Patek Philippe and Seiko can live in harmony. Your personal brand can be deeply impacted by being a watch snob. Read on to learn how to “not be that guy” and don’t be a watch snob. This is the third installment to the first parts of our series on personal brand marketing through watches. Read these two posts(part 1 & part 2) to get the full circle context to this analysis.
A lot of men and women like watches. After all, all of our smartphones tell more accurate time, and a Timex watch is inherently more accurate than the mechanical watches we love. It only takes a brief summary of this anecdotal argument to establish that people wear watches for much more than just a functional piece of equipment – they were it because they like watches. Even my grandpa, who never spent money on himself apparently liked nice watches despite his utilitarian view on life. Everyone always said my Grandpa, who owned a Rolex, only had it and wore it because he got it as a gift through work and it told the time. Well, it turned out after he passed away that we discovered he actually had bought quite a few watches through years. Despite his utilitarian attitude, even he appreciated nice watches.
I assume that you too must like watches if you’ve read this far. You likely have more than one, or at least one that is highly prized. You run into others who recognize the fine craftsmanship of your watch and now the chance for you to be a snob begins. You have a watch, he has a watch, but one of you inherently has one that is more valuable. Will you pass the test and be a good fellow watch enthusiast or will you be — a snob? Will you be the guy that shows your superior watch knowledge, or worse, point out the obvious fact that your watch is in a much better and proceed to explain how great yours is?
Your responses to this situation plus the signal your watch sends will complete the picture people walk away with (the 3 parts of the picture are: what you feel when you wear your watch, what the other person perceives about you based on your watch, and most importantly, what type of person you actually are).
Let’s see how many of you can relate to this situation. You are at an event. You have a nice $800 Brand X you picked up and wear with pride and you meet a guy wearing a nice $6,000 Brand Y. You don’t know much about his Brand Y but know its a nice watch, and you like watches so you say “I really like your watch”. He says “thanks [flips his wrist to you for a better view], what do you have on there?” he asks. He sees your Brand X and he realizes your watch is nowhere near as nice as his. The judging begins. He says “nice, I like it” and then proceeds on a 5-minute monolog on the great craftsmanship his watch has, that it uses some process you’ve never heard of, and quotes the model of the movement inside (that you’ve also never heard of), and then explains how it was selling for $6,500 but he got it for $5,000 (an amount you could never pay for a watch). By the time the conversation is over, you want to tell the guy “sweet story guy”. You leave, feeling like your previous pride-and-joy watch is no longer that special and you also regret ever saying anything to this guy. Meanwhile, he departs feeling like he just made A NEW FRIEND who also loves watches. Been there?
Whether you have a watch that costs $300, $3,000, or $30,000, there is always the person you run into that owns a watch that’s better and more expensive. It’s the inevitable part of watch collecting. If you don’t feel like you’ve ever run into the guy described in this scenario, it’s because YOU ARE THAT GUY. That guy is the unintentional watch snob!
This isn’t entirely fair. You can’t help it that some other person felt hurt. True, but take a step back and look who you are: somebody who loves watches. There are a huge range of watches and different people have different levels of interest and different amounts of money to spend on watches. Think of this from the analogy of a Red Sox Baseball fan. There is the person that goes to every game and gets box seats and another person who goes to every game and sits on in right field nose-bleed section. Is either a more devoted fan? No, one just has more money to spend on tickets (and gets better tickets). Bring this back to watches. People who spend money on watches tend to invest more time in learning about their purchase, but it doesn’t mean they are a better fan or collector. Like buying a car, you likely don’t know the same level of detail about EVERY car, rather you know a great detail about the car you bought (and researched before and after). When you are talking watches and make it sound like everyone should know details about your watch, like its just a matter of fact, it comes across as pompous and you are the watch snob.
My opinion (and feel free to disagree) is that as a watch fan, you should be able to appreciate all spectrum of watches and be able to engage with other owners even if it’s something you would never buy. What binds our hobby together is our love of the craftsmanship, design, and use of watches. There will be 99% of watches out there that you’d never buy; that’s ok. Appreciate the love of watches that you share and enjoy talking about them regardless of the price tag. I give a nod to someone who can appreciate and talk about the craftsmanship of a Citizen as much as they can an A Lange & Sohne and beyond. I love to learn about new watches I have never seen; you have to be willing level up or down, regardless of who you are talking to. Most people like to look at watches up the value-chain, but
I love to learn about new watches I have never seen; you have to be willing to level up or down, regardless of who you are talking to. Most people like to look at watches up the value-chain, but generally, it’s the people who fail to level down that create the watch snobs. This goes both ways and watch aficionados have to be willing to appreciate each other’s watches. However, it tends to be the person with the far superior watch who likes to ensure it is known or implied theirs is better. This is where the conversation changes from “two Red Sox fans talking baseball” to “my seats are better than yours”. Don’t let it go there. Ask questions and tell facts.
Try enjoying watch collecting for what it is and learn to ask about the craftsmanship of a watch, why someone likes it, and what drew them to it? Regardless of price tag, everyone that has a watch they’re proud of can rally around those questions. Don’t talk about minute details you learned on the factory tour and then act like “this is just common knowledge” when talking to your co-workers about your watch.
For example, I have always admired A Lange & Sohne watches. I lived in Germany for a stretch and I always wanted one. I looked into a used entry-level model 1815, which is more than the watch of a lifetime. I can’t tell you how many times I would have really liked to talk about ALS with fellow ALS watch lovers until they act like the 1815 “watch of a lifetime” is the watch of the peasants. I have actually been told “but let me show you some better options A Lange & Sohne makes that you can buy instead (that also cost $100,000+)”. True, but this doesn’t communicate that we are talking on the same level.
The final piece: don’t assume because you’ve never heard of a brand that it must be cheap or a waste of money or not very good. In today’s era of watchmaking, bespoke (custom) and micro brand watches are much more common. I even met a guy who has figured out how to machine watches in his garage. They definitely don’t say Rolex, but what a cool watch story to hear! I have another watch friend who started the Mara Watch Company and they make really nice small-batch watches. His watches are 100% designed and made in Switzerland and are premium watches with a cool identity, but it won’t be a brand everybody recognizes. So, if it’s a brand you don’t recognize, take the time to ask about it. You might find a new brand this way, or at least expand your watch knowledge.
In conclusion, use the golden rule. Appreciate the craftsmanship that watches provide. Not everyone spends their money in the same way, nor can everyone afford every watch. Read PART 2 “The Watch Snob Strikes Back”