MVMT Quietly Released Its First Automatic Watch

So How Is It?

The internet’s favorite watch company, MVMT, has quietly released its first automatic watch, the Arc Automatic. 5-year-old fashion watch brand MVMT was recently bought by Movado, and MVMT seems to be putting its newfound access to money and resources to some use, putting out an automatic watch in four different color and strap combinations. Each build is a stainless steel case, coming in at $300.

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MVMT’s new Arc Automatic, in one of 4 colorways.

Recently, I warned against buying MVMT and Daniel Wellington watches, instead directing you towards a number of microbrands that have used ecommerce and social media to find success. This move shows MVMT may be taking a step into “real” watch making, now that is has introduced millennials to the idea of wearing something on the wrist (Apple Watches and Fitbits have also done a great job of this). It’s a classic story of disruption — start at the low end of an industry and eventually move upmarket, undercutting your competitors’ prices in the process — and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out in the watch industry. Watches are so unlike many other industries where true disruption has occurred: brands have built up equity over centuries, and there is certainly no shortage of demand for luxury timepieces right now. In fact, it’s almost hard to contemplate a world in which Wall Street bros aren’t blowing their first bonus on Rolex Submariners or Panerais that are way too big for their wrists. Indeed, the true luxury market for watches in the U.S. has thrived over the past few years (over $6,000), even as the under-$3,000 market has struggled.

The MVMT Arc Automatic: What We Know

Microbrand watch companies have flourished in part because of their transparency: they leave no doubt about where they source their movements from, where manufacturing and assembly takes place, and how many watches they’re producing in a series. You’ll find no such transparency on MVMT’s website. There’s no discussion of the movement inside their Arc Automatics. However, from the looks of a 30-second unlisted YouTube hype video they posted, it looks as though they’re using a Miyota 8215 caliber in the watches (Miyota is a part of Citizen Group). It’s a common movement used in accessibly-priced automatic watches, and while it won’t win any awards for beauty or accuracy, it’s certainly a passable movement. I more so begrudge the company for not being transparent in what’s inside their watches.

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A 30-second YouTube clip hints that MVMT has put an entry-level Miyota movement in their new automatic timepieces.

The watch is also fairly large, measuring in at 41mm in diameter and 13.25mm thick. It surely wears large as well, since MVMT has brought over their trademark minimalist approach to the dial, meaning there is little bezel and the dial reaches nearly to the edge of the watch.

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Conclusion

In short, I’ve got mixed feelings about the watch, and MVMT’s approach in general. I applaud the company for introducing a new generation to wearing something on the wrist, even if they did so by selling cheap, battery powered gadgets that were made in China for a few dollars. They were never a watch company, but always just a social media marketing company that happened to sell watches. I have much the same feeling now that they’ve begun selling automatic timepieces: they’re upselling an entry-level watch movement with a trendy dial design. But if it gets more people into mechanical timepieces, then what is there really to complain about? I’ll sit around hoping their next purchase is a true timepiece with minimalist inspiration, perhaps Nomos’ Tangente or Junghans’ Max Bill.

For now though, I’ll continue to refer to the Seiko 5 line as the ideal entry-level mechanical watch. Still the only place you can find true in-house, workhorse movements at sub-$300 prices. So before you click purchase on that MVMT Instagram ad, do a little research.

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This Automatic Seiko is Just $65, and the Internet Loves It

The best automatic watch under $100

GQ’s “Best Stuff” loves it. There are YouTube videos after YouTube videos declaring it the “best automatic watch under $100.” There’s even a subreddit dedicated to shitposting about it. But I can’t seem to find a single Hodinkee post about it, which made me want to write about it even more.

