Just look at Ernie Romers, as stylish as ever. He really does have the best taste. Wait a minute, what’s that you say? Who is Ernie Romers? It’s slightly surreal to have to answer that question, but we have to face the fact that 2.5 years on, nowadays there may be some people on the site who are not entirely familiar with the legend that is Ernie.
Ernie is the founder and former owner of Watchuseek, and, largely single-handedly, he built it from nothing to become the largest watch forum on the web. Even now, with a large organization behind Watchuseek, when we’re rushed off our feet at events like Baselworld, we look back in wonder. How did he do it all on his own? How did he build so many bridges with so many brands, cover hectic events, monitor a lively, often contentious watch forum, and yet still hold down a full-time job?
After 18 years of early mornings and late nights devoted to Watchuseek, it’s a question Ernie had to face up to a couple of years ago when he realized he had given birth to a ravenous watch monster that was slowly but surely devouring him. He made the decision to sell, ease up on the gas, filter in to a slower lane and follow Watchuseek avidly from the decidedly more relaxed environs of the sidelines. With the Easter break upon us, we decided a catch up with Ernie was long overdue. Here he talks to us about what he’s been up to, what watches he’s bought, and of course, what watches he still wants to get; pretty much what you would ask of any Watchuseek follower.
WUS: It’s been 2.5 years since you sold Watchuseek. Can you tell us what you have been doing to fill in the time now that so much of it has been freed up?
ER: Is it really 2.5 years already? Time sure flies. Well, in those 2.5 years I focused more on my other full-time job, being a teamleader at a school for children from the ages of 12 to 18. My free time is now filled with cruising the social media (I didn’t lose my passion for watches as you can imagine), visiting art fairs (a hobby I can now spend a little more time on) and going out more often with my wife, shopping, visiting cities, eating out, all those things you can do when you’re not busy trying to run a big watch forum!
WUS: Have you become involved in any other watch related businesses or activities? Or do you still plan to?
ER: No, I didn’t, although I had some ideas to start a local watch shop with coffee facilities and also considered becoming an importer for watches in The Netherlands. Unfortunately, it never got any further than (brilliant ;-)) ideas, drawings and calculations. But it’s fine as it is right now.
WUS: We assume you are still collecting watches. Can you tell us which new ones you have added to your collection in the past couple of years?
ER: Yes, my passion for watches hasn’t decreased one bit, so I treated myself to an NOS Anonimo Militare Flyback and a Czapek Quai des Bergues. Czapek was launched a year ago, and I am convinced it will be a player of importance in the current market.
WUS: Which watches have you seen lately that you would definitely add to your list of must haves?
ER: That list still increases as you might expect 😉 I strongly believe that any watch enthusiast has a huge and growing list of must haves, don’t you? Anyway, after following all the news from the recent Baselworld fair, I would love to strap these on my wrist: Squale 60 Atmos, Rolex Datejust 41 (blue dial), Rolex Sea Dweller red (yes, even with the cyclops….), Rolex Cellini Moonphase, Oris ChronOris, Moritz Grossmann Atum Date, Meistersinger Circularis, Zenith El Primero Skeleton, TAG Heuer Autavia, Nomos Aqua/Club series, and of course, many more.
WUS: Have you ever had a moment when you wished you were still involved with Watchuseek?
ER: Yes, from time to time, especially when it comes to being in contact with all the followers, members and the brands. But I know that Watchuseek is in good hands and the team is doing a splendid job. I can name Brad Bokkean, Michael Weare and Bhanu Chopra, but then I know I am far from complete. And like it was when I was still involved there are all the many worldwide members and visitors that keep the site going. Kudos to all of them!
WUS: Do you notice any major changes to the site? Things you like? Things you are not so keen on?
ER: No, not really. Changes in management always lead to changes, but as far as I can see there were no major changes. I’m glad the covering of Baselworld and the like still gets much attention and I am glad to see that Watchuseek is also an active player on the social media.
WUS: As you are probably well aware, it’s tough times in the watch industry at the moment. Some Swiss brands are trying to create smart watches with a traditional look. Samsung had a large stand at Baselworld this year. Do you feel the likes of Samsung and Apple could create major problems for the Swiss watch industry?
ER: Hmm, tough one. With what the introduction of quartz watches did for the brands long time ago, and the mistakes that were made back then, and without trying to be “the one who has the knowledge of what happens next”, I believe that the developments already have made some brands nervous. Nervous enough to jump on the band wagon and start developing their own. If you can’t beat them (Apple, Samsung), then join them..? Personally, I am still not a big fan of smart watches (other than perhaps the sports watches). For me they have little to nothing to add. A watch for me should tick in the more traditional way.
WUS: Do you agree with the direction Jean-Claude Biver has taken with TAG Heuer and the connected watch?
ER: Jean-Claude Biver is a true heavy weight in the watch industry. How could I not agree with what he does? Time will tell I guess.
WUS: Zenith is one of your favorite brands, and Jean-Claude Biver has stated Zenith will be his main focus for 2017. Would you be disappointed if he tries to go down the connected watch route with this brand?
ER: Yes, I would. Zenith is one of THE traditional brands, and I would feel very sorry if it would become less traditional. So far, I do not see signs that lead to a smart watch direction for Zenith, although I am a bit worried that TAG Heuer and Zenith will “merge” a few of their inventions. I can only hope that Zenith will stay most recognizable to the customer. Then again, Jean-Claude knows the numbers and he should know what is best to keep the right spirit of the brand and sell some more Zenith watches to guarantee its excistence.
WUS: You’re still remembered at Baselworld, although it changes fast. Do you ever see yourself returning, or do you feel you’ve got it out of your system?
ER: Yes, every year I consider returning to Baselworld. But. I know how intense every meeting is and how tight the schedules are. There is no space and time for me I guess, because I no longer represent a watch platform. In the end the brands want you to spread their news. All that would be left to do is to catch up with all the friends I made in all those years. That would limit my visit to the parties and dinners after the show. Who knows, maybe I will be back for one or two days next year. I hear the Schnitzels and beers are still very good!
WUS: Are there some exciting new projects or travels on the go, or are you happy just taking life one day at a time?
ER: No big plans so far, so I guess I am taking life one day at a time. I’ll see what happens, but I’m ok with how things are going now. I ‘m still having some health issues (less than the issues I had that made me decide to step down from Watchuseek 2.5 years ago), so going easy is probably a good thing.
WUS: Finally, do you have a message for Watchuseek regulars old and new?
ER: My message to you all would be: it’s watches that brings us together. Enjoy them, but above all enjoy the on and offline encounters that come with them. In the end, it’s the watches that bring us together but it’s the people that count. Warmest regards to all of you, Ernie.
WUS: Thanks Ernie, and keep following Watchuseek!
ERNIE’S (CURRENT) WATCH WISH LIST
All donations gratefully received. Give generously.