Each year, aBlogtoWatch publishes between about 750 and 800 articles (perhaps a bit more) on watches and topics related to watch love and appreciation. What people don’t see are all the watches we decide not to cover for various reasons. Little in our articles refer to the types of things that we don’t cover or why – yet, the reality is that those topics and products are vast.
You might want to ask, “why did you title an article referring to the benefit of knowing about a wider spectrum of watch products and the proceed to mention all the stuff you don’t write about?” If you thought about that, then it is a good question. I begin this way because I want people to appreciate that the things we cover on aBlogtoWatch involve careful consideration, and not everything makes it. We actually can’t cover everything we want to, and the things we do cover don’t all represent watches that we want to wear or buy. aBlogtoWatch’s editorial coverage attempts to combine the wonderful, the interesting, the sometimes amusing, and the items that, while good or bad, help send a valuable lesson about buying or liking timepieces.
I suppose you could say that aBlogtoWatch has an agenda, and that agenda isn’t to just cover what we think people will be happy buying, but also those things which help people become better watch consumers, as more educated collectors. aBlogtoWatch further has a very different take on editorial than other publications that cover the luxury industry. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, we think that fun and humor has a place in the luxury world, and we really dislike pretentiousness. More so, we feel it is important to be super transparent with our audience – a concept that, in many ways, is the anathema of the luxury industry.
On top of that, we really dislike the idea of telling our audience what to do. Myself and the team aren’t people that like being told what to do (let’s say that at least one thing aBlogtoWatch staffers share in common is a disdain for traditional authority), and we don’t want to tell our audience what to do. We respect you and our mission is to educate and inform. My personal feeling from a lot of “traditional” media (especially that in the luxury space) is that, rather than attempting to “educate and inform,” it attempts to “dictate and instruct.” What does all that mean? Well, I’ve said it before, and I will say it again; if aBlogtoWatch has a single goal, then it is to help the good people who come here have improved critical thinking skills and insight into the complex task that is choosing and buying watches.
Someone who will remain nameless (as they requested) but who is a celebrated watch industry veteran told me once that the watch industry will never fully embrace aBlogtoWatch because it tampers with how high-end watches are sold and marketed. “The watch industry is 20% substance and 80% smoke and mirrors,” he admitted. He advised that if you play along with that and continue the fantasy that is luxury and exclusivity, then they will embrace you. If you become too honest and don’t perpetuate the myths, then some will always remain at an arms-length distance.
Let me be clear that what he said is totally true, but the reality of it stung me – that being honest and open to a consumer base that I not only respect, but am part of, would ultimately prevent aBlogtoWatch from achieving its business goals. We do this because we love watches, and the deeper we love watches the more interested we’ve become in the industry that produces them. You cannot, in my opinion, really cover the watch industry by exclusively talking about products and a brands’ marketing relationships. More so, you can’t cover the watch industry by merely focusing on specific pricing categories. And that latter point is at the heart of what I want to talk about.
I posit that as a watch lover, you need to know about the full spectrum of the watch industry in order to be a well-rounded timepiece consumer. That means you need to know about what goes on in the $100 watch world all the way up to the $1,000,000 watch world. Why? At the very least, because the watch industry itself will not tell you what is truly impressive for $1,000, or $5,000, or $50,000, or $500,000 dollars. As a watch consumer, it is your responsibility to understand what you are paying for and what type of value you are getting.
One of the most flattering comments I receive from aBlogtoWatch audience members is how much you all seem to appreciate the variety of watches we cover. Not only in terms of prices, but in terms of designs, and sheer oddity. aBlogtoWatch is a reflection of the interests and tastes of the people who write for aBlogtoWatch. That means we feel inspired or compelled to cover something, and I say, “go for it.” Does that mean there are watches on the site that I personally would not buy? Yes, of course. Sometimes we cover watches that, while interesting, I would tell people to avoid unless they really didn’t mind about weak value proposition. But knowing that such products exist is in and of itself newsworthy. Not everything we cover needs to be “watch porn.” Sometimes education value alone is enough for me.
The watches we don’t cover are frankly those that are too boring, too common, too generic, or just too bland to discuss. If there is anything that I avoid like the plague, it is watches that are dull – but that represents my own opinions, and your feelings my vary. These watches mainly seem to come from all the overly eager people seeking to crowdfund some generic watch design with parts from Asia and their name on it along with an uninteresting “brand story.” It would be entirely too tangential to discuss what bothers me with these business practices, but let’s just say that lame watches will not get a lot of lip service on aBlogtoWatch.
