What makes the difference?

During the latest Swiss shows we saw that just about any brand with enough financial power to commission specialised movement developers and makers could come out with the most surprising of complications. It seems that other than repeaters (which few master) almost anything is possible and unheard of brands or non horology related ones are all trying to go upscale.

The question is then if any one can make a perpetual calendar with holographic moonphase with triple tourbillon with a cage made of chewing gum then what enables us to differentiate a so-so brand, a good brand with a great one?

Add in some marketing mumbo jumbo and you’ll end up buying a rusty watch that doesn’t give time…but I’m getting off track here.

For me it’s the worlds biggest pizza isn’t necessarily the best one and it’s not the brand who has the most (or most original) complications, the weirdest design or who simply shouts the loudest but the one who puts the watchmaker in the center (and not the engineers who seem to be the new divas in the watch word).

You can know how to program the world’s most complicated computers and create a masterpiece on paper but it’s the watchmaker who gives the watch life and gives it soul. It’s the watchmaker’s painstaking manual finish which will give even the most simple of movements its incomparable sheen and attraction.

And that’s what makes the difference in my book…

Doc
04/24/2008 - 16:32
04/24/2008 - 21:32
04/24/2008 - 22:02
04/25/2008 - 00:57
Newer brands usually need to "shout" louder
04/24/2008 - 14:57

than already established brands like PP or VC to get consumers' attention. They would come up with out of this world triple carousel tourbilon (whatever that nonsense is), etc. to impress collectors saying them to be "a piece of art". Of course, the price is astronomical...lesser quantity requires higher margin

I tend to go for classic watches from established names as I fell they are the ones that can stand the test of time. Watches are meant to make us happy, spending hunderds of thousands of dollars for a watch does not make me happy

Not to mention simple chrono selling for above $15k where it used to cost a lot less...no innovation just more hype

The difference is.
04/24/2008 - 16:32

History, only one watchmaker is the oldest.

Tradition, keeping all new creations connected to the roots, only one watchmaker does that.

Creativity, only one watchmaker has through all times, except some short periods because of monetarian reasons,

been the leader, and is now again with QdI.

Here again we find the roots in Art Deo, when V&C was perhaps most outstanding.

There is a special exclusiveness of always being first, in setting a new trend that will soon be standard.

I know of only one brand.

If you than consider that this brand in more than 250 years,

only created roughly as many watches as Rolex does per year,

you also get a perspective.

These threads leads to one thing, to be unique,

and tha's just what Vacheron Constantin is.

Unique.

We are all to congratulate ourselves that we have found the narrow path 

Doc

Well said Doc, but would like to add
04/24/2008 - 18:10

with uniqness comes creativity. Many of the newer brands are hanging off the coattails of the top established brands and in some cases watch makers/designers. With PP and Vacheron you have the history in vintage/art deco watches that are still highly sought after, then you have the contemporary models such as the historique, jubilee and platine just to name a few that are just now being recognized outside the vacheron wis circles, and now we have the future with the QdI, masks, explorers.

One other feature that should not be forgotten is the documented history of the company. For me and I know all my fellow loungers, reading is learning, and its a very important aspect of what we do as collectors. This is a hint Doc

You are buying the complete package not just a singular watch.

Mr L (does this sound corny, my name that is?)

Mr L. sounds cool
04/24/2008 - 18:19

.

sounds very very MIB :-) (nt)
04/24/2008 - 18:23

e

So true! In fact, maybe John should use a pic of Will Smith or
04/24/2008 - 18:30

Tommy Lee Jones as his avatar...

Whats MIB ???????
04/24/2008 - 19:04

nt

Men in Black, in the movie the characters were called by the
04/24/2008 - 19:07

1st letter of their name.

I should have known that, classic movie(s) nt
04/24/2008 - 19:43

nt

I think we are agree on all points,
04/24/2008 - 20:20

Mr L

Like BJ in M.A.S.H., you know Hawkeye Pierce "room mate" in the "Swamp".

