronographs (Valjoux 7750, 7751) to small seconds (ETA 2825) or even manual wind (ETA 2801). Also, Miyota and Seiko movements (that are sold to third parties) tend to be a whole lot thicker than ETA counterparts since they’re stamped out en masse with minimal finishing.

One of the reasons ETA is so sought after is that they’ve put in a lot of R&D towards their product portfolio with no other entity being able to compete with the supply chains and distribution networks that produce movements to the same quality as ETA. You just can’t compare a Miyota 8215 to an ETA 2892 on the same level.

You can probably say “buuuuuuutttt Grand Seiko exists and they’re better quality than most entry level luxury Swiss watches”. Well here’s the thing: Grand Seiko movements aren’t for commercial sale – and when you search “Seiko automatic” or “Citizen automatic” you’ll probably see an Amazon listing of watches at a sub US$100 price point. If you’re a watch label that produces watches at a three figure price tag, this won’t be a massive hit – but once you go above that, things get finicky. It’ll be super hard to charge over a Thousand dollars for a watch with a movement that is known to cost less than US$10. The reputation of Japanese movements will probably need a generation or two to catch up with the level of ETA. Switching to Chinese or Japanese movements can cause damage to a premium brand image.

I haven’t even mentioned Fossil Group, who might potentially ramp up the production of their own commercially sold movements and try to take a piece of the pie. But you still have the issue of filling in the void of desirability that Swiss movements currently have – an extremely difficult feat.

One other option is to use ETA clones (as many microbrands currently do). But it’s the same problem. You can’t expect to offer a premium product to the masses whilst stating you have a clone powering the insides.

What’s the call on watch labels in the short term?

I’ll start off with larger brands. I think the labels owned by Richemont and LVMH have essentially moved away from stuffing the guts of their watches with ETA parts. There’s a lot of in-house development going on through shared platforms and acquisition lead growth. An example would be Montblanc owning Minerva. Even then, the sector isn’t completely self-reliant. The first year might take a little tumble in the balance books, but the watch labels owned by conglomerates will be the ones to recover first.

The next part is small to mid-size labels. This will be where the real damage is done. Any watch label that uses ETA parts as the basis of their watches will be severely knocked off course. The immense resources required to remodel the movement architecture found in current models as well as after-sales service for previously sold pieces will probably put a lot of labels at over-capacity. This is especially devastating for watch labels who don’t produce anything of their own and rely on outsourced manufacturing outlets.

Boutique luxury labels such as Moser and FP Journe won’t have to worry since they produce their parts in-house.

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Moser takes pride in their in-house manufacturing capabilities paired with their sister company, precision engineering.

I was speaking to a friend of mine, Praneeth Rajsingh – the chief operations officer at a boutique Malaysian watch label called Ming. The basic summary of our conversation was that if the move goes through, it will potentially blow the chances of being able to offer an entry level timepiece with an ETA movement in line with their brand’s portfolio.
And although MING has less than 250 employees, the manufacturers who manufacture the watches will be unlikely to fall into that category.

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The MING 17.06 is powered by an ETA 2824/2. Future iterations of this watch might not be feasible – at least with an ETA

 

My final thoughts.

The Swiss regulators are ultimately trying to improve competition by possibly removing the main competitor. Except the fact that it wasn’t really a competition but rather sheer domination.

It’s that idea of dominating the sector that causes frustration all across the spectrum. I suppose there’s a massive shock to be expected if an immediate outright ban takes place. The market won’t be able to react to the discrepancies in supply and demand.

I think the option of letting the ban take place over a few years was put off the table on the basis that the last several years has led to ETA not really loosening its grip on the industry. Perhaps Swiss regulators thought that a severe knock in the short-term is what’s needed to disrupt the slumbering sector? Maybe now we can look at a new opportunity to seed innovation and inject liquidity into expanding domestic Swiss producers and R&D teams?

Suppose that after the first couple years of crisis management, the global watch manufacturing sector and watch labels manage to steady themselves. On the lower end of the scale, smaller labels (both current and new) would eventually have no choice but to switch to Japanese movements if there still isn’t a sufficient supply of Swiss movements. Brands will have less capacity to release new watch models and will have to adjust a whole lot of their identity.

But if the situation is managed accordingly and the right areas have investment injected into them; then you can look at companies such as Sellita becoming a much more prominent figure in the industry as well as a new period of innovation spreading through pure necessity.

So the situation is summarised as this: “Swatch group should continue to supply a minimum number of parts to external parties to allow competition. Actually no. Swatch Group should stop supplying parts to external parties to allow competition” it’s a catch-22.

 

 

Experiment Series: Creating value propositions.

 

I mentioned that I’ll be dedicating the Watchrant as a platform to experiment and test out ideas that have been brewing in my head for some time. The Experiment Series will document the notion of ‘putting your money where your mouth is’ – the first of which is exploring the idea of creating value with an object.

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll be familiar with the Watchrant Mug. In short: I’ve produced a limited series of 50 mugs which have been slowly distributed across the globe. The mugs are being given to 50 select individuals who supported the Watchrant since the very beginning – helping it to grow in a number of ways; either through professional advice, feedback on my posts or just general motivation and pep talks. I thought it’ll be interesting to explain the thought processes behind my actions.

“How can I create value around an object?”

That’s a question I’ve been asking myself for a while – though the context has mostly been around watches. I’m quite interested in how a watch label creates a value proposition outside technical or seemingly more traditional intrinsic aspects. I’m quite far from the business of producing watches, so I can’t offer tiny vessels of mechanical mastery encased in precious metals. I decided to draw inspiration from a few independent watch labels.

Moser & Cie: The tagline for this label is ‘very rare’. Moser takes pride in the fact their watches are produced in limited batches and once they’re gone: they’re gone. Moser also has an iconic design ethos in that their watches are instantly recognisable as a Moser timepiece – even though the label no longer put’s their name on the dial. They’re also rather infamous for their punchy marketing campaigns that accompany their novelty timepieces.

Alexandre Meerson: Meerson timepieces aren’t anywhere in the mainstream; they’re a boutique among boutiques. The label puts focus on practicality and high attention to detail – subtle things that can only be appreciated by the owner – to which Alexandre likes to meet in person. The Meerson D15 is the closest example of what I would call a ‘mechanical G-Shock’ – with bevelled angles representing the contours on an athlete. This quirky design feature always makes me smile.

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If you were to ask me what my favourite mechanical sports watch would be, I would immediately answer this: The @alexandre.meerson D15 Travel watch. I've paired the two side-by-side with my well-loved Casio GShock. Not only do they share identical timezone complications, but also because the D15 is the only watch (in my opinion) that can simulate the feeling of a GShock. There are many luxury sport watches out on the market, but very few watches within that category satisfy what I call the "Confidence" factor. What I mean by that, is that I would feel perfectly fine if I were to accidentally hit the watch by a hard table edge, or perhaps go swimming in the ocean without having to check multiple times that the crown was screwed in correctly, as the watch has multiple gasket layers. This is a watch intended to be worn daily and face the elements. The inner child (well I still technically am a child😅) in me finds absolute joy in the "bring it on" nature of this piece. -more to follow #horology #womw #meerson #gshock #watchrant #design #london #ap #pp #modern #watchesofinstagram #titanium #sports #luxury #blogging #watchfam #wordpress #watchnerd #watchgeek #instagood #instadaily #watchcollector #watchfam #gmt

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Vertex watches: Vertex takes a unique approach for a microbrand in that the initial batch of the M100 watches produced were sold to a hand-selected clientele with the extra condition being that future clientele can only be introduced by referral only. (I covered this in my first ever watch review). The [re]founder of the label – Don Cochrane, had a vision of creating a close knit community around his watches and didn’t want to dilute the message of owning a vertex timepiece through mass production.

Avantist: Avantist is a boutique watch label with the idea of ‘creating experiences’ at the core of its horological offerings. If you purchase any of the Wimbledon series timepieces, you’re also set up for dinner with Tennis legend Martina Navratilova. The first few watches were hand delivered by the CEO (Keeran Janin) and this is in part due to Keeran’s determination to meet his clientele.

