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John Mayer letter via Hodinkee

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An American pop songwriter/singer/guitarist with a tad influence of blues. Pretty talented guy, and I have been listening to his earlier pieces. Aside from music, he also has a passion in timepieces, as shown in his interview with Ben from Hodinkee: VIDEO: Talking Watches With John Mayer â HODINKEE - Wristwatch News, Reviews, & Original Stories

 

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"When you started to open brick-and-mortar boutiques in high-end fashion districts across the world, the integral models in your lineup saw their DNA spliced into special limited editions so many times over that the the original models began to look like a tired sperm donor."

Pretty much sums it up. I guess that's why I've stayed true to my 377701 and 371417.

 

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The content of his letter is interesting, clearly very heartfelt. On the other hand, it sounds like a simple case of cognitive dissonance with the brand that he's chosen. It happens, learn to handle it buddy. Like all brands there are models and lines that won't please every buyer. It's probably been that way since Heuer fans saw Steve McQueen run away with the brand or Shawn Connery do the same for Rolex. Fans of pocket watches may have had a hard time with the advent of wristwatches in the 1910s and 1920s...

Anyway, Mayer sounds like a real WIS in his letter, but then again here he is with Kanye West:

"My IWC Big Pilot in platinum costs 40 grand. How much does your solid gold Jesus cost? Only 15, HAHAHA !"

Thanks for contributing this piece of skin deep celebrity hype to everyone's ownership experience of IWC. you've cheapened it for all of us, but we'll deal with it.

 

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As a collector, I get what he's saying and I even share many of his sentiments, particularly that the general concepts he expressed can be applied to more than a smattering of other makers. I've not really had those thoughts re: IWC, but then IWC isn't a maker that moves me all that much, so I can't say I think about them at all, let alone thinking about them to the extent he has.

As a consumer, I don't know that his dismay is even relevant. Either IWC make something tony20009 the consumer desires or they don't. As a consumer, my interest in IWC, or any other watch company, is purely transactional. I want a watch that meets some set of requirements and I search about until I find it. It's not about passion for watchmaking.

As a business consultant, I'd say that if a company can earn the required profits from catering almost exclusively to collectors, fine. If not, however, failing to morph in accordance with market demand and other exigencies represents the height of corporate ineptitude and/or irresponsibility. No matter how commercially oriented be a company's lineup, the fact is that if it can earn sufficient profits, collectors who crave "whatever" can forget about getting from that maker for the maker will go bankrupt and produce nothing. That default may be a good thing in the long run re: the resale values of watches already held by collectors, but it's no good at all beyond that. It's sort of like one's long dead favorite aunt: the memories are lovely and comforting, but having one's aunt be still around is far better and far more satisfying.

Mr. Mayer wrote:Then something changed. It would be cynical to blame it on the companys sale to Richemont Group, because I believe a company can change hands and still maintain their course. But I can tell you the moment the entire line shifted was with the release of the Ingenieur model.Cynical as it may be, I think the Richemont acquisition a far better marker of IWC's transformation. I struggle to see what exactly changed when the Ingy was introduced in 1958 (?) that could have effected the state of affairs over which Mr. Mayer laments.

The man's entitled to his opinion, but I think his reticence toward cynicism has clouded his thinking. The Richemont acquisition was very much the pivotal moment in IWC's history, much as similar takeovers were critical to other makers to which it happened. If most of those companies could have and wanted to remain independent, they would have done so. Yes, one or two acquisitions were synergistic, but the majority of them were opportunistic "savior" transactions, purely business transactions.

Are there watch companies that are able largely to cater to collectors over consumers? Absolutely, yes. Dufour, Maitres du Temps, Vianny Halter, MB&F, and a great many other FDHH perimeter brands are but a few examples of such makers. They can do that profitably because of the price point at which they can sell their wares and the very small number people the company profits must support. Once a company reaches a certain critical mass, it has to also achieve sales volumes at a level that supports it.

Those makers I cited can do so because at $60K+ per watch, they only need a very few customers to support the one or two people who work there, and who in all likelihood are owners (aided perhaps by one administrative employee) not employees. The luxury of having the nature and extent of choice those small companies have is a luxury a maker like IWC, PP, AP, Rolex, Omega and all the other large makers simply do not have.

Aside from disagreeing with Mr. Mayer about when certain sea change events occurred, and my willingness to view the matter not only as a collector, but also from a business perspective, I share Mr. Mayer's dismay as it applies to various larger (relative to the micro-companies I noted above) companies like IWC. I choose, however, to sate my passion for the "slightly off-beat, the quirky and the individual by looking to those very small makers. Mr. Mayer may need to do the same.

Lastly, Mr. Mayer paraphrased an old saw when he wrote, "Trying to be all things to everyone is a pretty good way to ensure that you wont be something special to anyone." I couldn't agree more, as a collector, consumer or consultant. The thing is I see IWC and other watch companies not as trying to be all things to all people, but rather striving to be a thing that, as a curatorial, story telling and passionate collector, isn't all that inspiring and that doesn't capture my interest all that much. They are trying to be successful, profitable makers of luxury timepieces.

I can only take so much issue with their choice to drive their companies in that direction. We're in an era where any mechanical watch and the craft required to make fine ones are anachronisms. Perhaps Mr. Mayer is onto something? Perhaps all watchmakers should focus on operating the way collectors would like and let economic Darwinism take its effect?

All the best.

Silent as a flower, her face fell in dismay, aware that the ghost of lust ate and left, sensing that there was a different scent of perfume consuming the room, and that she had numbered and counted the he loves me, he loves me not of each petal, where the lifeless dust had settle.

― Anthony Liccione

 

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There certainly are some valid criticisms of the brand in his letter. However, for all his authentic interest in the brand, it seems that his own interest in the brand was fairly accidental and perhaps uninformed. He got into the brand because a friend of his mentioned it as something to look at besides Rolex, and he characterizes the brand as "We're the other guys" [presumably to Rolex]. He seems to be critical of the brand in that it has not maintained enough of a timeless aesthetic for him and it resorts to using paid celebs for marketing. I cannot help but thinking that it is not so much that IWC has changed as Mayer's projections for what the brand should be or represent were not realized.

The fact is that there are many many "other guys" besides IWC, and always have been. Companies that manufacture more of their own movements, advertise much more minimally, and maintain greater reliance on classic or timeless designs than IWC. That was likely true when he learned of the brand, and that is true now. It is unclear to me that IWC ever embodied what he projected the brand to embody. It sounds like he projected a brand identity on IWC that was/is more like Glashutte Original, A. Lange & Sohne, Nomos, Hentschel, or RGM and was disappointed when the brand ultimately assumed the role he ascribed to it - the role of the big "other guy" chasing a big market share as a Rolex alternative.

 

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