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An Open Letter to TGV

By August 9, 2018 August 22nd, 2019 40 Comments
Reading Time: 6 minutes

 

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.

 

TGV Approved

 

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.

 

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.

 

Gawdy and declassé

 

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.

 

Is this really the kind of collection you want?

 

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?

 

Or rather rock this as a daily?

 

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?

 

40 Comments

  • Jameson says:

    Lol, somebody posted this on the UGWC facebook page to discuss it. There were civilized comments, then boom, the whole post was deleted.

  • Dyke-Maximilian Spura says:

    Good article. However, I actually vividly recall videos in which TGV has mentioned your criticisms directly. I, agree, that this article, and other criticisms should not be deleted from the group, but rather be debated openly, within the community. Of course, a channel such as TGV’s is by nature subjective and should be viewed as such. In this instance, I find your claim of reverse snobbery, unfounded. In fact, in one particular video, he mentions a friend who owns only one watch, a Submariner, and is completely content with it. TGV does not criticize, but lauds such an attitude as legitimate. To each their own, is what I derived from it. To counter one point directly: I, have met more than one watch snob, per TGV’s definition. Therefore, I did not find his perspective ill conceived, but rather fitting, according to my own experience.
    Hopefully, TGV will respond to this article, or a related criticism.

    • simon schneider says:

      Maybe I just got lucky to not meet any watch snobs. My main issue was that the community he created can be very defensive and aggressive in their support. Thanks for your comment, I always appreciate constructive criticism! 🙂

  • Calvin Corser says:

    Mate, absolutely spot on! I got punted after making I think 2 minimal benign comments, and liked some non-inflammatory comments.

    And I got punted within 2 weeks, no warning, no nothing. Was just straight pounted!

    • simon schneider says:

      Thanks for your comment! I feel what you went through, as I got banned on my personal account a year or two ago without reason. A real shame in my eyes that the most active watch community happens to suffer from the suffocating mods on their website.

  • Defector says:

    Good blog, but unfortunatly it only touches on the tip of the iceberg.
    There is a fairly dark side to the whole TGV persona (because that is what it is, a persona).
    We’re talking about backstabbing his way up, potential stalking, fake watches, sponsored video’s without mentioning it (I believe that in some places that is punishable offence), using troll accounts to attack other watch reviewers, etc. He got to the top in his segment, but the way he got there is far from noble and gentleman like.

    For those who think I’m blowing steam out of my ass, do a bit investigation. It won’t take long. There is alot of info floating around. He tries to cover his tracks, but the internet does not forget.

    • simon schneider says:

      Some of this I heard of, some I did not. I tried to keep this very diplomatic and factual as to not make it seem like an attack but rather show some of his fans that what is going on is just not right. If you got any evidence of this stuff please mail me! I am intrigued.

  • Danny says:

    You do know most of his videos contain paid for watch commercials and reviews right? He lies about people lending in watches when in fact it is a sponsored review and paid for as well, hes a shill, nothing left to say, no shame its the mans only source of income he gotta eat.

    • simon schneider says:

      I personally think that is the case but without concrete evidence I did not want to include it as it was meant to be diplomatic and factual in its tone. As to no shame because its only source of income, I strongly disagree. He had a job before and decided to make it his full-time income.

      • Alex B. says:

        YouTube is not his full time job. He mentioned I. Quite a few of his videos over time that he has a regular job. He might be lying, but why should he?

    • Charlito says:

      Please provide any evidence because the same can be said about all youtube watch guys, starting with the Time Teller selling those Pantor junk, Federico, and no doubt about Paul Pluta and etc!.

      • simon schneider says:

        This is the equivalent of asking for evidence that flying pigs do not exist. You do not always need evidence, it is evident that TGV works with Squale for example through his collab piece yet he never gave a disclaimer about this.

  • Tyler says:

    There is a very active group dedicated to showing screenshots of UGWCs nonsense. It’s called the Urban Gentry Defector Group. It’s so great. Anyone who has been booted by the long arm of TGVs insecurity should check it out.

