Why We Will Keep Writing About Watches You Can’t Afford, And Why You (Hopefully) Will Continue To Read This Under The COVID-19 Cloud
by Ian Skellern
Most of us are now on a COVID-19 rollercoaster ride and we don’t know if we are going up or down. And, unfortunately, unless you are in Asia, you are still on your way up and it’s a big drop down.
I’m writing this from my home in rural France where my wife Brigitte and I recently – and fortuitously as it turns out – moved from Switzerland. While France is now suffering badly, our local supermarkets and bakeries (and tobacconists and wine shops – this is France after all) have remained fully stocked throughout. There is no problem shopping (alone) twice per week (per person), and we have noticed no signs of anxiety or panic in the local largely farming/forestry community.
For that (and much else) I am very grateful.
And yet. Here I am still devoting inordinate amounts of my time on proofing, reading, and sometimes even writing (hopefully) enjoyable, understandable, and informative articles on (mainly) wristwatches that, let’s face it, even at the best of times, neither you, nor I, nor other watch journalists, and not even most independent watchmakers themselves, can afford. Have you seen the prices? Crazy!
And I don’t mean that most of us can’t afford the watches we desire; none of us can.
I know a good number of seriously wealthy people and count many as friends, and do you know what? They are searching for what’s just out of reach the same as somebody with a $50 watch is dreaming of a $300 watch. Whatever your income level, you (like me) still have that feeling of wanting what you don’t have. It’s what drives us forward as human beings. It’s deep.
It’s why Red Bar works.
It’s why Rolex can make hundreds of thousands of nearly identical watches and yet everyone cries shortage because they all want the same model, the one they can’t get.
While well-heeled watch collectors might get a brief dopamine hit out of each new purchase, even they, like the rest of us, spend most of our time on one, a few, or all of the below:
– reading about watches we can’t afford because we can’t afford them.
– reading about watches we can afford to make us feel better about our purchase.
– reading about watches because we like watches.
– reading about watches because we like reading about any interesting things.
I’m not a collector. That’s a gene or trait some have that I don’t. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to handle many, if not most of, the finest and the most interesting (not always the same thing) mechanical watches on the planet. And the last thing I (and most of my colleagues) ask is the price because it doesn’t matter to me (though it might to some of you): it’s just a number.
I’m more than happy with the watches I have, I’m not looking to buy (or sell), so the price, while of academic interest, isn’t my focus. I do not spend my (to me) precious time writing and publishing articles because it’s work. It’s because – perhaps like you – I like learning new things. I happened to discover the world of mechanical watches many years ago and ever since, the more I learn about fine watchmaking and great watchmakers the more I appreciate them and the more I want to read and learn.
While watch brands and watch retailers shutting down is an economic tragedy, like you, not being able to spend money now on a watch I neither want to buy nor could afford to buy, is way down on my list of what shutdown is and what it is not.
Most of us can enjoy can enjoy and appreciate art without owning it, and it’s no different with watches.
So if all of us are finding pleasure, and perhaps even more importantly in these socially distancing times, connected pleasure, in learning more about fine watchmaking and in sharing that knowledge, then we’ll keep writing.
And in continuing to publish, there’s the bonus that those collectors out there, who through good luck or good judgement (or both) are still in a financially comfortable position, might see something they like and buy it. In the next 12 months it will be this group that keeps the whole watch industry going. Including some of the team at Quill & Pad. We sincerely thank them.
So despite the gloomy coronavirus cloud above, we will continue highlighting and “taunting” you with laugh-so-loud-that-you-want-to-cry expensive watches. And we hope you enjoy them.
Stay healthy and stay sane!
