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About the site

WatchOtaku is a not-for-profit site dedicated to the enjoyment of mechanical watches. If you want to know more about what makes a watch tick, then you've come to the right place. And if you want to design your own watch, you've definitely come to the right place.

Site Support

If you enjoy the information here, please consider supporting the site, via donation of watches for review or just plain funds. The Donation page has details. I do not run any ads or paid-for content and take pride in that all content is my creation. I also take care to attribute information and pictures so that you can judge for yourself.

I hope you like it.

You can read more about the site and how it came to be on the About page and if you'd like to contact me, please see the Contact page.

Twitter feed

I use Twitter quite a lot, independent of this site. Check it out and you might like it; it's also a very good way to communicate with me, either direct messages or by mentioning me (@WatchOtaku).

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Blog Posts

New review posted

Just finished up a preview of the Tangramatic Alpha 39 'California'. Hope you like the review! It's a hell of a deal on an interesting design.

Doing it the hard way

I got an email this morning from Vlad Millerman that sent me to his website, www.navitaswatches.com. He has made a very cool and unusual watch based on the design of the throttle repeater of a ship:

Here's a picture of mine, from the USS Midway. This is one of the four boiler rooms on board:

Notice the Chelsea clock - that was what I wanted to note and research later. Turns out they're too expensive, ahh well. In the lower left if the throttle repeater, like the Navitas.

It doesn't look like the Navitas is for sale yet, which is a pity. I'd love to see one up close.

There's also a women's model and this version with inverted colors:

42mm, polished steel case, ETA 6498 movement with multilayer dial and custom hands. 

His 'about page' is worth a read; I can sympathize!

This trial and error approach was very costly and frustrating, but I had no choice.  I was going to make my watch the way I wanted it or not make it at all.  Pretty soon, my creative endeavor had led me to develop my own vacuum dial holder and video positioning fixture for my CNC mill.  Because it was impossible to find, I took a deeper dive and designed and fabricated a heavy duty dial printing machine with a laser guide for precise cliché/dial setup.  That helped me start building dial printers for other watchmakers to offset the cost of the watch development.

People like Vlad are why I wrote and maintain the Design and make your own watch page.

 

Apple Watch

 

(Image credit: Apple PR)

So a couple of days ago, the Apple Watch was announced. I was watching the video feed, and while I wish I could have been there, here are some thoughts and opinions.

Why me?

I've got what I immodestly think is a nearly ideal background to evaluate the Apple Watch. I'm a watch expert, I've consulted for another quartz-based smartwatch, I've written dozens of watch reviews for ablogotwatch.com, watchreport.com and watchotaku.com, and I'm also a software developer with an app in the Google app store and a personal-project iOS app running on my iPhone.

Moreover, I've written about the Cartier/IWC strap system that is consider the closest to the Apple Watch. Also (very) relevant is my post about Veblen goods and marketing. I'm a runner, albeit a very slow and uncommitted one. I have a competing activity monitor, the Misfit Shine, had a Pebble from Kickstarter and just RMA'd my TomTom Runner Cardio.

I'm your man.

Other write-ups

Hodinkee did their usual excellent writeup, though when you read it it helps to remember that Hodinkee is primarily "Watches for bankers" and other rich men. His example is a white gold Patek perpetual! Even if he got a killer deal, that's tens of thousands of dollars; that's not the Apple Watch market. So it's an excellent evaluation of Apple vs the high end, but I think that's a bad comparison; a better one is Apple versus G-Shock MRG / Seiko Astron / Yes Watches / Suunto Elementum / Omega X-33.

Another one worth reading is Ariel's take on ablogtowatch. Less of the super-rich perspective, but as you'll see I have a few differences with his take.

The two viewpoints: Function and Signaling

From a functional evaluation, the Apple Watch excels with the strong exception of autonomy. It does a great deal, it does it well, and I'd certainly take it over the current Android wearables. I fully plan on buying one when they ship. That strap system - yes please!

There are a few drawbacks I see as major:

  1. No GPS. This limits its utility as a running / fitness tracker. My Misfit is pretty accurate at calculating distance, but I run with RunKeeper on the iPhone because then I get maps, elevation, training plans and quite a bit of analytics. Similar issues with the lack of a barometer.
  2. Battery life. I've debated this quite a bit, as most mechanical movements have a power reserve of 38 to 42 hours, meaning that if you put it down Friday night it'll be stopped before you got sleep on Sunday. If the presumed 1 - 1.5 day of the Apple watch is correct, then that's not much less. However. In the case of a mechanical watch, you can quickly wind and set it, and be on your way in a minute or two. If your Apple Watch goes flat, it needs to be connected to a charger for some unknown amount of time, likely to be at least an hour or two. (I did a bunch of research on rechargeable Li ion batteries and the charge and discharge rates have to low and carefully controlled to prevent failure. So you can't charge them quickly.) You also have to pack the charger when traveling. And forget doing multi-day hiking unless you have a solar-panel backpack.
  3. Water resistance. I've written my Secret Decoder Ring Page for this before; the key bit here is that any watch not rated for 100m or more is not a sport watch and should be kept as dry as possible. I know this is confusing, and the watch industry needs to be taken to task on it, but any rating less than 100m means keep dry. If, like me, you want to be able to jump in a pool or lake, this is a problem. Or if you just don't want to take off your expensive sport watch before you use the shower in the gym.
  4. Autonomy. This is a combined question of 'how useful is it by itself?' How many features require the phone? And how far away from a phone and charger can I get? Impossible to answer with the information currently available.