Right then. That’s four labels with a unique value proposition. If you’ve been paying any attention to this blog for a while, then you’ll have noticed that these labels are all labels I’ve covered on the Watchrant in some form or another. I like to think that when I set up meetings to speak to CEO’s and directors of watch labels, I do more than just take a few pics and walk away. I use my time to ask about strategy and look into pros and cons over execution and wonder what I can take away from each interaction. The Mug project is my way of demonstrating this.

The concept explained:

The main concept behind the project was to dabble in traditional marketing but also have something tangible (as well as feasibly achievable – physically and financially) to signify the Watchrant. I could’ve gone with something like a pen or a small trinket of sorts; but then I realised that nobody really cares for such things. Think about it. How many pens have you collected from random organisations only to be used once or twice and then lost? Or a Key-chain or T-shirt that’s just stuffed in some draw somewhere and never seen again? So I wanted something that could be used over and over again that wouldn’t be thrown away (unless you seriously hate me) and had a useful purpose.
The idea dawned on me: Watchrant mugs.

Now, I could’ve simply made a bunch of mugs and just posted them to people and left it at that. But I thought that was a bit lacklustre and I felt that the mug would’ve been received in the same way that a parent does, when they get given their 6000th crayon and vomit painting from their 3 year old child. It’s a nice gesture and all, but do you really need to put another painting on the fridge? Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. I didn’t want to relegate the mug to such a fate. So I had to pump up the hype factor.

The first thing I decided was limited production. This made sense as it created scarcity and also meant that I didn’t have to fork more money than I was willing to spend for hundreds of mugs. I went with a batch of 50 mugs. Once those mugs were gone, that would be it. The mugs wouldn’t be for sale either.

The next thing was decide who to give the mugs to. Do I just post them to some friends and then take a few to a watch fair and just dish them out? I couldn’t see that being the case. I wanted to build my own community and have the mugs mean something to the recipients, just as it means something to me. I decided to give the mugs to 50 individuals who’ve supported the Watchrant since the beginning – it would be my way of showing appreciation for all those who’ve supported me.

I wanted to commemorate the mugs and have them be uniquely identifiable so people knew what they had was extra special and dedicated specifically to them. I could’ve written the words “LIMITED EDITION” but that’s a bit lame (putting the words limited edition is tacky and wouldn’t suite a mug anyway). I could’ve numbered the mugs out of 50, but that would be boring and it’s been done countless times over. I came up with the idea of putting a serial number on each mug – except that the serial number would represent the number of seconds it’s been since the founding of the blog, to the production of the mug. That would tick the box of being unique and also root each mug into the heart of the Watchrant – plus I’m sure that no other media outlets have even remotely done such a thing that relates to the brand to such an extent.

 

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One thing I’m really keen on is meeting people, sharing stories and learning new things. I wanted the mugs to be a proxy towards achieving that. In my personal case, I have a prototype mug which I have on my desk at my workplace to drink tea and coffee. Everytime someone walks by wondering what the big logo means, I instantly perk up and say “Oh boy! Have I got an interesting treat to tell you about!”

It was decided that each and every mug would be delivered by me and I would present them in person. No matter where you are in the world, I will find the time and place to travel directly to you, just to give you a mug. So far I’ve presented mugs in the USA, UK and Switzerland – but upcoming mugs will be presented in the Netherlands, Croatia, Hong Kong and Singapore. The mugs would be produced in series of 5, with each series representing a particular region. As an example, there are 5 Switzerland mugs and 5 American East Coast mugs. This added the final touch to creating a fully unique and bespoke value proposition for such a seemingly menial item and I explain this thought process to each and every individual who receives a mug.

Random story time:

I’ve been asked the question as to why I have to travel around the world to deliver a mug when it would seem that since I’m based in the UK, the immediate people supporting the blog would also be in the UK?
Ah. Well the answer to that is that I actually officially started this blog when I was studying in Hong Kong and the vast majority of people within my immediate vicinity were actually international students. I remember putting up a post on the student Facebook page asking if anyone could help me set up a website since I had no clue what I was doing. The original post had no replies for 2 days. I then made a new post with the addition that I would offer 500HKD to anyone willing to give up some time to help me set up a website. Within the next hour, I received 15 friend requests and nearly double the number of messages in my inbox. One particular message caught my eye as it was someone I knew as a mutual friend. I decided to go with his proposal and we set up an impromptu meeting at the Seafront canteen in Hall 6 of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. It turned out the person I met was happy to just help me out and didn’t want to be paid (But I did insist on buying him lunch at the canteen). Not only that, but he let me host my website on his dorm room server for the first several months for free, before the server eventually died. That was an absolute jackpot for me and advanced the platform by a huge margin. This friend in question was also my saviour when I ended up losing my passport and cash in Zurich last year – letting me stay in his dorm room since I couldn’t check into my accommodation.

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The Watchrant was born in the second building from the left. (The running track was also the place where I would do a 5K run in the blistering heat to burn off extra energy reserves)

With the birth of the blog, the first set of followers I had were my University friends – and although they weren’t necessarily the most keen when it came to horology, they were more than happy to support out a kid with a really niche passion.

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The most exclusive of the mugs – given to those who’ve supported me in a way that I can’t ever hope to pay back – but definitely show my eternal appreciation.

So the Watchrant mugs actually embody a lot of memories and storytelling as well. Outside of my immediate friend circles, a good deal of people who currently have one or are yet to receive one are also some of the first people within the Watch industry to take me seriously or offer me advice that has shaped the way I do things.

Setting up each meeting with 50 people across the globe requires immense amount of planning and preparation – but I absolutely enjoy it. It’s an opportunity to catch up with people I haven’t seen in a long time and create conversation around the Watchrant. Imagine 50 sets of dinners, lunches or coffees and in the middle of that is a bright White mug with the Watchrant logo on it. That’s a wide array of perspectives and insight resulting in brilliant source of inspiration for me. It’s also an excuse to use up my holidays at work to travel around the world and explore new places. I was in New York for the first time this year and I’ll be in Singapore later on – carrying a suitcase full of mugs.

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My small carry-on suitcase was overwhelmed with mugs. It was an awkward conversation to have with the security staff at Heathrow Airport and the TSA in the USA

Another thing is that I don’t tell people if they’re receiving a mug – the surprise is the best part. I enjoy the look on people’s faces when they unbox a mug and the look of confusion and surprise on their faces. The most common reply I get is “Thanks! I actually needed a mug!” which is perfect for me since I actively encourage people to actually use the mugs rather than sit on shelf. I document each interaction on my Instagram stories which is a great way to share the journey with my followers and create a mini archive of this project.
I’ve also built a small atmosphere of anticipation around the mugs seeing that people have started messaging me asking if they’re going to receive one (to which I give vague responses to maintain diplomacy). There are a few wildcard destinations I have to travel to, but I can’t mention them since the people in question will likely be reading this and figure it out instantly – I’ll just say that Central Africa is in the books.

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I think ultimately what this project manages to showcase, is how I’m implementing the bits and bobs I’ve picked up over the last couple of years and turning existing concepts into my own thing. It’s a highly impractical form of marketing but its good fun. It also demonstrates the level of commitment I have towards my projects – If I’m willing to go to this level of detail for a bunch of mugs, just what can I do when it comes to breaking into the watch industry at some point?

Ramblings of the editor: looking ahead 2019

This blog has long been dedicated to documenting my thoughts and experiences in the world of watches and it’s been roughly a year since my last ‘looking ahead’ piece. For some reason, I’ve decided that the end and beginning of my year is marked by Baselworld. I suppose it has something to do with Baselworld being the first instance of me taking the Watchrant ‘seriously’.

I remember sitting down with my mentor two years ago whilst discussing University prospects and how I was going to deal with A level exams (at this point I knew I was taking a gap year) and I really wasn’t keen on thinking about those topics, so I hurtled the conversation towards watches- something I’ve annoyed many of my friends with – and after a few minutes of rambling, I randomly announced that I would set a goal to attend Baselworld during my gap year.

