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Hi everyone -- I've been reading this forum day and night for months now and the one thing that struck me was what has seemed like an explosion of microbrands. Because I'm new to the world of watches, I don't know if it's just something only people on f71 are excited about, or if I'm extrapolating a few data points into something bigger than it really is, or if indeed there is a broader trend going on. As a former journalist, I think that it is a pretty exciting story if it is true. Shinola, despite the lack of love it gets on this forum, has done an amazing job getting press around its story as a microbrand start-up. I'm wondering though how long will it take for others to notice all the other exciting watch brands being launched on sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. To me, it feels similar to the revolution going on in the beer world -- where a few big brands acquired all the smaller brands, leaving passionate drinkers little option but to create their own brews and eventually turn those home experiments into companies. The equivalent to me would be all the passionate people on this site who go from being participants in the forums to launching their own brands. So what say you f71, is there an actual microbrand movement going on? Or am I imagining things?
 

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I believe the boom has been precipitated by Kickstarter democratizing and simplifying the process of reaching consumers and their funds.
Agree. I also think a large part of the revolution involves the easy, cheap and quality manufacturing/sourcing of cases/materials etc in China. This potentially gives a lot of people the access to watch factories who can churn out a top quality product to rival one made in US/Europe but at a fraction of the price.

I can't say for sure how this would adversely affect the US/EU watch factories in the long run, but I would not imagine it would be too far fetched for them to start outsourcing as well sooner rather than later. After all, profits matter in business.
 

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There's a degree of Do It Yourself about craft beer which is close to impossible with watches so in one way the analogy is better suited to when a small start-up designs and builds its own movement, eg Dornbluth, RGM, kinda Habring2...

...but since their output then immediately puts them near the high-end of the market, what the analogy gains it on the one hand it loses on the other, so, er, I guess ignore that ;-)
 

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Microbrands are almost without exception going to be a here today gone tomorrow phenomenon. As George Daniels said, he saw not point in making a watch unless he did something new or which had never been done before when he made it. He happened to be talking about escapements, but the comment holds true with watches in general.

I can not think of a single microbrand that has contributed anything to watch making. All they have to contribute is some variations on pretty standard designs and not much else. Individual watch makers do make considerable contributions bother in terms of engineering, aesthetics and craftsmanship, but if we are the slightest bit honest with ourselves, not one of the huge baying crowd of microbrands makes any attempt to "do something new or do something which had never been done before".

Where they fall particularly flat is technically. None of them, as in zero, attempts to do anything technically challenging to the watch movements they have their eager Chinese factories plunk into their watch cases. None of them has come out anything that adds an iota to the technical world of mechanical watches as it exists today. Every one of the works with strictly off the shelf models.

With the exception of a few microbrands (Shinola, Minuteman and several others) the owners of these brands do not more than give drawings to someone else who assembles the watch and hands them a completed package. They make none of the components themselves, they do none of the assembly themselves and basically, just come up with the concept.

There is quite a bit more I could say about why almost every microbrand will fail. Those that will not--and I do believe that some will survive and perhaps even prosper--will be those that follow George Daniel's dictum. Thank goodness there are a few. But the rest are just crowding the elevator .
 

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Microbrands are almost without exception going to be a here today gone tomorrow phenomenon. As George Daniels said, he saw not point in making a watch unless he did something new or which had never been done before when he made it. He happened to be talking about escapements, but the comment holds true with watches in general.

I can not think of a single microbrand that has contributed anything to watch making. All they have to contribute is some variations on pretty standard designs and not much else. Individual watch makers do make considerable contributions bother in terms of engineering, aesthetics and craftsmanship, but if we are the slightest bit honest with ourselves, not one of the huge baying crowd of microbrands makes any attempt to "do something new or do something which had never been done before".

Where they fall particularly flat is technically. None of them, as in zero, attempts to do anything technically challenging to the watch movements they have their eager Chinese factories plunk into their watch cases. None of them has come out anything that adds an iota to the technical world of mechanical watches as it exists today. Every one of the works with strictly off the shelf models.

With the exception of a few microbrands (Shinola, Minuteman and several others) the owners of these brands do not more than give drawings to someone else who assembles the watch and hands them a completed package. They make none of the components themselves, they do none of the assembly themselves and basically, just come up with the concept.

There is quite a bit more I could say about why almost every microbrand will fail. Those that will not--and I do believe that some will survive and perhaps even prosper--will be those that follow George Daniel's dictum. Thank goodness there are a few. But the rest are just crowding the elevator .
That is a very well worded response, however I think it takes the Microbrands out of context. It is true that none of the microbrands offer an iota of innovation in regard to movements or possibly even design for that matter. Since the pocket watch became with wrist watch there has not been any innovation in the way that we interact with telling time; until the cell phone came along that is. But the microbrands and watch industry as a whole is seeing a huge spike in sales and support to rekindle the relationship that a good watch on your wrist give you over the highly electronic world in which we now find ourselves. The entire forum is possibly dedicated to that history and passion, as opposed to innovation. Especially in the context of the affordable forum; our members seek the best possible watches for the best possible prices. I also think that the market will continue to grow as a pushback against the overly electronic culture with watches, pens, good notebooks and other "unnecessary" items finding new buyers and especially new funders on the kickstarter and indiegogo platforms. These category of items might be the best sellers on the crowd funding platforms. Or perhaps it just appears that way to me since I am interested in all of those things; happy to admit bias.

