Carl S. Cunanan
May 13, 2022     |    

We Are Having The Wrong Conversations

About watches

We are talking too much about, and hearing way too much about, waiting lists and drops and the word grail, about prices and sellers and flippers.

We should be talking about craftsmanship, about passion, about history, about responsibility past a balance sheet and a year-end figure.

And all that is there. And it can be had and seen in the same people and groups and companies that also have all the conversations we shouldn’t have. Which is confusing.

Finishing and engraving is beautiful, but the history behind the craftsmanship is not merely aesthetic. Well finished pieces could interact together more precisely, and they were also a badge of honor for the craftsmen that created the pieces.
A. LANGE & SÖHNE is well known for engraving ad finishing even what will not be seen, as are others. Think of how all these small gears would historically be made by hand, finishing and bevelling could help ensure that the gears properly mesh together smoothly which can improve longevity and accuracy. Even with more precise modern manufacturing, exquisite finishing is a badge of excellence and honor for many collectors.
The commitment of ROLEX to service is in many ways what supports their unmatched level of continuing value. While their watches are extremely reliable nowadays, remember that ROLEX was created specifically to provide robust, consistent, accurate watches to a world that couldn’t get them that easily.

We should be talking about Rolex, for example, not because we complain about who gets a watch or who doesn’t but about how one person understood decades ago that people, individually and as a whole, needed better timepieces. We take for granted the reliability and robustness and even the ability to service watches when before that wasn’t even a possibility. Many people speak of the costs of service at an authorized Rolex Service Center, but love the fact that their watch has increased tremendously in secondary market value with no work on their part.

The ROLEX commitment to service means they will usually take your watch in the city you are in, and handle it from there. The level of support this needs all over the world is something no other brands really have, and it is a tremendous convenience to consumers.
Much more care is needed for bracelets than many people realize, it is more the skill of a jeweler than a watchmaker.

But guess what? Those go hand in hand. The historic secondary market strength of Rolex watches is hugely influenced by the commitment of the foundation (please do remember, Rolex is actually a foundation) to provide proper levels of service and experience to those that buy their product. There is serious cost to doing that in major cities all over the world. Before a watch is released or a part is changed, for example, the technicians need to be trained, the parts need to be bought, moved and stocked, the tools need to be procured and more. And all this is thought through even during the design process. At Rolex, those that have to service have regular conversations with those that design engineer, plan and fund.

Many new independent watchmakers, such as the Gronefeld brothers, want to bring back to the world the appreciation of such crafts as hand-turned guilloche. They often have direct communication with the enthusiasts and customers that understand the true value of what they are talking about.

There is so much past the simple piece that algorithms are telling you what everyone else in the world thinks and wants. Even for the brands and names and reference numbers you are familiar with, there is more to talk about and understand. And much more with those names you may not know yet.

So let us talk about how hard it is to bevel the edge of a piece smaller than half a fingernail, and why you want to do it. Let us talk about why some people love ETA handwound movements (I do) even though they are not “manufacture” and let us even talk about how “manufacture” will actually affect you. Let us show that there is design and engineering and ergonomic nuance that goes into the shape of a bracelet link or the side of a case.

The detail and craftsmanship of independent watchmakers such as the Gronefeld brothers is helping to make newer enthusiasts understand that there is more to watches than just what everyone else talks about.
Tudor is an excellent example of bringing good value and detail of design to both new buyers and seasoned enthusiasts but without the hype that has whipped up the market.
Many people are wary of the vintage market, but it is a wonderful way to see how watches and brands really developed and what needs they really answered. Meetups with enthusiasts are always a great way to get a feel for what is really important past the name or model or reference number.

We recently had two meet-ups, one mostly about independents and one mostly about Tudor, so a wide range of pricing between the two and even within the independents. We looked at intelligence of design and value to the end user. We talked about how small details make big changes. We talked about how simplicity and complexity can coexist. In both those groups, the unobtanium “grail” waitlist watches were there, they never made it out of the cases.

You have no idea how refreshing it is to have those conversations again.