Marco Koskinen, Your Man In Switzerland

Month: March 2016

Petting your phone is for pussies. Watches are cool, ayyy

I was about to delete this post. It is so stupid. But, I decided to leave it. It is proof of how fast things and ideas change. In 2016 I really thought this way… and promptly lost a couple of followers straight after posting this shit… so, after this rant, can you help but read it ? You have been warned…
Fonzie was the epitome of cool. Now, phones are like Fonzie’s comb. They should not come out of your pocket in public places…well, maybe on the train. A few things are more annoying and uncool than a person who in the company of real people, friends, colleagues or clients can not keep his attention away from the phone. Very bad.
Think Paul Newman or Steve McQueen. Watches are the finest, classiest pieces of jewelry a man can wear. Like a pair of nice shoes or a crisp, well tailored shirt, you feel a little bit special when you put them on. It’s like opening the garage door to the sight of that beautiful bike or car. You don’t even have to start them up to feel good. Newman and McQueen certainly knew that feeling. A watch can even tell you the time, maybe the date and some other interesting stuff, in the wink of an eye, without the hassle of grabbing your phone.
An absolute winner is an automatic watch that whirs it’s rotor at every move of your wrist. (Does normal people listen to their watch?) The sweetest sounding watch I ever had was a Nivada chrono with a Lemania mouvement. I got it from one of my father’s clients in his shop in Helsinki and restored it during my time in the watchmaking school. I got some shit from my fellow students (mainly Simo of “Rajamäen Kellotehdas” fame) because of it’s wonky 70’s design and finally sold it to Stephen Forsey. The thing I miss the most about that watch is, that sweet sounding rotor winding up the mainspring.
Smartphones and connected watches are absolutely mind-blowingly useful. You get the app for navigating your yacht around the world, measuring your pulse, finding your Uber man and what not.
I just don’t think that one more piece of disposable electronic crap is cool.
Next time at the dinner table, listen to what your friends have to say, roll up your sleeve to show them your watch and feel like a good man.

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Baselworld 2016… 2009, all over, again.

“Care in the design of a wrist watch is necessary if the dial is not to resemble a gas-meter-as the cluttered faces of so many modern watches do”.
The news from Baselworld 2016 are similar to 2009. There’s a stoic calm over the exhibition area. While a few brands are happy, with commands that
will secure production a long way into 2017, most are sucking their teeth, though. What the Swiss watchmaking did not have to deal with in 2009, was a completely new product like the connected watch. Any brand trying to sell a “cheap” watch in 2016 that is not connected is like Nokia in the face of the iPhone a few years ago… the beginning of the end. To make matters worse for the struggling watch companies, the greed of the Baselworld organisation seems to be second to none. What makes me particularly sad is hearing that a company like Zenith, who have a really cool spare parts policy, are enduring some hard times. I wish collectors would realize, at the moment of buying the next watch, what a difference it makes in price and delivery time, to deal with a company like that.
Like during the last economic slump traditional and classy seems to sell better than innovative and over the top. Brands like Patek Philippe and Rolex are hard to beat when collectors shop for investments. But, the absolutely cracking news is that companies, managed by real watchmakers, like Voutilainen, Grönefeld and and Sarpaneva are really kickin’ it, big time. Way to go.
“Students sometimes introduce style for its own sake in an attempt to distinguish their work. Such artificial attraction soon becomes dated and holds little interest for the collectors and patrons of the artist-craftsman’s work”. Amen
Quotes by George Daniels
HD_GirardPerregaux_La EsmeraldaTourbillon_BIG

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Watch brands hate to service your watch

