An Open Letter to TGV
Watch & Bullion9 August 2018 | 6 min read
Tristano, the Urban Gentry, the Governor; TGV has many names. He entered the watch scene back in 2014 and has since then taken it by storm. As active as our community is, I always have to remind myself that it is a fairly small community, and most people do not really care about watches all that much. This makes the success of TGV even more impressive though as with almost a quarter of a million subscribers and 50 million clicks he has managed to become the number one horology related content creator on youtube.
Success is not random in my eyes, and that is no different for TGV. The quality of his videos is great, and a clear evolution can be spotted particularly when you pay attention to his intros which are some of the best in the game. As a trained audio engineer his skill and profession show. Though he admits that the quality of the audio is not as high as it could be, visually speaking his videos are simply incredibly pleasing to watch.
I have been following him now pretty much since he has been on youtube. When he arrived he presented a welcome contrast to guys like The Watch Snob and Archieluxury. Approachable and friendly, what made him stand out for me was that he focused on cheaper watches and made the watch world a whole lot more approachable for many people.
For those just coming into the hobby, he remains in my eyes the best place to start within the bewildering world that is the one of watches. He has reviewed almost every watch that a budding collector on a tight budget comes across, and at an impressive level of detail at that. I personally have spent more time than I care to admit watching his videos, and I used to have a great time doing so. I mean how can’t you like the guy, he exudes pure class.
“What happened to TGV / Urban Gentry”?
Lately, things have however been taking a turn for the worse. This is not to say he or his content is outright bad, but the more I watch his videos the more I start to fear he is creating misinformed collectors. Does it have to be this way? No, and this is not meant to be an attack on him but rather a heartfelt criticism from a long time viewer and former fan. I think TGV is in a unique position in which I believe he has not fully peaked and would be disappointed to find out he has plateaued. Therefore these are the issues I take with him, whose remedy could truly allow him to go onwards and upwards.
What it primarily boils down to in my eyes is snobbery. TGV is very active to combat what in his eyes is snobbery. Watch any video of his and when the topic inevitably pops up he will tell you the Latin origin of snobbiness, that being sine (without) nobiliate (nobility). That this theory does not, however, hold true (actually the word first appeared in the 18th century to describe apprentice shoemakers), is in my eyes a great example of the well-meant half-truths TGV likes to spread.
What he, and much of his viewership, seem to assume is that most people who for example own a Rolex loath a Steinhart. And when this does happen the reasons according to him all boil down to social insecurity, weakness of character, and vulgar elitism. What this line of thinking does is perpetuates a divide in the community between the snobs, anybody who doesn’t like Steinhart or Squale, and open-minded modern gentlemen, who like to wear whatever the governor does.
What struck me about this line of thinking is that except for some pubescent boys at my school I have yet to meet a true watch snob in the real world who fits TGV’s description. Sure on some corner of the internet, you may find them, but even there the fact that they could just be trying to get a reaction out of you because it often is so easy is usually completely overlooked. Everybody I have met who wore an expensive watch and was open to a conversation was a nice person, and that was irrespective of whether I wore a Rolex or a Seiko. Where TGV points the finger at the purposed watch snobs of the world he should really hold up a mirror to the anxiety of homage wearers over their watches because frankly, no one cares. If you really like watches that is a thing that will always take precedence, and some banter between watch wearers is not declasse, no it humanizes people and pokes some fun in this usually so serious business.
The only real effect that I can spot from spreading the gospel of the watch snobs is that it creates artificial teams of watch enthusiasts, and if you are ever interested in the power of the us v them and ingroup v outgroup behaviour look up the “Blue eyes–Brown eyes” exercise by Jane Elliot. The final form of this evolution is the UGWC facebook group, an internet safe space for those who want a congratulatory positive feedback loop on what seems to be the always same selection of timepieces. And what happens to anybody who disagrees? Their posts get deleted and they get banned from the group. Don’t believe me? Well, I would like to point you to previous posts I made but they have been deleted and my account long banned, but for the sake of science we will post this blog on their group, I predict it will get taken down within 100 minutes. In case you ever want to taste for yourself, however, the group’s open-mindedness and loves for watches of all types post a Richard Mille, Hublot, or factory diamond Rolex and prepare yourself for a storm of comments saying your watch looks classless, tacky, or comes straight from a toy shop.
What kind of watches do they like? Anything that has the governors approval, and this may hurt to hear if you idolise the man but the truth is he is not very knowledgeable on watches priced $5000 and upwards. On the one side, that explains why he covers the watches that he covers, but it is also a shame because it leaves out a huge segment of the market.
So how do we bring this back to snobbiness? While we have previously explored that snobbery clearly is not what TGV thinks it is, by his logic his noble ancestry makes it impossible for him to be a snob, I would like to explore what the term actually describes. Next to the aforementioned shoemaker apprentice, and the rich who look down on the poor, there is another group of people fitting this description, those who constantly and intensely seek the association to the people they regard as socially superior. Sound familiar?
How does this translate into watches? Well, because TGV promotes something I like to call “poor mans snobbery”. The truth of the matter is that most people interested in watches will be better off simply buying a Rolex or Omega. Why do I think that? Because these brands have established the reputation they have not by mistake, they simply are great watches built to last. Sure they are expensive, but not exorbitantly so, and if people apply themselves they are without a doubt possible to buy one which will make you happy for a very long time. If you were to follow TGV’s advice however you will most likely end up with a barrage of different watches, none of which truly satisfy you and always lusting after another. Instead of putting off short-term gratification you will give into it and buy a characterless collection, only then to be offended if the so-called watch snobs are not impressed.
Now I know this blog will ruffle some feathers, and some people will take offence to what I write regardless of how diplomatic I present it. That really does not matter though. What matters for me is that people enjoy this hobby that we share, that people stay friendly and don’t feel like they have to defend themselves. What matters is that people go towards each other rather than try to fit themselves into different teams. TGV is in the position to make these changes, and I sincerely hope he will. After all ask yourself, what would a true gentleman do?