I’m talking about the Seiko 5, specifically the SNK805, SNK807 and SNK809 (Seiko 5 is a broad line of budget watches from Seiko; for example, the SNZG series has a similar pilot/military inspiration, but in a 42mm case. This article focuses on the SNK because it’s perhaps the cheapest and most popular in the Seiko 5 line). Like many budding watch enthusiasts, the SNK807 (the blue reference) was my first foray into mechanical watches and I haven’t looked back since. The field- and pilot-watch inspired dial never really goes out of style and has an immediate appeal even to those without intimate knowledge of watches and their history

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The Seiko SNK805, SNK807, and SNK809, respectively.

In the mechanical watch world, there’s an unfortunate tendency to assume that “you get what you pay for,” and that, for example, a nearly $200,000 Patek 5270 is by default a more lustworthy than a simple watch at an attainable price.

The Seiko 5 line was launched by Seiko in the 1960s as the market increasingly demanded do-it-all tool watches. While vintage Seiko 5s from this era obviously don’t fetch the sky high prices that Rolex tool watches do, you can still spot fun, vintage Seiko 5s on Chrono24.com or eBay, usually under a couple hundred bucks. They’re called Seiko 5 are named such because the brand demanded that all watches under the moniker carried five key attributes: (1) automatic winding, (2) day and date display in a single window, (3) water resistance, (4) recessed crown at 4 o’clock, (5) durable steel case.

The SNK line has all these: it’s got a 7S26 movement with 40 hours of power reserve that drives a day and date window at 3 p.m. It’s got Seiko’s “Magic Lever” winding system inside, which means the watch’s rotor winds the movement extremely efficiently. It’s not the prettiest movement, but most Seiko 5s came with a skeleton case back which allows new enthusiasts a glimpse of how entrancing a mechanical movement can be. These movements have been known to run for decades without service, and when you do need service, it’s easy to find because it’s such a ubiquitous caliber. Some complain that there’s no manual winding of the movement, but give the watch a few shakes before you strap it on your wrist, and it’s off and ticking.

The stainless steel case is water resistant to 100 feet (and Seiko is known for underestimating the water resistance of their timepieces), with 37mm diameter and 11m thickness.

The only real complaint I have is the canvas strap the watch comes with: it’s a cheap canvas that just doesn’t feel comfortable or look good. I swapped it out for a seatbelt NATO of the same color, and the watch instantly felt and looked better on the wrist.

When we write about watches, true value propositions like this are too often overlooked. For some reason, finding a good horological value isn’t respected the same way it is in other consumer categories. And while other large brands and microbrands offer value propositions in the $1,000-$2,000 category, Seiko is perhaps the only brand offering a true piece of watchmaking under $100.

Where to Find It

You can find the Seiko 5 SNK in all its iterations on Amazon, JomaShop, and other online retailers. You shouldn’t pay more than $65 for the watch, though you’ll see prices vary, especially on Amazon.

The Micro-Brand Watches You Need to Know

Check out these watch brands before you buy that Daniel Wellington or MVMT

As I began to fall deeper into the watch wormhole and looked to drop some real cash on my first time piece, my natural inclination was to find the best direct-to-consumer internet-first brand out there. Hey, if it works for my favorite cashmere sweater, fresh pair of white sneakers, and other wardrobe staples, why not watches? Of course, watches are a little different; many watch manufacturers have built up brand equity over centuries. Consumers connect to vintage pieces in a company’s collection and identify with the story their branding tells. And over those centuries, these brands have cultivated manufacturing expertise allowing them to craft beautiful in-house movements. But, more than one microbrand has managed to break through, often acquiring a cult-like following who devoutly snaps up their favorite brand’s new release minutes after it’s released. While distribution channels for major brands like Rolex or Patek Phillipe are often difficult for consumers to navigate, these microbrands leverage the internet to cultivate consumer relationships and brand loyalty.

Some websites do wonderful work covering microbrands (Worn & Wound and Gear Patrol among them), but they often don’t gather information about these brands into one easy-to-access resource, forcing you to search their archives for holistic information. I wanted to take some time to consolidate information about some of the best microbrands I’ve seen out there, what they’re about, and why they might be for you.

