"The Best" and a Car Analogy: Something that makes me say, "Hugh?"
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  1. #1
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    "The Best" and a Car Analogy: Something that makes me say, "Hugh?"

    Daily on WUS one can find members, new and long term, asking for input on which watch is "the best" for them. Also, one'll see no shortage of comments about this or that movement being "better" or "the best." Consumers have exactly the same question regarding cars, which if one visits a car forum, one'll see exactly the same sorts of questions and comments.

    Now in the automobile industry, Ward's annually issues it's list of the ten best car motors (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ward%27s_10_Best_Engines). And unlike magazines like Motor Trend and Car and Driver, Ward's is an industry publication. In other words, it sees it's primary audience as car dealers and automobile makers (About Us | WardsAuto) as shown by their "About Us" statement: "No matter how your customers prefer to stay tuned into the industry, WardsAuto is the name they trust." (Of course Ward's realizes some consumers also read their publications.)

    Since Ward's writes for car dealers, they aren't concerned about alienating any given manufacturer. Why would they be? Car dealership owners don't care (business wise from a brand positioning POV) what kind of new cars they sell because they make the overwhelming bulk of their money in the service department, not the new car sales department. New car dealers want to sell cars that will attract traffic and revenue to their service bays. That's why you rarely if ever see a car dealership owner who has only one store, and that store sells low volume cars.

    The reason for the preceding is to say that in spite of Ward's performing a lot of work/analysis to determine what automotive engines are "the best," the top selling cars aren't, for the most part, ones having those engines. I don't know about you, but I care far more about the engine in my car being "up to snuff" than I do about the one in my watch. After all, if my watch's engine dies, it'll have no meaningful impact on my life. No so with my car's engine.

    So taking the thoughts above and applying them to the watch industry and watch consumers, I see some differences, several of which it is strange to me that they exist.
    • WIS seem very focused on watch engines, and yet as they almost certainly are automotive consumers who in general follow the same automotive trends as other consumers, they probably don't (collectively) buy the cars that have the best motors.





    • I can't find a watch industry publication that produces a similar type of analysis re: watch movements as Ward's does for car engines.
    • Consumers consider more than the motor when they buy cars, and yet the "motor" is the focus of oh, so much watch discussion. If one is to judge by the top selling cars, and Ward's ranking of engines, the motor isn't even the most important factor for car consumers.
    • A failed car engine is a much bigger problem for most folks than is a dead watch movement.
    • Watch folks will "stress" over a watch movement -- want something "special" -- even when they are buying modestly priced watches.
    • Judging by Ward's list, one can buy a modestly priced car and get a top rated engine, but few folks ever are "snobby" (toward the car, the motor or the owner) about the fact that their neighbor who just bought a Bentley (or another very pricey car) didn't get a car having one of the best engines in it.. Judging by the track record of low priced watch movements, one can buy a modestly priced watch and get a top performing movement, yet there is no dearth derisive or dismissive thinking/commentary, some of which is personally hurtful to others, about those movements.

    So why might the oddities noted above exist among watch consumers? I don't know. I know that for myself, what matters to me when I'm buying a watch varies depending on whether I'm buying a "fun" watch or a "collection" watch. When I choose a "collection" watch, though I hope the movement inside is excellent, like car shoppers re: car motors, it's not the most important factor. When I'm buying a "fun" watch, I actually care more about the motor. Not much more, but more. I don't want an inexpensive watch that can't be relied upon to keep reasonably good time and that I'll have to "muck" around with to keep it running. When I buy a JLC, say, though I wouldn't like it were the watch to "die," I'm not buying it because I think its motor is "strong," so to speak.

    So what are your thoughts on why the consumer priorities are so different between watch buyers and car buyers?


    All the best.

    There are two kinds of light - the glow that illuminates, and the glare that obscures.
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  2. #2
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    Re: "The Best" and a Car Analogy: Something that makes me say, "Hugh?"

    As someone who's other major passion has been anything automotive for the past 30 years or more, I shop for watches, just like I shop/build my cars, and almost exactly like criteria you stating in your post.

    I am just as interested in the "motor/movement" as the shiny paint, so I try to shop selectively, based on what I want and prior research.

    Sometimes it is "sporty" which is more about looks to me, and "fun" which is something unique, or dressy, which is all business.

