We’ve featured a variety of crowd-funded watches here on the blog, and recently have had some renewed attention on what’s available out there courtesy of Matt Himmelstein. You may be wondering why, it is, that you’d want to take a chance on funding a startup to create a watch. Today, Matt gives us his thoughts on that very question.
Watches are a personal purchase, and what attracts one buyer may be very different than what appeals to another. Regardless, we generally have an opportunity to experience the watch in person, or read reviews from others who have. With the rise of crowdfunding, even this third party recommendation may be missing.
Kickstarter is the largest crowdfunding site, but there are others. I have funded several projects, and the most expensive commitment I have made – and best reward I have received – was for the production of a watch. Crowdfunding raises capital for new projects from regular folks, not investors. In exchange for providing funding, you are given a reward; anything from a shout-out on social media to a tangible product. For the watch project I backed, the tangible product was a watch.
If you buy from a boutique, you walk out of the store with a watch. If you buy from an internet retailer, you know it will be on your wrist in a week or two. From Kickstarter, you get an estimated delivery date, which may be missed by weeks or months.
With an established brand, you evaluate a production watch. From Kickstarter, you are shown a prototype. With an established brand, you have a sense of security; generally even a new brand will have testimonials and reviews. With a crowdfunded project, you are usually shooting blind.
There are stories of Kickstarter projects turning into vaporware, where you send in your money and get nothing in return. I also found a project raising funds to ‘craft’ a watch that was actually a repackaged commercial low end mechanical watch. Thankfully, these issues are generally rare.
The most likely problem is that your reward will be delayed due to production issues, perhaps substantially. Several of my projects delivered a couple of months late. If you were expecting a pre-holiday delivery (estimated for November) and it does not arrive until January, you no longer have your planned Christmas present.
My watch design also changed from prototype to production. The designer made enhancements, removing a few idiosyncrasies. For me, these were either improvements or not an issue. But if you were intrigued by the idiosyncrasies, and then they are improved out of the final product, you may be unhappy.
Major changes are also possible. A watchmaker could plan to use an ETA 2824-2 and then find that they are not available in the needed quantities. A reasonable substitute would be a Sellita SW200, but these are not the same movement, and some people don’t consider them to be equals. Would I mind? Not at the right price point. Not everyone is going to feel the same way.
So why do it? Part of the allure is the value: I now have a good looking automatic dive watch at a great discount to the ‘retail’ price. I could have bought an Orange Monster or an Orient for under $300; instead of a mass produced watch, I now have a limited production model, the first watch crafted by a fledgling company. No, it is not a bespoke edition with a handmade movement or a brand about to explode across the world stage. But my watch was well crafted, good looking, and it came with a story. That made it worth the uncertainties and the wait.
Editor’s note: What’s your take on crowd-funded watches? Are you jumping in with both feet, avoiding them like the plague, or somewhere in-between?