Friday, April 15, 2016

Goldgena - Culturally Insensitive but Culturally Relevant to the Watch Industry

With many theories floating around as to who exactly is behind the Goldgena Watch Project, there is no shortage of potential drama and intrigue to keep the potential buyers anxiously waiting to follow along with each successive installment.

The accompanying video (below) mapping out the hypocrisy of the Swiss Made label is pretty straight forward - the game is rigged.  The rules that govern what is "Swiss Made" are looser than a career politician's moral code.  The parts of a watch, with the exception of the movement, are (according to the cartoon) mass produced by abused, overworked and underpaid Chinese labor and shipped to Switzerland.  I particularly enjoyed the part of the cartoon where the buck-toothed Chinese "coolie" is flipped 2 bits to pay for the cases by a fat cat (we assume) Swiss gentleman.

It reminded me of those "halcyon" days where overt racism was not just okay, but encouraged!

Hop Sing from Bonanza- shamelessly borrowed from the infoweb
Here's the thing - when examined from the basest level (that being the highly intellectually evolved perspective of a 7 year old),  this cartoon is hilarious.  Humor can be one of the best teaching methods you can use, but there is humor, and there is stupidity.  The portrayal of Chinese nationals in the cartoon plays to the lowest common denominator.  And while I would expect it from a Donald Trump speech against immigration, it does not seem worthy of the project that Goldgena is proselytizing about.  I am in no way denying the main thrust - that a good chunk of many Swiss watches are from regions of the world where Mandarin is spoken more commonly than Swiss German.  But you can convey that without being viewed (possibly) as a bit of a "rhymes with swoosh".

But hey, I certainly don't want to harsh anyones' mellow here ; )

Let's move past the not-so-subtle xenophobia and consider what is really at the heart of this enterprise (or at least as much as we can ferret out).  Swiss watch brands are (and I know that this is going to absolutely shock you) out to make as much fucking money as they possibly can!  I know, it's like I just told you that the Easter Bunny isn't real!

The Goldgena team takes pains to let you know that they are not like these awful major brands - because they only need 10,000 Swiss Francs to launch their brand while the other Swiss brands need 10,000,000  -  This sounds GREAT! Until we get to the later phases - i.e. Phase 3 , wherein Goldgena will be attempting to raise the trifling sum of 10093250 CHF through Kickstarter. When I add the commas, that comes in just south of eleven million Swiss Francs. Now I am by no means a Nobel Prize winning economist, but that number seems awfully close to the earlier number (in fact it's higher) that these cheeky "ant hill kickers" were saying was an unreasonable amount of money to need to start a watch brand... or maybe it is just a typo?

Goldgena feel that they are going to be able to offer great watches at great prices because they are not going through traditional retail.  Selling direct is the obvious part.  And they point out that they are by no means the first outfit that hopes to bring you a watch at an affordable price by cutting out the "middleman".  But Goldgena has doubled down!  They will not just be direct -
We will sell our watches worldwide through our website but not only. This will be explained in the next Chapter on April 27th: Exclusive distribution and community power.

The phrase "community power" sounds not entirely dissimilar from a "club" that a friend of mine once joined where he had a "catalog" that had special "products" that he could sell to his "friends" at special "value prices".  And if he had friends who "joined", he could then be their "manager" and he would receive a portion of everything they sold as well.  And if they had friends who joined... In the end he was told that it wasn't a "pyramid" scheme, no this was based on a "trapezoid"!

I kid, it was Amway, which like Mary Kay, Avon and Tupperware is somewhat dependent upon a constant stream of new recruits joining the sales force, spreading the good word.  I might just see if I can become a Sheriff!  Sadly, I don't think that Goldgena will be offering me a pink Cadillac if I sell the most units ; )
Here's the Goldgena pitch -

As soon as 5 of your contacts will have registered you will become Sheriff and a lot of privileges will be open to you: an additional 15% off the special launch price of the Goldgena watch, access to the SALOON to be deep inside the project with the team and many other surprises that will come along the way.
Traditional distribution is saturated and difficult to break into for a new brand. Anyway, is it really up to date with present purchase behaviours? We have our opinion on that. Enter your email to get the privileged link that will give you access to the third Chapter on April 27th… as well as a few other benefits.
Well, I'm not quite ready to "saddle up" and deputize anyone.  But whilst I work on rasslin' up a posse, in the interest of objectivity here's what I would want, or at least like to see in the Goldgena project, at least beyond the $10,000 CHF that has been invested in the website, the clever animations, and (we assume) the prototype.  I would hope to see a watch that was interesting or at the very least pleasant to wear and look at.  It would be solid and well made, and I would not see the Goldgena HQ parking lots filled with high-end cars ; ) 

Am I calling bullshit?  Not exactly, because the idea of a quixotic-like pursuit of a reasonably priced "Swiss" wrist watch with transparent provenance is a noble calling.  But at slightly north of $700, I don't get the sense that this project is really all that different from what several so-called "micro" brands have tried and done at low price points without the benefit of multimillion dollar Kickstarter fund raisers.  Goldgena, as far as we can see, is trying to build a better mouse trap.  And after everything is said and done, their interest is the same as SWATCH, LVMH, Richemont, or even me - to make money.

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