Up until that point, attending SalonQP for a day was as far as I went when it came to interacting with the watch industry. I would show up at the beginning of the fair and stay until right to the very end trying to meet and talk to as many people as I could. I absolutely enjoyed every moment and going back home with a small stack of business cards and a load of images on a loaned DSLR felt extremely satisfying and rewarding. I suppose for a high school student who should have been focusing on studies, this would have been enough to keep my mind at bay. Soon my final school summer had ended and I suddenly had a vast expanse of free time to do whatever I wanted; focusing on growing the Watchrant was one of those things. The first thing I came to realise was that my existing methods were extremely crude and not as effective as they could be, and that the scope of SalonQP wasn’t anywhere near enough to meet people I really wanted to see, or have access to watches that would probably never come anywhere near such a relatively small fair. I couldn’t wait for some random chance to come by – I had to create my own opportunities by going to the epicentre.

And so I attended Baselworld 2018 – which ended up as a roller-coaster of an experience; poorly planned in every way. When I look back at it all, I’m glad I went through the mess I did, since it paved a number of lessons take on the watch industry in ways I couldn’t have imagined I was capable of. An awful lot has happened in the space of a year and I thought it would be interesting to share some of those things.

The lessons learnt

“Meet as many people as you can and find out what it is that they do”

That was one of the core bits of advice that I was given by a Bruneian entrepreneur by the name of Keeran Janin. That one sentence has been at the heart of all my activities under the Watchrant banner for the last three years.

In my ‘looking ahead’ piece last year, I sat down with three individuals whom I met at Baselworld last year who at the time, had founded watch labels that were less than a year old. Those conversations planted some seeds of thought as to what I should do next.

Robert Punkenhofer, Carl Suchy & Söhne:

Robert was the person who related to my situation at the time: figuring out how to move on with my current work. He talked about how he was extremely passionate in the arts but he still had to figure out a way to sustainably finance his passion. Robert described having a second job to support the rest of his work and affirmed the idea that changing your mind as you go along isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but can be seen as a point of growth. His background in the arts had enabled him to view luxury in a more abstract way compared to those who bided to fixed principles.

Mark Schwarz, Vault Swiss:

Mark’s story is that he wanted to start a watch label but had no idea where to start from or what exactly he should do. A former police officer, Mark realised he needed to build the ‘book smart’ skills and practical experience to push ahead. This was achieved through going to business school and getting his MBA and working in banking.

Leopoldo Celi:

Leopoldo already had a business background, but his expertise was in the wines and spirits division of LVMH. His challenge was understanding the culture of the watch industry and its finicky marketing and distribution principles.

It might prove to be useful context that I ultimately ended up rejected my Business School offers and am instead working a full-time job in financial services.

One of my takeaways was that I had to figure out a compromise over my knack for not planning for things in the long term. I tend to follow loose plans and am very impulsive in my decision making. I hate the idea of following a fixed step-by-step plan and veer towards an attitude towards ‘winging it’ wherein I make stuff up as I go along. In some ways, this has proven to be a strength; I’m able to adapt to new situations and rely on my creativity to think fast on my feet, as well as be open to taking on more risky propositions. Yet at the same time, this approach has proven to be a weakness, in that it doesn’t work well for much more complex tasks such as planning for education prospects or preparing to take on the world’s largest watch fair. The impulsiveness can lead to poor decision making and often leading me to bite off more than I can chew. As a result, I grossly underestimate the scale of what I’m trying to achieve and miss the delivery of my plans entirely.
I’ve since learned that I have to implement a ‘best of both worlds’ approach. I knew it would be difficult for me to follow a rigid plan, so instead I decided that building a framework is the best approach. I would establish a core set of goals I wanted to achieve and focus on what it would take to achieve those core goals. During this process I would perform due diligence and raise the question of feasibility and make risk assessments. Once those core goals had been accomplished, I could be a lot more relaxed and improvise around the framework I designed.

I can’t make a judgement on every area I work on by myself and I definitely can’t be worried about risk regarding everything that I do. It’s extremely counter-productive to bottle up thoughts in my head seeing as that results in clouded judgement. What I’ve come to appreciate is having a few close individuals I can trust who I can share my thoughts with and get a secondary opinion on any outlandish ventures.

I’ve found that I’m far more active on the Watchrant whilst working full time, than I was during the course of my gap year. I suppose the biggest difference is that unlike last year where I was floating around looking for things to do with no direction, having a job has given me the framework required to stay in a grounded position and think more coherently. I’m also pleased to say that I work in an environment that is constantly keeping me challenged but at the same time has acted as a catalyst towards personal development: I’m required to be accurate and deliver a set of tasks to high standards on a daily basis. Simply put, I’m able to deal with a lot more stuff on my plate. Just as Robert had said, I’m also able to use my day job as a platform to help incubate my additional projects. A good chunk of my first few pay-cheques went towards buying new camera equipment and paying to travel to international trade shows and meetings.

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The #ghettophotography chronicles continue

My conversations with Mark and Leopoldo are a bit more difficult to put into fruition. I’ve been self studying project management and digital marketing as tools I can implement in the Watchrant. In fact, I’ve decided that the direction for this blog will be dedicated solely as an experimental platform to put all my ideas and theories to the test.

I’m quite proud of the content I’ve put up so far on this blog – going as far to state that there is nothing else like it on any other platform. From exploring the phenomena of meme culture in the watch industry, to implementing political themes as a marketing tool and why it might be worth looking at your fund manager’s wrist when investing. I enjoy finding niche areas to talk about and ask questions nobody else is asking – along with the challenges of doing so. The watch industry so far is the only thing I’ve had a long term interest in that’s managed to keep my vast energy reserves at bay. I have a very selective focus in that if I’m interested in something, I will go out of my way to learn as much as I can on that topic. If I appear to be disinterested in something, I’ll struggle to make a conscious effort of paying attention. If you asked me to carry out the textbook cliché marketing task of ‘selling you a pen’ I will simply copy the same textbook cliché instructions you can find on a five minute YouTube video on the topic. What you’ll find however, is that I wont have any passion or energy behind my actions – I’m just not interested in pens. I am however, really into watches.

It was suggested that I work for a watch brand in order for me to be able to learn directly at the source. I don’t feel that right now is the best time to break into the industry as for all the glamour and fun there is to be had, this is also a very cut-throat industry that has a corrosive competitiveness which I’m currently not prepared to take on.

I’ve long since understood that the Watchrant’s current mode of operation isn’t sustainable from a commercial aspect, and will require many resources to keep it functioning. From financing projects to time commitment and physically and mentally being around for whatever is thrown at the blog. (I still haven’t earned a single penny off the blog and the most expensive thing I’ve received to date is a Burger for lunch in Schaffhausen) The only thing I can do is take small steps to figure out how I can mitigate the negative impacts of all these variables – refining my strategies wherever possible.

An interest in failure

That leads me onto another area I’ve been focusing on: failure and setbacks. I’m someone who absolutely hates making mistakes – as do most people. In my case, the thought of making a mistake lingers with me longer than it should, and it’s taken an awfully long time to condition myself to be more accepting of things going wrong. I won’t claim to have perfected this, as there are plenty of hitches every now and then, but I want to say that I’ve become better at dealing with messing things up.
A good deal of my mistakes come from a combination of missing out on details, lack of experience and a good old dose of bad luck. I’m sure this is something that everyone can relate to and can only be classed as a perpetual ‘work in progress’. Experience seems to be the only treatment towards dealing with this area, and I find that you just have to take it as it comes before you; so you’re able to lower any negative impacts. If anything, now is the best time to get stuck in and build as much experience as I can.  Another thing I have working for me is my age; making mistakes as a teenager seems a lot more forgiving – though this is my final year as a teen before I turn 20 years old.

I’ve also been taking more time to review my core competencies and strategies to see what works and what doesn’t. I was able to attend a combined total of over 50 meetings at both Baselworld and SIHH this year; something I’ve only been able to do by reviewing everything that went wrong with my mistakes at Baselworld last year.

