Inversely Proportional...

As with many things it's everybody's and nobody's fault. Partly due to the arrival of a whole new crowd of buyers with quite a different profile to the high-end watch market so far. Several issues should be addressed because of their faulty "schooling" regarding what they get for their money. Nothing wrong with newcomers, they are in a way responsible for the incredible boom the sector has experienced these last ten years. As customary the problem can be traced back to retailers or authorized distributors (not all though) that are more concerned in making money than giving a service and the manufacturers that do not enforce the issue of being adequately represented in these distributors. I don't blame since the main reason for starting a business is making money in the first place. The second have not demeaned to control the "method of selling" until recently. Some sales staff out there might have noticed by now that selling at any cost may come back and bite you in the butt. Anyway, back to our subject... amongst the new wave of buyers with a lot of burning cash in their pocket but with an inverse knowledge regarding "Haute Horlogerie" there is a recurring misconception. It generally is in their firm believe that the more expensive the watch the less prone to flaws, quality defects, faulty service, etc... WRONG!

In the laws of watchmaking this is quite the opposite. The more complex a watch, the more you can't use industrial machinery and need fine handwork. The less you can use automation, the longer it takes to make a watch. The more you use the human factor, the more things can go wrong. The more human factor involved, the higher the cost. In other words, the more exclusive, unique and expensive... the more imperfect, delicate and problematic. For most of us, no mater price or purchasing power, this is part of the charm in watches. I can assure anybody that the accuracy, homogeneity and reliability of a Seiko beats a Richard Mille hands down. However, if you could, which would you go for? I believe that it it is safe to say that everybody would make the "irrational" choice of getting the more expensive and way less reliable RM or FP Journe, before a Seiko or Timex. Why? Simple, it's a battle of egos and it never is about reliability. There is nothing wrong with that if you are aware of it.

I do understand however the concerns that buyers have to that respect. It is hard to grasp that you just spend over 100K on a watch that is less accurate than a 50 bucks Swatch. Plus there is the nuisance of sending your watch for service after two weeks. Furthermore, they tell you it will take over 4 months to fix. Plus, the worst part is the well popular stuck-up "take it or leave it..." attitude. The problem is created not from the moment after the watch is being sold but rather at the moment of the sale. It should be explained to the client that part of what makes this watch so special is a complete handmade process that renders the watch unique and that due to its complexity it is likely to go to service, etc... Unfortunately this is not so. The customer is likely to see dollar signs rolling in the eyes of the sales person instead of getting any sort of warning. No wonder that the customer gets hysterical spasms of anger and rage when returning the watch only after several months. Mind you, things were worse before. I remember not long ago when you had the feeling that they were doing you a favor when taking the watch for service. In many cases it was attempted to make the customer pay for repairs even if still under guarantee. To them you were nothing but an unworthy fool who just had no idea how to treat a watch. Believe me, the more prestigious the brand the more you got treated this way. There has been improvement in recent years to that respect. Thanks only to complaining customers though.

Don't kid yourselves, there is no such thing as the "best" or "perfect" watch. Just enjoy what you have and don't waste your time getting angry on little things. Believe me, only then will you enjoy this passion to the fullest.


Velociphile said...

Yes, true luxury is not worrying.

Good to have you back Dario.


Kyle S. said...

Very interesting perspective you share here. And I should say I agree with you! An AD once told me a great story about a guy with money burning in his pocket - he came in purchased "the most expensive watch in the store" only to return a few days later claiming the watch was broken! The AD was very distraught particularly as this was a very, very large sale. Turns out that all that was "wrong" is that the watch was a "manual wind" watch that had not been wound!

KronosClub said...

Thanks V.

"...true luxury is not worrying." You don't say! I used to be "slave" to cars until I said no more.

Hi Kyle,

Yes, actually the same thing happens much more often than many might realize. There is something similar happening with a large sector of the High-End watch sector obsessed with selling mechanical watches to women. Unless "she" gets it for herself and knows what she is getting anything else than quartz is futile. The simply have other needs.

Jos. said...

Yes, glad to have you back Dario, but for once I do not completely agree with you. Although reliability is (or should be) a goal we all aspire to, imho you must also recognise that this cannot always be reconciled with being on the cutting edge of technology.

Anyone who has ever owned a Ferrari or Maserati knows this. Driving them is an exalted experience, far removed from anything 'ordinary' brands can offer. And so is the price. But a Volkswagen is more reliable, and in the unlikely case something's wrong, repaired both more quickly and cost-effectively. Does this make a Volkswagen better? Not necessarily. It all depends on what you want.

