Saturday, August 10, 2019

The Myth of Craft and Heritage

Now it goes without saying that in the digital watch media game, you apparently need to have a bushy beard and a fairly over-inflated sense of your own gravitas to be taken seriously...

All credit due to Jeff Greenspan

And SNAP!  You've fallen into the Hipster Trap!  Throw in a "vintage" strap and any one of five zillion "homage" / "heritage inspired" field and pilot watches hurled up like so many semi-digested street tacos mixed with bile and reconstituted kombucha and you have the horological equivalent of the hipster trap above.  Okay, in fairness, I really like street tacos - I mean, c'mon, nobody hates tacos!  Or as the youngsters would say -

"These sweet potato tacos with mango salsa are LEGIT!"

 But what I am driving at here is a willing suspension of disbelief.  And to quote that other great commentator on the watch business, Black Adder -

"Well, I'm not having anyone staring in disbelief at MY willy suspension!" 

Like any business, the watch business is fueled by a certain amount of codswallop, and hot air and bullshit are easier to bandy about when, in fact, you are offering the same thing as pretty much everybody else.

So without further delay, here are two myths in dire need of busting: 

Myth #1 - Hamilton is an authentic, down-home, old-timey American heritage brand.  A brand where humble artisans painstakingly made watches one by one, by hand.   Yeah, not so much...

Shamelessly borrowed from the world-wide info-web
Now here's the thing, while watches were more hand made "back in the day",  you better believe that the watch brands were looking for any and every possible modern technique that might help them crank out as many watches per day as possible.  Even before Swiss investment came in, and ultimately took Hamilton away from these shores, Hamilton was a mass produced product.  And for what it's worth, so was pretty much every US brand of note.

I personally don't have a problem one way or another with the watches Hamilton makes.  But don't try to sell me on this "American Heritage - Artisan" stuff.  You can put a rock in the oven, but that doesn't make it a biscuit ; )

Myth #2
A made in America, mechanical watch can be made, marketed and sold through retail outlets for just north of  $1,000 in any serious volume.
When just servicing your watch can cost upwards of $300 US, I find it highly unlikely that said watch was sourced, assembled, packaged and sold to the retailer for $500 or so (i.e. keystone). Constituent parts are going to come in around $100 or more (my bet is more).  Time and effort to put constituent parts together (correctly) so that said watch functions as advertised?  Let's factor in another $150 - $200 or so - this is presuming that the movement is being assembled (not fabricated, but assembled) in-house as advertised.  Again, we would presume that at the level of "craftsmanship" that some brands are claiming, this would come at some expense.  It's pretty basic economics.   Keep in mind, although they might amortize their work time through each sale, there is still the cost of owning, or renting a facility, tools, electricity, phone bills, marketing, warranty repair, shipping... I realize this might seem a bit nit-picky, but let's be realistic.  Now, it is also possible that some of these seemingly independent micro brands are being funded by investment.  And then, suddenly, some of that old-timey, bootstrapping success loses some of its luster.  That's the problem with origin myths, sometimes they're a bit too mythical.

So the next time some bushy-bearded Brooklynite tries to sell you on the authentic heritage of his favorite five month old brand, just remember that you can only take a grown-assed, thirty-something year old man so seriously when he's spilling out of his skinny jeans while rocking an Amish Outlaw.


  1. Myth #2: "Can" or "Can't" be made in America? The tone of the message seems to me to be "Can't". But just checking to be sure.

  2. Never mind. Brain fart. Read it wrong.