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Phat Issue: Ed Sheeran and Enicar, the Theo & Harris Tapes, Ben Clymer on Hodinkee's Future
In conversation with Theo & Harris' Christian Zeron; Ben Clymer: "the future is all about content"; Ed Sheeran's Enicar Ultradive
A phat issue: In conversation with Theo & Harris' Christian Zeron; Ben Clymer says "the future is all about content"; Ed Sheeran wearing an Enicar Ultradive. Rescapement is a weekly newsletter about watches. Subscribe to get it in your inbox every Sunday:
“Hello there, I’m Ed. I’ve been collecting watches since I was 20 years old,” Ed Sheeran declared to the watch world back in 2019.
To most, he’s the second most-streamed artist of the 2010s. But for the small community of watch enthusiasts, he’s “Ed, the watch guy.” In that introductory post, Ed shows off a striking variety of watches you might expect from a tasteful collector with money to spare: an A. Lange Zeitwerk, IWC Big Pilot, and a Bamford Nautilus 5726A, calling the Patek the most-worn watch on his mega-arena Divide tour. But he also shows off selections from a number of independent brands, explaining that “one thing I love doing on tour is finding independent watch brands from the country I’m touring.” He shares wrist shots of a watch from JS Watch Company from Iceland and a vintage Sturmanskie from Russia.
He’s doing his part to spread the watch bug too: as I featured last year, Sheeran gifted a customized Tudor Black Bay with the Divide logo on the dial to every member of the touring crew.
Thinking out loud
Now on to the main event: An Enicar Sherpa Ultradive. As mentioned, it’s pretty known Ed’s a watch guy. But, some celeb watch spots still make my jaw drop. Which is how I felt when I saw this post:
That’s Ed Sheeran wearing an Enicar Sherpa Ultradive. In short, the Ultradive is one of the coolest dive watches ever made. It features a large, 40mm Super Compressor case manufactured by Ervin Piquerez SA (EPSA), an inner rotating diver’s bezel, and a big, bold crown guard for the dual-crown layout. It’s a daring dive watch that doesn’t look like anything else. For a close-up look at an excellent example, check out this Ultradive previously sold by Wind Vintage (in the listing, Mr. Wind even mentions the Ultradive is a favorite of Sheeran’s).
Nothing draws attention to an up-and-coming vintage brand quite like a photo of said brand on one of the biggest collectors/rockstars in the world. I mean, if Kanye can help pump up prices of the Cartier Crash 4x, who’s to tell what the ceiling could be for the Ultradive (and Enicar more broadly)?
More important than one celebrity sighting though, there’s a dedicated community advancing research and scholarship of the fun, funky vintage brand that sports Saturn as its logo. A recent book provides an exciting look at the history of the brand and its importance in the history of racing, exploring, and watchmaking. This passion and scholarship is the type of foundation that can serve to support a real, sustained market for vintage Enicar collecting, ensuring it’s not a passing trend.
Shape of you
If Ed’s asymmetrical Ultradive isn’t badass enough for you, how about making it a bit more covert? While the Ultradive has a stainless steel case, the Enicar OPS (ref. 144/35/03A) features an early PVD coating on its case, making the Super Compressor case feel even more rugged. Throw in a different inner rotating bezel and some orange accents, and it’s a watch that, while the same shape as the Ultradive, has a totally different vibe. This super sharp example is for sale over at Craft & Tailored. As Cam at C&T points out, slip on a ski mask along with this low-key OPS and you’re practically ready for to go Jason Bourne on some Russian mercenaries.
“I am kind of a hatable guy,” Christian Zeron, founder of Theo & Harris, tells me as we’re about to end our Zoom chat. “I have comically large hair, I’m decent looking — not super good looking, but decent — and I’m 25 and doing pretty well. That’s a very hatable recipe.”
Okay, now that that’s out of the way.
If you’re a watch enthusiast of a certain generation (millennials, I believe we’re called), no doubt you were introduced to Christian at some point early on. He launched Theo & Harris six years ago, selling vintage watches on his website and talking loud and fast about them on YouTube, an early adopter of video in the space.
