Not long ago, I received the news that the major watch enthusiast forum was sold. This was big news, and I immediately wanted to speak with Watchuseek founder and admin extraordinaire Ernie Romers, who in a few weeks, would no longer have any association with his former creation and in some ways his “child.” I’ve always considered Ernie to be “one of the good guys” in the watch industry. I first met him several years ago – probably at Baselworld in Switzerland – and was struck by his humility and gentle nature. This wasn’t who many might consider to have fit the role of the person in charge of the largest and most dynamic watch lover community on the internet. Then again, after you think about it, Romers’ personality fit the role perfectly. Patient and a natural diplomat, who else would be better suited to managing the complicated issues and personalities that exist not only when sitting between watch brands and consumers, but also between passionate watch lovers who inevitably end up in squabbles that require some type of moderation?

Given my appreciation of Ernie’s work as well as the spirited and intelligent community voice on, I was of course slightly concerned to hear that Ernie sold the site and would be transferring not only the ownership but also the management of Watchuseek to a new party, and a corporate party on top of that. VerticalScope is a company that I was not previously familiar with, so I wanted to get on the phone with them to hear about who they were, and what their plans for would be. It turned out that VerticalScope is based in Canada, and has under its umbrella about 1,200 niche enthusiast forums that cover all types of verticals, including watches. Other smaller forums like & were apparently already owned by VerticalScope. Formerly independent, I didn’t even realize that those other properties had been sold. Now, the big boy on the block would be under the control of VerticalScope.

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In a sense, the fact that I had never heard of VerticalScope is probably a good thing. I would have more than likely heard about the company in a negative context, where people might complain about what they do to sites they acquire or criticize their monetization policies. That the company has been able to stay under-the-radar is perhaps the best testament to their management policies which make forum users feel nothing has changed about the place they enjoy frequenting. Ernie’s determined vision in building Watchuseek further makes it difficult to fathom that he would have sold his website to an entity that did not share his vision or, at the least, would be able to perpetuate what he and his team worked so hard to build.

While aBlogtoWatch might be the largest watch blog/internet watch magazine, Watchuseek holds the title of largest watch enthusiast site. Perhaps the only watch-related website to eclipse its domination is the watch sales site I don’t know the statistics on how many active forum users Watchuseek has on a daily basis, but I can say that as far as I know, together, the Watchuseek population is the greatest aggregate of active watch lovers anywhere, and aBlogtoWatch is honored to share many of those people.

To understand more about Ernie Romers’ experience with Watchuseek and where it might be going, I spoke to Ernie himself in the Q&A interview below. Also, from what I’ve learned, it will be “business as usual” for the foreseeable future, according to Watchuseek’s new owner VerticalScope, who has great admiration for the work Ernie Romers has put into building the site as well as the watch lover community.

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aBlogtoWatch: You’ve just made an announcement to your friends and colleagues that the world’s biggest watch-related website is being sold. What has the reaction been like?

Ernie Romers: The reaction was quite amazing and flattering. It is nice to read all the positive comments, and heart warming wishes for the future. I realize even more what Watchuseek means to its members, visitors, and the watch industry. It also taught me how much value and credit they give me and my work (Watchuseek).

ABTW: has been a labor of love for you. Was it a difficult decision to sell it? Why sell it? And why now? Was it not possible to retain ownership but have someone else takeover day-to-day operations?

Ernie Romers: Yes, it was difficult. The insiders (especially my wife and children who knew about my plans) asked themselves what would become of me if I no longer had to manage Watchuseek. They predicted a black hole. I wasn’t sure myself what would happen, but now, I can experience the rest I was longing for. I’m more relaxed now and have more time to spend on other interests, and of course with my family and friends. Less stress too.

The trigger was my health issues during Baselworld 2014. I suddenly experienced heart rhythm failures, and that got me worried big time. It brought back memories of my father, who had his first heart attack at the age of 51 (I’m 56 now). It was a sign for me. I had been working for more than 16 years, almost day and night, 24/7, even on weekends and on holidays. Watchuseek is a 24/7 community and business.

Ownership (in any form) was not an option for me. I realized I had to step back and get some distance, to make sure I would find the time to spend on other things and no longer have the stress that comes with it.


ABTW: As a forum, Watchuseek has has been home to countless conversations and people all coming together for the love of watches. When did the business reach critical momentum, when you knew that it was a major force to be reckoned with?