First, an attempt to define the term “microbrand”. It’s a term ambiguous almost by its very nature, but what these brands generally have in common is a direct-to-consumer model driven by ecommerce. Wikipedia defines microbrand watch companies as those selling 300-2000 pieces a year, which sounds good enough to me. They’re typically priced much lower than luxury watches (think a few thousand dollars, at lost), and leverage global manufacturing to source movements from ETA or Miyota, which also provide movements for some of the most well-known watch companies in the world (ETA is owned by Swatch Group, Miyota by Citizen Group). The brands – which are typically operated by just a few proprietors – then do the dial and case design or outsource the work to a shop. If you dig into their stories, you’ll also often find these brands got their start from a successful Kickstarter campaign.

In other words, check these brands out before you purchase that new Daniel Wellington or MVMT watch. Enough housekeeping, let’s get to the watches!

Christopher Ward

Christopher Ward is something of a pioneer in the online-only microbrand space, launching from Maidenhead, England in 2004. Three English buddies, all with a common passion for watches, decided to start a company selling watches with Swiss movements at a fraction of the price you might see from a legacy Swiss brand. The company got its start by packing Swiss ETA movements into clean, well-designed dials, but has since begun building its own in-house movements. They supposedly caused a bit of a firestorm on watch forums when they released their first watch (leading to user bans when forum moderators thought the users were posting paid Christopher Ward content). In true Barbara Streisand-effect irony, the brand only grew from there. Their in-house caliber is actually the result of Christopher Ward’s 2014 merger with their Swiss manufacturing partner  Their automatic SH21 contains an impressive 120-hour power reserve, and is now available in a variety of watches from the brand, including the Grand Malvern Power Reserve, their best-selling watch. It’s priced at $1,900, about the sweet spot for most of Christopher Ward’s collection.

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Christopher Ward’s Grand Malvern Power Reserve with in-house caliber

Now, the company has a comprehensive line of watches, including dress, dive or sport, aviation, motorsport, often with fun and subtle design quirks. For example, watches in their new Trident line contain a seconds hand with trident spear counter balance.

Instagram (25k followers)

Oak & Oscar

Oak & Oscar was founded in 2015 by Chase Fancher (full disclosure: I’m biased towards this company because they’re based in my hometown of Chicago). They’ve been hard at work ever since, releasing three models over the preceding years: the Burnham Date, the Sandford GMT, and the Jackson Chronograph. Every design is beautifully executed, something you’d expect from a company that named its first model after Daniel Burnham, the architect behind the Flatiron Building and many of Chicago’s greatest buildings. Previous models have sold out, but the Jackson Chronograph is still available for purchase on their website. Often, they’ll post on Instagram about their Oak & Oscar owner retreats, and it’s honestly pretty cool to have created a passionate community of watch collectors who also want to hang out together. Midwest nice.

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Oak & Oscar’s latest model, the Jackson Chronograph

The Jackson comes in three variations: a stainless steel case with either a navy or grey dial, or a PVD case with darker grey dial. All went through limited production runs put remain available on Oak & Oscar’s website (though the warning “Low Stock!” sits on each version’s page). It’s a powered by a manually-wound Eterna movement (Swiss) that beats at 28,800 vibrations per minute, with a 60 hour power reserve. The case is 40mm in diameter and slightly thick at 14.5mm, giving the watch a nice presence on the wrist. One can also see through the sapphire caseback that the 25-jewel movement is nicely decorated, with four stars cutout of a bridge, referencing the city of Chicago’s flag. The stainless steel Jackson is $2,850, while the PVD-coated version is $3,150.

Oak & Oscar (rightly) claims that watch boxes have little utility and end up buried in a closet, so instead they send the watch with a nicely crafted leather watch wallet which holds three watches and has enough room to hold the spare straps they also send with the watch. Their leather is sourced from Chicago’s Horween Leather Company. Personally I’ve been scouring the forums and Ebay for a Sandford GMT, but to no avail yet, which is probably a testament to the fact that the original purchasers keep these watches.

