Answering The Question Of Who aBlogtoWatch Works For

Answering The Question Of Who aBlogtoWatch Works For

Answering The Question Of Who aBlogtoWatch Works For Evolving ABTW

If you are someone that likes watches, possibly buys watches, and are reading this with your "consumer hat" on, then you are who aBlogtoWatch works for. Why do I feel the need to say this? That is a good question and why I wrote this essay. In short, it is because the word "support" really bothered me. Sometimes, I like to offer an "inside baseball" look at what goes on behind the scenes at aBlogtoWatch, and what it is like owning or working for a web magazine that covers watches and what is essentially the luxury industry. In addition to offering people insight about what we do, I of course have a deeper agenda and sometimes like to correct mistakes that I sometimes observe in the industry.

Today, that mistake is who aBlogtoWatch works for, and sometimes people tend to think it is for the brands. In fact, most of the people who believe that are the actual watch brands themselves. They aren't doing it out of malice or contempt, but rather that they are just so used to luxury and lifestyle publications actually working to please them for actual of potential pecuniary gain. That is just business, and there is nothing wrong with that, but what bothers me is the all-enveloping blanket sentiment that when someone dedicates their time, effort, skill, and life to writing about watches, it is because they are trying to make watch brands happy.

Everyone that works at aBlogtoWatch–including myself–writes about watches because we love watches. Our individual goal as writers is to share our passion about what we like, don't like, and feel about watches, collecting, and our interest in little wearable machines. It isn't because we want a pat on the back from the people who run watch brands. Sure, we want a good relationship with those companies who make the products we like.

Good relationships mean we get access to their products, are notified about news, and get the opportunity to develop relationships with the people who make the stuff we like even possible. But that is all because we walked into the relationship already liking or being curious about what they do. We don't write about "X brand" because we are trying to make them feel good about aBlogtoWatch. If they end up feeling that way as a result of our coverage, we are really happy, but it isn't our goal.

Our goal is pretty simple. It is to write cool stories about cool or interesting things that people want to read. We like what we do enough that we are all trying to make sure can live our lives and pay our bills while continuing to do what we like. It is a goal a lot of people have, and making money while doing something enjoyable is a place I am personally happy to be. But I would stop doing it all tomorrow if I wasn't writing content that I personally didn't want to read.

So what prompted all this and why do I feel the need to say it now? Despite the fact that I need an editor to correct grammar problems, as a lawyer, I get sensitive about words. For years now, my friends and close colleagues at watch brands frequently send us e-mails after we write articles about them and mirthfully remark "thanks for the support." While their intentions are, and continue to be, very positive, this statement really bothers, and for the longest time I didn't understand why.

Then I realized that it came down to the concept of support. What does it mean in this instance that we are "supporting" them? We aren't buying anything from them or giving them anything, we are simply writing about something cool they made. To suggest that we are supporting them seems to suggest that we are writing articles about their products for their benefit. That just isn't true, even if the articles do in the end benefit them by educating people about their new products, brand news, or interesting technology.

Every story our editorial team writes on aBlogtoWatch is done because we feel there is something valuable for our audience. That may be because a writer feels strongly about something and wants to share, or we know a product is going to be popular and want to make sure people hear about it from us. We've never sat down and said "X brand is simply going to adore us for this article." Again, if that is a result of an article we are thrilled to bring positivity to someone's day, but it isn't why we do it–we don't work for the watch brands.

Our advertising partners are each told that working with aBlogtoWatch is a way of regularly speaking to people coming to a site looking to learn about the type of product they sell. Because we can't write about their brand each day, it is a way for them to engage with consumers on a more regular basis and share the messages their marketing people have designed to get people excited about their products. Advertising keeps the business going while offering brands a direct way of communicating with our audience. Editorial is where we communicate with our audience, and I personally feel that a separation between the two makes it possible for the people who visit aBlogtoWatch to trust not only our editorial more, but also the advertisers.

In closing, I would like to apologize for being so linguistically sensitive to my close colleagues who work at the many watch brands we work with here at aBlogtoWatch. I am not claiming that anyone is implying that as a media source we aren't focused on consumer benefiting content. I am saying that perhaps thanking us "for our support" isn't the best way of acknowledging what we do. It is great that you like it when we cover you–we'd be just as thrilled if you covered us–but try to understand that we are really doing it all for the people who buy the products, not the people who make them. That is who aBlogtoWatch works for.