  • TheGeographicNerd says:

    Personally I define snobbery as deeming some attributes superior that other. This works on both social class, items such as watches and nationality. I am not sure if a agree with TGV is a watch snob (the videos I watched he spoke well of watches from sub 100€ to over 10000€).

    What I do think however is that need of labelling himself as the (Urban) Gentry is more telling, as a need to be associated with a higher social class. With a different personality it could be interpreted as satire but with the signet rings and family great I doubt that. It does not seem like he looks down on other people, it does seem like he generally has a need to feel superior.

  • TheGeographicNerd says:

    But the topic of watch snobbery have interested me since I got interested in watches myself. My girlfriend has a Daniel Wellington, and I desire to buy her a nice watch which will be long lasting in the future.

    What my internal conflict resides about is that is my wish to buy her a nice watch snobbery? The reasoning behind my thoughts is simply that I want her to have a watch that I gave her, a resilient watch that will last for years, and that she will like the design. (Currently thinking about a Tissot powermatic, but they might be a bit big for her).

    However by wanting to give her a nice watch I am also kinda saying that the watch she already have is not nice. Sure DW do not get a lot of praise in the watch community, but it does tell the time and it’s looks are perfect in my girlfriend’s view. When I think about such things is that snobbery, or do I simply want to give her something to wear that will last for ages?

    • simon schneider says:

      Don’t think that is snobby, you simply want something nice for her and have good intentions. Just make sure she actually likes the looks of the watch :)!

  • matt says:

    ah i have fond memories of being unceremoniously booted from the UGWC. I believe a made a comment around how overly precious everyone was being about certain comments made and to man up a bit. Booted. No explanation. I was fairly new to the group and could not believe how bland everyone was, no emotions allowed. it felt like a cult mentality. i actually msgd TGV to ask what was going on, if he knew etc. for an explanation as to why i would be severed with zero warning. the group was still fairly small i think he had about 20K youtube subs at the time. I was actually a little dark to be honest, as much as i loathe to admit it now, my love for and knowledge of watches today has a lot to do with the channel, i’m actually wearing a sarb033 right now (doesn’t get too much wrist time these days but i do still love it). i was almost a little hurt that a channel i had devoted so much time to didn’t even give enough of a fuck to respond to my concerns. anyway, it’s not the same channel these days. i’ve watched him morph into a lampooning cartoon of his formal self. i like the old emotionless TGV. not the leering, backstabbing caricature he’s become. I find his videos horrible and watch them almost out of morbid curiosity. but, i still watch them. Archie called him out ages ago, everyone else is only just catching up.

  • Théo C. Bub says:

    I just don’t approve any form of snobbery. Here, down south where I am (Brazil actually) we have all kinds of snobbery. In the watch community, forums mostly there are mobs of Rolex or nothing snobs that will just disrespect anyone that posts anything that is not a Rolex. The other way around is also true, some will post a Parnis with very acid comments calling Rolex a overpriced piece of junk… as very few might actually mean/believe it, they make sure their point is as acid as the other “team’s”, if not more.
    My opinion is plain and simple, as long as you don’t buy replicas (as in fake or counterfeits), or buy illegal/stolen goods wear what you actually want, and wear it with pride… taste, preference, priorities are personal an should be respected, you don’t have to endorse, agree or even like it. If that is the case I am fine with it.

  • cspb says:

    Well, I like the youtube-channel and the facebook-group. But, I have to agree, one has to savour them with caution. Regarding TGV, as well as I think that the “aristocratic” and “gentleman-like”- behaviour, sitting in his room full of toys are a quite a bit childish and he himself sometimes acts a bit narcissistic on me, I like the content, the atmosphere, and his main-message, “wear what you like and feel comfortable with”, which, in my experience, is exactly represents the atmosphere in the group. I am an active member since almost a year now, and I never stumbled across “snobbery” against expensive watches, which are well represented too, at least in my experience. But, its true that the admins have the reputation of overreacting quite easily, even to harmless humorous posts. All in all, when you like what he does, and watch his videos with an open eye to spot (paid?) promotive behaviour, I think there´s nothing wrong with that.