It’s not just my own failures I’m interested, but also the failures of others. My work around the Watchrant focuses almost exclusively on boutique independent watch labels and microbrands. I’m absolutely fascinated by the potential lessons I have to learn from the stories of others, especially those who have just started new companies. I highlighted three conversations from last year, but I make extra effort to quiz away at the founders of other new and small brands. Success stories are great to listen to and all, but the reality is that they don’t do much for me. Failure stories however, are invaluable as it’s a pool of information that can’t be sourced anywhere. It’s bloody difficult to even remotely try and replicate the success of others, but it’s surprisingly easy to make the same mistakes as a predecessor. As someone who is trying to make a mark in the watch industry, making observations against the experiences of others is a brilliant way to figure out how to move forward. I use the Watchrant as a means of sharing my thoughts on what’s gone wrong and I ask myself the question “What should have happened, and how would I have done it differently?”. At some point, I’m going to be facing obstacles that someone else has already faced, and it’s through the lessons of failure will I have any way of figuring out how to overcome any future barriers.

Appreciating people

 

One of the biggest things that draws me to the watch industry is the people who are part of it. On a relative scale, the watch industry is quite tiny, but the spread and network of the people involved and the global influences that industry has is something that can’t be compared to any other industry on the planet. The sheer diversity of creative ideas, critical thinking and perspectives is overwhelming – and I absolutely love it.

Last year, I set myself a challenge that I would meet 150 people and try to have a conversation about the Watchrant in some way or another. I knew I had spoken to 150 people as I had a stack of 150 business cards which I needed to deplete. The idea was that I try to create as many new leads as I could possibly achieve, which resulted hundreds ‘elevator pitches’ to people from all walks of life. Not everyone would take a business card and some would turn their backs on me within a few seconds of me trying to start a conversation. Even among the 150 cards distributed, a small fraction of those cards actually resulted in retention – and that’s fine.

The business cards in question were co-designed in the space of 15 minutes with the Director of Fear watch label, Nicholas Bowman-Scargill – during an impromptu lunch we had set up.

I’m able to remember fondly of my interactions with the first two individuals in the watch industry to take me seriously: Jane Burton of Czapek and Nicholas Hoffman from Moser & Cie. They’ve been at the core for a lot my stints in the watch industry – from accessing press release information to trying to sneak into events. Building a small handful of entrenched relationships is worth far more to me than having a few hundred bots boost my social media followers.

You also never know what to expect with each interaction. Last year at Baselworld I randomly walked into the presentation room of Manufacture Royale after having just recovered my wallet and passport and also having no proper food or sleep. My mind was out-of-focus and I was a bumbling mess and somehow thought it was a good idea to show up to their room in the Hyperion without an appointment. They seemed quite amused by the weird set of circumstances that had led me to turning up to their showcase uninvited and were more than happy to show me their timepieces all whilst offering me a load of candies as emergency nutrition.
Later on in the year, I received an email from Manufacture Royale’s PR co-ordinator Esthel Brunschwick inviting me to visit them at Beau-Rivage hotel during SIHH. This took me by surprise as it was the first time I had ever received an invite to visit a brand in the watch industry – it’s usually me begging to receive whatever slots are available. Esthel even made a light remark to my Baselworld misadventure in the email which was a solid sign she remembered who I was. Whatever it was that I did, I must’ve made a positive impact in order to be properly invited to another event. I was even introduced to the Marketing Manager of Louis Moinet, Aurelie Jordi which was another plus. I remember talking to Aurelie in Basel this year and saying how weird it was that three months ago, we both had no idea who each of us were.

I won’t ever claim that everything I’ve achieved is down solely to my own individual efforts – that is simply untrue. The Watchrant thus far is the culmination of the support of dozens of people. I can’t really think of any other way of showing my appreciation to said people, apart from trying to succeed and grow in as many ways as I can and showing that this is what your support has lead to. I was once described as a “stubborn little bas***d with an annoyingly infectious amount of enthusiasm” and that will still continue to be the case. I have a whole load of ideas in store for the rest of 2019 and I look forward to sharing and showcasing all that I have in mind and learning as much as I can – watch this space

 

My take: The role of politically themed marketing in the watch industry

 

We’re currently at a time in human history where it seems everything is politically fuelled and it’s nigh on impossible to be a functioning member of society without being immersed in some kind of political affair some way or another. As a result, it’s bloody difficult for companies to operate on any mass scale without getting involved in any political conversations.

It’s not uncommon for businesses to be associated with philanthropic ventures or causes such as education welfare and the environment. You can probably argue that there is some mild political fuelling behind this, but they’re subtle and don’t leave an obvious paper trail for external parties to track – nowhere near as blatant as taking a public stance on divisive current affairs.

 

The rundown:

Moritz Grossman (I’ll call them MG for convenience) unveiled a new ‘commemorative’ piece to mark the summit meeting of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump. The watch is a modified version of their ATUM pure timepiece and features a silhouette of Trump and Kim Jong Un facing each other. They randomly posted a picture on the eve of the summit only to be met with harsh criticism in the comments section of their original Instagram post.

I’m quite familiar with MG as a brand and I know their timepieces and team personally. I have admiration over their cause as a Glasshute brand producing German horology using traditional techniques. I can’t say the same however, for their marketing strategy. I thought it would be interesting to draw a parallel with another watch label that’s also utilised a political theme in one of their marketing campaigns: I am of course talking about Moser (yet again – but how many other watch labels are doing this?). The example I’ll be using is Moser’s #makeswissmadegreatagain campaign which was Moser’s instrument to express their concern over the misuse of the term “Swiss Made”

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Two political leaders on a single dial

Setting up context 

When it comes to disruptive marketing, the key element you need to focus on is people being able to relate where your proposition is coming from. Moser has been dubbed the enfant terrible of the watch industry but I think another name would be watch industry edgelords. They’ve had some good experience in the field of experimental marketing – with a mixed bag in terms of PR outreach and reception.

The #makeswissmadegreatagain campaign was something that Moser had been hinting at several weeks ahead of the official at SIHH 2017 and as a result Moser got people talking and asking questions about what they were up to. Their prior escapade with the Swiss Alp piece set the precedence that this is a company that is capable of causing surprise and delivering a message. The online climate at the time had politics ingrained heavily in pop culture and it was the ideal incubator for such a campaign – the watch industry was wondering how the adjusting of ‘Swiss Made’ legislation would affect their businesses, and the rest of the population was anxious over everyday politics.
When Moser eventually did unveil what they had to offer (which if you don’t know by now, was a watch made of Cheese) it was received with less of an explosive shock as by now people were anticipating something crazy.

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Not exactly subtle, but you can tell it’s a joke – whether it’s funny or not is subjective

Moser made it clear that they were parodying a concept and had no intention of endorsing the origins. The mixed reviews from watch enthusiasts and the media was a success in that they received polarised publicity. The question of being a ‘tasteful’ act is up for debate since you have multiple sides with opposing views. But the outcome is that they’ve differentiated themselves amongst the watchmaking crowd to the extent that they were the first brand people referred to when talking about MG – even though the methods used are completely different.

In the case of MG, they randomly pinned up a post with a brief description saying that the watch was about and provided no additional context or made any follow up (at least up to the point of writing this article). If you’re going to even remotely affiliate your brand in any political conversation, you better be ready to clarify exactly where you stand and then when you think you’ve clarified; you need to clarify some more. Because the moment you go to the extent of actually having political leaders on a watch dial, you’re assumed to be culpable for the actions of those individuals – irrespective of the actual intentions you had in the first place. Most audiences have a negative view of mentioning anything vaguely political and the mentioning of any political buzzwords will make your value proposition diminish.