  • OmniRak

    I have to say I’ve never had the feeling ABTW worked for or was primarily a tool for the various brands themselves. The one reason I like reading this blog vs. numerous others out there is the fact it provides respectful yet honest and well rounded reviews of all types of watches. To be able to review Casio to Patek without the insufferable snobbery or the exuberant nerd rage that many blogs and forums usually spew is very refreshing. This blog has definitely assisted me by raising may awareness of watches I wouldn’t have thought to look into.

  • Fraser Petrick

    I have never had any sense that ABTW reviews products as promotions for the producers. I also can’t recall any reviewed product being slammed for being of low quality. That is because the market is replete with high quality products. Sure, there are junk watches out there, but they will never see the light of day at ABTW.
    $ aside, there are hundreds of excellent watches available to those who care about such things, so there need not be any suggestion that ABTW product reviewers have a wink-wink/nod-nod relationship with producers.
    However, Ariel, your last sentence, “That is who aBlogtoWatch works for.”, should read “That is for whom aBlogtoWatch works.” Didn’t they teach you no grammer in Law School?

  • Ulysses31

    This is an interesting piece.  I wouldn’t have thought what sound like off-the-cuff remarks would irk you so much.  After reading this blog for several years I get the impression that many in the Swiss watch industry drink their own kool-aid and think very highly of themselves; that in such a world, wealthy members of society doing favours for one another is normal practice and so they might (mistakenly) thank you for what they incorrectly perceive to be favours you’re doing for them.  I’d be curious to know which companies prompted this article but I know you couldn’t possibly tell me.  Anyway, it’s good that you clarified your position.

  • I’ve been readin here for years, and in all honesty some of the corners of old have been rounded off a bit: there was once a near no-holds-barred attitude toward some things and the commentary would reflect that.
    Flash forward some, and the blog is so busy that it has a host of contributing writers and sponsors, and I understand completely why the writing has not so much become ‘softer’, but pragmatic.
    Not once have I assumed that there has been a ‘sell out’ to the brands. If I did I’d likely stop dropping in basically daily.
    Looking forward to years more,

  • bnabod

    “thanks for the support” leaves little to no interpretation in my book. from the brand perspective.  I suspect these brands do believe the articles are helping them. However, one could also look at advertising on this website and it sure could look conflict of interest for the same brand w a stellar review but at the end of the day like you said one has to pay the bills. As long as ABtoW is ethical in its practices and you feel good about it then there is nothing to apologize for and not a whole lot you can do to change the behavior and comments of watch Co  you review for our delight daily. so chill and enjoy your week end or what’s left of it 🙂

  • After a few months following this blog, I think that I’ve been served a pretty good range of unbiased reviews about watches between 3 and 6 figures. While my limit lies in the 4 figure ballpark, I like to know about bargains below it and the state of the art above it. I think this makes for a rather rich overview of the watch market and industry as a whole. 

    Or perhaps not so unbiased rich and wholly as they could be, for it seems that some brands just never get much air time here, like Longines (see my avatar) and TAG Heuer and Hamilton and Baume&Mercier and others. Perhaps the seasoned collector doesn’t care about these brands, but such near luxury brands, like in the car market, do have volume and being as well informed about them as only this blog can inform would benefit many like me to start their collection humbly, if one can say that about items costing thousands of dollars…

  • GBD

    The watch industry does seem to be somewhat insular and self-aggrandizing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if ABTW’s critiques (no matter how justified) have ruffled feathers in some places. I hope that ABTW continues to offer frank and honest commentary on the industry and in its reviews; there are plenty of watch magazines that are just industry parrots, and we don’t need another one. And for bare-knuckle (and often humorous) discussion there’s always the HourTime podcast, and the forums, of course.

  • Henryus

    Keep on doing what you’re doing Ariel.  I say this as a long-time reader.  I have no professional association with any watch brands Swiss or otherwise.

    I get the feeling your colleagues in the business are jealous of your success. Because, as a reader I can see clear value in your maintaining good diplomatic relationship with the brands.  As you said, it allows closer access to the brands. This shows because I like the coverage you have over the brands.  You seem to have more photographs and provide more insight into the product than other websites. Whether it is because you get a little more photo time or have access to the executives, it is something one does not see often with other blogs. That uniqueness is valuable.

    Be patient and keep your focus on what you do best and let envy and jealousy be the business of others. Otherwise, you will become jaded, cynical, lose the heart that drives your enthusiasm that propels your endeavor, and become just like your critics.

