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An interview with The Horacle: Rise of the independents!
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An interview with The Horacle: Rise of the independents!

Monday, 04 September 2017
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William McNish
Strategic Planner at RE-UP

“There is nothing quite as beautiful as the spark in a person's eye when you bring up something they are passionate about.”

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6 min read
Robert

Robert

  • Finance
  • 36 years
  • San Francisco

A self-proclaimed watch nerd, Robert has been a watch collector since his high school days. It all came about due to his everlasting appreciateion for architecture and engineering. His first real watch was an Omega Seamaster.

Tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get into Fine Watch collecting?

When it comes to watch collecting in general, I would say it started in high school. I was on vacation with my family in Hawaii and bought a plastic digital surf watch and for years I never took it off. Keep in mind though, that this was before everyone carried a cell phone in their pocket. I had always had an appreciation for architecture and engineering, so I thought that watches were a cool way to express myself.

Now on to “fine” watch collecting, I would say that started around age 28 or so. I had saved up and bought a new Omega Seamaster, it was my only watch for about two years I think. After that I traded up for a Panerai 312 for my 30th birthday, after which I went down the proverbial rabbit hole. Next came a Rolex GMT Master II BLNR, an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15300, De Bethune DB 27, and about 18 watches in between.

Do you have a favourite independent brand? Who? Why?

I would say TWO favourite independent brands because they are so different, Richard Mille and MB&F. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Max Busser, not only for the watches that he makes, but also, for the passion with which he approaches watchmaking. Richard Mille on the other hand offers, in my opinion, some of the coolest sport watches in the industry. Their use of new materials, innovated designs, and overall comfort just make them so attractive to me. I always tell people you have to try on a Richard Mille to fully appreciate them, they are some of the most comfortable watches around.

What is your favourite watch created by an independent brand? Why?

At the moment I would say the MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual. I have a thing for complicated watches and when brands push the limits in terms of engineering. The Legacy Machine Perpetual just hits all of the marks for me. There’s something special about the mix of simplicity and legibility with the extremely skeletonized dial showing all 581 parts that makes me drool. The fact that the watch won the GPHG in 2016 says it all.

Personally, why do you love independent watch brands?

Watches are very personal to me, they tell stories and are somewhat an extension of me as a person. With independent brands I feel a more personal touch and connection knowing that I own one of few watches that were produced in a given time period. In contrast, Rolex produces nearly 1,000,000 watches annually. Don’t get me wrong, Rolex makes fantastic watches (I have owned 4 models), but I don’t feel that same connection to the brand when so many pieces are produced.

Why do you think independent brands are so popular at the moment? 

It’s hard to say because some independent brands are very popular, while others are extremely under-appreciated. I think the well-loved brands use a combination of good marketing and perceived rarity to drive the hype. Take a brand like Richard Mille, which I love, that produces roughly 4,000-5,000 watches per year. Now try to find an RM 35-02 at a retailer and tell me if you have any luck. On the flip side, take a brands like MB&F, Moser, F.P. Journe, who produce less than 1,000 watches per year, and it is relatively easy to find a their most popular pieces at authorized retailers.

Why do you think we are seeing more independent brands are being created recently?

It’s a ripe time for small micro brands to start up and thrive. The rise of Kickstarter, Instagram and Snapchat has provided a new medium for advertisement and for brands to connect with consumers. Coupled with the fact that these brands can go direct to consumer online it’s not surprising that we are seeing more independent micro-brands these days.

Where do you think the future lies with these independent brands?

I think those brands that embrace change and stay a step ahead of trends, while at the same time producing watches that are both interesting and different, will come out ahead. I don’t think we’ll see a full e-commerce transition in the watch industry, because like I said, the watch buying experience is very personal and special. However, those brands that can connect and educate consumers through various online mediums will excel beyond their peers.

What is your go to: 

Daytime watch? Why?
It’s a tie between my Rolex GMT Master BLNR and my Rolex 1680. They can go from a suit and tie to a bathing suit and look good with either.

Dress watch? Why?
The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak 15300. If you’ve ever seen one in person, you’ll know that this watch has some bling to it. I do own a De Bethune Titan Hawk on a leather strap, but I just think the AP looks better with a suit.

Sport watch? Why?
My Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore 26400IO. It’s big, aggressive but beautiful, rugged and of course, water proof.

If you could own any watch, what would it be and why?

Well that’s probably the hardest question to ask a WIS. I’ve already covered the MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual, so I’ll also add the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5980. I’m really a sports watch fanatic and this to me is the king of them all. The proportions and dial layout are absolutely perfect, and the fact that it’s discontinued doesn’t hurt either.

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