  • Robert Padilla says:

    Do we actually know what happened with Giancarlo? He seemed like a cool guy. I can’t seem to find if he has his own YouTube channel. It seems like TGV was just using Fed for his Rolex Pepsi.

  • David Mack says:

    The bottom photo of the Rolex Explorer shows a Chinese fake. On the real Roles the word Explorer is inscribed above the hands not below.

    • simon schneider says:

      Hey David, I am sorry but that is not true. It is inscribed below the hands on the modern models, and the watch depicted is genuine.

  • Paul says:

    My comments have more to do with the Youtube-iverse than any one particular watch host. I’m one of the people who were introduced to the modern world of watch “collecting”, whether that means 2 or 200 watches, in no small part to watching TGV’s videos. I bought my first mechanical watch 2 months ago- a Seiko SKX. That tells you a little about my prior knowledge (none) I’ve since acquired a vintage Heuer. I read this blog and watched your interview on the Casual Watch Reviewer channel with great interest, and not because I belong to any particular watch collecting tribe- far from it. I’ll only address the Youtube channel here. If TGV is a fake, he’s a very good one. I too would like to see direct evidence of his being compensated, or of being given a watch he says was loaned, for a particular watch review to back up the whispers. He’s pretty tough on a lot of watches. There’s a place for his “downmarket” focus on watch collecting, surely. He is frequently suspicious of gold Rolex wearers as status-seekers only, but so was I in the past. And there’s good dose of schtick to his presentation. Am I the only one who gets it? Oh, and by the way, this is Youtube. Are you looking for integrity on the internet? Has he banned dissenting voices on his platforms? I don’t follow his Facebook group. Are the Facebook and Youtube marketing departments telling him what to do, and is he doing it? Perhaps. Probably? I hope for the best, but I know how the world works. The internet is filled with too many, dare I say, desperate content creators trying to up their channel views by any means, fair and unfair, looking for that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. What’s the saying-If the shoe fits? (present company NOT excluded). I choose to participate in Youtube as a viewer but with my eyes wide open. If people are being influenced by someone who shouldn’t be an influencer, who’s fault is that?

    • simon schneider says:

      The closest thing to evidence you will find on the youtube channel called Urban Vermin Exposed, but I am pretty sure most people will not consider that sufficient, in part because it would disprove their point. Has he banned dissenting voices? Yes, it says in the blog, and he does not just ban dissenting voices but anyone who does not fit into his worldview. Of course it is always easy to play the fault game and point fingers, saying that TGV does not force anyone to do anything and if you do not like it just do not watch it, but turning a blind eye to the influence he has is ignorant in my eyes. Many regard him as a leader, and the way he presents himself he clearly likes that image, and as such he should take responsibility.

      • Phillip says:

        A leader?? Really?? Of what? The guy has a pseudo grandeur persona, the “aristocracy” noble family is totall persona fabrication. He has a strong need to show the aviation, military, filmography and other obsession thrue gadget models ect on his videos. Dictatorship behavior on you tube and watch club show’s in my opinion that his general actions and behavior have inferieur persona issues. The bottom line is that the guy is just in for the money and he gets to satisfy his ego along the way.
        Horological knowledge? Very limited.
        Video editing? Quite good
        And most likely the main reason he has the followers on YouTube.

      • Paul says:

        I have no motive other than cutting to the chase in interesting discussions like this. The problem is not that TGV is pseudo-gentry. The real accusation is that he has a bias (maybe driven by hidden sponsorships) against newer, higher-end time pieces in favor of vintage and mid-range. Is this true, or does he really just prefer that segment of the market? Why does it matter anyway? Because this is 2018, and he has almost 260K subscribers, and probably twice that many non-subscribers like me who occasionally visit the site. Some people who may have been a customer for a high-end watch *might* be steered away if all they watch is TGV’s channel. Therefore, you may conclude he is not good for business if you run a high-end watch store, like I assume Watch & Bullion is. I would probably try to discredit him to if I was in the same position.