  • JasonDunn

    There are many niche industries that have publications that serve as shills for the companies that essentially run those industries.  In many cases, the publications are owned by the big fish industries in these little ponds, and so have no true editorial content.  These niches are insular and rarely face outside challenges from real competition, so are run like little fiefdoms.  The people that run them are nasty in ways that outsiders never see, even though a friendly and folksy demeanor is always presented publicly.  The publications are basically advertisements that enthusiasts pay to read, even though anyone with a jaundiced eye can see that they are rubbish.  E-zines will eventually wipe them all out.

    Free press in these niches is the only legitimate threat to their respective industry leaders, though in the luxury watch industry, I would think that to treat free press as a “legitimate threat” would be perceived as a weakness on the part of the brand, that to do so would be to lose face amongst their peers.  That is because it is very likely that the leaders of this industry will affect the manners of their biggest customers, and that they must maintain them in all or most of their dealings.  So here we are likely to see civilized cutthroats; these brands will dance with ABTW, and it will be sophisticated, courtly nuance as they seek to subtly manipulate all that they can control without over-reaching and exposing their necks to their competitors and the ire of the ABTW readership.  Undetectable influence is what is most desired.

    Financially, ABTW is a weakling among (relative) giants, but their real cachet is their influence with their readers, and the brands know this.  They need to maintain a good relationship with ABTW, without being perceived to bend their ear too much.  There is a set, comfortable distance for all of them to maintain; too close and they tarnish ABTW’s reputation and lose face amongst their peers for trying to buy or coerce influence; too far and they lose the access and influence amongst the ABTW readership they crave.  When all of the big competitors are circled around ABTW at exactly the same distance, there is fairness in coverage where the real greatness of their successes and the follies of their failures can come to light.  Nearly equal in importance are the discussions generated by the articles about the offerings from these brands; they provide unbiased feedback from actual or potential customers.  ABTW readers also have a keen eye for what is tasteful and what is gauche and they aren’t afraid to give their unvarnished opinions. ABTW on the other hand, needs to be truthful in its content, but not so “unvarnished” in its presentation.  To me, this appears to be substantially greater value to the brands than the access to their products and the occasional backstage glimpses that they provide to ABTW.  But really, they can’t give ABTW anything more than that without ruining things, and they don’t want to let on just how valuable it actually is, either.  “Thank you for your support” may be a subtle acknowledgement of this asymmetric exchange.

    ABTW is a liaison between the brand and the consumer and have to be
    respectful of the customary aspects of how their respective relations
    are maintained.  These brands are accustomed to a certain amount of
    respect and deference, though they will bend a bit to accord a certain
    level of maverick-style journalism so long as ABTW meets them half way.  The maverick aspect gives ABTW credibility among its readership that is valuable, so it’s not in their interest to meddle with it too much, even if they voice their displeasure with it. 
    “Thank you for your support” in this regard is a tip of their hand;
    they have to respect ABTW, and as long as ABTW is respectful in their
    criticism, they will take their lumps along with their accolades without much saber-rattling.  On the reader side, frequent commenters will let it be known if they think ABTW is losing too much of its edge.

    If ABTW thinks that the phrase “Thank you for your support” is an encroaching kind of thank-you-note, I would suggest that the onus is on ABTW to define the boundary of what is acceptable, so that everyone knows where the line is and so brand reps don’t have to guess.

  • NWP

    Thank you. Unlike baseball, soccer, football and basketball this article took more than one!

  • JeremyPaxton

    Couldn’t have said it better….there seems to be an echo chamber among most watch publications that’s more or less lin ock-step with marketing departments.

  • Frauss

    Like Ariel said in an earlier blog it’s all about access. He can’t go bare knuckles with the watchmakers or he’d be getting all his material down at the nearest mall. But the blog has Discussion. We get to be the nasties and have fun doing it. I even toy with the thought that maybe the watch guys even listen to us on occasion…

  • Frauss  At the least the guys at Sablier do; certainly others do too, only are not ready yet to engage consumers as openly.

  • WillyChu

    GBD  “The watch industry does seem to be somewhat insular and self-aggrandizing…”   I agree.

    We just had a review of the Greubel Forsey GMT.  Nice review, but at the end the list price is matter-of-factly given as $630,000.  Only a foo-foo comment, “It really just depends on what you are looking for, but if it happens to be a fabulously luxurious timepiece that still considers functionality important, it might just be a Greubel Forsey.”  No comment on how this compares to other tourbillon GMT watches in precious metal (or how many you could buy for the price of this ONE).  I give points on originality, but really, how hard was it to incorporate a globe instead of a dial?  You can say, oh this is a luxury category, you can’t make value judgements.  Wrong, I think you can make RELATIVE value judgments.  If a watch is grossly overpriced for what complications, finish, material it offers compared to others, call them out on it!  If a lesser known brand has a watch with useful complications, nice finish and style, but at a 10th of the price of another just because the latter has an “in-house” movement (i.e. non-ETA), give us your opinion about that!