Instagram (24k followers)

Autodromo

“Instruments for motoring” is the tagline of New York City-based Autodromo. The brand was launched in 2011 by a a vintage car fanatic, for vintage car fanatics. Its collection ranges from distinctive quartz chronographs to more simple automatic pieces. The last couple of years, Autodromo’s collection has been defined by its partnering with Ford to produce the Ford GT Endurance Chronographs, commemorating the Ford GT’s first win at Le Mans in 1966. If you’re into racing at all, you’ll immediately recognize this colorway:

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Autodromo Ford GT Endurance Chronograph with Le Mans commemorative dial

The worlds of vintage car and vintage watch enthusiasts seem to naturally overlap, and Autodromo has leveraged this to its advantage, carving out a nice niche in the sub-$1,000 space.

Instagram (37k followers)

Martenero

Brooklyn-based Martenero launched in 2014 with two models, the Founder and the Ace. They’ve added five watches to their collection since, each with a distinct and customizable style. The founders started the brand to create contemporary, yet classic time pieces; at a time when so many brands just re-release takes on their vintage models, it’s refreshing to see a brand with distinctively 21st-century design, with clear inspiration from classic watch motifs. Their most recent release, the Kerrison, comes packed with an automatic Miyota 9015 movement – the Citizen-built movement that’s a favorite of upstart brands the world over (that I just realized you can purchase on Amazon for about a hundred bucks). The designs are simple with a certain whimsy and punch of color that really makes the dials and hands stand out.

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The Martenero Kerrison, a 42mm watch packed with an automatic Miyota movement.

Instagram (13k followers)

Halios

Halios and its flagship Seaforth diver watch are something of a darling to the internet watch world. Halios is essentially a one-man operation run by founder Jason Lim out of Vancouver. Halios is very much a passion project of Lim’s, but luckily his taste is impeccable; he’s inspired by 60s sport watches that are built to do anything and everything. He keeps his watches priced under $1,000, sourcing production out of Asia. Its Seaforth contains the ever-popular ETA 2824-2 automatic movement, so you know its built to last. It’s got a classic dive-watch build and a steel GMT bezel. Go to any watch forum and you’ll find a passionate base of Halios owners.

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The tough-as-nails Halios Seaforth.

Instagram (23k followers)

Weiss

Weiss Watch Company is one of the few companies that has a legitimate claim to the mantle “made in America”. Weiss Watch Company was started by Cameron Weiss, a California native who learned all his watch making skills in Switzerland – first in watchmaking school, before stints at Audemar Piguet and Vacheron Constantin. He’s truly passionate about bringing fine watchmaking back to the states, and if you flip over one of his watches, you’ll see he’s not messing around. All his watches feature Weiss’ own beautifully finished CAL 1003 movement. Its military-inspired field watch will inspire mid-century nostalgia in even the coldest of souls.Screen Shot 2018-10-13 at 4.35.49 PM.png

Instagram (16k followers)

Farer

“British Design x Swiss Made” is the moniker of popular micro-brand Farer. Their increasingly robust collection contains chronographs, GMTs, and simple three-hand designs. The company emphasizes the use of color, detail, and contrasting textures on their dials, leaving the internal movement to the Swiss experts. This means contrasting sub-dials on its chronographs and fun seconds hands, but to me, its GMT is perhaps best served by the inclusion of different colors. The GMT will set you back about $1,500, making it another viable option in the sub-$2,000 price range.

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A Farer GMT. What’s not to like about that green hand?

Instagram (22k followers)

Unimatic

Italian brand Unimatic is all about no-nonsense dive watches. They produce watches in small runs – usually less than 1,000 watches – and its hard to beat the prices too. For example, its Modello Unos will run you about $600. And they contain Seiko movements inside, which some of the most honest, durable (and well-priced) movements you’ll find anywhere.

