Govberg Jewelers, a company that owns several watch stores, iW magazine, a pre-owned watch business, a watch repair facility, and more has just released a new iPhone app called OnTime (previously My Watch Box). The new app builds upon the functionality of their existing apps that help you sell unwanted watches to them and also adds something new which, in my opinion, should be something that all watch collectors need.
The Govberg My Watch Box (not going to change all the instances of "My Watch Box" but the name of the app just changed to Govberg OnTime, so please be aware of that) app features some useful tools that, while not unique, are well done. The app includes a watch news aggregator (similar to what Watchville is doing), a "watch box," a place to browse new and used watch inventory for sale, as well as a tool for helping you to sell pre-owned watches to Govberg. In another Forbes article (here), I discussed the booming market for companies interested in buying your watches versus selling them.
All those features together are nice and good, and the experience is surprisingly refined given what you get with most of the watch-industry related apps out there. Govberg's Danny Govberg mentioned bringing aboard a new development team and finally subscribing to the business axiom I'd like to believe I helped set in motion - "when working on a project related to watches, it is best to have everyone involved actually love watches."
What I'd really like to talk about in my review of Govberg's My Watch Box iPhone app is the "Watch Box" part of it. I am going to be honest in saying that I haven't used all the watch-related apps out there, and I am not up to date on what everyone has tried and what everyone else is doing. Though, to my knowledge, the direction I'd like these features to go in isn't being fully pursued by anyone yet. Allow me to explain...
The purpose of the Watch Box is to make small listings of each watch in your collection. The idea is for it to serve as a "digital locker" holding information on your collection. It begins with your taking pictures of your watches and then filling out information about the watches including its reference number, purchase price and date, and functionality.
What does one do with their Watch Box information. You are supposed to have a nice visual view of your collection, and you can also use the app to easily submit your watch for sale, appraisal, or repair. These latter functions are potentially the most useful and how Govberg plans on making money. Its actually rather clever and makes a lot of sense.
The good sense isn't just in the fact that an app can monetize by helping people get their watches repaired or help them sell watches, but in Govberg's case, they actually can fulfill all of those things in-house, and they don't need to act as a middleman. Assuming watch collector adoption to Govberg My Watch Box is good, then it seems like a win-win solution for everyone. However, in my opinion, this is just the beginning of a service that can evolve into what watch collectors truly need.
I'll admit that I am taking this opportunity to discuss an idea that I've had for a while and perhaps I can be a part of building. Govberg's My Watch Box is a major step in that direction, but in my opinion, My Watch Box should turn into a fully fledged digital watch story journal that is accessibly by any device on the cloud, and whose data remain consistent with each watch.
Let me step back a bit. Why do we buy luxury watches? We buy them because of design, how they make us feel, and how nice they look. We also buy them because of story. Watch brands spend so much time talking about their heritage and the historical reasons watches today were originally made because it is story that leads to the emotions that make people buy watches. Individual watches can also take on special stories because of how we got them, why we got them, and perhaps who owned them before use.
In my years dealing with watch collectors, I have yet to meet a single person who dedicates the time and effort to creating a comprehensive journal of their collection including data about the watches, when and where they purchased them, and then takes data and sends it off with the watch to the next owner whether that is their heir or a subsequent buyer. I am not saying that this never happens - as I am sure some people do it - but I have found that it is rare.
Why is this important? Well, like I said above, we buy watches and are connected to them because of stories, and having basic data about when we bought watches and for how much is really useful to collectors. It would also be nice to have a place where we can store receipts, warranty cards, and other paper work such as letter of provenance, etc... So why not create a fully fledged service that watch collectors can easily access from any device and complete digital records that go with their watches. These records should also be easily transferable to other people who buy those watches, assuming they also use the service. Thus, when you purchase a timepiece from an individual owner, auction house, or dealer, all this wonderful information and history goes with it.
Think, for example, of all the watches that are valuable because of who used them and why. Timepieces worn by celebrities instantly have values that dwarf the exact same watch that was not worn by a celebrity. That ownership and the proof thereof is part of the watch's unique story, and a buyer knowing that information is going to spend a lot more money on that watch.
I'll give you another example, here in Los Angeles, Omega collector extraordinaire Jack Khorsandi (of the store Jackmond) goes around the world buying vintage Omega watches, and the ones that are the most interesting to him are those with great stories. In many instances, the only way the story of that watch is conveyed to the buyer is when Jack himself can dictate that story to the next owner. More so, Jack is much more likely to purchase someone's vintage Speedmaster if there is a good story to go with it. The value of having a digital database of the information and history of a specific timepiece is extremely valuable; not just in adding value for a resale perspective, but personal value when a collector measures the sum of their own assorted timepieces that they have acquired for various reasons over the years.
For example, let's say that you purchased a watch because of an anniversary or achievement. Will you remember that fact 10 years down the line? What about 30 years down the line. What about if you pass away suddenly and your children get the watch and have no idea why you got it? That timepiece's sentimental value will be much more intense if they are able to look into the details of that watch in your digital watch journal and understand the story behind it and that you purchased it years earlier because of a business deal you closed. These are just some of the benefits of collectors taking a little bit of time to create such information about their timepieces and their collections.
Watch dealers also have an interest in such information, as they can know when people bought watches, from whom, and other important data that lets them evaluate timepieces. One very basic piece of information included in such a database would be a service record. Imagine if a watch technician could simply update the record of a watch with the ongoing service history.
Valuable items such as cars, real estate, and other things whose value endures benefit from records such as this and I think there is a lot of value for something like this in the watch world. The service could also be kept free if there continues to be features in there that allow you to easily sell or repair timepieces in your collection. Even if this were a paid service, I think it would be worth it to anyone who finds themselves buying a new watch at least a few times a year.
I don't know if Govberg has any of these features planned, but I do know that expanding the functionality of the Govberg My Watch Box app is something they are dedicated to. One of the things that I like about Govberg is that, in addition to the variety of services at the company, they try to leverage technology in a way that very few watch retailers do. You can download the Govberg My Watch Box app on the iPhone App Store, and keep an eye on how this and services like it develop in the future.