        • simon schneider says:

          Hey Paul. TGV has no impact on our business, and we have no interest in discrediting him. What we do have interest in however is the watch community as a whole, and that is an area where we saw some negative influence from him. We do not claim TGV makes bad content, but just think he could definitely do better. All the best!

  • Suraj says:

    Wanna see a true watch snob in action? youtube Robert Downey Jr’s gq video of his watch collection and see how he says Seiko with the disgust a Nazi shows when talking about Jews….while showing of his fake Omega. There are watch snobs. Trust me and rdj’s video is a damn good example. Also u need to understand that videos like tgv are subjective. Tastes are subjective, and he is just doing and showing what he likes and prefers. So I watch it but I also disagree with him a lot, especially where he swoons about NTH watches I frankly just hate that watch because they shamelessly copy tudor blackbay and use snowflake hands. Which is insane! The audacity. If you have snowflake hands on your watch it better be a damn Tudor,because snowflake hands are just so synonymous with Tudor, that any other watch using snowflake hands will instantly be classified as unoriginal and worse even fake TGV however thinks otherwise.

  • Earthen Jadis says:

    All this just smacks of high school politics. this watch snob debate feels very artificial and manufactured because some people want to fight and feel good about themselves and their virtue signalling. I count this open letter. There’s a thing in Australia called Tall Poppy Syndrome and TGV is a case in spades.

    Someone puts something out there in the world like TGV and of course gets praise but there are the others that want to criticize. OK, fine. But if people have a grievance against his style of “show”, the best thing to do would be not to moan about it but to produce a show you like and put yourself out there. How long would you last until you get your first detractor?
    And for those that can’t put a show out there, then he at least needs to be praised for being able to do something others can’t.

    • simon schneider says:

      Isn’t this blog us putting out content? Trust me, we already have a lot of detractors as you put it, and we are still going 😉

  • Mohan says:

    Aren’t you over analyzing it? You seem to be accusing TGV of encouraging legions of watch lovers to build collections of less than high-end watches when they could be done with handful of high-end watches and by doing so he is enriching various watchmakers and also enriching himself at the expense of watch lovers.

    There are many people out there with various budgets and tastes. And by variety of tastes I mean there are people who are satisfied with 1-2 watches and also those who’d love to have as many different types of watches as possible. TGV tried to diversify and try to cover as many watches as he can and provide as many perspectives as he can to reach a wider audience. He doesn’t profess you to own several of them and also warns it could be an expensive habit. He also has videos which address which ones to consider if you are only going to buy 3 watches.

    If he is enriching various watch makers, why is that a bad thing? His work then helps feeds families of people who work hard at those firms.

    I’d rather not nit pick about ulterior motives, but rather thank him for being the source of a wealth of information.

    • simon schneider says:

      Your response is sound and fair. This is, after all, an opinion piece. Him pushing certain brands though is a problem because many people trust him, and those that do could be misguided by his bias which may or may not be motivated by some form of undisclosed financial compensation. I mean even in the Lion Shark video where the watch was so obviously a collaboration piece which will no doubt leave him compensated he did not make any disclosure of that fact. If you want to ignore that and not think of ulterior motives that is your right, but it does further dilute the border between advertisements and original content which is a shame.

  • Robert says:

    Here’s my definition of watch snobbery: If you buy a watch so you can look good in the eyes of others, and overtly criticize other watches as being inferior. I don’t personally consider TGV a snob, vs. that foul mouthed Aussie, but he certainly has his biases. Then again, I’m not a cultist; I just watch for the information, which I consider useful and often entertaining. For the High End stuff, I like Watchfinder. Cheers.

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