The Necessity of
When Talking About Horology
N.B. #1: This article has not gone through the magical hands of our editor. It’s raw, unedited, and comes from the heart.
N.B. #2: The photos in this article are of brands I worked with and that I wholeheartedly support. Read on!
I worked a very different career before making watch journalism a full-time gig. In this previous career, I was often faced with the harsh reality that people can be mean and negative. I had to constantly fight for my ideas and to be heard, to only be shot down on a regular basis. (Maybe my ideas were all terrible, though.) I felt deflated and frustrated. Fast forward to watch journalism, I immediately faced criticism as soon as I published my first article. What did people criticize me for? Being positive. And as I would quickly find out, being positive meant being subjective.
I wholeheartedly disagree with that. (Obviously, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing an article about this topic.) My opinion is that we ought to be positive when talking about watches and this for one good reason: to encourage independent brand owners to push the envelope and to get their product out there, whether they are releasing their first model or the fifth collection. And I’d argue that we generally would all benefit from being positive when talking about watches because watch collecting should be something that brings us together, not that divides us.
We Focus on the Negative
In his book “The Psychology of Money,” author Morgan Housel explains the reason we are drawn to negativity: it’s an evolutionary thing. Before complex life forms existed, the microscopic organisms that created the basis for life on earth had to constantly fight for survival. Fighting against other organisms that wanted to take over and that threatened their survival. Fast forward tens of thousands of years, our ancestors—and basically any animal/insect/plant species—had to be on constant lookout for predators. We, humans, needed to fight to survive since we were less powerful and in smaller numbers than large, carnivorous animals. This developed our innate sense to defend ourselves against anything that looks threatening.
I’m not trying to dumb down a complex theory of evolution here, just trying to get to the bottom line. As we can see in the news everyday, we tend to pay more attention to negative events and not positive ones because they provide us with the opportunity to protect ourselves against something. We become afraid and can justify our animosity toward someone or something. Following therefore our evolutionary need to protect ourselves from others. It’s the people who have constantly predicted doom and the end of humanity that have attracted the largest audiences, not those we say all is going to be fine.
Historically, anyone who is positive or optimistic about our current condition or the future is seen as being foolish. We need the reassurance that there is something we can fight and protect ourselves against.
That’s why people have always found a way to fight each other by comparing each other either on the basis of skin color, wealth, religion, or any other belief systems. We create division in sports because it’s our team against their team, at work because we are better than the person in the next cubicle, within our families because we are better than our siblings, and on the street because “they” are making “us” feel stressed, scared, in danger. Just look at the news and it’s mostly negative and it’s all about pitting people against one another.
What’s the connection with watches, you should ask? We bring this negative mindset in our hobbies and watch collecting is no different. “This brand is terrible, look at their designs. That other brand does a better job at it.” We compare one brand to another. We criticize one brand for choosing a handset that looks like something else, for designing a case that resembles that of a famous Swiss model. I’m not immune to doing these kinds of comparisons and I need to be clear about this: I’m just as much at fault as anyone else. But I’m trying to change that.
Seaholm Flats Chronograph
How Negativity Affects the Watch World
As mentioned above, we tend to be overly critical of brands and of people’s opinions. From reviewers purposefully making a video about a watch they find to be trash, to reviewers criticizing how others are producing their content or are wrong about something, to writing nonsensical articles about why we are upset by a brand’s sales tactics. (We all know who I’m talking about here, don’t we?) This creates negative narratives that have a profound impact on the watch community in specific aspects. Therefore, we should be mindful of the ways in which we talk about watches and respect others opinions in order to keep the conversation helpful and joyful.
First of all, negativity creates unnecessary animosity. The world is harsh already and sometimes living is an act of courage, as the Stoics say. We really don’t need to make our lives more difficult by promulgating negative opinions about watches and criticizing each other and brands for what they do. We really don’t need to share every single thought we have about a watch, a person, or a brand. And yes, this is a phenomenon that is very prevalent these days: we have access to so many means of communication that we think it’s ok to say anything we want.
I’m not implying that we should not express ourselves. Of course not. However, I’m advocating for the advancement of positive conversations about horology. Why be negative when we can be positive? Why choose to write something that will have a negative impact instead of being supportive? I do think it’s important to be objective in our reviews as long as it doesn’t feel forced just for the sake of being objective. With a few exceptions, everything I write for Mainspring is positive. I’m very enthusiastic about watches, and if I don’t like a watch, I just don’t talk about it.
(Unfortunately, I cannot always write this way when I write for others, although I do remain true to myself in that I won’t point out anything that will have a profound impact on anybody’s decisions to support a brand.)
Second of all, negativity can literally destroy an entrepreneur’s efforts to create a brand. When I interviewed Mark from Average Bros, I understood that speaking negatively about a watch by focusing mostly on what is wrong with it can deter someone from wanting to buy it. He told me that he was interested in the Tudor Pelagos, of which most reviews were negative. The consequence was that he felt discouraged and did not purchase the Pelagos. This experience encouraged Mark to be, for the most part, positive when reviewing watches on his channel. He does so because he wants to help brands make it in a harsh and overly saturated independent brand market.