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Unimatic’s minimalist dive watch | Instagram

Instagram (28k followers)

Raven

Raven has been quietly building classic-looking dive watches out of Overland Park, Kansas since 2008. Many of them have a Submariner feel, with case sizes varying from 40mm (Trekker, a classic dive watch) to 47mm (Titanium Deep, a monster of a watch). Most models come in at around $1,000, and all use the Swiss workhorse ETA 2824 automatic movement. It’s a movement also used by many Hamilton and Tissot watches in the $500-$1,000 price range, so you know you’re getting a quality Swiss movement inside the well-built stainless steel cases.

Instagram (6k followers)

Ochs Und Junior

Okay, this one’s a little different than those previously mentioned, but come on. Ochs Und Junior produces about 130 watches a year, most of which are custom made. Its perpetual calendar might just be the perfect watch: the perpetual calendar movement takes only nine additional parts, displaying what (in my opinion) is a modern horological wonder. The minimal, brutalist design might turn some off, but I keep coming back to the company’s video illustrating the build of the perpetual calendar. They’ll set you back about $30,000 though, so start saving your francs.

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Apple Watch Series 4; Instagram’s Story; Re-discovering The Beatles

After a summer hiatus, Codebrief is back! I’ll be experimenting with the format over the coming weeks, so let me know what works and what doesn’t. The general charge will be to “organize the internet“; There’s so much good content out there, my goal is to put it in front of readers each week. Additionally, I wrote two articles this week, one about the Apple Watch Series 4 (below), and one highlighting the history of watchmaker Patek Phillipe, for the rappers out there.

Main Course

In 2017, Tim Cook announced to the world that the Apple Watch was the “#1 watch in the world” – in revenue – not just in units sold. So how does the new Series 4 move the needle? Unlike most categories, Apple doesn’t make the “nicest watch” (leave that to others (my history of Patek Phillipe). But, wearing an Apple Watch does convey a different type of status, one equally coveted in today’s world: “Taking care of one’s self is the newest status symbol, and the Apple Watch might just be the best way to communicate to others that you live a life worthy of such status… Usually, an Apple product is a symbol that you own the nicest product in that given category (as John Gruber deftly put it in his review). The Apple Watch though, is something slightly different: it’s a symbol that you’re living the nicest life possible.” Read my full take here.

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📷 Why Instagram’s founders left: TechCrunch has an in-depth, well-sourced analysis of why Instagram’s two founders, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, have put in their two weeks notice at parent company Facebook. Perhaps this paragraph explains it most succinctly: “Systrom and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg historically got along, but they had occasional diverging opinions. A source said that a few times a year they’d clash before resolving things. Those clashes included “Sharing back to Facebook. Kevin wanted to keep the sharing on Instagram but at some point Mark wanted content production on Instagram to flow to Facebook. But things got more heated lately. “Recently Mark decided to pull all of the links to Instagram from Facebook.

In short, Instagram’s co-founders built a spectacular product and sold it to Zuckerberg before they had to worry about making money. The relationship was perfectly symbiotic: Instagram could build its ad business off the back of Facebook’s already well-developed network, and Facebook could continue to grow, even as its main product (Facebook.com, that is) stagnated. And now that it’s increasingly looking like Instagram has won the product battle against Snapchat by introducing Stories, it’s again up to Facebook to figure out how to monetize a well-built Instagram product. Oh, for another tale of founder-is-acquired-then-leaves-Facebook check out Forbes’ great profile of WhatsApp founder (and recent Facebook defector) Brian Acton. Key quote: “Facebook ‘isn’t the bad guy. I think of them as just very good businesspeople.’ Sound like the Instagram story?

Continue reading Apple Watch Series 4; Instagram’s Story; Re-discovering The Beatles

Thoughts on the Apple Watch Series 4; Or, What Even Is a Watch?

“#1 watch in the world.” That’s how Tim Cook opened the Apple Watch portion of the September 2018 Apple Keynote. At 2017’s Keynote, Cook explicitly mentioned that Apple was actually the largest watch brand in terms of revenue – not just units sold – surely sending chills down the spines of Rolex and other Swiss watch execs in the old boys club.