  • Having been with Ariel and James Stacy at the last 2 BaselWorlds and with Ariel at the Hong Kong Watch Fair last year, I can attest that the watch conversations between ABTW personnel is always “What do you think of it? Do you like it? Will our readers be interested in it?” What you don’t hear is “We need to cover this because the brand advertises with ABTW”.
    Do the watch brands and the press have a symbiotic relationship? Of course they do. Brands need coverage and the press needs something to cover. Access to watch brands is an important factor in reporting. 
    So the question becomes, does “Access = Influence”? From what I’ve seen, I’d say no regarding ABTW. Perhaps the brands are so used to their often incesteous relationship with the press that they think in those terms as standard practice. So I can see them thanking the press for coverage as a normal business practice. 
    And they may not mean it in a bad way (such as some form of payback) as coverage, critical or not, is like free advertising to them. I’m sure they are truly grateful for coverage on ABTW. So I would not take “Thanks for your support” as a bad thing so long as there is no implication of quid pro quo. 
    Do the brands feel that they have Ariel or other ABTW writers in their pocket? A few dinners and some swag don’t change the editorial content on ATBW in my experience. I know from Ariel’s statements that reserves the right to question watch brands decisions on all issues ranging from product design, pricing, marketing, etc.
    Does ABTW routinely make statements that are intended to piss off the brands? No, but constructive criticism, or even negative comments as seem from the consumer’s/reader’s point of view are fair game. And the brands would be wise to listen to them as sales, unlike egos, contribute to their bottom line.

  • RobW1

    I think the more appropriate question is, “Who pays my salary?” I imagine it’s advertisers, so in a way the brands do support you. Don’t misunderstand me, I am a great fan of ablogtowatch. Your articles are informative and I read just about everything you write. I leave your website knowing much more about watches and I am thankful for that when I decide to make a new purchase. But to be honest, I have never read a post in which you say that you absolutely think a particular watch is just plain awful or fails on every level. Your criticisms of specific watches are soft. Like anyone else, I can read between the lines and get your real meaning of the quality of a watch, but your reviews read much like an automotive review: Highlighting the positives and somewhere down in the middle of the article some mild criticisms. After all, you don’t want to piss off the brands that supply you with access and watches, just like auto reviewers need access to cars and don’t want to anger the manufacturers. It’s a balancing act. That’s the way it is in journalism, so let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that it’s all altruistic.

  • Chaz_Hen

    JeremyPaxton  
    It doesn’t help when there’s a fawning article on one page and the next page is a full advertisement for the brand just covered…

  • Chaz_Hen JeremyPaxtonYea, it is funny how often that is all too obvious in those publications. At first people tried to make those appear less transparent, but it seems as though it all blends together these days. We try to make the advertising (which is important and useful) clearly labeled so that people know when they are looking at editorial or an message from a sponsor.

  • SuperStrapper It is funny that you mention that because from time to time I look back at some of my older, more biting articles and smirk at the balls I had. You know back then I was writing about people I didn’t personally know, and brands I had little actual contact with. Over the years I began to develop closer relationships with the people working at the brands and for sheer political reasons and to spare people’s careers I sought to become more subtle and productive in my criticism. It has simply been one of those areas which I have had to refine as we’ve gotten bigger.

  • RobW1 Rob, those are some good points, and actually what happened in automotive journalism is a perfect example of carefully mixing access with the freedom to state our opinions. Someone from the industry years ago actually said to me that they more or less know exactly what I think when reading “between the lines” and I am happy to know that people like him and yourself are able to figure out what I am saying. 

    To be honest, many of the really piss poor watches I would want to bash and tear apart I simply choose not to cover. We have plenty of good stuff to write about that I never feel wholly compelled to cover watches which are so egregiously bad. What I try to do more is offer advice on how to evaluate watch design and merit so that people can spot a crappy watch on their own without myself of the aBlogtoWatch team having to point them out. We certainly don’t get to cover as many of the cool watches each year as we like, but there are also tons of watches brands show us in person that we summarily ignore because I feel they simply aren’t worth the reader’s time. The worst abuse we can show a product in my opinion is to simply ignore its existence.

  • First of all, congratulations to Ariel for a well-deserved success. I have been reading the blog for many years (still owe us a screenshot of the FIRST version of the blog btw) and have enjoyed every article–i didn’t expect it to reach the level of readership that it has reached, and that is something to be proud of.

