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Showing posts from 2021

Hype Journo: the Case of Tag X Mario

I've been on a somewhat extended break from posting here because I'm working on two in-depth projects and some regular contributions to another, awesome, outlet. However, recent coverage of the TAG Heuer x Super Mario Limited Edition smartwatch release this week convinced me I needed to post some thoughts. The TLDR on this is that some folks writing about the watch industry need to be way more careful and precise in their writing. Preliminaries and full disclosure: I was initially excited about this watch but disappointed in its execution. Photo credit Pixabay I grew up playing countless hours of Mario and hoped the watch might be a neat commemoration for me and all the folks who enjoyed this game. However, I'm really not into smartwatches generally (I bought a Pebble years ago and it just wasn't worth the hassle of charging) and 45 mm is pretty big for a timepiece. Also, the price on this watch ($US 2,150 at retail) is just not competitive. If others love

Leeds Beat Weems: the Origins of the Rotating Bezel

I recently realized that my curiosity about watches is similar to the way a T-Rex' vision works, at least according to the 1993 film Jurassic Park . For those who don't remember the film, Dr. Alan Grant (a paleontologist played by the actor Sam Neil) tells the other characters that if they don't move, the T-Rex won't see them. Similarly, I realized that the rotating bezel is such a permanent (but adjustable) fixture of dive watch designs that I've never actually seen much of its history. Subsequent to attending Jeffrey Kingston's Horological Society of New York lecture on the advent of the first dive watch by Blancpain (required WIS viewing, really), I think I'd naturally assumed that the brand's former CEO, Jean-Jacque Fiechter, invented the rotating bezel sometime around 1953. Drawings of rotating bezel from Fiechter's Fifty Fathoms patent. There certainly were many innovations he patented while dreaming up the Fifty Fathoms, so I subcon

The Watch Media Ecosystem: a Two Year Review.

Last week, I finished user onboarding with a service called CrowdTangle , a startup that launched in 2012. In 2016, Facebook acquired CrowdTangle. In 2019, it opened a service for academic researchers. I recently applied to participate and I was accepted. CrowdTangle provides a wide array of analytic data for activity on Facebook and Instagram. I'm only beginning to familiarize myself with it. Out of curiosity, I decided to get my bearings by looking through the platform's data on watch media. The insights I'm posting here are the result. CrowdTangle's engine reports a wide range of information on public posts and accounts, including followers, reactions (likes, etc), shares and commenting. I began by building a list of the major watch media outlets which have been operating for a fair number of years. I requested feedback on Instagram for my initial list and updated it accordingly (thank you to everyone who commented, acknowledgements below). I ended up with a list

The Grey Market Rolex Discount

Today, I happened to notice that Jomashop is selling a large number of Rolex references, many at a discount relative to the official price. My subjective impression is that this does not happen very frequently, so I wanted to more formally tease out some implications of this development. I assembled a spreadsheet of the listings and ran some numbers. For this discussion, I will focus on the references which Jomashop identifies as "Men's" (due to the fact that I am unfamiliar with the other references which are listed). Jomashop lists 197 references for sale at a discount relative to list. This is a remarkable variety of watches on the grey market, expecially considering that Rolex contracts likely penalize ADs who resell through third party dealers. The average discount across these references is 10% with a minimum discount of 1% (mostly 36mm Datejusts in precious metals with unique dials) and a maximum discount of 31% (Cellini Pink Dial Automatic Men's 18kt

Stay Gold

I'll admit it: I had a negative initial reaction to Rolex' recent release of a "Rolesor" Explorer (aka two-tone in steel and gold). I wasn't alone. As I type this, I think to myself "they really ought to change that term. It rhymes with eyesore." A memeified version of Sir Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay On the day of the release, I created a meme which I posted to IG, also offered here. It reflected my assessment at the time, which was that the adventure / mountaineering legacy of the Explorer really does not require precious metals, especially gold. It is soft. Climbing Everest requires hardness, so all we need is 904L steel. Not very sophisticated thinking, I'll admit, but I'm pretty certain that's what the "reptilian complex" portion of my brain was up to. It seems that certain novel watch releases kick off an emotional grief response in the watch community. Photo credit Wikimedia and Bertrand Grondin There a

The Tall Tale of Luxury Watch Sizes

Helmets of different size on shelving. I had the distinct pleasure of recently, and virtually, joining the Horological Society of New York for a lecture this week. The talk was entitled "The Ideal Watch Size: A Curious Case of Misperception and Missed Opportunities." The speaker, Mark Cho, is a men's fashion entrepeneur who co-founded The Armoury (with stores in New York City and Hong Kong). Cho also owns a men's clothing brand in UK: Drake's . I won't spend too much time describing, in detail, Cho's talk because it is recorded and currently available for HSNY members online (in the near future it will be publicly available on YouTube). Screengrab from Mr. Cho's talk. Cho collected some data online, using a survey, about people's perceptions of their wrist sizes as well as their actual wrist sizes. He also compared and contrasted those survey responses. The results are really interesting and worth considering. Plus, Cho mention