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Top 5 watch brands, by revenue

What Even Is a Watch?

Since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007 and became the most ubiquitous product since the Furby, there’s been a common chorus: “why do I need a watch, my phone tells time just fine?” There’s some truth to this sentiment: if we were really wearing watches primarily for their functionality, we’d all be wearing minimalist, time-only, quartz-powered pieces that cost a couple bucks to manufacture in China (oh wait, there’s one company that built a nice business selling just that, and another that was just acquired for some $100 million). But the truth is we wear watches for a variety of reasons: what they say about us (e.g. wearing a Daniel Wellington says something like “I’m a minimally aware millenial that makes most of my purchasing decisions so that I look more like a well-crafted Instagram post”), an aesthetic we’re trying to communicate to others, or an appreciation for the movement and craftsmanship that goes into a well-made mechanical piece. A watch is so much more than its functionality; it’s an item we wear daily that subtly communicates status and taste. In the old days, people bought divers to be like Cousteau, Daytonas to look like Newman, Explorers to feel like Hillary.

But in a modern world increasingly defined by the “consumerist church” of SoulCycle and Lululemon, spending time and money on your own health and fitness is the most ostentatious display of wealth. Instead of wanting to be divers, drivers or climbers, we simply want to get a bike for the 8 a.m. SoulCycle, with a watch to match that lifestyle.

Apple Watch: Flawed Genius

Any watch collector will tell you: “90% (or some arbitrary, but high percentage) of a vintage watch’s value is in the dial.” Is it an original dial? How’s the patina? This is the crux of the problem for the Apple Watch: the attribute that most limits its functionality and elegance is the lack of an always-on dial. If you’re in a meeting, you have to deliberately turn your wrist towards you to wake the screen. But by then, your boss is looking at you with that “oh is this fucking boring to you?” face.

And we can’t yet have an always on dial because of battery-life limitations. Further, there is an old-world charm to having something on your wrist that doesn’t require a battery, that relies on mechanical power alone (like the good old days!). In a world where we feel little connection to our electronics products – manufactured in a Chinese factory thousands of miles away – you can almost feel the master watchmaker toiling away on the hundreds of tiny pieces inside your mechanical watch, made to last for hundreds of years, and not until the next upgrade cycle.

Perhaps more than anyone, Apple’s designers understand the appeal of a watch. Jony Ive is a watch guy. Steve Jobs was intrigued by Patek Phillipe. In fact, the Apple Watch does contain many subtle nods to haute horology: one of my favorite is the smooth-moving seconds hand, emblematic of a mechanical watch (as opposed to the jumping seconds hand of a quartz watch). Even referring to the buttons on your Apple Watch screen as “complications” is a fun nod to horology. Ives has claimed an affection for the Patek Phillipe’s luxury sportswatch, the Nautilus; perhaps coincidentally, many of the Apple Watch’s faces mimic the hands of a Nautilus (which itself imitates the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak). And honestly, this homage makes sense. To me, the Apple Watch plays the role of “sports watch” in my rotation. I wear it to the gym (wear it has complications no $30,000 watch can match), or out when I know I’ll be having a particularly active day.

On another note, the Apple Watch re-introduced me to the idea of wrist-as-retail space. I wasn’t wearing a watch everyday until I finally bought a Series 3. Not long after, I had re-immersed myself into the world of mechanical watches. I can’t imagine I’m the only person under the age of 40 for whom this is the case. All we’ve known is a world dominated by battery-powered commodity watches; for some reason, the Apple Watch made me realize that a watch could be something more.

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I’ve often thought the hands of many Apple Watch faces and those of luxury sports watches bear a striking resemblance.