Ernie Romers: That was a long and slow process. I believe I was lucky, starting the site at a time when there weren’t many sites like Watchuseek focused on watches and the discussion of watches. The major force came in the last 5 years, but was built over the last 10 years. I started to realize the importance of Watchuseek when (finally) brands like Bell & Ross, Zenith, Ball, Tissot, Maurice Lacroix, MB&F, Bremont, Hamilton, etc. came on board.

ABTW: Any special high points and low points in running the business over the years that you are now comfortable to share?

Ernie Romers: Well, there is of course much to tell, but generally speaking, and starting with the low points, I had to deal with major server issues (I lost all data twice in the first years), members’ issues, software issues, etc. Nothing uncommon when you run such a large website…

The high points are/were: the great team I worked with, the many members that decided to sign up and share their hobby with fellow watch enthusiasts, the invitations worldwide to see the brands and their products, the many friendships I made through Watchuseek.

ABTW: As we know, the watch industry has not always been amenable to free and open discussions about their products and business practices. How did you manage to maintain good relations with watch makers, or was that less important to you than good relations with the users?

Ernie Romers: Any good relationship is important to me, and that’s how I always operated. Free and open discussions are most important, but there are and always will be certain rules and guidelines to ensure “fair play.” There have of course been situations that made me walk or feel like a tightrope walker.

I managed to maintain good relationships by offering a huge and friendly platform and by being the guy I am (in personal contacts, like at Baselworld). I trust you know what I mean with that last remark, since we both have met a couple of times already. The most important characteristic might be honesty. That’s what I seek in the people I talk to and/or work with; that’s what I have to offer.

ABTW: has always felt like an extremely democratic place to talk about watches. Do you think that helped contribute to your success? Can you point to any reasons why Watchuseek remained a leader for all these years?

Ernie Romers: Oh yes, definitely. At least to a majority of people it is. One of the reasons why Watchuseek remained a leader for all these years is my good contacts in the industry, but most certainly also the way my team has been working for the site. Last but not least, no site can become democratic and a leader without its members and visitors, and the (right) sponsors (finances are important to keep a site growing and up and running).

ABTW: What about revenue? We know that being the biggest doesn’t always mean the richest. How has Watchuseek’s revenue model evolved over the years. Was it always a money-making business?

Ernie Romers: When I started Watchuseek as a links page and added forums to it through the years, I was happy with the couple of advertisers who made it possible for me to maintain the site and make it grow slowly. My next goal was to become an authorized watch dealer. I succeeded to be one for UhrKraft (Germany), Stowa, U-Boat, and Welder, to name a few. But then the crisis started, back in 2008, and my sales significantly dropped. At the same time, the request for advertising increased. It was in those days that I decided to focus on advertising and making it the main source for income. So no, it wasn’t a money making business from the start, but it became an important side effect during the years. After all, the costs (lawyers, web design, maintenance, hiring tech guys, having my own servers, etc.) are quite steep to keep such a site on the air.


ABTW: How do you think you’ve personally helped changed how people enjoy, buy, and discuss watches during the time you ran Watchuseek? Do you feel like you’ve made an impact on the community?

Ernie Romers: I do believe that Watchuseek (among other sites) did have an impact on the community. I certainly think Watchuseek has helped (and still is helping) millions of people to learn about watches, to start collecting watches, and to buy, sell, and trade.

It also helped the smaller brands to get out the word about their products and gain the interest of the world-wide community. I’ve received thousands of compliments during all those years, about the community, and the way it helped individual members to learn about watches, to understand the complexity of a watch, to find their way to watchmakers, to become a homemade watchmaker, to build their own personal interest in watches, and to build their collection. All aspects of this hobby, every single one of them, can be found and shared on Watchuseek, in a friendly atmosphere. That’s what makes Watchuseek the current leader on the internet.

ABTW: With Watchuseek moving to new ownership, can you tell us about the buyer and why you feel they will maintain your mission. What changes might people expect?

Ernie Romers: The new owner is VerticalScope, and they specialize in maintaining forums. Running a forum is their specialty, running a watch forum is quite new to them. They have a great team of dedicated people that spend a lot of time to make sure the members and the moderators are happy, and to maintain the site’s excellence. In my opinion, there are no major changes to be expected, only improvements.

ABTW: Will you remain a voice on Watchuseek? You’ve mentioned that you are going to stay in the watch industry. Where might we run into you again?

Ernie Romers: I will of course keep checking the forums, but I’ll probably want to stay a bit in the background. Watches are my passion, and I am sure some of you will run into me again somewhere, some place, some day.

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