Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Winders - Hyperbole, Hype, and Shitting the Bed

So a now familiar scene here at Tempus Fugit HQ - order new winder, winder arrives and doesn't work, you search for any sort of info that will address the issue.  The "winder company" doesn't bother to explain one key piece of information in either its sales materials (online store) or put any info along the lines of a "getting started" document that might ship with the winder. So you essentially have to figure it out for yourself - apparently the winder must be plugged in overnight before it will work (it is meant to be able to run either by plugging in or using battery power). Long story short, after an overnight the winder worked wonderfully. 

A few months later, it was still working by battery charge, but starting to make a wobbly noise that was a bit disconcerting.  Fast forward a little bit further, and now the winder will not work at all unless plugged in, and it makes a ratcheting noise that gives the feeling the watch might fall out of the winder at any moment. Oh, and then after one series of winds? It powers off.

Now a few important points - in fairness, the winder cost a very affordable sub $50 US (discounted from approximately double that).  So I viewed it as a safe gamble and an affordable way to get a winder and write an unbiased product review. In hindsight, the customer service was a bit iffy (read nearly non existent), and the winder itself crapped out after less than 6 months. Simply put, as cynical as I can be, it seems unfair to air out the details about who made the winder, who sold it and all the low points (along with 1 or 2 positives). It is too easy a target and won't really address what might be the bigger picture.

By and large, very few companies that sell watch winders actually make watch winders.  Now this is not to say that is a universal truth, but it is pretty accurate. Essentially, the winder company is often in a roll not unlike a drop ship fulfillment program. The winder itself is more often than not an off the shelf (not that there is anything wrong with that) item that is then embossed with the selling company's name and packaged in their livery, then shipped. 

And it goes a bit further, these are often "full solution" deals where the winders are packed with (or often without) instructions, etc. in a sealed shipping box. The seller then simply stacks the boxes, and then forwards them to the buyer. And in fairness? As the first customer (of the winder manufacturer) they should reasonably expect that things will work as advertised. The final customer then orders, the "winder company" pulls a box and ships it.

Now let's get into the wonderful reality that is the "Sunk Cost Trap" - as it applies to your old pal, Henki -

Henki is a guy who worked at Tourneau, worked for DOXA, consults with a few brands here and there and likes to think he's been around the block a few times. Henki also knows, to a certain extent, where watches and watch accessories come from. When it comes to winders, the motors (i.e. everything electronic that actually winds the watch) comes from China. Nothing wrong with that. While Henki makes some decent coin in the watch game, he is a Northern Youth, and a full-time educational social worker at his core and prefers not to drop a shit-ton of money on pretty things to sit on his desk or dresser that, at their heart, are simply meant to perform a function - keep an automatic watch wound when not being worn. Henki understands that some more established and expensive brands (Underwood, Orbita and others) cost significantly more, have a more solid track record and tend to offer better customer support. But, again, Henki would like to think that he is savvy enough to know that the motors are, most likely, from the same source. And here is where Henki has learned a very valuable lesson about the difference between what is said and what, in fact, is. 

Long story short - in terms of watch winders, it is now very clear to this guy that you get what you pay for. And now for one of the other glaring oddities about watch folks and how we prioritize our spending -

We have very little problem spending sometimes budget ruinous amounts of cash for YET ANOTHER WATCH, but balk at spending perhaps 3 times the amount of a bargain (read "soon to become useless motorized paper weight") winder on one that will actually work as advertised or be remedied by the company that sold it. It seems to be, if I am very honest, a ridiculous stumbling point. I'll put it another way - I am willing to presume that the difference between an Underwood or Orbita winder and the last few I've purchased is perhaps more than simply good marketing.

So the hunt is on now for a winder that will, I don't know, actually keep a watch wound for more than 6 months. So keep an eye on this outlet, as I am now on a mission - one I intend to report on rigorously.

Stay tuned!

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