    My overall goal it to buy the best quality whatever within my price range, and for me that included the best movement option I can get within my selections.

    Watches in many ways are far more mechanical that automobiles, and I like to see that motor and hear it purr whenever I can....

    Nice post BTW.
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  3. #3
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    Re: "The Best" and a Car Analogy: Something that makes me say, "Hugh?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Nokie View Post
    As someone who's other major passion has been anything automotive for the past 30 years or more, I shop for watches, just like I shop/build my cars, and almost exactly like criteria you stating in your post.

    I am just as interested in the "motor/movement" as the shiny paint, so I try to shop selectively, based on what I want and prior research.

    Sometimes it is "sporty" which is more about looks to me, and "fun" which is something unique, or dressy, which is all business.

    My overall goal it to buy the best quality whatever within my price range, and for me that included the best movement option I can get within my selections.

    Watches in many ways are far more mechanical that automobiles, and I like to see that motor and hear it purr whenever I can....

    Nice post BTW.
    My guess is you may be the exception rather than the norm among car buyers. From what I've seen, and given the numbers you see in the chart in my OP you know I haven't even seen most car buyers when they buy cars, folks go to the car store, get in a car and comment, "Oh, this is nice." Then they drive it as gently as they can on city streets and decide the car is good.

    Fair enough, but on the basis of that set of actions alone, I'd ask, "how would one know?" Any car is going to be good in that driving situation. Of course, there aren't many car dealers who are within five miles of a track so consumers can actually test drive the car and discover just how good it is or isn't.

    With watches, "test driving" is very much doable in the store. Depending on the store, they can even test/verify the water resistance of the watch. I can only wonder how many folks do more than put on the watch and decide whether it looks pretty on their wrist. I can say I've never seen another customer in the watch store ask an employee there to open the case so they can see the movement running. (I'm not saying nobody does, just that I've never seen it, but I have bought a lot of watches and I'm in a watch store about once a week although not all day. I'm going to ask a salesperson about this the next time I am in a watch store.) Even car buyers will open the hood to look at the motor, regardless of whether they know what they are looking at or see more than the huge plastic covers car makers put on top of motors these days.

    All the best.
    Last edited by tony20009; January 27th, 2015 at 18:52. Reason: swapped "how would you know" for "how would one know"
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    Member Ayreonaut's Avatar
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    Re: "The Best" and a Car Analogy: Something that makes me say, "Hugh?"

    If your top priority is engine reliability, then you'll buy a quartz watch. Most people do.

    Mechanical watches are more akin to antique or exotic cars. Its gonna cost ya more to keep them serviced.

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    Re: "The Best" and a Car Analogy: Something that makes me say, "Hugh?"

    The watch industry is notoriously insular and secretive in a lot of ways. They want any released information to carefully craft a brand message. Nobody is interested in talking about what the failure rate is for a 2824-2 or Miyota 9015 or whatever since it gives the competition and consumer lots of information. Likewise, it's much harder to estimate pricing based off of a Bill of Materials, track performance over time, etc. It's just not in anybody's interest to release the info in anything other than a carefully crafted way... as long as they have the luxury to do so.

    Watch manufacturers are still in some ways catching up to where other industries were a decade or two ago and the automotive industry has been dealing with a mix of voracious press and regulation for decades. It's just now getting to the point where we have watch-related press that mixes in irreverent and critical reviews. Car and Driver and Top Gear are nothing new, let along TTAC and some of the harsher Internet-based media. There are still lots of media outlets for the watch industry that are too focused on just fluff pieces with good photography.
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    Re: "The Best" and a Car Analogy: Something that makes me say, "Hugh?"

    Who's Hugh, and what kind of watch does he wear?

    ;)
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    Re: "The Best" and a Car Analogy: Something that makes me say, "Hugh?"

    My second job is working for a small company which builds powerful motors for a certain type vehicle/engine and I enjoy that a lot. I've always been into cars since I was a kid and I've watched every episode of Top Gear UK. After my first car had a dud of an engine, all subsequent models I've owned and own now have had "something to them" engine-wise. OHV V8s, an inline six, a V6 and currently a very sophisticated Japanese V8 and a not-as-sophisticated American V8. I love V8s ;).