I really had to pick at thin threads to try and see what MG was trying to actually achieve. I contacted MG’s brand manager Lars Schwurack to get an explanation. Here’s what he had to say:

“The basic idea as with the World Cup and Superbowl watch is to show that we can and are open for customisation. Also the watch industry must not always be taken so seriously”

OK. I think I can see where you’re coming from. Without inadvertently giving too much credit, I have two ways of looking at this:

  1. Is this an attempt at satirising how the watch industry has a tendency to commercialise pretty much everything for a few extra sales? Because if so, then you’ve lacked in the irony department since the message has been taken too literally.
  2. Acknowledging an important political event and having something to keep record? This is the concept that you’re alluring to the most. And if it’s supposed to be funny, then you’re missing the mark by trivialising it

 

I managed to gather that this was MG’s way of showing how quick they are to respond to current affairs and be able to produce a high quality timepiece inspired by events. I just feel that the summit was a poor choice and there could have been plenty of alternative avenues to choose from if you wanted to do that: they’ve produced watches for sporting events as an example.

You can’t be surprised that nobody had any idea what you were actually trying to achieve and then call out lack of humour. Robin Young, the UK agent for MG talked about German humour being alive and real. Is this a distinct type of German humour that I’m missing, or is it an inside joke that the rest of the horological community has been left out of?

A brand that takes a vague stance on anything political will have to be prepared for backlash and negative commentary. I had to actively ask questions and dig to be able to paint a very vague picture of what was going on – now imagine taking those variables away and leaving it up to the judgement of mass audiences? What else can you expect?

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I’m a firm believer of memes being responses to our times, and Instagram did not disappoint. Posted with permission of @hodonkee on instagram 

Stick with culture and not direct politics

You have to ask whether it’s a brand’s obligation to actually take part in any dialogue. In the case of Moser, they would have been impacted by updated legislation, and the culture of being ‘Swiss’ is rooted into their identity. They chose to take a commercial approach in doing so and they followed through. Moser built purpose with their actions by incorporating philanthropy. The funds raised through the sale of their timepiece went to a foundation to support independent watchmaking – following through their commitment to the cause throughout to this day.
Their established core beliefs make the actions come across as more authentic with empathy.

My original view of MG is that it’s a brand that produces some mighty fine German watches. But other than that, there’s no additional ethos or affiliation that I’m aware of. The brand has been marketed on a pure technical basis and as a result it has no identity infrastructure to support anything other than “we make some high quality watches” and even then the competition is fierce because there are dozens of other brands that say the same thing. There’s a theme of ‘message fatigue’ where certain dialogue has been repeated too much and people aren’t as easily impressed.
They’ve done nothing to suggest that they support other causes and so their latest exploit comes across as being opportunistic and divisive for the sake of it. With the case of the summit piece, they claim it’s completely neutral with no motive – which means if that’s the case, it’s a watch that serves no ideological purpose; you’re trying to be so neutral that you’ve gone sterile.

Identify your demographic

One of the risk assessments you have to make when going on a venture like this; is asking just how much of your existing customer base or target audience will actually be able to relate to your motives?

In general, any kind of marketing messaging will be picked up via various mediums, but the most important medium of all is how messages resonate with consumers.

Experimenting with new concepts has the tricky problem of leaving you isolated among a crowd. That could work in your favour as it distinguishes you for those unique traits; such as Moser with their yearly campaigns. You also polarise your audience where those who agree with your actions will affirm their support, whilst those who don’t agree will affirm their displeasure. However, if the execution and the communication is off from the start, then you’ll be left alone to cover for your actions. So far every bit of supportive commentary has been shot down by a much larger majority who simply aren’t impressed.
That also leaves another question of the current and prospective client outreach. MG pieces have the risk of being associated with a miscommunicated brand message and that risk is shared by current owners. The chain reaction is that the brand inadvertently appears to endorse a political figure and that trickles down to the current clients. You’ll be associated as the brand that made ‘the Trump watch’ and it doesn’t really serve as a confidence builder for people who are on the edge of buying into the brand. It’s up to a brand to avoid marketing messages diluting the brand or causing distractions from product offerings. Mixing a political topic is the very opposite of that. People absorb sentiments extremely quickly and marketing off edgy topics of any kind is like playing a game of minesweeper blindfolded.

 

 

Summary:
I was having a discussion about the principle of marketing with one of my favourite meme accounts: @hodonkee. The general summary is that communication with watches often falls into technical details directed at watch enthusiasts. The thing is, watch enthusiasts have a lot to choose from so unique value propositions are more critical than ever. MG might recover from the bad PR over a period of time, but this weird escapade has shown the shortfalls in delivering messages and marketing capability during a period where sending a brand message is extremely delicate and complex. Posting virtually anything on social media – especially if you have a large following – will result in it being churned up through a process of self validation and you’ll receive an exaggerated reaction in any instance. The idea of ‘responding to the times’ in the manner that MG has done, comes across as short sighted and looks to utilise interest for short term gain since it’s clear you can’t follow through with long term commitment (The Trump summit actually ended up a failure as it ended far earlier than expected and no decisions were reached). I just hope MG is able to take a step back and observe everything that went wrong and refocus its core competencies to deliver a fresh brand message as a result.

Why it might be worth checking your fund manager’s #wristshot

A while back, I read an interesting segment by University of Alabama researcher Sugata Ray who studies disparate influences on asset management and market micro-structure. The paper explores the relationship of ‘sensation seeking’ and tolerating risk from a quantitative perspective. It can be stated that some people avidly enjoy sensation seeking, whilst others go out of their way to avoid seeking sensation – Ray notes that this is most evident through knowing people personally, but it’s hard to pick up externally. To measure this externally, the research that Ray and his team carried out to pick up ‘sensation seeking flags’ was based around ownership of cars. The description was that people in the field of asset management tend to be very interested in the cars they drive, along with the cars owned by their peers.

The datasets were sourced from publicly available vehicle records (such as brand, model, year etc) and comparing them alongside known fund managers and commercially available hedge fund data (founding date, returns, charges etc)
The question Ray and his team asked was whether listing the type of cars that the managers owned gave any actual insight into how their funds performed. In a nutshell, it was suggested that owning a fast and flashy sportscar would mean that the driver would enjoy the sensation that comes from using it The datasets showed that the ‘sensation flags’ that his team were looking out for correlated with taking on higher risks in the funds they managed. The investors who were highlighted had lower yields of return and higher operational risk.

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I wonder what driving a Tesla Model P80 will show in terms of ‘sensation flags’? The Saloon will smoke most combustion engine supercars

After reading through the summaries of the datasets, I couldn’t help but wonder if the purchases of high end luxury timepieces could be another variable to quantify fund managers and their capacity to take on risk. I can imagine a sizeable number of watch collectors also being involved in asset management in some form – whether through investing or managing portfolios.

The Breguet 5197 worn by Robert De Niro’s character Carl Van Loon in the movie Limitless. Copyright Virgin Productions

I want to point out that I’m not talking about the idea that wearing a timepiece says something about your personality (I’ve covered this in a previous article) but the purchasing of a timepiece is a different variable. I will also say this is one of the extremely rare instances where I will discuss price as a topic of interest.

You could probably list more watches that retail for over six figures than you could supercars coming out of their respected factories. If there ever was a definitive list of ‘sensation seeking flags’ then I reckon that owning a six figure timepiece would probably be up on the top of the list.

The De Bethune DB25 Starry Varius wouldn’t be out of place in a board room.

Yet it’s much harder to quantify this data compared to something like cars. A vast majority of high end watch collectors choose to remain private and the closest thing to public data on luxury timepiece ownership is social media. But those tend to be celebrities and not investment advisors – unless you can somehow prove that Floyd Mayweather or Kylie Jenner are moonlighting as directors at Berkshire Hathaway…

The Moser Swiss Alp Minute Repeater Black Concept is uber discreet

The nature of owning and collecting high end watches is an extremely complex area that roots itself in multiple areas of the human psyche and behaviour. There are those who will claim to appreciate heritage, art and design, whilst others seek to own emblems of wealth and uphold appearances in their own social and hierarchical circles. There are also instances of simply purchasing watches as a means of tax evasion – much to the denial of those accused *cough* 1MDB *cough*

The A Lange &b Sohne Perpetual Datograph Tourbillon screams investment banker

I suppose you could see it this way: there are a set of thrilling emotions in buying something of substantial value. This could be taking out a first mortgage, figuring out how to spend your first ever bonus cheque or simply saving up to buy something you’ve been looking at in a catalogue for a while.
Purchasing a timepiece has its own thrills and sensations – a portion of which comes from the risks that come with it. I fully support the notion of buying a watch simply because you like it – watches shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as investment vessels. But let’s be real here. At some point there’s a threshold where simply ‘liking something’ isn’t enough and you have to look at variables such as value retention, volatility in market behaviours, the management and reputation of a company and so forth. Because once you hit six plus figures on a watch purchase, there’s a lot that could go wrong which could render your timepiece nothing more than an expensive hunk of metal and glass on the wrist. In this regard, compiling a dataset on timepieces could be a variable to consider in the same way owning cars can highlight fund managers taking on larger risk.

