Early Thursday morning, fans of Hodinkee were notified of a new article and a new product by the watch magazine: a quirky mechanical desktop travel clock.
Many watch fans down on their luck in “these COVID pandemic times” grew a broader and broader smile as they scrolled through the article, learning about what a travel clock was, and how cool it was of Chateau Hodinkee to release something so eccentric and unique in this dog-eat-dog world.
“You know, I don’t have much for a new watch, but I’d totally spend $250 on this cool piece,” they thought. It wasn’t a Rolex, or a Patek, but a humble Hodinkee release, after all.
Wait… $5,900? Is that a joke? My God… no, they’re serious.
The watch world experienced a collective shattering of dreams, an accentuation of wealth inequality, and a visceral sense of je méprise (I despise).
I first discovered this travesty on my Instagram feed, where Hodinkee disabled the comments. Something spicy is always afoot whenever a brand resorts to silencing unapproved opinions.
However, silencing opinions has downstream effects of generating buzz on non-brand controlled forums. Reddit and Facebook are going ham, and it’s entertaining to watch the fire.
Of note, Seiko modder /u/tdoan89 posted this sweet piece for a sale – for a mere $12,000 (price cut from $450). It’s a cool Seiko diver mod with a bit of masking tape over the brand with “HODINKEE” written on it.
While he was disparaged in the comments for omitting a pompous write-up to explain the price tag (a minimum of 3 French phrases are needed, in italics, of course) – he justified the price as such: “it says Hodinkee on the dial.” Ah, true – that is enough for me.
Let’s take a look at some other nuggets of gold before they’re removed by the brand. (sourced from facebook.com/hodinkee)
You can buy a watch and a vacation for the price of this clock!
It’s true… I used to love Hodinkee’s reporting, but now it’s become a catalog for the ultra rich. More on that later.
Well – I suppose that’s enough Hodinkee bashing for now. I only joined in because they censored the comments on Instagram.
The Travel Clock was picked apart for not showing the movement, for ripping off the design from older travel clocks (while claiming originality), for using a stock typeface which they called “custom,” and for the idiocy of releasing a travel watch while the world is in a quarantined lockdown.
However, none of this really bothered anyone as much as the price, and the other attacks came as a secondary assault after this fact. After all, you could buy a Rolex, and Omega, or a Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos for the same price – why would you buy this piece of crap?
What the Hodinkee Travel Clock Tells us About “Luxury”
Let’s talk about luxury watches. As watch enthusiasts, we spend decades lusting after that 5-digit Rolex, an Omega Speedmaster Professional, or an AP Royal Oak. We work for 20 years, saving, gambling, and dreaming of that grail.
One lucky day, some of us may forego rationality and pull the trigger on that elusive grail – our watch journey will be over, and we will live happily ever after. Achievers of their grail report a variety of things – happiness, disappointment, the loss of innocence, perhaps.
But our lust for material grails is not rational. It’s primal and emotional.
However, friends, we are not the target market for these watchmakers. The target market is the millionaires and billionaires who wouldn’t bat an eye at a $10,000 watch purchase. While we wait ardently and patiently on a decade-long Rolex or Patek waitlist, the millionaire class buys ten of these at a time for their friends, family, and for the family dog just because it’s funny.
The “everyday Joe” customer is used as a means of marketing – to generate buzz. You’re meant to consume the second-order version of the products: the off-brand homages, the Facebook and Instagram posts, the write-up about the celebrity who wore the watch.
You are a means to an end – they don’t even care about the pennies you’ve saved, only about how long your eyeballs are spying their brand logo.
Why the Hodinkee Travel Clock Angers Us
Anyone who’s seen a comedy show knows that most of the humor in a joke is in the delivery. You have to set up the joke (anchor expectation), then over-deliver the punchline.
Everyone who saw the article was first excited that there was watch news to read at all. However, anticipation started rising when we saw the product – a $250-looking quirky product. Looks affordable, attainable, and spicy!
Then came the bombshell: $5,900. Not only is it not affordable, but f–k you!
By now readers of Hodinkee are used to seeing a $2000 price tag for a $500 Limited Edition Seiko at the end of the article. But the Travel Clock is just such a big slap in the face.
They could have made it for $250, and not limited the editions – a Christmas in July for their readers (and sold for $999 – typical watchmaker markup). Instead, the 96 limited editions sold out at $5900 each for a nice revenue of $566,400. Assuming a generous 50% margin, our collective feelings, hopes, dreams, and expectations – our day was ruined – for a sum of $283,000 profit.
I can’t imagine that such a profit will cover the damage to the brand name and goodwill of Hodinkee. Now when I read their articles, I will do so with a skeptical and doubting mind, instead of the relaxed nodding when listening to an authority or spiritual leader. Well done, you played yourself.
Numbers aside – they screwed up the presentation. Then they censored the comments to hide the fact. Now I’m writing about it, while the other watch blogs appear to brown-nosingly applaud. Not sure why, since the real story is the failure.
To close out, I also really enjoyed the comments found on Worn and Wound’s reporting on this release:
Final Thoughts on Travel Clocks
By the way, if any of this actually made you want a mechanical alarm clock without spending $5900, I highly recommend this Marathon alarm clock. It’s quartz-battery powered, but the seconds hand sweeps smoothly and silently.
I’ve had mine for about 2 years, and it’s way better than being woken up by the bright screen of a dumbphone. It’s made by the same Marathon that makes the mercenary field watches:
Marathon Silent Non-Ticking Alarm Clock with Warm Amber Auto Back Light and Repeating Snooze - Batteries Included - CL030053BK (Black/Black)
- SILENT SMOOTH SWEEP: This clock was engineered with a silent, continuous-sweep second hand quartz movement. It does not emit a ticking sound.
- AUTO-NIGHT LIGHT: An ambient light sensor triggers a soft glow to illuminate the dial when placed in low light.
- ALARM WITH SNOOZE: Easy to set alarm function with conveniently placed ON/OFF and SNOOZE buttons.
- DIMENSIONS: This clock is 3.5 inches wide by 3.75 inches tall and 1.5 inches thick.
- BATTERIES INCLUDED: Two AA batteries are included in the box.
My name is Tom Leto, and I’m a watch enthusiast at heart. I’m here to steer you in the right direction when looking for your next watch, and to help you avoid common newbie mistakes. Right now my favorite brands are Orient Star, Longines, and Nomos.