01 First some trivia – can you both name the very first watch that you owned? And as a point of reference, what are you wearing on your wrists today?
Zach: hmmmm… I’m not sure of the exact first, but I recall the first I picked out… It was a sporty digital watch with a black metal case and a white dial with Goofy on it that my parents got me at Disney World. These days, I’m wearing an Omega Speedmaster.
Blake: Like Zach, I don’t recall my specific first watch, but I do remember having several Swatch Watches with the snap on plastic cages. I would tear through those pretty quickly. Today I’m wearing a Sinn 103 St. Sinn is one of those brands that is synonymous with value and quality. They’re based in Germany and make some of the coolest and toughest watches you can buy for your money.
02 Tell us a little bit about your backgrounds and the impetus for launching Worn & Wound?
At the time that we launched worn&wound, Zach was a product and packaging designer and Blake was a grant writer for non-for-profits. Worn&wound came out of our own searching for reviews of watches that we could afford, being a few hundred dollars or so. There was a real lack of content that was relevant to us, so we figured we could give it a shot ourselves.
03 How have the original goals that you set for W&W evolved, and where would you like to steer W&W in the future?
The original goals for worn&wound were pretty modest: we just wanted to grow the site and see what would happen. About a year in, we turned our eyes towards making original accessories in the US, which very much changed the trajectory of the company. After a successful launch of product, we’ve continued to grow and refine our lines of straps, cases, tools and more, all along side continuing to grow the website. As time goes on, we continue to find and pursue opportunities in the watch space, such as the launch of our watch fair, Wind-Up, or through limited edition watch collaborations with some of our favorite brands. There’s always a lot in the air at w&w, and we continue to think of new things to try, such as our recently launched Podcast, so the future isn’t lacking in things to do.
04 What can you tell us about the ‘Wind-Up ‘ watch events that you launched 2015?
The Wind-Up Watch Fair was created as a response to a few ideas we had been discussing for some time internally. First, our own experience as a brand at pop-ups and fleas. We really liked that format of those events and thought it was surprising that nothing like that existed in the watch space. The second was that there were no watch events in the world at large, let alone the US, that focused on the types of brands worn&wound typically discusses - small, independent or lesser known brands with value-driven offerings. The watch industry is typically just focused on Swiss luxury, which is great and all, but not us. Lastly, there were really no consumer facing shows. Shows where watch connoisseurs as well as just people on the street are welcome to come in, for free, talk with brands and maybe find a new watch. Wind-Up is an event with no closed doors, no press only days; it’s a truly open event all about getting people engaged with the watch community.
05 Describe a typical ‘day in the life’ at Worn & Wound?
I’m not sure if there is a typical day at worn&wound. Speaking from the editorial and creative side, every day there is at least one new post to publish and more to write, edit or photograph for. So, some days are spent in front of a computer typing, others are spent behind a camera. Some days we shoot video reviews, other days we’re recording a podcast. Still others are spent at meetings with brands, small events at hotels to see new watches, lunches and dinners with brand reps, and then, on occasion, drinks late into the night with fellow watch enthusiasts. That’s not to mention regular meetings with our manufacturers, who are largely in NYC, to discuss samples, future products, how we can improve things, etc. There’s also all the boring parts of running a business - paying the bills, fulfilling orders, etc. But no one wants to hear about that!
06 Have there always been as many smaller, quality watch brands as we’re seeing now, or is this a relatively new phenomenon given social media and the reach smaller brands have these days?
Yes and no. There is a huge boom going on right now that is a product of several things happening simultaneously. First is simply a rise in popularity of watches, particularly mechanical ones. Second is crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter, which have allowed for small brands to actually be able to afford developing and manufacturing watches. Third is new methods of marketing, which are largely through social media platforms. The cost of advertising is no longer the price of an ad in a well read publication. Between internet advertising being scalable to your needs and simply viral success on a platform like instagram, a brand can become very successful in a seemingly short amount of time.
That said, there have always been smaller independent brands in the watch industry, though they operated very differently in the past. Many are very high-end, bespoke brands that use traditional watchmaking techniques and crafts to create small runs of highly sought after pieces. Brands like that don’t need the viral marketing so much as word of mouth, plus high costs and small production keep them busy.
07 What are the most important qualities or features that you look for when reviewing or endorsing a timepiece?
The most important qualities we look for begin with the aesthetics of the watch. Having seen so many watches, we can quickly tell the difference between a brand with a vision for their watches and real design prowess and one that is playing off of trends or looking for a quick buck. That might take a trained eye, but that’s why we write about the good ones!
Next is the fit and finish of a watch. Does it feel solid? Are the edges of the case sharp or rounded off (the latter can be a sign of poor machining depending on the design)? Is the printing on the dial crisp? Does everything line up correctly? Does the crown screw in nicely? Does the crown feel loose or fragile when setting the time?
From there, we move on to the value. For what the watch costs, is the quality above or below expectation or competitive watches? What movement is inside? Is it quartz or mechanical and how does that correspond to the price (quartz typically being cheaper)? How original is the design? Are all of the components of the watch custom, or do they look like they are from a catalog? These are things that can definitely be a bit tricky to figure out if you’re new to watches, so doing research is important. Many mediocre watches still cost as much or more as really good ones, so price tag alone is not the only factor to consider.
08 Do certain watch brands or watches speak more to ‘collectors’ then others?
There are definitely types of brands and watches that speak more to collectors than others. One of the big things you hear about is provenance. How long has a brand been around? Is it still owned by the original owners or family? Is there a market for their vintage pieces? Are any of their watches famous? Similarly, some watches have been around in one form or another for upwards of 50 years, making both version new and old highly desirable. Additionally, complexity and innovation can play a role.
Another big factor is simply how much of the watch is made “in-house” by a brand. This can be a contentious conversation as the oversight for such things is a bit limited, but brands that make every component, particularly of the movement “in-house” tend to get more respect and be more valuable.
09 As astute observers of the industry - are there any distinguishable trends that you see happening in watch design or manufacturing now?
The big trend right now is reviving vintage watches or making new watches in a vintage style, which is say smaller, and with more mid-century aesthetics.
10 Any advice for emerging brands or designers looking to break into the independent watch market?
Our advice to people looking to start a watch brand would be to do your research first. There are a lot of watches out there and a lot brands that have tried different, new and innovative approaches to watches. We see too many brands that think they have something new, only to create something that is bland or derivative. Also, keep in mind that designing something might be a lot of fun, but getting something made well is quite difficult, and then promoting a brand, fulfilling product, doing after sales and customer service is a lot of work. Make sure you want to do all of it before taking the plunge.
11 What’s unique or interesting about the worn&wound X MA Father’s Day event. Why should people be excited to attend?
We’re really excited to be working with MA on the Father’s Day shop. It’s a great opportunity for people to see and experience a collection of watches that you won’t otherwise find in all in one place, and in many cases, the brands involved are not typically available in stores at all. We curated a collection of some of our favourite value-driven watch brands that cover a wide range of styles. We think there’s something for everyone.