Health: The New Grand Complication

Which brings us to the Apple Watch. While the first three series of the Watch seemed to wander through the abyss looking for an actual purpose, the Apple Watch Series 4 has finally found its true calling: health and fitness. In 2014, Apple introduced the Watch by highlighting its various functionalities, without focus on any particular one. Four years later, Apple’s focus is decidedly on the Watch’s fitness capabilities (just look at the main page for Apple Watch). Additionally, Apple has clearly been putting its R&D money where its marketing mouth is: two of the Watch’s biggest technological leaps – the ECG and fall detection – are health focused.

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Above: Apple Watch, 2014 Keynote | Below: Apple Watch, 2018 Keynote

In a world where watches tell the world (and ourselves) what type of life we lead, wearing an Apple Watch says something like “I can afford to spend $35 on a SoulCycle class; yes, that’s why I look so damn good in these $110 yoga pants”. And if it’s good enough for Kobe to wear to the Oscars, shouldn’t it be good enough for you? As Kanye himself recently rapped “hospital band a hundred bands, fuck a watch”. This from a guy whose 2011 album Watch the Throne is dripping with references to Hublot, Audemars Piguet and Rolex (mostly from noted watch aficionado Jay-Z, granted).

Taking care of one’s self is the newest status symbol, and the Apple Watch might just be the best way to communicate to others that you live a life worthy of such status. Sure, Apple has always made beautifully designed, elegant products – and the Apple Watch is now designed about as good as it can be – but much of an Apple product’s value is also tied up in the intangible status one gains by owning an Apple product. Usually, it’s a symbol that you own the nicest product in that given category (as John Gruber deftly put it in his review). The Apple Watch though, is something slightly different: it’s a symbol that you’re living the nicest life possible. You’ve got time and money to spend on your own health and fitness, which, in the end, is the ultimate luxury. Yes, more than that New Patek, Mr. Uzi Vert.

So yes, an Apple Watch might technically not be a watch. Call it a small computer on your wrist or whatever. But you’re not wearing that $200,000 Patek just to tell time either (look at you, Uzi).

Lil Uzi Vert and the Timeless Appeal of Patek Phillipe

In Lil Uzi Vert’s latest single, “New Patek,” the rapper makes no effort to conceal his favorite watch brand, singing on the chorus: “New Patek on my wrist / white diamonds them shits hit pink”. He also sings that Franck Muller, AP (Audemar Piguet), and a new Rollie (Rolex) “made me proud of my wrist,” but Patek Phillipe takes the headline billing in a song dripping with references to luxury brands.

It’s the logical endpoint of hip hop’s obsession with luxury Swiss watchmaker Patek Phillipe. Like many trends in hip hop, noted watch enthusiast Jay-Z can take at least partial credit for the trend, but new artists – led by Migos, who mention the brand 28 times in Culture II – have taken the name dropping to the extreme. According to Genius, one of every eight hip-hop songs that charted in 2017 mentioned Patek (that’s Puh-tek). So what do you need to know about the legendary Swiss watchmaking company founded in 1839 to carry on a conversation next time you run into Lil Uzi at New York’s posh Wempe showroom?

A Brief Introduction

Patek Phillipe traces its roots to 1839, when Antoni Patek and Franciszek Czapek started making watches together in Geneva. They separated in 1844 and in 1845 Adrien Philippe joined Mr. Patek to form Patek Philippe & Co. Fast-forward to today, Patek Phillipe is the last truly independent, family-owned watch maker in Geneva. It has been owned by the Stern family since 1932, and Thierry Stern currently serves as the firm’s president. According to recent interviews with Stern, Patek Phillipe now produces between 40,000 and 50,000 timepieces per year; the company brought in 1.3 billion CHF in revenue in 2016. It’s said that less than 1 million Patek Phillipe watches have been created since the beginning of the company. To this day, every individual part of a Patek’s movement is hand finished, making these watches even more beautiful to look at from the inside than from the outside.

