Recently my wife’s friend asked me “What’s the best watch one can buy for SGD 5,000 ?”
The first thought that came to my mind (as should ardent followers of this blog) is of course Grand Seiko. I said “It is without peer in its price bracket in terms of finishing and case quality.” This is true as we all know of course, just google and surf any respectable watch forums. Anyway the conversation ended when I realised that she was looking for a watch not for her husband but herself, and then the conversation veered into Chopard Happy Diamonds and JLC Reversos territory since its a well known fact that the male chauvinist Japanese save the best for themselves and only for half the population (the phallic half).
Just look at how long it took them to start selling the Grand Seikos internationally?! It might take them another 50 years to develop a Grand Seiko worthy to be adorned on the feminine wrist (minus the famous Gothic “GS” script please)!
Some days after the conversation concluded I thought to myself, why did I promote the GS so fervently? I have many rare Seikos ranging from the Kinetic Landmaster all the way to a GMT Credor and a sprinkling of Historical KS and Laurel, plus many Brightz thrown in for good measure. Yet I have never owned, past nor present, any vintage nor modern GS.
Nope, not a single one of them is a GS.
It might be hard for you to believe that the author of this very blog promoting Seikos 364 days out of 365 days in a year never owned a GS, but its true.
I thought a little further about the reason why I promoted GS so enthusiastically and came up with the following reasons:
A) I owned many expensive Seikos and they never let me down. By extension I concluded, somewhat prematurely, that a GS being even more expensive has even less reason to let me down.
This is absolutely incorrect reasoning and this is due to “halo effect” where I extrapolated the goodness of my existing Seikos to that of a more expensive Seiko which I do not own. This is probably the reason why many people are so shocked when they found out the “nice guy living next door who feeds stray cats” turned out to be a “serial killer hiding among the masses”. Remember that domains are independent, a good Seiko now does not equal a great Grand Seiko later.
B) I “self-confirm” and seeking out only evidence that supports my already established point of view (flawed or otherwise). From point 1, I have already formed an opinion of what a GREAT watch a GS is. I then very simply need to seek out evidence that confirms and adheres to my point of view while relegating contradictory evidence to being the work of a forum troll/snob or a rare-as-hell production defect. This is also known as the “confirmation bias“.
C) In my chat group of watch friends, we obviously got together due to our love of Seikos and unfortunately this leads to “group polarisation“.
Basically this means that our opinion in a group tend to get reinforced and stronger than each individual opinion, as groups snuff out contradictory opinions in the name of group coherence. Is it any wonder that my opinion of a GS went from a GREAT watch to being THE EXIT WATCH when I joined watch chat groups or watch forums with the same adoration for Seiko?
It is a very depressing thought that I might have been living a lie my entire watch collecting life. I felt totally unworthy of providing any forms of watch recommendations to people after this episode of s(EIK)oul-searching.
However all is NOT lost.
As Warren Buffett once termed “skin in the game”, we can also use it to apply to the watch game.
Forget about those “famous and popular” watch blogs who dish out watch reviews and breaking watch news 2-3 times a week. They are paid to do it and do not have “skin in the game”. Yes they do serve a purpose of “informing” consumers of new releases, but I would not term them as “educating” consumers.
After all, how could you throw down a 3-6 digit amount of money based only on what you read from blogs who likely 1) rely on press releases 2) handle the watch for a day or two, more likely the few hours required for a hands-on photo shoot COMPARED to someone who has owned the same watch for years if not decades?
I personally would not.
They need to have “skin in the game”.
They need to have monetary investment in the very watch(es) that they are recommending to you to buy before you should even consider their opinion. After all, TALK IS CHEAP.
Any Tom, Dick or Harry can sell you a watch that they never owned. They can also say that they would buy it. They can even post in their watch review that this is a watch they would personally wear. Yet, as long as they do not own this very watch that they are trying to sell me, as long as they do not have “skin in the game”, I would hesitate before forking out my cold hard cash.
Remember that TALK IS CHEAP, and ANYONE CAN GIVE CHEAP TALK. Some people will sound/look more convincing than others, some will sound/look more sincere than others, but always keep in mind, TALK IS CHEAP!
Watch boutiques are well aware of this and that’s why many of their staff either have loan watches or are able to buy their own brand’s inventory at a steep discount. Even I was not allowed to wear my own watches while I was working at one.
Back to the gist of this post about watch recommendations. Based on all that I have mentioned above, if you have a watch in mind, get an opinion from someone who already owns the watch. If you have no watch in mind, and you get an opinion from a watch enthusiast, make certain that he has “skin in the game” and is recommending the very watch that he already owns! Otherwise, you are no better off than reading from “those” watch blogs.
Do you, my dear readers, have “skin in the game” when you make recommendations for watches to your own friends?