That also goes for watches from some of the world’s largest brands. We have a venerable stockpile of watch images from our meetings with brands over the years that we have never covered. Either they slipped through the cracks or no one on the team felt as though they could muster up enough words to merit a post. Are you missing out by not reading about these watches? Perhaps a bit, but our job is to make sure that what we do cover on aBlogtoWatch tells you what you need to know about what is new and noteworthy in the watch industry.
Other publications in this space are a bit more “calculated” in how they wish to present themselves to both you and the luxury watch industry itself. They do this primarily for the perception of brand image, but also because of business. There is no shame in trying to make money, and if it weren’t for a bit of entrepreneurial spirit, aBlogtoWatch would not exist. With that said, readers need to understand that certain publications attempt to shape themselves in order to present a marketing image for brands that they want to sell advertising to. That’s fine and all, but consumers should be aware of the implications of that in terms of how it effects a publication’s editorial coverage and voice. The main point is that aBlogtoWatch both advocates for and attempts to present itself with full transparency – that funny little topic I mentioned earlier which the luxury industry is really not very comfortable with.
On aBlogtoWatch, advertising is pretty transparent, and we make it clear what is and isn’t advertising. And yet, people still sometimes make odd comments that illustrate a belief they have that someone is paying us to say something or to have some opinion. Frankly, aBlogtoWatch is not that easy. Seriously though, aBlogtoWatch really has no long-term gain by selling our voice. If that were to happen, perhaps we could make additional revenue in the short-term, but the long term play results in an audience that no longer trusts us. I don’t want to participate in a publication whose goal is to manipulate its audience, nor do I want an audience who is not concerned about being manipulated.
All of that is to say that we don’t allow revenue interests to get in the way of what types of things we cover. Sometimes we cover a brand or product that in hindsight might not be that amazing. Sometimes, we miss out on a story that we would have otherwise found very interesting. But, overall, I am happy with the variety of things we cover on aBlogtoWatch because it helps separate the bad and identify the good.
How does one identify the good? What makes a good watch or product overall? Is it brand? Is it the time a company who makes the products has been in operation? Is it history and heritage? In my opinion, no. A good watch is one where you can check off things it doesn’t have that would take away from its ability to perform well. This is the opposite of how most people think, but it is how I apply design critique.
Does the watch have bad legibility? Does the watch have poor finishing? Does the watch have a balanced, symmetrical design, does the watch “not work?” Judging watches, for me, is about asking these questions and getting as many “no” responses as possible. This is because, otherwise, you are left with sheer opinion and taste – which, for me, is not a good criteria for evaluating a watch. What would you rather know, that a watch doesn’t fail on a range of criteria or that the reviewer personally likes it? I feel that the former is more useful to you as a consumer.
Don’t get me wrong, when reviewing or covering a timepiece, I do want you as the reader to be aware of the subjective feelings of each writer, but at the end of the day, you should like or dislike a watch for personal reasons as an educated consumer who knows what to look for and what to avoid in a watch. That education element of what we do isn’t always easy, and it isn’t what all readers want all the time. I myself am guilty of not spending enough time reading as much about topics I am interested in and looking for “quick” answers for questions about products that I want to get.
Does that same need for immediate expert approval apply to timepieces? Yes and no. While there are some serious “dos and don’ts” of watch buying, what people end up buying is actually wearable art. The emotional component of wearing a traditional timepiece is something that is deeply personal. People ask me all day long, “what watch should I wear?” Policy and lack of time force me to ignore these queries because I don’t want to be in a position to tell people what watch to wear. I want people to learn enough about watches to make that decision for themselves. I don’t want my friends to wear the same watches I wear, I merely want them to wear watches for the same types of informed reasons.
Covering a large spectrum of watches allows us to better understand the ecosystem within which we work. Anyone with some experience in the watch world knows that price doesn’t always equate to value, and so much marketing and other non-mechanical elements go into why a watch is priced one way or another. I am a purist who focuses entirely on the watch itself. The lifestyle around the brand, the other people who wear it, the age of the company making it, and related factors mean almost nothing to me. I judge each timepiece for what it is independently – and that allows me to have an open mind. For this reason, aBlogtoWatch is more apt to discuss new brands or novel designs while the more conservative contingent among us do not. It might not be cool to be open minded, but it is wise.
For those people who purchase timepieces of “notoriety” merely to fit into a particular social or status group, I have little to say to them. I appreciate that they are trying to include themselves in groups that they find value in, but to me, this is a form of being a poser. Anyone with money can go out and buy fancy things that someone else put a lot of love and effort into. Truly understanding those items is a more important virtue for me. I hope that what I do on aBlogtoWatch helps people have good conversations about watches. If the only outcome of our work was that, I would be happy.