Imagine you want to create a watch brand. You invest all of your savings or take out a loan or borrow money from someone (these are all the ways in which a brand gets started, by the way. I can say this with confidence after interviewing a dozen of brand owners.) You take a lot of risks by doing so. And you have to juggle personal life with one or two career jobs, and on top of that you put all of your eggs in this one basket. You want to create a watch brand because you want to share your enthusiasm about horology and share your vision of it with other enthusiasts. You release your first model, take some photos of it, and send review units to journalists.
Imagine the horror if all of the reviewers are overly negative and focus only on what is wrong with your watch? They nitpick details which are insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The release is doomed and your project was annihilated. This happens too often and so I feel that my role as a watch journalist is to support independent brands. True, there are brands that I will never support. For example those who create a replica of a watch with a different name on it, or any brand that takes obvious inspiration from another watch while pretending to be original. However, my experience is that most independent brand owners are honest and forthcoming. They take risks that most of us will never dare take.
Vero Workhorse Backcountry
Why We Should Be Positive
The reason why, therefore, we should be positive (expressing affirmation toward brands that are doing good things) and optimistic (hopeful and confident about the future of the watch market,) is to help the market of independent brands to remain strong. The more brands, the more innovation. The more brands, the more options. The more options, the more price brackets and the more innovative brands can be. That’s how the world works and shooting down a brand because we don’t like what they’re doing is not making a positive contribution to this hobby.
Unfortunately, being positive is seen as being subjective and unrealistic. Everyday I have conversations with brand owners and watch collectors and I realize we all need to support each other. I loathe unsolicited negative commentary about a watch I write about on Instagram—people go to the length of sending me a direct message to tell me how bad the watch looks. I ignore such commentary. I do like to have objective conversations about watches, but I find that simply talking shit about a watch is downright a waste of everybody’s time and energy.
As I mentioned earlier, the world is already difficult to live in as it is. Wars are breaking out, governments are returning to archaic ideologies that threaten many people’s life and future, and the environment is broken beyond repair. When taking a broader view of the world, we can easily see that buying and talking about watches bears no importance whatsoever on the future of mankind. We would be better off having meaningful conversations about the state of humanity and what we can do about it. However, I would argue that we do need an outlet to escape from the horrors that are unfolding in front of our eyes.
If you are reading this article it means your outlet is horology. Why, then, bother being negative about it? What’s the point of critical commentary?
Nomadic Maraí 401 in Blue
I'm Not Perfect
As you know, I’m also at fault. If you know me personally, you have certainly heard me criticize a watch for some reason or another. My feelings sometimes get hurt because a watch is not what I expected it to be, because the movement doesn’t keep good time, or because the finish is not great. (If you’ve read other articles I published, you will know that watch collecting is mostly an emotional enterprise.) But these are personal comments I share with close friends. However, I do realize that being negative on direct messages also contributes to the negative narrative that is omnipresent in the world of horology. In order not to be contradictory and a hypocrite, I must abide by the principles I delineated above.
All articles and reviews I publish on Mainspring, as well as the mini reviews I publish on Instagram, are overly positive. If anything, you can tell I’m very enthusiastic about a brand and watch collecting overall. However, in order to make ends meet and to gain experience in my new career, I write articles for other magazines. Although I am not in a situation to be picky, I write for specific magazines that I find to be particularly good at being objective (balancing positive points with moans and niggles about watches) while supporting brands. It’s not perfect, but I would say it works well.
As you’ve noticed, though, I talk a lot about independent brands in this article and there is a reason for it.
I naturally fell into supporting independent brands when I first got into watches for a few reasons. (I will actually be writing an article about that at some point in the future.) Mainly, I support artisans and entrepreneurs, and when both become one in this hobby that is horology, I’m happy. The main reason why I am fascinated by independent brands is for their capacity to innovate and to listen to their fan base. Although people create brands so that they can wear a watch that they like (they make watches they would wear themselves) they go over and beyond to improve their product and to make it possible for enthusiasts to partake in this process.
Independent brands are the future of horology. (Oh, another idea for an article!) I look at the pillars of luxury horology has having started as independent brands many decades ago. They innovated by coming up with new designs, by using new materials, and by continuously manufacturing better movements. What independent brands do is forcing larger brands to continue to innovate. Independent brands need to be bold to survive and therefore they take risks. These risks create new case shapes, dial textures, and general concepts for watches that would have never seen the light of day if it weren’t for the boldness of the brands founders.
Christopher Ward C65 Aquitaine GMT
Although I feel I trailed off toward the end of this article, I would like to reiterate one core point: nobody asked us to get into this hobby. We are here voluntarily. You decided to buy a watch just as much as an influencer decided to produce a video review of a watch, just as much as I decided to make writing about watches a full time job. Since we decided to be here, let’s make a point to be positive, optimistic, and supportive. Because you must remember this: as a community, we are better off doing good to one another instead of tearing each other apart.
Thoughts? Send me an email at email@example.com
Thanks for reading.