The watch industry, if you haven’t figured out, is connected via an odd web. While WWR focuses primarily on what I would call micro brands, the industry as a whole is owned by a few very big companies that share parts, factories, marketing, and customers. Take the octopus called the Swatch Group, for example. Think you’re buying something special when you pick up a Breguet? Think again. Omega makes many of their movements on the same robots that are used to make other high end models, especially Breguet, and many of the same tools and methods are used on the so-called “high-end” brands as go into the lower end models.
I like to say that all sub-$10,000 watches are exactly the same. Unless they are particularly complicated, most watchmakers stuff ETA and Sellita movements into different cases and price their pieces according to what their target market will bear. A basic Hamilton isn’t much different than a basic Omega and that isn’t much different than a basic TAG or Breitling. The real money comes from the pyramid these companies create in order to sell product.
Why am I talking about this and showing you all this image? Because it’s important to understand that as much as we love watches – and I truly do – watchmaking is a still a business and business is, if you ask watchmakers, pretty bad. Watch sales are flat or down year after year and these massive conglomerates are cutting corners and releasing pieces that are derivative and aimed at flash over substance. That’s fine. Business is business. But I encourage you look at watch companies with a more critical eye. These companies bought centuries old brands and turned them into what you see today and their history often has little to do with what they show off at Basel. For my money I’d much rather support a watchmaker who creates art than a watchmaker that pumps out a million identical pieces every day.
Ultimately, this is a reminder that despite all the glowing rhetoric about tradition and craftsmanship, this is still a business. But you, the customer, can support the art and majesty of that tradition and craftsmanship with your interest and your wallets.
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