So those are what I see as the problems, given of course the enormous caveat that I'm working from other writers' reports and the pre-release information from Apple. #2 and #3 are perhaps addressable before release, though given the presence of a microphone I have my doubts on #2. 

From a signaling evaluation, it's a titanic struggle and I'm making popcorn to watch the show. Rolex has spend untold millions of dollars over a period of decades selling their brand, and it works. If you walk down the street in the Tsim Sha Tsui (Kowloon) side of Hong Kong, on every single block you'll have a verbal offer to buy a fake Rolex, even on the block with the genuine Rolex dealership. Advertising works, and no one does more of it than Rolex. Patek Philippe is also superb, in particular their 'you never on a PP' campaign. Together, they have sold damn near the entire world on the idea that a Rolex shows your wealth and success, and that mechanical watches are required to demonstrate superiority.

Please take a moment now to read my post on Veblen and Rolex if you would. We are pack animals, and we all want ways to show our rank. The watch industry has succeeded in establishing mechanical watches as status markers.

But.

What's the one company who's better than Rolex at advertising? Yeah, exactly. Apple's brand value greatly exceeds any watchmaker or conglomerate, even the titans like LVMH and Richemont. Apple just might be able to out-market Rolex in establishing the crucial mental association between the product and your social status.

This works especially well in societies where the social ranking is changing rapidly e.g. China. A possession, mannerism, accent or clothing that marks you as high-status is enormously valuable. Think gold iPhones, the Omega Constellation, the Mercedes logo, and of course any Rolex. A watch is perfect because you always have it with you. Anyone you interact with can (and is supposed to) notice this conspicuous luxury good and infer from it your high status. Apple's unparalleled publicity and status work here, allowing the company to nearly-instantly establish the status and desirability of an Apple Watch. If, as I suspect, the gold Edition comes in around $2,000 - $3,000 then I think it'll become the premiere aspirational luxury good for millions of people.

So I think there is a Christensen-type risk here for the current watch industry. Their current success depends on

  1. The unstated "mechanical watches mark high status" association
  2. Decades of advertising to produce the necessary product recognition
  3. The selling point of "mechanical watches are heirlooms". 

A gold Apple Watch with a never-discounted price of $3,000 hits hard at #1. #2 is trivial for Apple; their PR is unparalleled. And #3 is easily countered with the argument of "Apple Watch does more for you, now."

Fitness functionality

Here I think they have a long way to go. It can't track a run without a phone. (Doable with the arm harness I have now). I can't track how I play Ultimate (The TomTom worked for that, though for me the pulse sensor failed as soon I perspired). I use my Misfit because I can wrist-mount it for any sport including volleyball and lap swimming, and it gets decent data. 

I also like the sleep tracking in the Misfit. I'm not sure if the data is useful, but as with any experiment you never know what you might learn. If the Apple Watch has to charge every night it can't track sleep.

A barometer would have been nice to track elevation during the day and for workouts.

It's gotta be more waterproof. There's no way I'm leaving my watch unsecured in a public locker room while I shower post-workoout.

I can't take it hiking or camping without carrying a single-purpose charger. Ditto for trips like a conference, where it'd be super useful for tracking schedules and maps.

Bottom Line (TL;DR)

(Image credit: Hodinkee)

I'll buy one. This model, probably, steel with link bracelet, plus a rubber sport strap for running.

I think they've done well is making watches for both the functional and the luxury buyers and that they'll sell millions of them. 

I think that the strap system is superb and really look forward to other brands licensing / adopting it. YES PLEASE.

It will take time for their luxury good to compete with the established brands. They have to convince people that their 'does more for you' luxury good is a better idea than 'lasts for decades' pitch for mechanical watches, really. Current watch brands will benefit from the comparison shopping but should be prepared to explain how they compete and why they are better.

I want to write an app for 'Find and map my kids' for it. And another one to display the home electricity usage I'm measuring now. Nice dashboard.

Switzerland should be worried but probably won't take it seriously enough. Seiko, Citizen, Casio, Suunto and similar brands will take a big hit and will need to reduce prices on some of their high-end watches to compete. Boutique quartz brands like Yes are at risk of being replaced by Apple Watch apps. Entry-level quartz (Tag Heuer for example) are at risk.

I look forward to the PR battle and expect Apple to win, and rapidly. The Swiss have a new 'Quartz Crisis' on their hands.

IWC Aquatimer straps and bracelets

The IWC Aquatimer 2000 ref 3568 has proprietary lugs, and an overpriced strap. Here are some links as I research alternatives:

  • ABP Paris can accommodate IWC, but justly famous for custom, pricy work. Not sure how much cheaper than IWC it'd be, though I could get one made to my design.
  • Timenation has a nice post about custom straps, but no suggestions.
  • It looks like there's a velcro strap available:


(Image credit: awo on TZUK)


(Image credit: awo on TZUK)

Hmm. From the discussion, it sounds like adding a normal strap to that adapter is difficult. And it's expensive. Hmm.

More as I learn it.

Update 8/31/10: ABP replied to my email and asked me to re-enquire in 'September.' Guess they're busy.
Update 9/7/10: No help from ABP:

We can't make a strap for that IWC ther is an insert which can't fit with leather strap.

Update 9/11/10: ABP can do it... for a price.

Bonjour Paul,

Yes we can make a strap for your IWC Aquatimer.

We need 10 days to make a strap.

Of course the strap will not fit like the rubber one.

The prices are between 225 euros and 550 euros fedex included, depending of the skin and the option selected.

Feel free to ask for any further information.

Best Regards,

Sonia.

Ouch. Still, good to have the option, will see how my money looks. I think they bracelet comes first.

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