I remeber one of the 250 episodes, or was it even more ??,

when Hawkeye were trying to get out of him what BJ stood for.

Hawkeye got obscessed with it and checked all the way up in the military registers,

and finally he found out what BJ stood for ---- BJ, that was his name

Always appreciate your thoughts Mr L

Doc

How to Best the Best?
04/25/2008 - 07:15

Dear Mr. JohnLy,

I believe, there's no ans to my question.  You can never go back, however, VC can recognize truly singular watch design and movement engineering from days past.  Everyone has an opinion, my VC is one that, I think, deserves such recognition.  VC needs to remain on the cutting-edge of haut-culture watchmakers, but there remains a market for those who gravitate towards simple elegance: from function to appearance.  That's a timepiece's statement that tells of the values of the wearer - simple elegance.  VC must have hundreds of case designs and movements... which one can be deemed classic and worthy of reintroduction into the market?  My 3003xx design is quitessential and deserves market analysis, perhaps it was among VC's 1937 - select few.  No matter, it's statement is clear to all who see it.... no pretentiion; just simple elegance.  It conveys a man who can be trusted and who's word or handshake is his bond.  It is not a discussion piece... simply, what you see is what you get!   How many of VC's designs have chased the chic?

Perhaps it is time for VC to select from its many designs a timepiece which conveys such quitessential/banal attributes on a limited basis.  Maybe Alex might be willing to entertain such a search for selection of the VC design which best conveys the message.  

I very much appreciate your view...  I'm in awe of the steps required to bring a product-set to market.  As they say; "The proof of the Pudding is in the Tasting".  

Thanks for your consideration,

bandit

The Patrimony Contemporaine manual wind is pretty much a modern
04/25/2008 - 12:47

reinterpretation of the typical design of VC's from the 50s you refer to.

The difference is, as the French say, a "Je ne sais quoi"...
04/24/2008 - 18:18

For some reason, I prefer saying that expression with a bad English accent - it sounds more refined

I will not lie and say that brand is not important to me. Of course, if VC or Lange is selling a watch at 15k, I am more ready to drink the Cool-aid, believe all the marketing hype and pay the "Brand Premium" than if it is Shady Joe's latest creation, the SJ3000 (that said, since my experience at La Boutique in Geneva was less satisfying than Kazumi's, I'm drinking less enthusiastically the VC Cool-aid... I still love VC's products, but the Company itself has lost a bit of its magic to my eyes)

Having said that, a watch is a very personal thing, and at the end the real differentiator will be how the watch makes me feel.

I did buy - overpay - for a Hublot Big Bang. I didn't buy it for its brand name/image, I would say almost the opposite, I bought it in spite of the company's image... I just love the way the watch looks and feels...

I am not technically-focused enough to get overexcited by the fact that it is a triple-tourbillon or a double one... the key thing for me will be if the watch looks good, and if it speaks to me. Of course when paying that price one wants to make sure that he's getting his money's worth, and that what is inside the case actually does what is written on the box... while technical failure for me would be more a reason not to buy, technical performance will not be a key motivation for buying.

I do however consider very important the finishing of a movement - if you are paying top dollars, you don't want the back looking like a Swatch, so I agree with Alex's comment that it is the watchmaker's work who gives life to the watch.

I see the brand in the same way... having the right logo on the watch might help sell it, but it will not be of the key decision criteria. If it had been JLC who had released the QdI, I would have loved it as much...

hmm...
04/24/2008 - 21:32

...the father of one my closest friends was a top Chief whom has now passed away (may his soul rest in peace). Back when I was teen, he and I used to talk a lot about wines and I learned a lot about wines and food from this gentlemen (on the contrary to his own son who cannot even make eggs without burning the egg…or the frying pan). But he told me once that do not look too much on the brand of the wine you are buying – maybe as a hint but nothing else. If you like a wine, you shouldn’t pass it just because its not expensive enough…or vice versa. It’s Your taste and You are drinking it. And if it tickles Your fancies…then fine. Then that is a good wine for you.