In what price category would you need to be in order to buy new watch innovation? Which of the new innovate watches are seen as innovative as opposed to gimmicky and overpriced? I can think of a few belt moving and hydrolic powered watches that I have seen in ads with ridiculous prices. But I can't see a true horology aficionado actually purchasing one of those. Also, what constitutes actual innovation? Is it an improvement in the efficiency, power reserve, more complications? Does the new Bulova Precisionist movement count as innovative? If so, how much did it cost them to develop it?

Just as small car companies can't afford to design and test new engines, microbrands will probably never be able to afford designing and testing a new movement. If someone was brave enough to try, they would have to develop a movement and find a factory that could produce the movement with 100% accuracy or the reputation of the movement would be destroyed. There is a company in the knife industry that has been around for something like 30+ years and has a reputation for creating knifes that are often called, "Perfection" in the industry. Once there was a batch of knives that had steel with improper heat treatment, only once in all their history of producing knives. Since then the steel used has been given a bad reputation that still perpetuates today. In the same fashion, if a watch company produced a new moment that had a few duds as all companies do, the brand would fail quickly. Hence they use proven, trusted movement that large companies with adequate resources have vetted.

I think microbrands appeal for one reason; it's about the design and passion of one individual coming to fruition versus that of a committee. As such, the brand will live and die with the designer unless it makes its way to the next level.

You may thank copious amounts of caffeine, and my dog for peeing on my bed, for this late night ramble.
 

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Microbrands are almost without exception going to be a here today gone tomorrow phenomenon. As George Daniels said, he saw not point in making a watch unless he did something new or which had never been done before when he made it. He happened to be talking about escapements, but the comment holds true with watches in general.

I can not think of a single microbrand that has contributed anything to watch making. All they have to contribute is some variations on pretty standard designs and not much else. Individual watch makers do make considerable contributions bother in terms of engineering, aesthetics and craftsmanship, but if we are the slightest bit honest with ourselves, not one of the huge baying crowd of microbrands makes any attempt to "do something new or do something which had never been done before".

Where they fall particularly flat is technically. None of them, as in zero, attempts to do anything technically challenging to the watch movements they have their eager Chinese factories plunk into their watch cases. None of them has come out anything that adds an iota to the technical world of mechanical watches as it exists today. Every one of the works with strictly off the shelf models.

With the exception of a few microbrands (Shinola, Minuteman and several others) the owners of these brands do not more than give drawings to someone else who assembles the watch and hands them a completed package. They make none of the components themselves, they do none of the assembly themselves and basically, just come up with the concept.

There is quite a bit more I could say about why almost every microbrand will fail. Those that will not--and I do believe that some will survive and perhaps even prosper--will be those that follow George Daniel's dictum. Thank goodness there are a few. But the rest are just crowding the elevator .
Quite honestly I think you're expecting far too much from the watch industry in general, let alone Micro-brands. When was the last time someone "re-invented the wheel" with regards to watch movements? There is only so much you can do with watches, at best you'll add a complication that makes the watch exorbitantly expensive but actually does nothing such as a tourbillon. Just because you have an in-house movement doesn't make it invariably better than say a Miyota 9015.
In fact when you're spending in the range that a lot of the Micro's are you'd prefer to avoid the expenses of an in-house movement from a small watch maker. Or at least I would.

In the same way you can only do so much to make decorate a watch, invariably no matter how original it is it will bear some similarity to another watch out there in some aspect. Sure you can make a design that is so ridiculously out there that it looks like no other watch on the planet but that is taking a huge risk. There is no guarantee that people will like your design just because it's so different and that's something most can't afford as a budding watchmaker.

Sure Micro-brands may outsource most, if not all, of the building of the watch but the end product is something that they designed and then had created. Correct me if I'm wrong but a fair amount of established watch companies do the same with ETA movements Etc? So why is it a problem that Micro's do it?

Every watch brand starts somewhere, very few people in this world have the kind of money that is needed to start a watch company and immediately create an in house movement, design and build the watches in house. Who's to say that some of these Micro's won't someday take the money they have earned and start building in-house movements and all these things that us "WIS" get all tingly in our bits for.

You say they do nothing for the watch industry. I say they create unique, affordable, reliable watches with something special to them you can't/won't get from Seiko and the rest of the bigger mass produced watch bands.

I think there is a place for Micro's in the watch industry and so long as there are people like me, who love what they bring to the table, they will always be there.

