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Brand Impressions from Baselworld

March 31, 2014 1:52 PM
Here are my impressions of some of the brands. My choices were subjective, and based on what interested me. I made no attempt to make a marathon of the show and include every maker, as I am simply not built for it, physically or mentally. I tried to focus on second- and even third tier brands. I deliberately avoided "jewelry" watch brands, high end brands, and brands connected with the conglomerates, such as Swatch Group, LVMH, and Richemont Group, as they get plenty of press, and gotten too crazy anyway.

OK, in no particular order:

1. Eberhard. Excellent. They let the product speak for itself. Zero celebrity ambassadors. They had a wonderful display of vintage watches. They granted me a private interview, and their general manager, Mario Peserico, had some interesting insights into the concept of "luxury," which I will share later. Their PR contact promises to work very hard in the next 30 days to get me some nice archival material for an article.

2. Glycine. Very good. Celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. They also had a nice display of vintage watches. No time for an interview, but they did refer me to their web-based heritage project on Facebook, which they are doing in conjunction with a private collector.

3. Doxa. Poor. Very sad what has happened to this former great watch brand. Despite a very nice display of vintage watches, their booth was staffed by fembots who referred me to the company website for historical information.

4. Edox. Trying hard. Edox has a small but loyal following among sport and dive watch enthusiasts, and I had hoped they could assist me with some historical information. They granted me a private interview, but could shed little light on their history, as most records were discarded in the 1980s.

5. Enicar. They were very nice to me and presented me with a nice hardcover book, but they are basically catering to the Asian market with big gaudy watches. Their vintage "Sherpa" series watches were so nice and are so very collectible.

6. Alpina. A real pity. I had high hopes with this brand going to the show, i.e. that they could provide me with some artifacts for a historical story. But it has been bought by the husband-and-wife company who own Frederique Constante and is being used as the "sport brand" compliment to the FC luxury line. I got the impression they would just as soon forget that Alpina ever made a dress watch. Although they DO mention, by no small coincidence I'm sure, their role in the production of the caliber 877 movement for the Rolex Prince.

7. Shinola. OK, I know. Quartz watches. But I love the back story of this company, and I got a 15 minute private interview with Steve Bock, the CEO. Although I could not pin him down definitively, he hinted that mechanical watches are on the horizon. Their big news at BW2014 was the limited lifetime warranty on all Shinola watches, retroactive to all watches sold previously.

8. Blancpain. Super nice dive and sport watches. They gave me a really nice hardcover book, but no vintage watches on display. Their vintage "50 Fathoms" and "Bathyscaphe" just keep going up, up, up. Hope to do a story on them some day.

9. Eterna. Fantastic brand in their day. Not quite sure what is happening with them. They were sold to the China Haiden Group. China will eventually own everything I suppose.

10. West End. They made some very neat watches in the early days for the British colonies. Now, a total money grab. They claims to be "Swiss," but they are catering to the Asian market. What a pity. The female Asian staffing the booth seemed like she could hardly stand my presence, shoved a catalog in my hand, and told me she had appointments to keep.

11. Mathey-Tissot. Made very nice vintage watches, now with a strong Asian connection. They treated me courteously and showed me several vintage pieces from their private area, and also had several nice vintage pieces on display. They are a different company from Tissot, but they were connected once upon a time, and I'm still not quite sure how all that worked. Will find out.

Next up will be my comments on the current state of the watch industry, comments are not likely to win me any praise from many of the manufacturers, nor from the Baselworld  media accreditation committee, but then neither is very likely to give a shit about my tiny blog or the NAWCC Watch & Clock Bulletin, for that matter. But at least it is my honest opinion and my own original thoughts. I witnessed many so-called journalists here copying their stories verbatim from company and show press releases, and putting their bylines on them. In effect, much of the watch media is merely a "tool" of the industry, which is a sad thing when there is virtually no distinction in watch publications these days between advertising and editorial, but I'm sure that's just the way the industry likes it. Stay tuned for the commentary from this very small (but at least honest) fish in the big pond.

Bruce