You may also enjoy:
The Watch That Changed My Life: The Jean Daniel Nicolas Two-Minute Tourbillon By Daniel Roth
‘Time Piece’: If You Only Watch One Film On Independent Watchmaking, Watch This One
Open Letter To Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin: I’ve Cancelled My Geneva Watch Days 2020, Now It’s Your Turn (But You Should Have Been First)
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Well, you have your opinion, and that’s fine, but pleeeaase, don’t call yourself a watch “journalist”. Opinion, yes, journalism, not really. Your paragraph on the reason people cry shortage of Rolexes is example of minimizing and rationalizing, but of objective reporting? I think not. Not when Rolex has changed their marketing strategy that includes trying to bake up demand by making less watches, as well as changing their focus as to who their marketing.
I agree with you that most of us including myself are more pundits than trained journalists, however, are far as I’m concerned, I think all luxury watch brands would be better to follow Rolex’s (and Ferrari’s) example by making less watches than they can sell.
We can’t have painted/sculpted work by any of the great masters, but that’s never stopped art appreciation from being enjoyable.
If this article was meant to inspire hope, it failed signally. If this article was meant to be a profound commentary on watches in the 21st century, that too failed. Consider why you write and why people read articles about watches. Some self reflection may lead you to quality journalism.
You over estimate me, I doubt that any amount of self reflection will make me a better journalist. I just plug on doing my best with the limited skills I’ve got.
Thanks for writing. Sure, I enjoy reading well written articles on expensive (and cheap) watches, wine, travel, cars and a host of other things. There is only a limited amount of time in this life and so many things to see and do! So much to learn!
Slightly provocative prose, but there’s truth in there, and it’s better than the fake-virtue of “we’re here to help the community through this tough time” (bleurgh).
Anyway, I come here mainly for the watch porn, and you sir are a Baron of horological filth, so lang may yer lum reek.
Sorry I read this twice to figure out what all the angry comments were about. I too read these sites and nerd out on watches that I can’t afford. I love to see the creative innovations that watch makers come up with. I love the Zeitwerk, I’ll probably never be able to afford it but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see it, or read about what makes it special and what makes it work. Same with the Logical one, or anything from MB&F. So keep publishing, in these times I need all the content you got. Again I don’t understand the personal attacks. I hope everyone stays safe. Remember watches are meant to be fun!
I have to say that apart from the R Word, I believe this article was written with a bit of tongue in cheek and sense of the absurd. I mean, Top Gear used to be the biggest show The BBC had and that was basically one boor, a farmer and your grandad messing around with cars for the 0.1%, with a hefty subtext of local Conservative Party fund-raiser.
I don’t mind that. I Do mind when a website tries to pretend that it’s normal to have a few Langes lying about or that an Omega would make a good “starter watch”. I recently quit one website for stating that a Datejust was “an everyday watch for a budget collection”.
So yes, show us the goodies, but please don’t act like an obsequious sales assistant who tries to normalise watches that cost twice the annual salary of a professional from a G8 country.
“Please don’t act like an obsequious sales assistant who tries to normalise watches that cost twice the annual salary of a professional from a G8 country.”
I do my best, Tam, and I have no shortage of “well wishes” on hand to let me know when I screw up 🙂
Thank you for the article Ian, but what’s with all these haters??
Don’t shoot the messenger folks!
I have many watches, at many price points, and I do get frustrated when I see and read about a watch that I like but can’t afford or will never spend the money for. So what? I learned something and I was entertained.
If you don’t like what being written, don’t read it; there is no shortage of watch-related articles, sites and blogs.
The problem, Ian, is that given a choice between writing a “ZOMG this is interesting!” article or a “ZOMG this is expensive!” article, Quill & Pad will lean towards “ZOMG this is expensive!” because it’s objectively true, because it gets scraped by bots, because it triggers the outrage organ. Meanwhile “ZOMG this is interesting!” requires forming an opinion,expanding on it and defending it.
I would much rather see an article on the differences between the new “cheap” UN Freak vs the previous “not cheap” UN Freak than yet another “look Patek Philippe changed the color of their dial enamel from Pantone 12-0804 to Pantone 12-0806 and now it costs twice as much which is perfectly justified!” article.