If something like Windr were around in 2007, I may have never started aBlogtoWatch in the first place. I remember well how it felt to be lonely as a watch enthusiast. My passion for timepieces compelled me to discuss the topic of watches daily, but I never found the reactions I was looking for in my peer group at the time. Friends of mine even asserted a “quota,” where I was only allowed to “talk watches” for a limited amount of time. When they could handle no more, they would say “watch time is up.” Sympathetic to their lack of interest in my nerdy desires, I started a blog on watches which became aBlogtoWatch. I got lucky, but not all watch lovers fare as well. What if there were a new way for people who enjoy wrist watches to not only find others who share their passions, but also afford them the ability to pinpoint people who have the same general tastes and style? That’s Windr.
Today, I’m proud to announce that in collaboration with IAC/InterActiveCorp, we are launching a new type of matchmaking app. You may not know the IAC name, but no doubt you are familiar with their Match.com group of companies that includes a range of popular dating websites and mobile apps such as Tinder. Match Group Chairman and CEO Greg Blatt saw an opportunity to use their company’s success and apply the technology to expand past the popular dating and romance marketing into helping other groups of people connect. Windr is as simple to use as the “approve/reject” swiping model made popular by Tinder.
Using location-based technology along with personal profiles, watch lovers on the hunt for like-minded potential friends at social gatherings or around town need only update Windr with a wrist shot of the current watch they are wearing, and set the app to allow others to find them. User profiles grow over time, offering a gallery of the wrist shots that they have taken in the past. These galleries are a key way potential “watch lover matches” know if the people they are looking at have similar collections and tastes.
Browsing Windr begins with initial interest based on the watch you are currently wearing or that you last uploaded (the app urges you to take updated wrist shots each day you log in). Users can choose various radius distances from their current location, meaning that you can look for other watch lovers within your city or only within a few hundred feet from your current location.
Browsing through potential matches, users see wrist shots of other watch lovers, and if they like what they see, they can choose to view that other user’s gallery of images or explore their profile. Profiles can be detailed or sparse, ranging from a mere collection of wrist shots to detailed explanations of a user’s tastes and wearing habits. If what you see doesn’t give you a horological stiffy, then just move on!
Offering Windr users the ability to faithfully flesh out their profiles was a key challenge because some users are extremely picky with their tastes. This was also a key area of interest for the Match Group, as they see this as a test bed for being able to successfully connect professionals or other interest-based groups in a way that their experience with intimacy/romance-based profiles are not designed for. For example, some of the more obsessive vintage watch lovers sometimes prefer exclusively particular brands, models, production years, and even conditions. If you aren’t into their particular patina fetishes, then they don’t even want you contacting them. The idea here is to allow users to type in their own preferences while studying this in order to create indexable fields which can later turn into search categories. At launch, Windr won’t know if searching by “pre-1980s Rolex sports” is something that makes sense to the audience or not, but the goal is to study user behavior in order to make finding the prefect watch playmate faster and more fulfilling.
Making Windr accessible and useful for a wide range of tastes, appetites, and selective collecting preferences will be an ongoing process of refinement. It’s exciting to consider how the app will evolve and how the concept of interest-based matching will apply to other topics and user groups. I feel that this work is important not only as a watch lover, but also as a busy adult male who understands the complexity of forming friendships and other close relationships. Most successful men aren’t willing to share the fact that they have few if any close friends given their focus on work and family life. Studies show that the number-one factor important in friendships among adults isn’t similar upbringings or backgrounds, shared experiences, or even working together. Rather, common interests and activities are by far the most important factor when considering not only initial friendship interest, but longevity. The goal of Windr is to use a shared appreciation for timepieces to engender lasting, fulfilling, and ultimately fun relationships between people.
Windr is even set up to arrange for “watch lover dates.” In some cities, people are more mobile or pedestrian, creating potential for spur-of-the-moment encounters such as when people are bored at events or have a few hours to kill. Immediacy when it comes to horological encounters works in dense metropolitan areas, but in more spread-out urban zones, watch lovers don’t always have the ability to meet up right away. For this population of watch lovers, Windr offers the ability to set up “availability times” so that people interested in meeting know if your schedules align.
We also wanted to reduce the potential awkwardness of meeting a new person in public. No matter how noble their intentions, there aren’t too many ways two adult male strangers can meet in public without feeling just slightly uncomfortable about it. We found it works best when both people arrive at a location around the same time and know what the other looks like. Once a pair decides to meet, then their profile displays a picture of their face, whereas previously their profile would only have pictures of their wrist shots. We do that to protect privacy, as safety is clearly something Windr is interested in. Windr also suggests that user meetings remain in public, unless you really start to get to know someone. Watch love can be very fulfilling, but only the closest relationships are those you want to take home with you.
Out on the town with Windr, you get a good idea of how the experience translates into the real world. It’s 6pm toward the end of happy hour, and I’m testing the app in New York City. We have a few test users in the area who have each been asked organically use the app and post wrist shots of whatever they would normally be wearing that day. I’m on the hunt for a like-minded guy to chat watches with, but I’m not looking to convert anyone to my way of thinking or to put up with someone whose tastes don’t match my own.
I open the app on my phone (yes, despite the irony, there will likely be an Apple Watch Windr app in the near future), and immediately a wrist shot from someone pops up. By default, the distance the app uses to look for other active users is one mile. I can also set the app to publicly display my availability or stay hidden until I find someone I want to actively reach out to.
The watch on my screen is a vintage Rolex dress watch. Probably a pre-1950s model, and it isn’t in what I could call “mint condition.” What do I do? Rolex watches are so popular that they almost tell you nothing about the person wearing it unless it is a distinctive model – which this one is. But it is also a small-sized watch and not one that is highly collectible. This watch isn’t worth more than a grand-and-a-half, but the guy probably paid double that… or more. Do I want to meet him? Probably not. In addition to the fact that I don’t like small vintage dress watches (at least, not to wear), this guy looks like he just went out to some vintage store to get the only Rolex he could afford. It’s a sort of starter watch for a hipster who has gotten the idea that vintage is cooler than new watches.
Ironically, if he spent the same money on a modern pre-owned watch, he’d have had something a lot nicer. I’m guessing, of course, as to this guy’s personality, but I’ve been doing this long enough to stereotype effectively. I mean, in traditional “electronic” dating, pretty much all we have is the ability to use a few details to make vast assumptions about people – so the same rules apply here. Ok, this guy is a “reject” for me, but for other people new to the watch dating game, then this guy might be perfect. I swipe to reject him, and another watch pops up on my screen. I get to have fun, and judge a stranger all over again. Eventually, my interest will be piqued by finding a true aficionado like me with similar tastes with some rare watch I’ll be uniquely able to appreciate. I wonder what else we will have in common…