But if you only know Christian from his on-camera persona, you might not know the whole story. He’s a thoughtful guy who, among other things, views YouTube personalities with the same sense of skepticism that many others do (including me). He majored in Catholic Studies at Seton Hall University and thought about law school before thinking better of it. Six years in, he’s moving his business beyond selling vintage watches, positioning Theo & Harris as digitally-native storytellers creating ads for luxury brands.
Christian’s self-awareness is evident: he knows he can be a caricature of himself, or rather, of some idea of a loud-mouth, fast-talking Italian-New Yorker who peddles watches for a living (of which he said “there are few life forms on earth worse”).
We hopped on a video call in late November of last year to chat storytelling with brands, vintage values, and much more.
Where is Theo & Harris at in 2020?
Our business is segmented between retail and advertisement. Retail is the back that has carried the business over the last 6 years. But advertisement has been our biggest driver in the past year. I got lucky in that the industry I love is a little bit behind. If this industry was on par with others, I would have missed it five years ago. Because they’re just now waking up, we’re poised to do very well in a way we wouldn’t be in other spaces.
In respect to covid, it’s been interesting. I’ve been watching this ticking time bomb in the industry as far as media techniques and strategies — I’ve been saying they’ve been doing digital wrong for years. But covid really accelerated the inevitable. Look at Baselworld and SIHH: these are some of the largest marketing efforts in the industry all year. People disproportionally allocate time and cash to those two fairs, and because of that, brands are ignoring so many other opportunities through digital and social. So now that those things didn’t happen, the brands had to say ‘what the fuck are we doing this year instead?’
What do you make of all the conversation about editorial independence around advertising, sponsored content, etc.?
At the end of the day, you’re selling watches. It’s not that big of a deal. At Theo & Harris, we’re at the point where we’re able to avoid selling our opinions. I just go to a brand and say ‘I’m not gonna talk about the thing that I dislike, so as long as you give me the one I want to talk about, we can have a great, positive relationship.’ It becomes difficult when the brand says to you ‘we want you to talk about the entire collection, and you need to cover the thing you hate.’ That’s a difficult position to be in, but I’m not in that position right now. We’ll see what we do when that time does come — I like to think I’d have some integrity. But sometimes these things are blown so out of proportion.
Watching some of your old videos, it’s pretty obvious how much you’ve matured — both as a person and in your production. What’s that been like?
First of all, I hate all of our old videos. In part, that’s objective because there are plenty of undeveloped opinions or nervousness that came out as excitement. To be fair, I don’t really like the video format of ‘authority sitting there telling you about the thing.’I don’t like the watch YouTube space. It’s not something I would watch. I like short films. Those are the YouTube videos I watch, whether they’re from Mr. Porter or Pixar. But no, sit there and listen to a talking head talk about a topic is not something I do on a regular basis.
I’ve definitely matured a ton and am embarrassed by a lot of our old videos.
“I don’t like the watch YouTube space. I just don’t like it. It’s not something I would watch.”
I’ve heard you say before that you’re an entrepreneur at heart and you might want to start another business in the future. Do you see a life beyond T&H?
Maybe 5-10 years down the road, after establishing ourselves as someone who can really get to what is important and touching about a product, a company, an identity. I don’t see the end of this road in watches. The watch industry is a fairly small industry, all things considered. I do think that staying here would be limiting. If I could establish that ability and expertise in this space, then going on to other industries — for example to big corporations, would be very interesting.
Put it this way: I’m working with Jacquet Droz now. What’s really interesting about them is their connection to the Enlightenment. It’s easy to bridge that gap: watch to the greatest thinkers of modern history. But it’s much more difficult to convince people that a certain financial product is something you can actually love or be passionate about. That’s a harder challenge. That’s what I’m interested in.
On the watch side of things: what are you seeing that’s hot right now?
Of course, F.P. Journe is the elephant in the room — holy shit. What’s beautiful about the Journe market — it’s not perfect, none of these markets are — the production numbers are small. In a lot of other spaces, Rolex, for instance, there are just so many watches that I always caution people to get involved. Paul Newman Daytonas are a classic example. This is not a rare, rare watch, by any stretch of the imagination. And yet, dealers and auction houses position it to the contrary, which I’m not really a fan of. At least if you’re buying a Journe, you really know it’s rare — there’s a sense of security there. It’s a safer market in many ways.