    I think that the readers of this (and other blogs) should be given more credit. I have no doubt that if someone sells out and writes for the watch companies it will be immediately evident in the writing.

    I understand why you’d want to “explain” the situation but I think that the writtng speaks for itself. You only have to compare the articles here to a real ad-disguised-as-an-article piece to see the differences.

    So again, thanks for the heart to heart but just keep doing that thing you do 🙂

  • CoffeeTime

    I understand – without condoning – the need for balance between being brutally honest about watch and having access to said watches.

    I have often read an article, with a watch even its mother couldn’t love, and thought “why the positive spin?”.

    The real power in ABTW is us, the commentators, who get to be the nasty ones without repercussion.  With that in mind, I would like to see a ‘readers rating’ where we get to mark the watch (not the article) out of 5 stars and thereby get a consensus at a glance for newcomers.  

    Extrapolating that functionality further, you could break the ratings down to complexity, aesthetics, functionality and so on, so one could see where members rated the watch highly and where improvement could be made.  This would be of great use to the watch brands as strong market research, and would likely encourage yet more to offer their watches to ABTW in order to get this kind of valuable feedback.  I, as a member, would appreciate then being able to search through the online database by ‘highest overall rating’ or ‘highest aesthetic rating’.

    I feel this would make ABTW a little more transparent.

    Food for thought.

  • DG Cayse

    Good piece Mr. Adams.
    I believe your intended audience received this loud & clear.
    Quite frankly, through ABTW I have learned about and seen watches I never would have before. I am very grateful for this.

    Having said this, I would like to suggest a challenge – Once a week, a watch review of a quality piece, which can be had for less than US$500.00.

    If nothing is available – say so.
    If a marque is providing a quality piece at this price point – let your audience know.

  • floriancourtial

    Sometimes you write on exclusives watches and I wonder how you have access to these watch ?
    Then I think, watchmakers lend watches in exchange for some advertisements. But I find it normal and I read the article keeping this in mind.
    Apparently I’m wrong 😉

  • W_G2

    May I ask who is the author ”SponsoredPost’?

    https://www.ablogtowatch.com/author/sponsoredpost/

    Thanks for writing this great blog, I am enjoying reading it a lot!

  • Spaceguitar

    FWIW, as a relatively newer reader of not quite two years it was pretty immediately obvious the dividing line between ABTW’s advertisers and the content & reviews. If the goal is to bring interesting and cool timepieces to the world’s attention, why spend the time to review lemons? Do you see high end auto magazines wasting energy on the Pontiac Aztek?
    Like others have hinted at below, I would be incredibly surprised if watchmakers haven’t not only read the reviews, but gleaned useful information from the comments too. It’s the new marketplace, where sites like Yelp help keep businesses honest. I can provide examples in other industries too, but internet forums are killer product testing in a way….even if we can’t afford 90% of the products reviewed here. At least a manufacturer gets the feel for why some will or won’t even buy the product in the first place.
    Dont’ change a thing.

  • floriancourtial The super-expensive watches (over $100K USD) are not “mailed out for review”. They are often seen as shows such as SIHH, GTE or BaselWorld. Or else they are seen in company owned boutiques or at the factories when ABTW writers are at those locations. Cheers.

  • SN0WKRASH

    W_G2 “Sponsored Post” is the author we designate to any article that we’ve been paid something to post.  This is done to allow the reader to make the clear distinction between something we have posted that we’ve received any monies for, and the rest of our articles – which we take no money from anyone to write.  We only allow a post to be sponsored if it holds value for our readers and is something we find interesting ourselves.

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  • star42

    RobW1 Way back when ablogtowatch was still ablogtoread, there was a entertaining section call “Bad idea”. There resides watches and watch-related topics that Ariel thought were “not great”, and I thought he was being quite candid about why he thought they were bad ideas. These watches came to mind, the Hamilton Khaki Below Zero Chronograph Watch:

    https://www.ablogtowatch.com/experience-with-the-hamilton-khaki-below-zero-chronograph-watch-reveals-a-fatal-flaw/
    the Zenith Mega Port Royal Tourbillon Watch:
    https://www.ablogtowatch.com/zenith-mega-port-royal-tourbillon-expensive-answer-to-question-no-one-asked/
    and; the Vacheron Constantin Quai de l’Ile Collection 
    https://www.ablogtowatch.com/customized-vacheron-constantin-quai-de-lile-collection-makes-me-sigh-with-despair-at-the-sheer-pointlessness-of-message-behind-this-watch/

    Ariel gave his opinion and backed it up with great information. I thought they were all terrific read.

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