Well, that's my 2c on the matter, I may be horribly wrong. Maybe there are things I don't know because I'm new to the whole watch game. Maybe I'm just not "WIS" enough but I'm happy with my Micro's and will most likely continue to be so for the rest of my life.

P.S : I admit there are Micros that bring nothing to the table but the ones here on F71 at least my argument applies to.
 

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Microbrands are almost without exception going to be a here today gone tomorrow phenomenon. As George Daniels said, he saw not point in making a watch unless he did something new or which had never been done before when he made it. He happened to be talking about escapements, but the comment holds true with watches in general.
In my opinion, your romantic view of watchmaking doesn't align with the actual purchasing behaviour of the consumers.
 

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@somewhere else


Most non high end watch companies also do nothing to innovate, yet they prosper. Even some "high end" companies do zero from an innovative standpoint. Many people treat watches like jewelry.....who cares is its innovative? Just needs to be stylistically appropriate. If it looks nice and presents good value, I'll buy it without any innovative force behind it.

the innovation, in microbrands, may be in recognizing a niche, and developing a desirable enough product that people will buy. Who on f71 can afford to pay the prices of a watch that is groundbreaking from an innovation standpoint (except the new swatch system 51)? I can say I own high end pieces that are innovative, but I enjoy my affordables more.

i am in the veterinary field. I have done nothing innovative for my industry at all. I provide a great service at a reasonable price, and I have become highly succesful.....


but I like your well thought out response. Just in reality most people do not wear watches classified as innovative.
 

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......oh....and I he they are. Out of that craft beer moment came some great options and variety. Prior to that I had memorized the saying on bud beer, and still know it 20 some odd years later. Thank god for the craft beers, they need my eyes.

"this is the famous Budweiser beer......"
 

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I have written about this before, but I still believe that watches for some is about pushing back against the digital society we find ourselves in today. I'm a bit of a luddite, and I enjoy old fashioned things. I don't have to wear a watch, but I want to. I have a few manual wind watches because I enjoy the idea of having a device which is powered that way. That micro brands do not offer new innovative movements does not bother me. I like the idea of having a watch that is a step back in time. The lack of innovation is refreshing in this day and age.
 

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If car manufacturing suddenly became very modular - with many brands using the same basic set of components, and the cost and risk of producing a car suddenly dropped, you'd see micro-brand car companies emerge.

There will always be people who are not satisfied with the products the market currently offers, and so endeavor to make their own.

In my view, buying a micro-brand watch is in many ways like buying a tailored suit, versus one off the rack. One is a mass-produced product, made to appeal to and accommodate as wide a market as possible, and the buying and selling of it is a completely anonymous act for both the designer and consumer. The other is a more bespoke product, even if the basic components - wool, thread, ivory, etc - are the same, and the transaction is much more intimate, in that the buyer and seller interact much more.

The analogy isn't perfect, of course. Perhaps you could look at micro-brands like the "name-brand" car customizers, the Carroll Shelby's of the world, who'll take a stock product and tweak it to their own standards, for a more demanding customer. Likewise there are "factory custom" motorcycles.

Any particular micro-brand may be "here today, gone tomorrow", but as a phenomenon, they are definitely not. As I said, there will always be people interested in bringing their own vision to life. Further, any particular micro-brand could be "micro today, huge tomorrow".

I wouldn't bet the farm that they'll all be just a flash in the pan. Some of us have actual business skills.
 

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Micro brands fill niches, and as long as there are niches out there, micro brands will continue to serve their interests. Due to reduced overhead, and no margin requirements to report to the stock trading public, micro brands are capable of bringing some options to market in a tighter-budget-friendly fashion than the big brands.

Another significance of micro brands is the offering of an affordable option that is not on "every other wrist" and is often a limited availability item. This allows watch enthusiasts to have a watch that appeals to them, within their dedicated budget, while separating themselves from the more commonly known (and often disrespected) affordable watch brands, especially the fashion brands. The idea of having "different, attractive, and quality" within nearly any budget will continue to make micro brands appealing to many.
 

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The micobrand icons Timefactor's Eddie Platts (PRS-2 Dreadnought) and MKII Bill Yao (Kingston) provided something that would pave the way for many of the microbrands we see emerging today. Innovative from the perspective of a small watch company building a watch that could compare with what the big Swiss companies were producing at that time. What the WIS public soon realized was that they were able to build watches with top quality and movements for a fraction of the price. To convince a group of watch enthusiasts years ago who believed the Swiss watchmakers produced the best watches in the world, was no easy task. The quality had to be there and confidence in the watch company to deliver. Spending hundred to thousands of dollars for a watch company no one has heard off? In short the watch forum community realized that German cases with Swiss movements, and designed with WIS input would work. This provided a beginning to what we see today from the microbands. This was innovation in business terms for me personally. If you want a prediction now...buy them while you can because the price is going to rise if history repeats (in WISland).
 
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