What about Cartier? A lot of people associate you with *the maison*.
Basically any Cartier before 1980 — even Cartier after then I’d recommend people buy, but if you’re talking about real collectibility, almost anything before 1980 is great. To take one example: the price for a medium Cartier Tank Cintrée, going into covid, was $7-11k. They were never easy to find, but that was the price. Now, those prices have what, quadrupled? It’s unbelievable. Why is it able to happen? They’re so distinct and they have a huge brand name behind them, which helps. But there are so few. It only takes a handful of people to move that market. If four people in the world want a Cintrée, the market has moved up, and good luck finding a Cintrée.
[Ed. note: And we recorded this long before the 100th Anniversary Tank Cintree was announced, itself a $30k limited edition watch.]
What about in the more affordable space?
This hasn’t really changed since I got into the business: vintage Omega, Girard-Perregaux, so many others. Even 34mm vintage Rolex models, they haven’t gone up a ridiculous amount. In the grand scheme, they’re still affordable watches. If you really get into it, you can find truly rare dial configurations. I just bought a gilt, 34mm Rolex OP this week. It’s a phenomenal watch. Let’s say it’s a $5k watch. Gilt in any other Rolex case is $30k, and this is a few thousand bucks.
My taste in watches actually isn’t that expensive. Compared to a lot of my colleagues and fellow collectors, I really do enjoy the affordable, approachable end of the market.
You’ve seen some movement in Tiffany dials — I remember when I got into the business, a 34mm Date with a Tiffany dial might have a couple thousand dollar premium. That premium has really gone up. But in general, 34mm Rolexes are totally under the radar — and yet they’re not — it’s still the most classic watch of all time.
Anything else you want to say to the people of this fine newsletter?
No one’s ever left dinner with me with the same opinion they had after watching videos of me [Ed. note: I might say the same of Zoom calls with Mr. Zeron too]. I swear to god I’m a nice guy. Some videos do come off as obnoxious, so I try not to do it again. It’s just how it is.
On YouTube, a lot of it is knuckle-dragging. ‘Best ways to save money on watches’ — shut the fuck up, who cares? But you have to make a video like that to stay relevant, to get new followers.
By the end of 2020, we’ll have released a few short films and I’ll finally feel like when someone goes to our YouTube, I’m actually proud of this channel. Because right now, it’s like ‘what am I talking about?’ It gets old.
👉 Read my full conversation with Christian here.
Through the Wire
Ben Clymer on Hodinkee’s $40m raise: “It might surprise some folks, but we believe the future is all about content”
WatchPro sat down with Hodinkee founder Ben Clymer to discuss the company’s $40m fundraise. A few choice excerpts below, but the full interview is worth a read.
WatchPro: Do you think video will become increasingly important as a medium for sharing information about watches?
BC: I can only speak for myself, and I still love the written word. YouTube content is great but, a little like social media, Instagram is passé and on its last breath right now. YouTube will probably feel that way in a few years as well. Twitter was almost irrelevant before Donald Trump became President and started going crazy on it. These platforms have a life cycle. Instagram is breathing its last breath now, and there will be new platforms in the future that emerge, but what is important for us right now is to ensure that we are in control of our medium.
YouTube is not our business, Instagram is not our business. Our business is Hodinkee, and we always want to be in control of that.
WatchPro: The reality today is that Google and Facebook are taking something like two-thirds of digital advertising today. That puts you and I in a difficult position.
BC: That’s right. We do still sell ads, but that is not the real business for us. The real business is the commercial side. I am sure, like us, you get calls every day from people in the traditional ad-driven publishing business because they are looking for a way out. We believe content and commerce is the future of everything.
At Hodinkee, I have never asked for any favors from brands or retailers. We believe in meritocracy so if you are an authorized dealer or brand and a website or blogger can add value to your brand and help sell more watches, you should work with them. We would never say: if you work with them then you cannot work with us — like some people do to us — we would never do that.
👉 Read the full interview here.
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