Creativity is difficult. Heck, I have a folder of half-finished blogs on my laptop, and many more were in which I have never gotten beyond the title. And creativity is another thing, its hard work. The muse doesn’t just kiss you, no, you have to provide the work for her to stick around. Everybody knows this, after all, it’s the reason why takeaway seems so much more convenient than cooking.
How does this relate to watches? Well, people who have been following the watch market recently have seen a wave of homages. This is of course not overly dramatic, but I do feel that it is indicative of a certain lack of creativity in the industry. I am not saying there is absolutely no creativity, brands like Ressence, HYT, and Urwerk push our imagination of what a watch can be. Sadly these watches are unattainable for the average person being locked into price brackets in which you’d expect to find a sports car.
So why aren’t there that many creative and attainable watches around? It is connected to the fact that any new model carries an inherent risk of failure with it. To make an omelet though you have to crack some eggs, and who knows where you might strike on gold. After all, almost all of the classics of today where once a novelty, look at the history of Rolex in case you need any evidence.
But Simon, you might ask, it is just a watch, what more do you want to invent? Charles Duell, the Commissioner of US patent office in 1899, said that “everything that can be invented has been invented.” Of course, with hindsight, it is easy to laugh at Mr. Duell, but I’m sure his sentiment was not a rarity at the time, and it is much more present today than you might think. The responsibility for change, however, lies more with you and your wallet than you might initially presume.
What can you do? This may be a hard pill to swallow, but the market follows the money, and that is why I believe brands like Steinhart to be a leech in the industry. Sure, there is an argument to be made that brands like Steinhart make otherwise too expensive watches available for the less wealthy man, but think about what that is doing. In the free market, every single dollar is a vote of what you want to see which makes buying a homage the equivalent of saying “give me more of what we already have”.
Now I think most people when buying a homage do not think of all the consequences of their purchase, they just want a cheap and fast satisfaction for the craving of a nice watch. The consequences, however, go beyond simply fostering lack of creativity to supporting appalling working conditions that many people would rather turn a blind eye to. For me, the root of the issue which allows this illusion surrounding homage watches is the blatant mislabeling that helped perpetuate their success. A homage is defined as a special honour or respect shown to the original creator, so ask yourself: do you think Rolex feels either honoured or respected by Squale, Steinhart, and others? I believe that to address this issue we have to go back to calling things out as what they are. Let’s face it, homage watch is just a fancy word to distract you from what you are actually buying: a cheap copy.