Should Ferrari and Maserati aspire to VW's dependability? Of course, and it even looks like they're getting there (focus on 'getting'). Meanwhile, it's part of the experience.

Talking about The Experience: you mention Richard Mille. I too own an RM, and mine too broke down after barely a year (and that's far from net wearing time, mind you). I headed out to the RM boutique, was welcomed with a glass of champagne, handed in my watch. After a few months I was invited back, to the new boutique, this time, a lovely place where true aficionados congregate (probably because their watch broke down too). One enjoys a good cup of coffee or a nice drink, drools over some of the new models just in, and returns home happy, working watch on wrist.

And that's the important bit. I hate it when my watch breaks down. It should not. But a brand that cherishes its customers and the experience they receive gets a lot of leeway.

True luxury is not worrying indeed: if you have to hand over your priceless piece for a few months, you can always grab anothe one off the winder :)


KronosClub said...

Hi Jos,

Agree with your point of view regarding Cars yet watches a bit different to that respect. Agreed that my point could be made with the automobile industry ten or more years back when Aston, Ferrari, Lambo and others where a real nightmare when it came to reliability. But they where so sexy, even more then than now... The watch industry is at a similar point right now. However, unlike these cars that have benefited immensely by automation I believe that the high-end watch sector will take much longer to achieve this stage. Not so much because they can't but rather that many of us wont let them. You can't ask them to remain "pure" in their conception and have machine like precision.

In any case "better" is relative. Take an Enzo and a Range for example. Take them both on a racetrack. The Enzo will most likely lap the Range. Now, go off-road and try crossing a river. The Enzo will not make it past a few yards into the river yet the Range was capable of finishing the track. Which is better? Undoubtedly if I were single living in a major city my choice would be the Enzo. If I were married with children living in a Castle on the country side I would have to go for the Range.

What is the current status of your RM? Do you still own it, are you happy with it?

Jos. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jos. said...

Agreed, Dario, horses for courses as they say. But I still prefer a Range Rover over a Toyota Landcruiser, and I would not be able to explain exactly why. It's that "je ne sais quoi", I guess...

Likewise, yes I do still love my RM. Again, it's irrational. The watch now performs excellently (until the next time it breaks down, of course - one never knows) but now it's strap trouble again.

I had this before, barely two months into wearing (and not continuously, I have a habit of rotating) the strap broke, near the place where it enters the case. It's a design fault. Richard Mille has chosen a design where a strap consists of two layers of leather, between which at the end a small plate is lodged with two holes in it, that fit the screws that go through the case at both ends. So the strap essentially hangs from that little plate. Used to be plastic, now it's titanium I'm told.

It's easy to see why - RM aimed for an entirely new case design, without lugs, showing off maximum amounts of case, dial and bezel. It's one of the many reasons my mood always lightens when I look at it to see what time it is. I love the design, with its sapphire plates, light effects, movement design, and unequaled combination of skeletonisation and readability. To paraphrase Velociphile: true luxury is forgetting your worries when you look at your watch :)

Not to mention the fact that it opens the way to DIY strap changes, one of the reasons we all love Panerai. But I digress.

Because as with everything in life, RM's experiment comes at a price. The strap design, in short, sucks. I replaced the original strap with a lovely dark brown croc that alone cost as much as a Seiko and between my previous comment and the present one it's started to unravel again.

I've learned that the inherent weakness of the strap design is one of Richard's biggest headaches at the moment. Let's hope he finds a solution.


KronosClub said...

Yes, the straps are a nightmare! I have stopped caring and just bought a couple to change myself...

If you do not a deployant you should consider one since it helps towards the longevity of the strap.

I know that Richard's biggest head ache are the straps. To honest (I am not bragging...) I already thought of several ideas to fix that darn problem. One of them is simply making a rubber strap just like the current black leather one. The rubber available right now takes a bit of the RM magic if you ask me. maybe that is why it has not been a killer since introduction.


Jos. said...

I sincerely hope one of your ideas takes hold and leads to a solution :)

Using a deployant doesn't solve the problem. In fact, it's even more annoying because the deployant perfectly preserves the strap itself, making the unraveling of the 'case' ends of the strap even more poignant!

By the way, RM use a fantastic deployant which I always thought was their own, until I noticed exactly the same deployant on the MB&F. Do you know where they source it?


KronosClub said...

Not sure exactly who makes it but URWERK uses it as well.

Personally I like it, but not on an RM. The reason being that every time you open the clasp it transmits a quite strong "jerk" that can't be too good on the movement. On the others it does not mater since the straps are not as attached to the case as the RM's are. So the jolt it not conducted all the way to the watch...

Let me look into this and I will let you know...