Original article published at Timepiece Chronicle.
If you don’t know who Theo & Harris are then you are missing out. As well as selling watches and releasing a staggering amount of watch related content on Youtube, Theo & Harris recently collaborated with legendary leather goods maker Jean Rousseau to produce 2 limited edition watch straps. A few days ago, I spoke with T&H Founder, Christian Zeron, about homage watches, the potential plight of authorized dealerships and homage watches.
Timepiece Chronicle: Christian! It’s good to talk to you again. It’s been just under 2 years since we first chatted about watches, what do you think is the biggest change to happen to the industry in that time?
Christian Zeron: Ben! So good to hear from you. From where I’m standing in the market, not only has overall enthusiasm about vintage or pre-owned watches skyrocketed, but once major competitors have plateaued and new goliaths have emerged. I’m very proud that Theo & Harris has been able to not only survive but exponentially grow over the last two years. Especially considering the seemingly never-ending turmoil both in authorized retail and in the second hand market.
TC: How can brick and mortar ADs compete against sites like Mr. Porter and Hodinkee selling new watches directly to consumers?
CZ: I really don’t know. I’m not sure how the AD model works, honestly. There are many parts of that business that are held privately from the public and as we saw with the Hodinkee/Vacheron Constantin collaboration, from the AD’s themselves.
TC: As a consumer, I welcome the time when I can buy, from the comfort of my own home, a new watch directly from a brand. But if I were an AD, I’d be terrified by sites like Mr. Porter. I believe the next few years are going to decide how new watches are going to be sold to consumers. Does there need to be a luxury experience (going to an AD, champagne, fawning sales associates etc) to sell a luxury product? Only time will tell.
TC: Why do you think so many blue chip brands, especially Patek, refuse to stay current with social media?
CZ: Because they’re rich, bitch. It’s human nature to avoid fighting a monster unless you absolutely have to and, since the men and women making these decisions to avoid social media are pretty darn comfy, they’re not going to fight said monster. It, the marketing landscape, is an extremely fast paced world and beyond that, “keeping up” with what consumers are currently engaging with is not just a matter of knowing which mediums are working, but experimenting and understanding the nuances and then actively capitalizing on them. This is not an easy job and I don’t think that the big brands will catch up to speed until they begin to listen to new, hungry and in-tune blood – younger leaders that live and breathe digital media.
TC: Anyone who thinks that social media is easy has clearly never tried it. “Oh it’s just posting a few pictures a day with a clever hashtag”, No. Just no! How you make it look so easy is beyond me. If you had to pick your best of/worst of list for watch brands on social media, who would you choose?
CZ: It’s obvious that Tudor and Rolex are putting time and money into social media, Instagram, for example. But I do think Tudor has done a better job of showcasing their watches in the real world, which is what I think social media retail is built upon. Rolex is much more focused on product photography which, although quality, does not evoke the same level of emotion.
TC: I think Rolex’s Instagram is exactly what I would expect from Rolex. It’s tailored and polished to an almost surgical degree that you could think a robot was creating the posts, rather than a real human. My favorite feed (Other than T&H of course) is The Watch Photographer. Each image has been very carefully crafted but it’s not overly produced, at least for my tastes.
CZ: On the other hand, I’m very disappointed in Nomos. I think that because they are the younger, fresher brand we have a right the hold them to a higher standard. And while their content itself is not necessarily bad or boring, their frequency (i.e. dedication) is shockingly low.
TC: Your recent Rant T&H on fake watches caused quite the “discussion” in the comments. I’m curious as to your opinion on homage watches as you’ve sold the Zentra ‘Royal Oak’ and the Gevril Tribeca in the past. Is that name on the dial enough of a difference when the designs are so similar?
CZ: I clearly have no problem with homage watches. Do they get a 0 on originality? Sure. But there is more to a watch than its proprietary design. There is quality of manufacture, there is narrative, and, probably more so than anything in the homage world, there is value prop.
TC: I understand where you’re coming from but I can’t say I’m 100% convinced. That being said, I would rather someone buy an authentic homage watch than a fake watch. Seriously kids, don’t do fake watches, not even once. You’re a huge fan of Cartier and the potential that the Tank has, even if its not being used effectively right now. What’s your favorite Cartier in their current collection and what would you wish that they brought back?
CZ: I’m an enormous fan of the Cartier Tank Louis Skeleton. I think that, although totally dissimilar to anything that we’re used to seeing from Cartier historically, it is 100% in line with their traditional mission – to take their classic Cartier style and reinvent it in new, interesting ways.
TC: We both are fortunate enough to be in the position to have a steady cycle of watches to wear, either we have them to sell or in for review. If you had to be a one watch guy for the rest of your life, what watch would you pick and why?
CZ: Emotionally, I’d go with my own watches, any of them starting with the 1601. But if it couldn’t be my own watches, then its a Rolex Day Date 1803. Yellow gold, champagne wide boy dial. Or white gold, rhodium dial.
TC: And finally, what are you wearing right now?
CZ: Right now I’m wearing a Rolex reference 1601 date just, cased in sharp yellow gold with a flawless grey dial and stick hands.