 

I think same thing goes with most of things you collect or buy to indulge yourself , for we are not buying watches to know what time it is …that one we get from our mobile phones or from the right down corner of our computer screens. It’s the fact that we love and enjoy these little things for our own reasons that buy them...and these reasons MAY vary. And SHOULD vary!

 

It could be the history, the great craftsmanship or the cool design. I cannot say, any way is the RIGHT way just which way is My way…

 

Personally I love the craftsmanship and simplicity in watches like CR1907 or any watch from Mr. Dufour and really couldn’t care less of complications such as tourbillions or Minute repeaters…but that doesn’t make it right or wrong…just what I like about it…

Which is great…if we all loved the same about watches…whatta boring world it would…then we couldn’t laugh about people paying over prices for Hublot Big Bangs (Veillotron just kidding ...)

 

We see things differently and that is the beauty of our world...

 

Kindest regards

/Xerxes

Re: hmm...
04/24/2008 - 21:52

By the way, people overpaying for their BBs will now be making LVMH richer - they just bought Hublot...

Biver and management team to stay onboard.

Re: Re: hmm...
04/24/2008 - 23:07

I wonder how long it will take Biver to find another "old" name to bring back to life. He's a marketing genius and workaholic.

Mr L

Re: Re: Re: hmm...
04/24/2008 - 23:37

I'm sure LVHM tied him up for at least 3 years before agreeing to buying the company... Hublot depends so much on JCB (I agree with you, he's such a marketing genius). IMO, they sold the company just at the right time...

no denying that Biver has the Midas Touch! His use of "fusion" to
04/25/2008 - 14:08

indicate case metals made of different metals has almost become a generic term, even Antiquorum is using it in it's catalogue for the Geneva May 10 sale to such effect.

All that glitters...
04/24/2008 - 22:02

is not gold

The famous Shakespear's misquotation of The Merchant of Venice is absolutely applicable to the watch market nowadays. There are just a few true gems among a number of imitators and counterfeiters.

While it is not hard (never will be) to distinguish real gems with VC shining at its brightest (with its 253 yrs of uninterupted history in haute horologerie and a bright future with projects like QdI), you get totally lost when trying to probe deeper with the lesser bling-bling brands (actually there's nothing really interesting there to find).

So history and heritage is what really attracts true aficionados to the brand. It is history and heritage that counts. You can't just fool a true watch fan with a nice design or gimmicks like triple tourbillons.

Ideally (like in VC's case) when a respected manufacture can bridge history with contemporary design and technical novelties you get the best of watches you can dream of. If you're able to distiguish that from other watchmakers you really step onto a narrow path (nice paraphrase, Doc) leading straight to the Maison at Tour de l'Ille...     

Is there REALLY a difference between the Venerables and the New Kids?
04/24/2008 - 23:31

Playing Devil's Advocate, just for fun: Here's a thought/ question: In a way, aren't the "venerable" brands such as VC and PP really packaging experts, just like the newer ones? Only recently did VC and Patek started to manufacture some of their movement in-house. Speak to Doc, and I'm sure he'll tell you that he's got no problem with his Art Deco babies housing movements that weren't built by VC.

Yes, VC did the finishing (which, as per my previous post, makes a big difference IMO!), will have made a few technical changes, improving the quality of the movement. But historically, manufacturing movements has NOT been VC's core business. VC focused during most of its history (somebody please stops me if I'm wrong...) on designing watches, and manufacturing the most amazing cases, with beautiful lugs, and to-die-for dials... VC became an expert in creating and producing watches, but outsourced the production of the movement to some other company. VC certainly used the best movement manufacturers, putting "Bentley engines" (to use the car analogy) in their watches, but for a long time they didn't produce them... So, isn't what a lot of new watch companies are currently doing?

New brands are coming to the market with a new watch concept/design, but since they don't have the in-house capabilities, are sourcing the movement from established houses (well, some of them, at least)...