I mentioned earlier about purchasing things with bonuses. The Bank of England recently lead a study that found putting limits on bonuses as a means to counter excessive risk taking could actually lead to the very opposite – increasing the likelihood of individuals taking on unnecessary risk. Bonuses are the most common form of additional income and tend to be the funding mechanisms to purchase high end watches (with many watch boutiques located conveniently near investment banks and wealth management offices) so I guess a new acquisition of a timepiece could mean a number of suggestions in regards to how a fund manager is performing. Could knowing that the bonuses are being capped mean performance is sloppier because of lower incentives, or performance is higher since they have the capital to buy a high end watch?

The research that Ray and his team conducted also suggested that the principle of risk and sensation seeking also applied to those who were investing into hedge funds. The idea would be that the penchant for higher risk and lower yield that certain fund managers seemed to have would act as a deterrent for investors and that would put an end to the activity of these managers. Yet when the same sensation seeking flags were applied to known investors, it was found that said investors would actively seek out the most volatile securities portfolios; so a hand-in-hand relationship is formed between high risk taking investors and fund managers.

I suppose in the case of watches there’s also the added variable to watch collectors having a large amount of interest in their own collection and the collection of others – a sense of camaraderie if you will.

That begets the final question: leaving you to possibly think about whether the next time you meet with your portfolio manager or wealth adviser and they happen to be wearing a fancy timepiece or talking about an upcoming purchase; is if that raises any alarm bells that you’re dealing with someone willing to take on more risk than necessary – harming your returns. Perhaps the person wearing a Fitbit and driving a Ford Galaxy is a better option for safer investing? Or vice versa, where you stumble on a potential client wearing a flashy timepiece and whether they’ll be willing to inject money into your dubious Bangladeshi mutual funds…

The disruption chronicles: Moser nature watch – Part 1

Before I start, I’ll have to mention that I have a particular approach in regards to how I like to cover topics like this in the watch industry. I don’t like making immediate commentary on current affairs mostly because there’s not much I can say that several other outlets with far larger audiences haven’t said already – and that’s just taking into account that people haven’t slightly re-worded a press release. I prefer to wait until the dust has settled and details have come to light; giving me an opportunity to pool my own thoughts together.

Right then.

It’s that time of the year again where I cover the latest wacky horological exploit carried out by the watch industry’s enfant terrible: Moser & Cie

By now you’ll be familiar with Moser’s SIHH flagship novelty: the Nature watch. In a nutshell – (or in this instance a Steel case) the watch is a bizarre hybrid of plant life and traditional horology. I’m not an expert on horticulture so I’ll let Moser summarise it:

“succulents, moss, mini Echeveria, cress, spiderwort and onion sets, with a dial in natural mineral stone and lichen from the Swiss Alps, and a strap made from grass.”

The rundown is that the watch is an emblem of Moser’s stance of environmental conservationism. Under the tagline #makeswissmadegreenagain Moser is committing itself to restructure its own supply chain – in its sourcing of fair-trade and conflict free minerals and materials. It is also putting efforts in reducing the company’s carbon footprint through embracing more efficient production methods and offsetting its current the residual footprint through green carbon credits. The label has also partnered with the NGO Room To Read which is dedicated to improving literacy and gender equality in education by building libraries and providing books. Moser also promised to donate a number of books for ever visitor that stopped by their SIHH booth.

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Distinctly Moser

With the overview complete, I have my own thoughts on the matter – both the direct views on the campaign and what Moser is achieving in the wider picture.
The core message of the nature watch is probably the least controversial of all of Moser’s previous exploits. You don’t have a leg to stand on in terms of finding immediate fault and complaining about preserving the environment, helping those in vulnerable positions and also promoting sustainable business practices. In this regard, Moser wins full brownie points.

I saw the watch myself in Geneva during the very beginning of the fair as well as an impromptu after-hours visit. I was rather amused by how Moser had set up a mini greenhouse at the back of their booth which was dedicated to literally growing the watch. The ‘donating books’ promise is actually going to be a cash donation which I have no qualms with as this is the most practical way of fulfilling the promise. As long as the directors of the charity don’t own a fleet of Ferrari and Aston Martin supercars, the gesture is still something to be commended.

The watch and jewellery industry has possibly one of the largest carbon footprints in terms of proportioning actual participants to footprint size. The supply chains involved are extremely complex. If you take into consideration of distribution of raw materials – whether you want to talk about precious metals and gemstones, or manufacturing and transporting steel and sapphire crystals then the figures surrounding environmental damages rack up quite a bit. The business of mining Gold, Platinum and Rhodium requires the destruction of immense landmass and the refining processes use up extremely large amounts of energy and chemicals that are very harmful to the environment. Let’s not forget the human cost in that a lot of minerals come from countries that are currently under conflict or political instability. Diamonds are infamous in this regard. For immediate context, the computer or smartphone you’ll be reading this article with has traces of Gold, Tantalum, Tungsten and Coltan – all minerals which are found in countries such as the DRC.

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Moser isn’t unfamiliar with utilising precious metals or gemstones in their watches
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When Papa Pave and Mama Fume fall in love, this is what you get.

The luxury sector is constantly under fire from activists and government organisations for not doing more to control their contributions towards environmental damage and choosing their raw material suppliers more carefully. I remember a remark from Adi Soon from ISO CHRONO explaining how the topic of being more cautious with the environment shouldn’t be an exclusive Swiss issue – this is a point that I agree with. However, it must also be noted that Swiss companies are a sizeable player in the precious minerals industry and the economies of scale are much more condensed compared to other global mass manufacturing industries such as mobile technology. The act of creating a timepiece using Swiss plantlife is a way of sending a message that there is an immediate ‘Swiss responsibility’ of preserving the environment and promoting sustainable business practice. As a random anecdote, Moser’s press kit this year was a dual collaboration with their sister brand Hautlence and the USB Stick was made of sustainable pinewood instead of the usual laser etched steel.

So that’s part one complete. The next part will cover my view on the wider picture of Moser as a brand (Since I always have good fun exploring this area)

The advent of memes in the watch industry

Forward: I can neither confirm nor deny that I wrote this piece as an excuse to justify why I was spending so much time exploring memes on Instagram under the guise of ‘research’

 

I often say that one of the things that draws me to the watch industry is following the evolution and dynamics of the world of watches – particularly from a business perspective. I do this through a combination of reading news articles, meeting people, attending events and perhaps most effective of all: using Instagram. My personal opinion is that Instagram is one of the biggest catalysts of growth the watch industry has faced in the last half decade.

I use the term ‘catalyst’ and ‘watch industry’ in broad sense. My definition of the watch industry encompasses anyone in the business of watches; that includes manufacturers, retailers, distributors, media outlets ect.  A catalyst in this sense is anything that pushes forward any kind of change within these areas.
I feel that Instagram – more so than any other social media network – has been a significant driver towards the watch industry establishing itself on social media through understanding online marketing, public relations, branding and attracting sales.

So far the formula has been roughly the same for all participants: a series of snazzy photos and promo videos, collaboration with an ‘influencer’ or celebrity and the occasional article insert by a major blog or news site. One thing I’ve noticed however – particularly in the last year – is that that a new variable has been added that affects the industry both directly and indirectly: Memes.

*You’re going to have to bear with me when explaining this and I promise this article isn’t just a showcase of obscure memes related to horology. (Though I was highly tempted to do so)

Meme

noun: meme; plural noun: memes

  • An element of a culture or system of behaviour passed from one individual to another by imitation or other non-genetic means.
  • An image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.