When it comes to the people who write for aBlogtoWatch, my philosophy is simple; contributors should actually contribute their own feelings, opinions, tastes, and experiences to this communal watch conversation. I actually prefer it when people who work for the site have different opinions than me on watches. Perhaps, something I love to wear, they hate, or vice versa. I relish that polarization of opinion. I relish the healthy debate that such difference brings to our team meetings or while we meet with brands at trade shows such as SIHH and Baselworld.
The most radical thing that has happened in the watch media space over the last few years has been the inclusion of “lifestyle.” What does that mean? Well, let’s examine the state of watch media in the 1990s. You had some “trade” watch magazines, some primitive watch websites, and some rather stuffy events. For the most part, the people who consumed watch media were nerdy collectors and industry people. I really don’t think that passive collectors looking for interesting things to buy – so that they could show off – were participating on watch forum websites online.
More recently, the watch industry has found a lot of success promoting their products on celebrities, as well as presenting their wares as lifestyle products that help you get laid, go well with exotic cars, should be matched to cufflinks, bracelets and other “accessories,” or are an important part of any luxury diet. Media followed suit because it was media that helped create this less nerdy side to watch appreciation. Watches suddenly went from being a very personal thing you bought as part of your lifestyle to something which is about showing off.
In a sense, this was a market necessity because watch companies needed to create desire in one key demographic: the ultra rich. Who do you think are buying $50,000 and over watches. While the watch industry loves to share their new $500,000 watches with the world, it is sometimes a crap shoot who ends up buying them. Then again, watch companies have faced the economic reality that in order to make money, they need to find a handful of people to buy $500,000 watches, versus a lot of buyers to buy $1,000 watches (as was the case a few decades ago). While the ultra-rich aren’t very impressed by wealth, statistically, they are impressed by exclusivity. How do you create exclusivity? Things that are actually exclusive are also rare – so it is a bit of a catch 22. Perceived exclusivity is all about marketing, and that is the goal of most luxury advertising.
Can you start to glean why I, as a watch lover, am increasingly disinterested in mainstream watch advertising? It isn’t directed toward people who actually like watches. People who actually like watches do look at watch advertising, but mainly because they want to know about new products and brands. They don’t want to be told why they should wear brand Y or X. Again, this goes back to aBlogtoWatch’s editorial mission of educating and informing – because even brands who engage in rather vapid lifestyle marketing can still produce some really great timepieces and, unfortunately, they aren’t very good at telling people that.
aBlogtoWatch is not a marketing company. Maybe it should be, but it isn’t. If it were a marketing company, we’d focus a lot more on appealing to a particular demographic, producing content for that demographic, and then monetizing that content. I, personally, can’t explain to anyone on paper the typical profile of a watch lover – and I have a feeling we are better off for it. I know what watch lovers tend to like, and I hope that I know how to talk to them, but I don’t know how to bundle them into a demographic with common interests, desires, and consumption choices. We’ve been fortunate enough that a large volume of watch lovers, both new and veteran, have found our content and that they keep coming back. As I’ve mentioned more than once in articles such as this, it is the audience that keeps aBlogtoWatch going and what motivates us.
Sometimes, people come to aBlogtoWatch and see watches that they don’t like. If they subsequently comment to that extent, I appreciate it. Sometimes, a watch isn’t for them, and they appreciate the effort and the coverage. Other times, people only want to see watches they can afford, or watches they can’t afford but really aspire to own. Clearly, that leaves us in a position where we can’t totally please everyone, but I hope we please enough people, enough of the time. With that said, I hope saying this allows people to appreciate how, at times, we might make you unhappy with our content choices; but all you really need to do is wait a few articles for something else that will likely be more to your liking. The classic example of this is the people who complain that we cover too many low-end watches, while at the same time, other people complain that we cover too many watches that they can’t afford. Is there a happy medium there? Not really. All we can hope to do is cover enough of both categories because each type of reader is important to us in their own way.
No matter how much money you make, one thing that I’ve found connects most aBlogtoWatch readers is intelligence. Intelligent people like to be aware of the world around them, and most seem to enjoy the variety of watches that we cover. As we grow, my goal is to ever increase not only the variety of watches we write about, but the voices that write about them. Finding new writers for aBlogtoWatch – or anyone that works for the site – is difficult. The people I bring aboard not only need to like watches (criteria number one) but they also need to have something to say about them, as well as the writing skills to do so. I’ve sat with people who work for other watch media publications who are “just getting into watches” (the polite way of saying they know nothing about watches), and I can’t fathom what torture it must be to write about something you aren’t immediately applying a whole lot of passion toward.
So it takes smart people to produce content for other smart people. And that is only part of what makes running aBlogtoWatch a (healthy) challenge. Another part of that challenge is deciding what timepieces and stories to cover. We have our own tastes and desires as a compass, and at the end of the day, we feel that the more things you as watch lovers know about… the better.