    Before WUS, my entire collecting was quartz, save for a Kenneth Cole fashion watch. As my interest in watches grew, the movement has become more important to me and I would like to diversify with movements as much I as do watch styles/type. I have a Seiko auto and Citizen/Miyota auto. Next I'd like to try an ETA movement and maybe one from a micro offering. I will never own a really complicated watch but collecting watch "engines" and researching them is very enjoyable and educational.

    Another great topic from you, Tony. Thanks for posting.
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    Re: "The Best" and a Car Analogy: Something that makes me say, "Hugh?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Ayreonaut View Post
    If your top priority is engine reliability, then you'll buy a quartz watch. Most people do.

    Mechanical watches are more akin to antique or exotic cars. Its gonna cost ya more to keep them serviced.
    Even the most pragmatic person fell victim at times to a longing for something other.
    ― Kate Morton, The Forgotten Garden

    Good point. TY for bringing that up.

    Thematically, I agree with you. Literally, I don't.

    Even as a collector, if all I care about for a given watch purchase is aesthetics, and sometimes that is all I care about, I would buy quartz. Why not? Having that same, single requirement -- appealing aesthetics -- wouldn't you? For most consumers, I think looks is all they care about, frankly, aside from not wanting a watch that will "vaporize" or self-combust for no reason at all.


    Thought's a luxury. Do you think the peasant sits and thinks of God and democracy when he gets inside his mud hut at night?
    ― Graham Greene, The Quiet American

    Quote Originally Posted by OvrSteer View Post
    The watch industry is notoriously insular and secretive in a lot of ways. They want any released information to carefully craft a brand message. Nobody is interested in talking about what the failure rate is for a 2824-2 or Miyota 9015 or whatever since it gives the competition and consumer lots of information. Likewise, it's much harder to estimate pricing based off of a Bill of Materials, track performance over time, etc. It's just not in anybody's interest to release the info in anything other than a carefully crafted way... as long as they have the luxury to do so.

    Watch manufacturers are still in some ways catching up to where other industries were a decade or two ago and the automotive industry has been dealing with a mix of voracious press and regulation for decades. It's just now getting to the point where we have watch-related press that mixes in irreverent and critical reviews. Car and Driver and Top Gear are nothing new, let along TTAC and some of the harsher Internet-based media. There are still lots of media outlets for the watch industry that are too focused on just fluff [articles] with good photography.
    But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.
    ― George Orwell, 1984

    Quite a few astute observations in that post. TY for sharing your thoughts.

    Red:
    True, to a point.

    I think one factor contributing to the paucity of information on matters such as movement failure rates is that the information is likely very hard to obtain, especially for work horse movements. I could be wrong, but I suspect that most folks -- general public and watchies -- would sooner have a local watch repair shop service/repair, say, their ETA-inside "whatever" watch.

    There's not much to be gained by sending that sort of watch back to the maker unless the thing needing attention is the integrity of the watch case itself. That may not be the case with "exotic" ETA-inside watches like those from Jacob & Co., but there aren't enough of those kinds of watches from any single maker for that to be relevant to (or representationally faithful enough for) quantifying failure rates or other objective facts.

    Personally, I think enough folks are interested in that sort of information, but getting it is too Herculean a task. Now companies like Omega, Tag, Tissot or Citizen probably do record in their service databases the nature of service and repair work on each type of movement. I would be quite shocked were I to learn that most independent watchmakers who repair watches record more than the fact that they provided service for a watch so they can get information such as average revenue/cost per servicing event. One can undoubtedly speak with the watchmaker and s/he can accurately share what kinds of problems s/he sees most often and with regard to what kind of movements, but that's a far cry from having the info in a database so that it can be aggregated and analyzed.

    What surprises me is that the large companies, especially Swatch Group, Richemont Group, LVMH, Kering, Seiko, and Citizen don't actively tout stats as part of their marketing. Given how manipulable statistics are, they cry for marketing departments to spread them around very liberally and deliberately. I know empirical data isn't really in line with marketing strategies for luxury goods, and technically every mechanical watch is a luxury good. That may be one aspect of why that sort of info isn't offered using whatever stats a maker has available.