 

The term ‘meme’ was coined by Richard Dawkins and can essentially be summarised as an idea, behaviour, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. If you choose to view the concept of ‘culture’ as the expressions of ideas from a group of people with a similar set of needs and emotions (I like to call these ‘vested interests’) then you can consider the watch industry and the pursuit of horology as a culture.

The variation of memes that you’ll be most familiar with are macro memes. These are the JPEGs and videos that you see roaming around your explore feed and are the most common media format for horology themed memes. These are the true embodiment of the term “A picture is worth a thousand words”.
The online world of horology was once a place for collectors and enthusiasts to gather and spread serious information but it appears in recent years, it’s finally caught up with the rest of the internet in accepting non-seriousness. That non-seriousness is harboured through meme culture.

The common need reflected in the context of the watch industry is that we’re fed up with a lot of areas and want to pour critique on a particular subject matter: memes are tools that mock current affairs and offer a rebuttal to established status-quos in a heavily consolidated sector. When we need a break from something, we often turn to irony and comedy that make processing information a lot easier.

 

One of the joys of meme culture is the ability to relate with others of a similar niche interest:

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Photo credit: @watch.memes on Instagram (Who has kindly given me indefinite permission to share their content)

 

Other instances involve providing critique on design aspects over timepieces (I may have made a few comments about the MB&F HM9…) :

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This was a joint venture between me and @simonzzo

 

Sometimes it can be sharing gripes over industry practices:

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Straight up brutality

 

Other times it can be a fresh take towards highlighting areas that can be argued as malpractice – but present it in a tongue-in-cheek palatable manner (at least I think):

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The debate over the dubious nature of the term “Swiss Made” has made its rounds across many platforms. I’ve written my own articles on the matter, but I can’t help but think that a single meme can highlight over 2000 words of exploration.

 

Industry insiders:

The early horology satire pages were founded by industry insiders. The critique and humour was shared among the masses but I couldn’t help but feel that because some of the people being made fun of knew the page owners, the message being spread was more of a private joke between friends rather than pressing humility or criticism. The newer generation are a bit skew from that and that’s where things get interesting as the stake in the game is completely different and so are the content offerings. I spoke to two of my favourite watch meme pages on the matter as I wanted to explore why irony and criticism was becoming so popular. The two users were @wristbiscuit (who’s style of memes resembles a post you’d find on the Onion) and @horological_dicktionary (Who is known for his hatred of Instagram bots and fake accounts). I got the following responses:

“I got into memes because they are funny, and because it’s fun to hide behind anonymity, but most of all I got into it because it’s fair game. Brands have put everything they have into exploiting social media, this is no longer a case of your TV or billboards shouting at you to get you to buy their stuff, they are interacting with people.

It’s fair game and perfectly apt that they should be met with mixed reactions ranging from acceptance and commerce to backlash. You want to walk into the middle of the room and start conversing, get ready for people to converse back, or even to tell you to be quiet as they aren’t interested and we’re already talking to real people.

This is an industry with greatness, mediocrity, and downright unethical activity. I invest lots of my time in appreciating and supporting the former, I also feel I have a duty to call out the latter. Then there is the grey area, which is basically just fun!”

– Horological Dicktionary

“The watch industry takes itself so damn seriously that brands are on the verge of becoming parodies of themselves as outdated companies that refuse to adapt to changing times. They’re bland, they’re stale, and they’re completely devoid of personality. It’s like they’re not trying to connect to real humans. Too often this is reflected by publications and individuals in the culture as well. So I think what’s happening is that the community is taking it upon themselves to add humor and personality to the conversation and taking these things the way they deserve to be taken: not seriously at all”

– Wristbiscuit

I feel that memes in the watch industry are still in their infancy – they haven’t kicked off in terms of popularity but they do garner the attention of a lot of senior figures in the industry. I’ve personally witnessed discontent from a lot of marketing directors when talking about certain timepieces being the subject of crude criticism. In a closely-knit collectors community, a few negative words for a small label could result in harming potential sales.
The simple nature of memes makes conveying a message quite easy and they can be spread very quickly. What I find most important of all, is that memes offer democratisation in sharing views and opinions – especially those who aren’t industry insiders of the watch industry.

I suppose my concern about meme culture in the industry mainly lies in the volatility of spreading information over the internet. It’s very easy to share dubious statistics and claims – with there being a few instances of ‘Instagram beef’ taking place between established figures. This in turn can cause disrepute amongst certain circles – for better or for worse. I’ve also noticed a few examples of external cultures such as politics seeping in which can makes the online world of watches a murky place to delve into. I don’t feel that this is a variable we need to be too worried about for the time being, but it might be something to be cautious over.

 

My take: Baselworld and SIHH date mashup

2018 has been a rather eventful year in terms of the number of shocking press releases being spewed out by major institutions in the watch industry. In the last few weeks of 2018 things seemed a little quiet… until the incumbent limelight star Baselworld unveiled a bombshell of a press release that has caught the attention of many: from 2020, SIHH and Baselworld will be scheduled directly alongside each other – resulting in SIHH now taking place from the 26th to 29th April and Baselworld from 30th April to 5th May.

The news should spark the interest of all stakeholders in the watch industry – from watch brands, retailers and distributors, media outlets and private collectors. I thought it would be fun to have a few words on the matter.

I’ll start off by saying that this year has already been packed with a number of surprises but the cooperation of Baselworld and SIHH seemed to come out of nowhere. I feel that SIHH has been viewed as the closest thing to an alternative to Baselworld – having built something of a reputation as a friendlier platform for independent watch labels under the “Basel Boycott” movement. The two fairs are quite distinct in their trade show offerings with SIHH being lauded as coming across as a lot more focussed with its offerings in terms of showcasing brands and the support infrastructure for potential clients and media outlets. It also comes at a time where the decline of Baselworld has raised the ongoing question of whether or not watch fairs are even significant to an apex – with SIHH faltering with major brand dropouts as well.

I’m sure all industry stakeholders can agree that in order to maintain the significance and relevance of watch fairs, the current superstructure system will need to be radically reformed. I explored in my last article that the dated practises of watch fairs and the consolidated nature of the watch industry as a whole are being met with the challenges of the internet as an unfathomable hub of information, geopolitical/economic volatility and listening to the demands of consumers. With all these variables in mind, I can’t help but wonder: “Is this really the kind of solution we need for the scale of the problems raised?”

I think the first thing people will welcome is the fact that both events will be happening in April – nearing the end of Ski season and approaching warmer weather (I was pleased to see that many pundits also agreed the same thing). I’ll be honest; visiting Geneva in January doesn’t sound too appealing to me (although I’ll be going to SIHH 2019 next month). There is also the idea that instead of two separate trips to Switzerland across the year, industry stakeholders can plan around a space of two weeks within a single year at the same time. I’ve been made aware hoever, that the action of co-ordinated watch fairs isn’t a new phenomenon and is just something that’s been regurgitated as a policy of ye olde.

SIHH has been subjected to reforms in its own right with enhancing its accessibility by opening its doors to the public for the first time in 2019.Whilst it would have seemed obvious to do so – SIHH has heralded its exclusivity to industryinsiders since its founding – the move makes way for a much more flexible and adaptive trade show. It also means that the business ideologies of the fairs are slightly more in line – the sheer footfall of Basel is what pays the bills in the end and SIHH can seek to benefit from that – if executed in the right manner.