big watches 2
Yes, they do. So don’t be surprised if you have to wait 3 months to have it done. So what’s the problem? The majority of the Swiss watch brands are owned by groups of investors. Richemont, LVMH, Swatch Group, Kering… They know very well how money works but not necessarily how watchmaking does or the brain of a Swiss watchmaker. Selling stuff keeps investors happy and calculating the profits of selling new watches is easy. I make a watch for 1’000 and sell it for 5’000. Happy days.
After-sales service does not make money. But, if well done, it keeps a client happy and loyal to a brand. How do you calculate happiness and loyalty? So if we sell less we blame it on the Chinese and the Russians instead of trying to fix the issue of bad after-sales service. The consensus is, after-sales service sucks and there’s nothing we want to do to try and change that. The solution is not rocket science. It used to be called “subcontracting”. No it’s called “outsourcing”. Companies like Ikea, Samsung, Hewlett Packard outsource the living daylight out of everything they possibly can, and with a lot of success, it seems.
If 10 watchmakers would overhaul 200 watches per month, each job worth a hypothetical 500, well, that’s 100’000 ($, £, €, CHF… whatever) , minus their salaries the company would roughly make 40’000. A normal work day in Switzerland is 8 hours. If you deduct from that, coffee brakes, smoking tabs, chatting with colleagues, social media sessions in the rest rooms… the average day is max 6 hours. To service the same amount of watches you would need 5 independent watchmakers working from their own workshops. You would pay them, let us say, 60’000 and net the same 40’000. So, with 10 independents you would keep twice as many clients happy. A major problem today, are the monstrous delivery times the clients have to suffer. Add to the cost of your 10 “in house” watchmakers: rent, tools, sick leaves and holidays and you can kiss goodbye another 20’000 of your profits. Am I finished yet? The day you have less work in the factory, you still keep paying for the chatting and coffee drinking, while the outsourced guy, you can just send fishing and it’s not your bother.
The companies that sell solid, well engineered, user- and service friendly watches, and are happy to distribute spare parts to independent watchmakers in whatever country they may be, will sell more watches. Simple.
I once overheard a successful director of a Swiss watch factory say that “his dream factory would have no watchmakers in it”. How right he was.

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Kering should buy rest of Christophe Claret and save Ulysse-Nardin/Girard Perregaux in the process.

watchmaking rocks
The late Rolf W. Schnyder made Christophe Claret to what the company was at it’s greatest. And, CC was just a bi-product in RWS’s process of growing Ulysse Nardin from two employees to three hundred. The RWS era Ulysse Nardin produced watches that were interesting enough to do their own publicity. UN had a “story” twenty years before it got hip and no need for sponsoring.
At the helm of Girard Perregaux was another passionate and visionary man, Luigi Macaluso. In his case, though, it was rather a steering wheel. Late Mr. Macaluso was a proper petrolhead. The tourbillon with the three golden bridges, brought down to wrist watch size, is a masterpiece.
UN and GP were prototypes of a “small giant” company. Somehow these two patrons managed to maintain the feeling of a family even in factories that employed hundreds. They lined Christophe Claret’s pockets with money… and their own companies promptly lost their mojo once they had lost their inimitable bosses.
Somebody in Kering needs to visit the Basel faire, this week, and get a close look at the CC stand. Never mind the weird and frankly rather silly CC complications of late, the watchmaking is there and the finishing is nice and traditional. Kering needs to flex their muscle one more time and finish what they started in UN and GP. Like Swatch Group with Breguet, Richemont with Roger Dubuis, Kering needs to buy Christophe Claret and bring their best watchmaking under one roof in Le Locle. Find the mojo, make some nice watches, again, and maybe sell a few to third parties… like Bovet and Jaquet Droz. If nothing else, the people who already bought GP and UN watches for millions, with Christophe Claret mouvements in them, deserve to be safe in the knowledge that there will be spare parts in stock to service their watches for years to come.

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Is Silicon The Snake Oil You Want to Pay For In Your Collectible Watch?

snake oil
I don’t collect watches but I have a few motor cycles. To me a bike that’s not running is not a bike. It’s a stock of spare parts, at best. My wife sees it more as a waste of space and money. The value of all my six bikes, together, does not come close to the price of a decent watch. Still, would I have bought any of my two-wheelers if I knew it had a crankshaft made of sugar and I’d have to send it to Japan every time it decided to snap. Would the sugar-crank factory still supply their thing in twenty years?
If you regard your watch as something with a two year life span. As a phone or a laptop, and throwing away 1000$ every 24 months does not bother you, silicon, pvd, glue etc. are perfect materials for building a watch. But, I don’t see any way crappy materials raise the value of a watch. It can look dead tricky, be different and sound like a joint venture between CERN and NASA but it’s not good watchmaking. Like having more than one tourbillon in a watch, it’s trying to reinvent the wheel, complicate things without gaining anything in the way of precision or quality. I do understand that watches can work as proof of technical ability and be super interesting and collectible because of their complexity but you want to be able to maintain and keep the watch working for generations to come for it to be an investment.
After-sales service is a major problem in watchmaking. The watch brands say they don’t make any money with it. Independent watchmakers are refused spare parts. Clients have to wait forever to get their watches repaired. I don’t think using novelty materials in valuable watches is the way forward…

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