May 8, 2016
by Ariel Adams
Truly, I’m flattered by the frequent e-mails I receive through aBlogtoWatch by strangers asking me what watch they should buy. I’ve perhaps naively neglected to maintain a well-indexed archive of such messages that range in detail and length. Some notes are short and to the point, written by those who apparently feel we have a (unilateral) psychic bond whereby I should intuitively know what watch to instruct them to buy without having any idea who they are. At other times, I receive what look to be college-level homework assignments asking for complete reports that compare and contrast various models and ask for a list of overall recommendations along with detailed explanations of our suggestions.
I must admit to being particularly curious about these latter message senders because I’d like to know what life experiences led them to believe that beneficent consumer research spirits exist to support and fund such pro bono work. I’ll only mention in passing the other insultingly entertaining group of people who treat us like Chrono Claus, contacting us with pleas to simply award them free watches as though they were informally applying for a “my wrist is empty” grant. Given their demonstrated lack of tact and situational awareness, it is probably futile to inquire as to what initial understanding allowed them to believe we act as a timepiece dispensary. At least the final subset of “ill-informed e-mailers” offer to pay for watches, though I seem to have missed the part where we began to sell said watches.
If you feel as though I am perhaps being unduly harsh on the internet masses, then allow me to remind you that on our Contact and Ask pages we’ve attempted to explicitly warn people that we do not offer such personalized buying advice as well as indicating that we don’t sell things. It is all written out. Has the media landscape become so dire that the notion of a “magazine” has become all but lost? OK, I won’t even try to answer that… The point, however, is that I’d like to respond in this post to the totality of well-meaning people around the globe who seek personalized suggestions on watch buying, and why we can’t help each and every one of you individually.
You might recall that a few years ago I wrote a similar post explaining to people why I don’t have a favorite watch. My discussion, which attempted to answer this all-too-common question, extended to a theory of why choosing “favorites” in general is at philosophical odds with the notion of being an enthusiast or aficionado. In explaining “why I can’t tell you what watch to buy,” I’d like to once again offer advice framed by what I’d like to feel is ample opportunity for me to kvetch a little bit as well.
I totally sympathize with the compulsion to ask an expert what watch to buy because the timepiece landscape is vast and abstruse. On various occasions over the last few years, I have engaged in interesting, albeit similar, conversations with a few watch-loving software engineers who had the bright idea of using the internet to come up with a “definitive list of all watch brands.” The idea, of course, is simple; in trying to navigate the complex and voluminous worlds of watches, a wise first step would be to compile a list of all the companies that make watches. Let me tell you that such a task is far easier said than done.
While anyone with even basic data mining skills could come up with a list of perhaps up to 80-85% of watch brands, the other 15-20% of brands would be extremely difficult to come up with and locate. This doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that not all watch brands have websites. The truth is that the barrier to entry for becoming a watch brand is very low. Unlike cars, for example, that must pass a host of regulations before being certified as “street legal,” all someone needs to do in order to become a watch brand is order some pieces from a Chinese manufacture and print their names on the dial. A few thousand dollars is really all that separates many people from technically having a watch brand.
Why do I say all this? It leads me to the notion that the first reason I will not tell people what watches to buy is because I firmly believe that discovering for oneself is part of the fun of looking for a new watch. The industry (at all levels) doesn’t make it easy to learn about all the new products, and the ultimate goal for many watch collectors who purchase new timepieces is to locate new or small brands whose products seem to perfectly match the needs of that specific consumer. Looking for a watch is an essential and meaningful part of owning a watch. Most people already know this intuitively when thinking about the value they place on items they chose for themselves versus those that were randomly chosen for them. Yes, meaningful gifts from loved or cherished companions have value to them, but when it comes to items which are personal to you, there is no better substitute than choosing for yourself. The alternative is some adult analog to having your mother dress you.