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Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

As I stepped out of my rideshare and grabbed my luggage, which mostly consists of a Pelican case full of camera equipment and a plastic bag for clothes and toiletries, I see two familiar faces loitering by the front entrance of the hotel. They both look at me and say, “We’ve been waiting for you to arrive so we can go and make some bad choices.” I’d arrived in Chicago for the second microLUX event this year, the first of which was LAmicroLUX back in April, and aBlogtoWatch was again participating as the media partner for this event.

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Neil and Richard, organizers of microLUX events

MicroLUX was started by Richard Park, owner of whatsonthewrist, and launched the inaugural event in Los Angeles earlier this year. The event was realized with Richard’s passion for watches but also as a way to introduce his love of “microbrand” watches to a wider audience. During the past Los Angeles event, Ariel Adams went on to give a keynote in which he explained where microbrands come from, how to understand which are the better ones, and the outlook for collecting microbrand watches.

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Event attendees at the Laco 1925 booth

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Vertex MP45 Reverse Panda with Red Monopusher

The event showcased over 35 watch brands, the majority of them microbrands, with most of the booths managed by the owners of the brands themselves. The brand attendance was almost double that of the Los Angeles event and showed that brands were eager to get their products out in front of prospective customers, as most of these brands focus on direct-to-consumer sales via their websites.

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Ariel at the helm

Much like the last event, the general feel was free-form and open to the attendees, allowing them to ask questions, try on watches, and make purchases. This isn’t the first time an event has allowed direct-to-consumer sales, but I’ve always wondered if this was a viable way of generating revenue for a brand or if it was a “nice-to-have” option at these events. I’m not part of the specific demographic that buys watches at roadshow types of events, but from what I’ve observed and the feedback I’ve gotten from the brands, it seems to be based more on the price point of the watches versus the actual watches themselves.

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

L&JR Step1 Day Date

Value Proposition was well-staggered at the event and represented three tiers of pricing: up to $500, $500-$2,500, and $2500 plus. Some of the brands fell into one pricing tier, but many of them had watches that fit into two pricing tiers, with a handful of brands being able to spread across all three pricing tiers.

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Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Aloha Watches GMT 40 in Blue Gradient Dial

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Jimmy Collins, Owner of Collins Watch Company

I saw many familiar faces from the last event but also many new people, all of whom seemed to be smiling while possibly hiding a bit of jetlag and tiredness. Speaking with many of the brand’s owners, I learned that they all loved being able to come out and share their love of watches and present their unique takes on what they love most. All the brands have an origin story, many of them stemming from a need to create something that checked off all the features they deemed necessary in a watch, but some of them out of the need to reinvent themselves. I find the last reason quite compelling because it sheds a different light on why people gravitate toward watches aside from the usual perspective of collector, reseller, and enthusiast.

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Attendee participating in AWCI Build a Watch event

An added bonus at this event was the partnership with AWCI (American Watchmakers – Clockmakers Institute) and its Build A Watch Event, which allows aspiring watchmakers and watch enthusiasts to try their hand at being a watchmaker for a day. This component was a great feature, as it brought two different types of watch enthusiasts together to converse about their love of watches.

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Akbar Sattar, owner of LeSablier

 

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Siduna M3440 Compax Chronograph

With the state of the watch industry, its marketing strategies and oftentimes appointed figureheads leading the charge for particular brands, it’s a breath of fresh air to be able to speak with the owners of the brands and converse candidly about what they’re trying to achieve and the message they’re trying to convey to the customer. One thing was certain: There wasn’t much marketing fluff when it came to these brands and their product lines.

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Out Of Order (OOO) watches booth

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Farr & Swit Seaplane Automatic “Day Trip” Stainless Steel

I hope the market for watch enthusiasts continues to grow, and I feel that the awareness and growth of microbrands, as well as independent brands, are contributing catalysts toward this trend. These smaller events facilitate the personal one-on-one approach that many of the larger brands used to have but are now lacking, and they allow the customers to take a few watches out for a “test drive” without feeling like they just stepped into a military recruitment office.

