Skip to main content

Posts

Ethical Complications in the Watch Industry

It's July 14, 2017 and I'm standing on a sidewalk outside of the Cipriani ballroom on 42nd Street in New York City. The rain is pouring down. Fortunately, I arrived early enough that I have a spot under a temporary awning set up by Patek Phillipe as part of their Grand Exhibition. I snap a photo of the entrance as I wait. Thierre Stern outside the 2017 Grand Exhibition in NYC Three years later, as I write this piece, I'm realizing that I captured a shot of CEO Thierry Stern taking a smoke break before the exhibition opens in ten minutes. I vaguely recognize a kid waiting in line in the group ahead of me. I can't place him, but I feel like I've seen him on YouTube or maybe heard about him on a podcast. He's a budding expert on watch collecting. Wristie of my Steinhart OVM en route to the Grand Exhibition He turns around and his eyes get big after he takes a look at my wrist. "Is that a ....?!" I stop him before he can build momentum.
Recent posts

Catch Them if You Can: Fiat in Watchmaking

The movie Catch Me if You Can  was released in 2002.  It is a dramatization of Frank Abagnale's early life, a counterfeiter who forged checks.  He posed as a Pan Am pilot to get away with his ruse. Frank Abagnale's earliest known run-in with authorities in June, 1965. Abagnale was eventually caught, prosecuted and imprisoned.  Eventually he worked for the FBI in order to help them catch counterfeiters.  Abagnale believes "the vast majority of fraudsters and criminals get caught, not because of good police work, but because they continue doing the same thing over and over again until someone notices.  Criminals are not as bright as people think and their greed motivates them totally."  What does counterfeit and crime have to do with the watch industry?  Counterfeiting of watches is a well-known topic (and a subject of another post coming soon).  I'm not interested in that particular subject here.  Instead, I would like to discuss why currency counterfeit is crim

Watch Media Revenue in Context

Recently I asked to join a watch enthusiast slack channel. My request was denied. I won't name names, but they told me I am "old media" and old media was not welcome. New York Times newsroom, 1942 This response came as something of a surprise to me. First, I've only been writing about the watch industry for about a year, maybe a little bit longer than that. I have received some compensation for doing so as a freelancer, but these days, almost all of my creative activity is published for free. I don't have any advertisements on my blog. For these reasons, I was surprised that I might have a reputation as old media. The episode also brought me to consider the nature of watch media. Is there really an "old" and "new" watch media? What does that mean? Among the watch community, there is an ongoing discussion of whether watch media are presenting the information needed by collectors and enthusiasts. There is a low rumble of di

Watch Media: Win-Win or Zero Sum

With this article I'd like to discuss information economics and some principles from the field of information economics which can help us think a little bit about watch media (blogs, magazines, etc).*   We'll discuss watch media revenue and where it comes from.  There are a few different models that we might see at play in watch industry media and I'm going to try to explore whether the models we're seeing are "win win" or "zero sum."   Under a win-win arrangement, media and manufacturers (brands) are both winning at the same time. In a zero sum arrangement, brands are benefiting from the activity of watch media at the cost of the the media themselves. I'll also offer a "case study" of Hodinkee in which I'll present some data suggesting that this outlet does matter when it comes to luxury watch interest.  I'll share some estimates that  quantify exactly the ways in which Hodinkee matters and I'll discuss the role of Silico

Horolonomics X A Teenager

I'm going out on a limb with this one. On Horolonomics I primarily cover economic issues in the watch industry.  Of late, though, I've had a number of conversations with a teenager in my family involving cartoons and / or graphic novels.  This particular teen is a fan of a Cartoon Network show called Steven Universe by Rebecca Sugar .  Stevens Universe title image. My teen collaborator in this piece says it is a a show about "polymorphic sentient rocks."  Cartoons have come a long way from the overwhelmingly slapstick orientation of 20th century shows like Tom and Jerry.  Steven Universe explores some pretty serious cultural topics such as antiracism  and the power of kindness and empathy . What does this have to do with watches?  Perhaps you've already guessed.  In this article I'll do some anthropomorphism when it comes to Rolex references with stone dials.  My process was as follows: I began with the seemingly authoritative list of Rolex stone dials p

Whither HODINKEE?

Hey, remember me? Regrettably I've allowed Horolonomics to lay fallow for too long, since earlier this summer really.  I can't exactly explain why, but it is fair to say that the pandemic is at least partially responsible.  I've had quite a few articles I've wanted to post in the interim, but I'm finally awakening from my temporary hibernation in response to pending developments at HODINKEE. As I explained in my interview over at Watchsignals (full disclosure: I'm an official advisor), the good people at HODINKEE set me upon my path as an enthusiast and collector of watches.  I can't exactly remember when I started reading it, I think it was when Kevin Rose joined the team, probably around 2015.  I'd used his first startup "recommendation engine," Digg, and listened to his podcast for a while (Diggnation, which was really fun) and that is when HODINKEE popped on my radar.   It is fair to say that a great deal of the emergent interest in watch

Market Update: Sotheby's "Important Watches 2020"

When I was asked, back in February, about my outlook for the luxury watch market  I replied , "I think 2020 is going to be filled with a lot of uncertainty."  I understated the situation. It might be plausible to describe the present level of uncertainty as monumental. There is no need to go through all the unprecedented events punctuating this year but an open question remains: how is the watch market fairing?   I make a habit of checking auction results as much as possible in order to answer this question.  Many market indicators are unavailable to watch industry observers.  Prices with authorized dealers are, by and large, fixed.  We can't see them go up if demand is healthy or drop if demand slackens.  If prices are too low for a particular reference then there is a shortage, waitlists grow and we hear grumblings but we have no measure of how bad it is because the lists are secret.  If prices are too high then we begin to see watches appear on grey market outlets at s