Monday, July 4, 2016


Or why it seems more and more that unicorns really don't exist ; )

Courtesy of Weiss

So as those obsessed with a (nearly) full-on made in America wrist watch fitfully tossed and turned, waiting for what the "pitch man" for Weiss described to Monocle magazine as an offering from:

"...the first manufacturer in nearly 60 years to produce mechanical watches wholly made in the US."

they awoke this morning to find this on the Weiss website:

Courtesy of Weiss

A few backpedals happened on the run-up to today.  We were informed that the jewels and the hairspring were sourced from Switzerland.  According to Weiss this meets the FTC standards - and I would say a good move on their part to be sure of this.   Rules are rules, and if you can head-off the self-appointed arbiters of right and wrong disguised as impartial horological society members/journalists dropping a dime on you, then fair play.

Then we layer in the sub-text.  That Weiss would be "tooling up" to provide an alternative to the Unitas / ETA 6497 which would soon no-longer be available with SWATCH group phasing out distribution to non SWATCH Group clients.  It is safe to assume that the 6497 is not exactly the hot seller that the ETA 2824 -2 and other movements are.  There is a reason why Soprod and Sellita focus on movements that could be thought of as "open source", meaning that they are no longer protected and the designs are free to use, but also a reason why they are not too busy creating a 6497 alternative.  You might further note that it does not appear that anyone (apart from certain Chinese companies) is gearing up to make a 6497 clone.  It is not exactly something that the public is clamoring for.  On the other hand, if Weiss is the only other available outlet, and if people suddenly want it, it might pay off for them.  Then again maybe not.  Weiss is not noted for a particularly congenial attitude towards their colleagues in the US, so convincing those same people to now do business with them may be challenging.  But we all have the right to change and grow, so we shall see.  In the meantime Weiss might wish to "pump their brakes" in terms of their perceived status as the saviors of US watch making.  It does not exactly engender good will from their US based colleagues.

Now it is important to be clear here - a clone does not mean fake, because again this movement's design, etc. is now available to one and all if they have the time, energy, equipment and desire to do something with it.  And if you look closely, while it may be easily inferred that Weiss's new movement is based on the 6497, it is not an exact replica.  Fair enough.  Watch brands have been using open sourced inspiration for years.  Now what remains to be proven (and in fairness also disproven) is where exactly all of the plates and ancillary components were milled and finished in the Metro LA area.  A few of the parts look exceedingly well executed and finished and seem somewhat out of place when compared to the level (or lack) of finishing quality of the main plate and other parts of the movement, which frankly look as if they were polished with a hot stick of butter.

Courtesy of Weiss
So what this, at least to me, boils down to is what I often refer to as the "Creation Myth" in the watch industry.  Biver the Great was a master of this.  With Blancpain he painted a portrait of a brand, with a story and a pedigree beyond compare.  But it was just that, a painting.  Blancpain had been dead for some time before he resurrected it.

And to some extent, this is what we see with so many brands today - the creation myth is what gives magic to the brand itself.  And now we have the legend of the first scalable, serially produced movement.... except it isn't exactly.  When we talk about serial production, we are talking about more than 50 pieces.  And 50 pieces is what this limited American Issue Field Watch is going to have.   The rest is in the future.  The rest is "potential".  And at the moment, we are talking about "Imgonnastan" once again.  

So I think in fact, what we are really talking about with the American Issue Field Watch is a limited series with a (nearly completely) American made movement that is going to cost you nearly more than triple what the Standard Issue is going to cost  you.

So taking all of the above out, let's just look at the watch itself -

Courtesy of Weiss
The watch itself is very good looking.  The blue dial with white indices is clear, legible and a welcome alternative from black or white.  The hands are strong; the lume appears to be well applied.  The use of a cordovan strap is a nice one, and we will assume again that this is a Hadley Roma sourced item.  Again - that is an assumption, not a statement of fact.

So when I compare it to the other versions of the Field Watch it is beautiful and well worth the $1,250 - $1,500 that the other limited edition field watches fetch.  

But then we get to the movement itself -

Courtesy of Weiss 
And this is where I have to say that the unicorn clearly got lost on the way to Los Angeles.  I'm sorry, but it is actually pretty unpleasant to look at.  As I said in yesterday's post, I received a lot of feedback from others relating to this, and frankly I can and will only speak for myself.   I will sum it up this way - for a movement that the customer is paying more than $1,500 for (when we compare the total price of the Standard Issue Field Watch), it could look much better than it does.  This is not only about the choice to gold plate, but the level of finishing as well, which is phenomenally poor given the reputation of Mr. Weiss as a watch maker and the price being asked for this watch.

I would have been very, very happy to eat my words and say that Weiss hit this one out of the park.  But they didn't.  I would also say that many of us who write about watches are not necessarily in their demographic. It is  probably not an accident that they are in specialized "heritage" boutiques and now also in Barney's and Nordstrom.  My colleagues and I go there for clothing, not so much for watches.    And it just might be that for that market space, the level of finish and attention to detail is acceptable at the proposed price point.  But if Weiss truly intends to tool up and make movements for the industry, they will need to offer something better.

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