Having said that, I can’t help but feel that there are more opportunity costs than rewards. The resource strain for the parties involved will still be immense. For media outlets, it’ll be about moving to move physically from opposite ends of Switzerland. Larger magazines and blogs can afford to split up their press teams across both fairs, but small to mid-size outlets will struggle considerably. My experience with Baselworld this year reminds me of how incredibly cramped transport facilities become when commuting to or within the tiny city. The end of the SIHH fair will result in a rush of people trying to get from Zurich to Basel – I have my faith in the Swiss railway network but the thought of making the journey makes me a little nervous. For a tiny independent blog such as the Watchrant, the physical and mental commitments will be immense – six days of running around Switzerland put my resilience to the test.
As an additional note, booking accommodation in Basel has always been a nightmare. Baselworld management has promised to work alongside hotels and residence services to provide fairer accommodation for the 2019 year – though a lot of my industry contacts are sceptical over the proposal. It pains me to think that I practically have to take out a mortgage to be able to afford to spend a couple of nights in the city. I also imagine that the dates running between the two fairs will also demand the highest fees given the popularity (my bets are 28th April to the 2nd of May)

For exhibiting watch brands that are used to appearing at both fairs, it’ll be a debate about cost and reward. It wouldn’t be efficient to set up shop at both fairs – especially for boutiques – so judgement calls about value will have to be made. Whilst I mentioned that the lines of business ideologies between Basel and SIHH are blurring, the strategies required to showcase at each fair vary immensely.

I had some comments on my previous article about how watch fairs can only be seen as “worth it” if the cost of participation is decreased and there were more mechanisms in place to counteract or at least compliment variables such as social media and online watch markets. It would be nice to have some reliable Wi-Fi and sit down to produce content instead of hiding away at restaurants and bars which I can barely afford to eat at…

I still feel that the watch industry – at least on the boutique side of things – still relies on deeply entrenched interpersonal client relationships and that’s what separates it from other areas of luxury. A new class of showcases and events has appeared in the last two years: private showcases by watch labels and collaborations with watch enthusiast groups. Breitling under the management of George’s Kern demonstrated what mid to large size brands can achieve if they strategise their brand showcase effectively – famously citing Kern’s statement how it was cheaper to host private shows in 3 continents, rather than a single stand at Baselworld. TheWatchmakersclub managed to host 16 brands in a single night – many of whom made more sales and gained more traction within the space of a few hours, than a whole weekend at alternatives such as SalonQP – I can imagine it cost a lot less as well. The dynamism required to move with the times is happening, and I can only imagine that it’ll start spreading to other watch brands. I’ve heard whispers from reliable sources that Swatch Group isn’t going to stay dormant with their Baselworld Exit.

To summarise the answer of the question I raised earlier – I’m going to say no. The actual promised changes of Baselworld and the effectiveness said promises are still elusive and some slightly warmer weather isn’t going to change much.Industry veterans have raised scepticisms on all accounts and all I can see forward is a whole new set of challenges to face.

My take: Baselworld and SIHH mashup

My take: Baselworld and SIHH mashup

 

2018 has been a rather eventful year in terms of the number of shocking press releases being spewed out by major institutions in the watch industry. In the last few weeks of 2018 things seemed a little quiet… until the incumbent grandpa Baselworld unveiled a bombshell of a press release that has caught the attention of many: from 2020, SIHH and Baselworld will be scheduled directly alongside each other – resulting in SIHH now taking place from the 26th to 29th April and Baselworld from 30th April to 5th May.

The news should spark the interest of all stakeholders in the watch industry – from watch brands, retailers and distributors, media outlets and private collectors. I thought it would be fun to have a few words on the matter.

I’ll start off by saying that this year has already been packed with a number of surprises but the cooperation of Baselworld and SIHH seemed to come out of nowhere. I feel that SIHH has been viewed as the closest thing to an alternative to Baselworld – having built something of a reputation as a friendlier platform for independent watch labels under the “Basel Boycott” movement. The two fairs are quite distinct in their trade show offerings with SIHH being lauded as coming across as a lot more focused with its offerings in terms of showcasing brands and the support infrastructure for potential clients and media outlets. It also comes at a time where the decline of Baselworld has raised the ongoing question of whether or not watch fairs are even significant to an apex – with SIHH faltering with major brand dropouts as well.

I’m sure all industry stakeholders can agree that in order to maintain the significance and relevance of watch fairs, the current superstructure system will need to be radically reformed. I explored in my last article that the dated practises of watch fairs and the consolidated nature of the watch industry as a whole are being met with the challenges of the internet as an unfathomable hub of information, geopolitical/economic volatility and listening to the demands of consumers. With all these variables in mind, I can’t help but wonder: “Is this really the kind of solution we need for the scale of the problems raised?”

I think the first thing people will welcome is the fact that both events will be happening in April – nearing the end of Ski season and approaching warmer weather (I was pleased to see that many pundits also agreed the same thing). I’ll be honest; visiting Geneva in January doesn’t sound too appealing to me (although I’ll be going to SIHH 2019 next month). There is also the idea that instead of two separate trips to Switzerland across the year, industry stakeholders can plan around a space of two weeks within a single year at the same time. I’ve been made aware however, that the action of coordinated watch fairs isn’t a new phenomenon and is just something that’s been regurgitated as a policy of ye olde.

SIHH has been subjected to reforms in its own right with enhancing its accessibility by opening its doors to the public for the first time in 2019. Whilst it would have seemed obvious to do so – SIHH has heralded its exclusivity to industry insiders since its founding – the move makes way for a much more flexible and adaptive trade show. It also means that the business ideologies of the fairs are slightly more in line – the sheer footfall of Basel is what pays the bills in the end and SIHH can seek to benefit from that – if executed in the right manner.

Having said that, I can’t help but feel that there are more opportunity costs than rewards. The resource strain for the parties involved will still be immense. For media outlets, it’ll be about moving to move physically from opposite ends of Switzerland. Larger magazines and blogs can afford to split up their press teams across both fairs, but small to mid-size outlets will struggle considerably. My experience with Baselworld this year reminds me of how incredibly cramped transport facilities become when commuting to or within the tiny city. The end of the SIHH fair will result in a rush of people trying to get from Zurich to Basel – I have my faith in the Swiss railway network but the thought of making the journey makes me a little nervous. For a tiny independent blog such as the Watchrant, the physical and mental commitments will be immense – six days of running around Switzerland put my resilience to the test this March.
As an additional note, booking accommodation in Basel has always been a nightmare. Baselworld management has promised to work alongside hotels and residence services to provide fairer accommodation for the 2019 year – though a lot of my industry contacts are sceptical over the proposal. It pains me to think that I practically have to take out a mortgage to be able to afford to spend a couple of nights in the city. I also imagine that the dates running between the two fairs will also demand the highest fees given the popularity (my bets are 28th April to the 2nd of May)

For exhibiting watch brands that are used to appearing at both fairs, it’ll be a debate about cost and reward. It wouldn’t be efficient to set up shop at both fairs – especially for boutiques – so judgement calls about value will have to be made. Whilst I mentioned that the lines of business ideologies between Basel and SIHH are blurring, the strategies required to showcase at each fair vary immensely.

I had some comments on my previous article about how watch fairs can only be seen as “worth it” if the cost of participation is decreased and there were more mechanisms in place to counteract or at least compliment variables such as social media and online watch markets. It would be nice to have some reliable Wi-Fi and sit down to produce content instead of hiding away at restaurants and bars which I can barely afford to eat at…

I still feel that the watch industry – at least on the boutique side of things – still relies on deeply entrenched interpersonal client relationships and that’s what separates it from other areas of luxury. A new class of showcases and events has appeared in the last two years: private showcases by watch labels and collaborations with watch enthusiast groups. Breitling under the management of George’s Kern demonstrated what mid to large size brands can achieve if they strategise their brand showcase effectively – famously citing Kern’s statement how it was cheaper to host private shows in 3 continents, rather than a single stand at Baselworld. The Watchmakersclub managed to host 16 brands in a single night – many of whom made more sales and gained more traction within the space of a few hours, than a whole weekend at alternatives such as SalonQP – I can imagine it cost a lot less as well. The dynamism required to move with the times is happening, and I can only imagine that it’ll start spreading to other watch brands. I’ve heard whispers from reliable sources that Swatch Group isn’t going to stay dormant with their Baselworld Exit….

To summarise the answer of the question I raised earlier – I’m going to say no. The actual promised changes of Baselworld and the effectiveness said promises are still elusive and some slightly warmer weather isn’t going to change much. Industry veterans have raised scepticism on all accounts and all I can see forward is a whole new set of challenges to face.