The Swiss Diaspora in America

Let's play a word association game, watch idiot savant style. I'll offer a word and try to anticipate your response. Bern? I'm guessing Switzerland, or Rolex, comes to mind. Geneva? Maybe you're thinking about the stripes on a movement, or the seal that's a hallmark of quality in watchmaking. Moser? I'm betting you might pull up the Instagram account of H. Moser or recall some of their vanta black dials. Baumgartner? Maybe this won't prompt any particular response, but for aficionados of the Urwerk brand it's almost guaranteed that Felix Baumgartner comes to mind. He's the watchmaker, and co-founder, of the manufacturer. I'm even more confident that, in response to any of these prompts, almost no watch enthusiast would think of the state of Indiana (located in midwest farmland of the United States). The Star Press, Feb 3, 1936. But what about this newspaper clip dated February 3, 1936 from The Star Press out of Muncie, Indiana?

Sorting the Novel Assortments

This is a short note on one of the more important recent innovations in horology. It pertains to the assortment, which is a collection of parts regulating the release of energy from a watch's mainspring. In detail, the assortment consists of the escape wheel, balance wheel, hairspring, anchor lever (usually) and pallet stones. I've now seen two similar, and major, innovations in this portion of a watch mechanism. I was initially confused about the similarities and differences between these two mechanisms, so I thought I would briefly outline them. Two watches represents the start of a potential trend, so this is probably worth doing. In 2017, Zenith announced the Defy Lab, a watch (pictured here with a black strap) featuring the wholesale replacement of a traditional assortment with an oscillating wafer of silicon (see picture). Top: Zenith Defy Inventor, Bottom Left: Zenith Lab,Zenith Bottom Right: Silicon Oscillator Credit: Zenith The price of this reference, ava

Absolving Quartz

Fables are amazing, powerful things. They take on a life of their own. They can play the role of social glue, binding a community together in shared understanding and belief. Fables can become so convincing that a community might become confused and start to treat fables as facts. This is particularly likely when a fable is built around a skeleton of facts, as is the case of the "quartz crisis" fable. The facts in this fable are as follows: in 1969 Seiko released the first quartz watch (the Astron 35SQ). The quartz movement of the Seiko Astron. The fable hanging off these facts: due to the high accuracy and low cost of this innovation, the Swiss mechanical watch industry experienced a downward spiral. Numerous brands folded and innumerable jobs were lost. I've retold this fable myself, taking it as factual. This week, though, I started reading some scholarship on the events of the 1970s, the period over which quartz reputedly claimed most of its victims.

The Shared Responsibility for Flipping

I've been an outspoken critic of flipper hate. A brief reminder: flipping is defined as a situation where a person buys a highly desirable watch at its retail price and then resells it, soon thereafter, at a higher price. As a result, the flipper earns a return on the timepiece. Flipping is the inevitable consequence of multiple decisions in watch markets. First is the fact that a manufacturer has set the retail price too low. As soon as this happens, rationing takes place: the demand for a watch model exceeds the available supply. Manufacturer contributions to flipping. As a result, some collectors are (possibly) left scrambling to get the watch. Are collectors responsible for setting the stage in this manner? So far, the answer is no. Brands set the retail price and decide how many watches they will manufacture. Now, let's turn to a collector who flips. Keep in mind that "flipping" is exactly why finance-types take a long position in an asset (f

Rolex Racing Bar Graph

I've shared this infographic a couple times on Instagram but I wanted to offer it here as well. It might, perhaps, present better. I also think it is so neat that I decided to share it in a few places online. I'm offering a video I made of a "racing bar chart" of manufacturer prices for 60 Rolex references over 64 years. I used an online list of AD pricing, adjusted for inflation, to generate this. I learned two things: first, Rolex seems to employ a "rabbit" pricing model. Infrequently, there are references (usually in precious metals) that are released that are an order of magnitude more expensive than what has come before. This seems to set the stage for subsequently rapid price increases for the more accessible references in the catalogue. I use the term "rabbit" pricing to describe this phenomenon because athletic races of different sorts will often hire a "rabbit." This is a racer who goes flat out at the start of the rac

Does Watch Design Innovation Require Shortages and Waitlists?

I was on a recent Clubhouse chat which, nominally, was about today's Tag Heuer X Hodinkee release. To set the stage, these collaborators announced the Carrera 'Dato' Limited Edition For HODINKEE reference CBK221D.FC6479. The watch was available in a limited run of 250 examples and priced at $7,250. My use of past tense is not an error. The watch promptly sold out in three minutes and I'm sure, any day now, we'll see how much the flippers profit from the shortage on the secondary market. A prominant collector and artist was in the Clubhouse room and expressed the sentiment that, while reissues are obviously well-received by the market, the lack of design innovation is disappointing. I see his point and agree with it. There is a flourishing space of design innovation among a certain class of brands. Most notably, independent brands and microbrands are arguably at the forefront of design innovation. We also see design innovation among established brands su