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

LeSablier Sport Classic Supernova with Aventurine dial

Macro Relationships With Microbrands At Chicago MicroLUX Watch Show Shows & Events

Build a Watch event attendees showing off their completed watches

The sound of my bags dropping onto the hotel room floor was followed by the chime of a text message: “We’re at this restaurant, meet us there.” I grabbed my hotel key and started walking the five blocks to the rendezvous point. The group consisted of Ariel and a few other watch enthusiasts. The bad choices? A “few” drinks, lots of wrist shots, mystery meat Gyros (the best kind), watch conspiracies, and questionable establishments. The good? Honest industry relationships.

 

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Comments

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  • Berndt Norten

    Thanks to John Kim
    For an informative thing
    (Seriously; this was very interesting)

    See DanW94
    Wipe the floor
    With all pretenders
    To his throne

    Our man BiLL’s gone now
    Berndt’s toast
    The most worthy is Dan our Man

    All hail the new King, the King of Pun
    He’ll always be
    King of Pun

    I’m undone

  • Mr. Green

    That Vertex looks really nice.

    • Rich

      It truly is. I love mine.

  • SuperStrapper

    Were the joys at Zelos showing off anything new? I’ve always liked the products they put out.

  • Pedro Lopez

    Hello, does anyone know if the Vertex reverse panda and the white version are just prototypes to test the waters, or are they going to be released? No sign of them on the website. They both look great, but I am not sure about the red accent on the pusher. Might look like Vertex wants to copy Hanhart.

  • Rich

    Hi, Andrew. We’ll be back in Chicago next fall. Thanks!

    • Andrew Benzer

      Thanks for the note. Joined the mailing list so I’ll be in the know next time!

  • Pedro Lopez

    Just wondering if the Vertex reverse panda and white models are prototypes or if they are going to be released, is it ok to ask if anyone knows?

    • Rich

      Hi, Pedro! I believe the white (Arctic) model is in the works. ?

      • Pedro Lopez

        Typical, my dumb luck. It looks nice, but the lume blocks will be sorely missed, seemed like a defining feature. I kind of hoped the reverse panda was on its way. Thank you for answering, I was worried I had offended somebody. Isn’t there very dark gray lume, or am I imagining things?

        • Rich

          The Panda also may be available soon, I did not ask Don that. I don’t know how that escaped me. But the lume is not dark gray, it is a very bright green, at least on the M100 and MP45.

          • Pedro Lopez

            Yes, I meant using dark grey lume for the numbers on the white dial, instead of little blocks along the outer track.

  • Berndt Norten

    Maybe he’s you?! BiLL had many user names. He changed them the way Imelda Marcos changed shoes. One of his funniest names was Dr Renato Lazarus Jr, when he reemerged from a sel-imposed exile. BILL may still lurk about, but I’m not sure if he posts regularly. He was hilarious. He was a master of puns. He once wrote something like this: ‘got my Rolex watch from Joma Shop, Jack. Tried it out for a week then I sent it right back…everybody’s got a pungry heart’… (Springsteen, Hungry Heart). Me, BILL, DanWD-40 and a few others had a grand old time for a couple years. But now he’s gone. Whoah ah. I gotta learn how to take it.

  • Rich

    Hey, Jim! I agree that every watch you cited looks awesome in person. So many people have expressed how much they were blown away from Aloha. I can corroborate this.

  • Rich

    Yes, and may just be my favorite Aloha.?

  • Rich

    If I can help make up your mind, just know that both DuFrane and Aloha are stunning in person. Details abound in them. ?

  • Ty Alexander

    Nothing like a fun night of “bad choices” can’t wait till next time!

    • Rich

      It’s already such an epic and legendary story.

  • egznyc

    Very nice event; some day maybe I’ll be able to attend one. As for Laco, I never considered them a micro brand. But I do like them ;-). Was Halios in attendance?

    • Rich

      Halios was not there this time. Hopefully they’ll be with us for the next one.

  • Jared

    I don’t get why microbrands bother doing events like these. If you spend 2 minutes with each person that shows up at your booth, and you work the booth for 10 hours, that’s 300 people you spoke to about your watches…provided you do nothing but talk…which is unlikely. So lets say the more realistic number is 200 people. Out of which they might get 1-2 customers who’ll like the watches enough to buy one over the next year.

    But I imagine events like this charge brands to attend, so figure $2,500-$5,000-$10,000 for the day + the cost of setting up the booth, plane tickets etc…that feels like a very pricey proposition for a tiny return.

    Or was this event free for brands to attend?

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