Doing the Watch Thing
Deep Thoughts, Uncategorized

Doing the Watch Thing

“Are you still doing the watch thing?”
After a week of traveling, countless meetings, and presentations at two shows for hundreds of people, my brain was starting to get overloaded with watches.  On Friday I took the train from Philadelphia to Baltimore to visit my family.  The question above was the one I fielded the most often from my family members who I speak to at most once a year.

This whole world of expensive watches is so unreal to most people.  We are in our little bubbles – our websites, forums, blogs, stores, shows – where it seems as if everything revolves around watches.  For me, getting reminded that we are so far off the general public’s radar screen is a very powerful thing.  For one, it highlights the interesting challenge of this job: a very tiny percentage of our target market has any knowledge that this world exists, let alone familiarity with our brand.  From a marketing perspective, this is a much more fun challenge than convincing people to buy Coke rather than Pepsi.

Perhaps even more importantly, the chance to explain our niche world to neophytes forces us to focus on the things that really matter.  Why would a watch be so expensive?  What are the people like who make these things?  What sorts of people buy these things?  These are all important questions for ANYONE in this industry to think about.  The ability to explain the answers in a way that makes sense for anyone shows a basic mastery that is important – why are we here?

I’d love to hear your stories of some reactions when people hear that you are in this industry or interested in haute horlogerie.  Leave them in the comments!

  • Steve – another home run post if you ask me – and I know you don’t! 🙂 To me the “watch thing” you point out is similar to the often heard “oh, I’m not a watch guy” (to me this is marketing candy but that’s another story…) – It’s often easy to forget that we have an interest/passion in a field infinitely far removed from most people’s consideration 🙂
    9 months ago had you asked me to name 3 top watch brands, I would have said Rolex, Seiko and Nixon…yup – not ashamed to admit it. And now in daily casual conversation I talk to people about brands, technological details, and prices most folks can’t even fathom. Yes we seem to have a slight communication problem in the industry 🙂

    Consider that the average watch price in the US in 2009 was $128 if I recall correctly. Countless people consider a Tissot the horological investment of a lifetime.

    Answering the question you pose “why are we here” and, IMHO, how we got there, and where we’re headed is indeed the most important task at hand for those of us in the business. It’s part of telling the story, and you cannot discuss horology without telling a story. Just my 2 cents 🙂

    Keep it up, I enjoy your prose.
    J.

  • Arieladams

    Stephen,
    Surely this isn’t the first time you’ve come across this? Your point is totally accurate. People would understand us better if we said are jobs were to train dogs to fight. They might also think we are doing more productive work, lol. When you lent me the HM3 watch, I was with my family, and they started asking about it. I gave them some information about the watch and while they liked it, you could see the look in their eyes of “what world did this come from.” It wasn’t just the design, but also the price.

    If I said I dealt in fine art, the gears in their head might connect better. In a sense that is what the luxury watch world is – a type of wearable, functional fine art. It comes in lots of styles, price ranges, and for those who can’t afford the fine stuff, they can get less expensive poster reproductions of the good stuff.

    Part of it is also culture. In the US we are more inclined to understand expensive homes and cars. Watches are still new to us. People need years of becoming accustomed to expensive watches because being able to digest the industry. People like you and me are rare in the US. Not alone, but certainly not mainstream.

    Sometimes when I tell people that I write about watches they think I spend my days reviewing $100 watches from Macy’s. Clearly that is a misunderstanding. If we are lucky, all this luxury watch advertising in the US will have an effect, and in 5-10 years, people will be more aware of the industry that we are working in. Such that when we tell them what we do, there are less questions like “I didn’t even know you could spend $5,000 (or more) on a watch.”

    • Hi Ariel,
      Of course it is not the first time. Most of my friends don’t even wear
      watches! It was just a jumping off point to discuss this very strange
      aspect of our jobs. How many people do you know with jobs that don’t
      register AT ALL with most of the population? Remembering this and thinking
      like outsiders can be very beneficial for us. That’s one of the great
      things about your blog – the tone includes the knowledge that these things
      are way outside of the mainstream.

      My father (here’s your blog mention finally, Dad) thinks it is hilarious
      that my watches cost so much more than his and don’t even have a light.

      Best,
      Steve

      • Jerome Pineau

        Actually having spent all my life in high-tech and software, I can’t recall anyone in my family ever understanding an iota of what my job entailed 🙂 As such, I was always “the computer guy” someone called up when their AOL account got suspended or such things (like complain about Microsoft Word…argh).
        Now I’m just the “watch guy” – that weird guy who spends his life on Facebook talking to people about watches 😉

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  • Anonymous

    The other side of the coin must be that the unrealized market potential is huge! Although I can understand that it feels like an uphill battle at some times trying to make people understand why they should/could even wear a watch, it must be very exciting knowing that you won’t run into a wall anytime soon.
    Great blog, keep it up!