And to be honest, the case and dial finishing on some of them is quite nice… (they have to make sure it is, if they want their product to sell at huge premiums) …As much as I love the romantic idea of a watch being hand-made, or hand-finished, being a practical man in the end it is the results that counts, and if some of the new kids on the block can achieve the same results using machines, then good for them.

I’m not saying that all the new guys have great products, and I agree that a lot of it is not my cup of tea, but looking at it objectively I wonder how much difference there is between them in VC. In fact, some of the new guys are trying to differentiate themselves from the established leaders by producing their own, more advanced movements (which sometimes leads to some guys going to extremes and building quadruple-tourbillons). What the new guys are doing cannot be that bad – didn’t VC recently bought the movement manufacture of Roger Dubuis, to acquire its technical capabilities? Which makes me wonder, where is the core value of the watch?

Finishing (case, dials as well as movement) is key to producing a top product, but isn’t the real value in the design of the watch? The finishing can be perfect, but if it looks like s**t, then who’s going to buy it? I’m sure VC’s finishing didn’t deteriorate in the 90s, but a lot of people didn’t like the models they were coming out with. The firm has made huge progress, but that’s all coming from making creative and beautiful designs (isn't it???)… So if the value is really in the design, than it become really hard to claim that the “Traditionals” are better than the newer watch manufacturers – it becomes a matter of personal taste… Some people will prefer more traditional designs, and some more bling-bling concepts... 

And then, does having a 253 years history really counts for that much? Going back to the 90s example, it didn't seem to help that much then... And looking at 1990 born-again Lange, one can make beautiful products from the get-go (new company doesn't necessarily means modern design...)

Having said all that, VC remains my love (of course) A lot of rambling on from a guy who’s still in the office and should focus more on his work…

Cheers,

Veillotron

and besides...
04/25/2008 - 01:52

a little competition is always good for the business, right?

Inhouse vs ebauché! VC vs the rest.
04/25/2008 - 02:43

It's a fact that VC was one of the last of the established firms to make inhouse movements.

They of all, who once was leader of the pack, delivering to a certain monsieur Breguet,

than in the 19 th century, thanks to Mr Leschot who was engaed by the firm, and who developed the pantograph,

which helped them to make identical parts, long before, about 15 years, than any other watchmaking comany.

Leschot was employed 1844.

V&C exported a lot of movements, probably most to USA but to UK and France as well.

They were really "inhouse".

Later they found JLC as a fantastic ebauché maker and concentrated on design.

I'm also BTW more intersted in the whole concept of a watch, mainly the design and finish.

I'm no complicated person, to say it more laid back

V&C also did the same when creating the complicated watches, like Faruk's,

where every single bill is still kept, and were presented with the watch.

That's the way Swiss watch industry worked, until a new comer Mr Swatch himself,

started the inhouse race.

Quite amazing, that a man that created his imperium on quartz watches,

forced the old companies to make "inhouse" movements!

It wasn't but a few years since PP and VC used exactly the same chronograph movements.

I personally think this inhouse/manufacture discussion is just stupid!

If a specialist like JLC build 100.000 movements,

they probably makes better and cheaper basic movements than a firm that makes 5.000,

or sometimes not even that.

So in this Francois, you and I can walk side by side

Cheers

Doc  who must GTB (go to bed )

I don't think that the inhouse /ebauche debate is really
04/25/2008 - 12:32

relevat anymore as almost all brands have their own inhouse movement but from examining some of these ne inhouse calibers I was lead to believe that they were better off continuing using pedestrian ETA calibers! Sometimes (and espacially nowadays) manufacture caliber does not systematically mean quality.

BTW Roger Dubuis' production facilities were bought by Richemont not VC

Quality!
04/25/2008 - 00:57

The most importante substantive for me when buying a watch is quality, and for this reason I was very pleased to know that VC is now appliing the Geneva Seal for all its mechanical watches. Even better is the fact that their standarts are even higher than those required for the seal.

I just wonder how trully wonderful those complicated moviments are, technically speaking.

And to be honest, complications still very important to me. I would love a VC triple-tourbillon gyroscopic perpetaual calendar minute repeater...with one hand!