Continue reading Lil Uzi Vert and the Timeless Appeal of Patek Phillipe

Platforms are like doctors; A day with Bezos; AI poetry from a lion

Main Course
HBR: Platforms Should Become Information Fiduciaries

Harvard professor Johnathan Zittrain writes in HBR that large internet platforms should have a fiduciary duty to users: “Like doctors, lawyers, and financial advisers, social media platforms and their concierges are given sensitive information by their users, and those users expect a fair shake — whether they’re trying to find out what’s going on in the world or how to get somewhere or do something.” It’s an idea increasing in popularity among academics; we’ll see if it gains traction in policy rings, or if politicians remain content with Committee hearings and grandstanding.

Report: How the right uses YouTube to influence and “sell” a political ideology.
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Data & Society’s report visualizes how YouTube’s recommendations can lead users from moderate to increasingly radicalized channels.

A new Data & Society report analyzes how political influencers adopt the techniques of brands to build audiences and sell them a political ideology. Of note: “YouTube is a principal online news source for young people. Which is why it is concerning that YouTube… has become the single most important hub by which an extensive network of far-right influencers profit from broadcasting propaganda to young viewers. Social networking between influencers makes it easy for audience members to be incrementally exposed to, and come to trust, ever more extremist political positions.”


Lighter Fare

⌚️ Watch out: Hodinkee’s got a review of the Apple Watch Series 4 after a week on the wrist. The cult classic Ikepod watch (perhaps most recognizable now because its strap design is used on the aforementioned Apple Watch) is also back, starting at less than $400. Quartz for now, but since the Kickstarter has already blown past its goal, those hoping for an automatic version may have something to look forward to in 2019.

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Ikepod is back and better than ever; if you squint, doesn’t it look like the Apple Watch? | Source: Ikepod

🌮 A Financial Times columnist reflects on the enduring regionalism of cuisine, writing,  “To eat out is to see through the world-as-village conceit. Except at the lowest price point (McDonald’s) and the highest (Nobu), a global dining scene — in which each cuisine is, like an iPhone, consistent across the world — remains not just elusive but unimaginable.

🍌 Elsewhere in food: peeling back the history of the banana, and American habits are changing faster than fast food can keep up (or, restaurant visits are at a 28-year low).

🤑 Forbes’ interview with Bezos. One of the best quotes from the $160 billion man: “Friends congratulate me after a quarterly-earnings announcement and say, ‘Good job, great quarter,’ and I’ll say, ‘Thank you, but that quarter was baked three years ago.’ I’m working on a quarter that’ll happen in 2021 right now.

Amazon Go opens its fourth location, this time in Chicago. Salesforce’s Benioff purchases TIME for $190 million. This week in the genre of tech-founder-gives-news-outlet-an-opportunity-to-profile-to-prove-he’s-an-okay-guy: Kairos’ Ankur Jain is profiled by the New Yorker, and Business of Fashion’s Imran Ahmed is profiled by the Guardian. At the intersection of politics and retail: #NikeBoycott is over, and why retail activism rarely changes anything. Important reminders for men in tech (and elsewhere). Can the maker of Tasers provide answers and new technologies to assist with police abuse? Ikea’s self driving ambitions.

🍾 A week of anniversaries: WIRED turns 25 and the Economist turns 175, with the requisite reflective essays to accompany the milestones.

📱 Apple v. Kanye. The Financial Times points out that two industries historically poles apart – fashion and tech – will go head-to-head on Friday. Adidas’ Yeezy line will have its biggest drop yet, while Apple will debut the first of its new phone line. Apple has always gladly straddled the line of luxury brand disguised as tech company (or is the other way around?), while Kanye has declared a goal of democratizing high-end fashion. His $220 sneakers are a good start.

🦁 Please Feed the Lions: Designer Es Devlin, who has in the past found herself in the good graces of Kanye West and Beyonce, is behind a new project titled Please Feed the Lions. Visitors to the sculpture in London’s Trafalgar Square “feed” the lion a word via tablet. The lion then uses AI to create a poem using the word.

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AI-powered poetry, brought to you by a lion | Source: Google