    (Using the data available to produce quantifiable metrics, even though the data may not be "scientifically" valid, is hardly beneath the marketing heads of many companies. The watch industry's marketing leadership is surely not so suffuse with integrity that doing the same is beneath them. <wink>)

    With low to medium priced watches, it seems like an appropriate and viable tactic for bolstering/growing market share. Perhaps, however, were they do cite statistics re: their watch movements/watches, (non-watchie) consumers would be quick to realize that every watch having the same movement will have the same performance, no matter whose name is on the dial.

    I'm sure that truth is part of why Swatch Group is reigning in distribution of ETA movements. After all, it's very hard to say your $1000 Hamilton is better than a competitor's watch when your competitor is using the same movement as you do. Nobody's gullible or pessimistic enough to think the watch case is going to disintegrate into dust.

    Blue:
    True. Aside from the big conglomerates and Rolex, my observations suggest that watchmaking is still a cottage industry. I like some things about that and detest others. The personalized care one receives, and the extent of involvement one can have with the maker (as little or as much as one wants) as a customer of a small maker is very nice. On the other hand, the comparatively unsophisticated business processes small makers have can be frustrating when one has only iterations with large corporations as points of comparison. (Or course there are plenty of corporations who have lame customer care practices and policies, and any company can accidentally hire "disinterested" employees who merely want a paycheck.)

    Green:
    The big issue with the watch press, IMO, is that they are necessarily dependent on the watch industry for everything they do. There will simply never be enough consumers who are willing to "pay for it" to keep watch blogs and magazine afloat. I don't mean that subscription revenue keeps any magazine afloat, because it can't. I mean that there is enough general interest in cars and trucks that automotive manufacturers can't "black list" the major car magazines. Getting mentioned in those publications is part of their overall communication/promotion strategy, and without it, they are worse off than they are with it. (Yes, tiny, high end makers like Ferrari can "black list" a car magazine or two. They have done before and I doubt it affected their bottom line.)

    Ward's, the publisher I mentioned, is supported by and exists for car dealers, not car makers. I'm sure car makers provide support too, but what's critically different between Ward's and any watch publication is that the end consumer isn't their primary audience. Thus, Ward's have a degree of independence that Watch Time, Hodinkee, ABTW, and other watch press outlets don't. Even watch industry focused (rather than consumer focused) publications are beholden to watch manufacturers because there simply isn't a strong and broad enough network of watch retailers, as in contrast there are car dealers in the automotive industry, to afford watch industry publications any degree of freedom over what they print. Plus, watch retailers are somewhat fractured as businesses, many of them selling jewelry right along with watches.

    Other:
    Even as I recognize the state of indentured servitude the watch press suffers, I accept that it is what it is for now. The watch press is little more than the propaganda machine for watchmakers of all sizes and sorts. What irks me is seeing consumers echo that propaganda, especially watch enthusiasts who should, IMO, be able to and want to rise about the hype.

    All the best.


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  10. #9
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    Re: "The Best" and a Car Analogy: Something that makes me say, "Hugh?"

    Your average WIS here is basically... in love with watches. That's why much importance is given to the "engine" of the watch and all other aspects of a given timepiece. From this perspective, the actual objective of a watch, basically its raison d'etre, which is to tell time can even become not that important.

    For folks that are like we are for watches, but for cars (and I am very passionate myself about cars), I believe the principle is more or less the same. Using me as an example, for me performance and specs are very important as I love sport cars, so I approach my car(s) purchasing the same way I do for my watches. So for me if an engine wins in its class for Ward's, it would be something that perks my ears up. As a matter of fact, I had cars in the past whose engine was a category winner.


    Vice versa, people who don't care about watches, need something that will tell them the time and/or look good in the cheapest, easiest way possible, with the least amount of care/maintenance needed.
    For people who don't care about cars and only want their car to bring them from point A to point B, that's all they care for. For me my car is THE point.
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  11. #10
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    Re: "The Best" and a Car Analogy: Something that makes me say, "Hugh?"

    Like Legion, I'm also a car nut, and I pore over the specs and characteristics of every car I'm considering for purchase. That includes not only the engine, but the handling, brakes, seating comfort, aesthetics, etc, etc. I think buying a watch is a similar process, I consider engine (quartz, auto, etc), fit & finish, bracelet comfort, appearance, etc. In either case, focusing on just the engine is very narrow-sighted.
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