Social Media - are you buying the watch you really want?
When I take Grab rides (Singapore Uber) I always make it a point to peek at the driver's wrist - a nice wrist watch can make for good conversation.
One time I had this young driver brandishing a Timex Q Pepsi - the one that started it all. I commented on the cool watch, totally expecting a nice conversation about the timeless design and the comfortable link bracelet. But reality sunk in.
Most of the times people just buy watches they like. Sometimes they land on a cult. Many times they have nothing much to say about their watch. If they do, many times it won't be what you expect.
If they're into watches, some feel embarrassed that they're not wearing a Rolex, and will tell you they're in transition to "something better".
In my case, the young man explained sheepishly that he had no other watch, and he just bought the Timex to cover for when the Submariner he was saving for came along. Interest piqued, I asked the painfully obvious question "Why Rolex?" He cobbled together some reasons - "The quality is good," "It's a good investment."
But I can't help but blame social media for the proliferation of Rolex as someone's first watch. Especially if it's someone who's doing ride-hires to make ends meet.
Which brings me to today's topic - the impact of social media on watch collecting.
And it's not a good one I'm afraid. I've heard Frederico and Bark & Jack share their views and I must say that I am in the same camp on this, not just for the high-end brands but for all watches in general. And also not because I am making a sponsored video (05:40), or selling alternative high end watches to a Rolex Submariner.
The Cool Watches
There's no denying that Rolex, Tudor and Omega are darlings of the 'gram. Any influencers wanting to get in on the action will inadvertently make a video related to the brands. This adds to the cool factor, and ultimately influences the collecting and buying decisions of the mass.
Add some of the microbrand darlings into the mix and you've got a charismatic troupe of homogeneous watches. I'll come out and say it - what is the deal with Ming watches? They're ugly; the only thing amazing about them is the line of people wanting to get one.
Hype and Influence
Wait lists, inflated prices and long lines of scalpers are the key points here. Hands up whoever also saw the resale price of the yellow gold green dial Daytona skyrocket the moment John Mayer picked it up and opened his influencing mouth to speak,
I know what it feels - the websites write about a certain watch, and then the Instagram accounts follow with photos of said watches. I flew to the site after reading about the Yema Superman Bronze. I flew again when read about the collaboration with Worn & Wound. I even wrote an article about the Seiko TicTok!
Think about the last few times you searched for a watch - how many of them were after social media influence? How many of the watches you own are a result of being exposed to the spotlight? How many 'trends' have been influenced by social media? I'm looking at you Grand Seiko, I'm looking at you.
What watch do you really like?
If we removed all the brands from all the watches, and put them on a table in front of you, which would you pick? Our passions in watch collecting can be attributed to the wonder of that small ticking mechanism on our wrists - they fascinate us to the point of desire, enticing us away from the realities of a waning bank account and convinces us to go beyond function and immerse fully into the form and visual delight of a well-designed wrist watch.
I like sports watches almost as much as I like dress watches. For the latter I like a well designed case profile. blending into the front and complementing the dial-work - a simple one is often evergreen, the odd indices according more interest than sticks and printed hashes. Dates are ok, but even better if matched with day window, and even even better if there's a moonphase attached. And gold. Gold gold gold gold gold.
A proper sports watch has a masculinity to it - sometimes subtle, sometimes brave. Bezels are nice if they are bi-directional (because pasta) and measure elapsed time, lugs good if they are short and slightly curved. Bracelets are necessary, but will be replaced with leather straps. Crowns should be stand out. Dials are a canvas for lume. And bronze. Bronze bronze bronze bronze bronze.
There are also hybrids, but that will get me too carried away.
Let's sum this up.
I must admit - there are times when I went out to search for and eventually buy a watch because of what I read on social media (the latest being the Yema x Worn & Wound Superman 2), but there are also times when I look at casual comments thrown around by people on a forum, interest group, comments section or IG that hints that they've merely followed what was thrown at them and not really had the chance to dive into what watch ownership means.
The large part of my collection has been bought based on feeling - I had the watch in my hand and on my wrist, talked to the person selling them (sometimes for hours about watches and collecting), before handing over physical cash or doing a transfer. Ditto for new watches that I buy from the AD too.
But an increasing portion of my current buys have been point and click. And that worries me. As part of the conversation online, I am also sucked into this social vacuum interacting with people I've never met.
Both sides of the coin are needed to build and grow this vibrant community, and perhaps the problem comes when they start to cross - collectors who're used to interacting with the watches meeting with collectors who're used to interacting with the brand and its products as images.
For the one, the Rolex Submariner is a dream. For the other it's a lifestyle.
I know which side I'm on. About seven years back I had a chance to put a 5513 on my wrist. I didn't have Instagram, I didn't have a collection. All I knew is that it's a damn cool watch. That watch has now quadrupled in price (not value), but I am still happy to have expanded my personal collection to pieces that I love to wear. There's no need to get that watch on my wrist again, and I've a few WMT pieces that give me the same joy.
And I'm proud to be able to say that my watch collect really does give me joy, not only at the point of purchase, but also each time I pick them up.