Year In Review: Top 5s, Jealousy List, And More
Thoughts on media, the best watches of 2023, and my favorite articles
Happy New Year. I’ve been doing this watch media thing full-time for more than a year now, and I’m not sure I understand it any better. There’s a ton of noise, but supposedly less high-quality content than ever. Even that word, content, is frustratingly non-specific, collapsing TikTokers, writers, photographers, podcasters, and anyone who’s ever made a meme into two neat syllables.
I downloaded watch news aggregator The Watch Space last year, and the app makes it immediately clear there’s no shortage of content. I don’t think we actually need more aggregation – existing tech platforms are pretty good at this – but more human curation. It’s one of those slightly cringey words that influencer-types used to love, but it’s the best I’ve got.
As watches blew up over the past few years, everything was in the pursuit of scale. Now, the watch world has slowed down, and we’re left wondering what’s left. So much of the focus was on who we were reaching. This is important, of course, but it’s also important to ask: what’s it all for and what are we doing with that reach?
I link to five of my favorite articles from 2023, and I can assure you that none of them got the most clicks. They’re interviews, collector’s guides, and editorials that took time to explain things to people who already had context and didn’t worry as much about reaching those who don’t.
There’s this saying that anyone can build a following, but not everyone can build a loyal audience. In my last personal update, I asked “what’s next for watches?” Of course, I feel this most acutely in media.
I don’t think anyone actually knows the answer to these “what’s next” questions – I certainly don’t – but some of this points to what I’m already working on for 2024: deep dives, editorials, collector’s guides. A couple of articles I want to put together: better documenting 70s-80s Cartier (starting with the Tank Louis 78086; I have a database of ~200+ examples and counting); a guide to the Piaget Polo; and so on. If you’ve got info, get in touch.
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My Personal Top 5 of 2023
With a gratuitous self-pat on the back, these are five articles I wrote this year I enjoyed. If you missed them on Hodinkee when they were published, give them a read or a bookmark.
1/ The Italian Influence, Hodinkee Magazine
I was lucky to take a trip to Northern Italy for a few days in May to explore the past, present, and future of its influence on watches. Along the way, I had a conversation with one of the world’s biggest watch collectors, Sandro Fratini. A shoutout to the design team for a beautifully-designed online package too.
After Phillips’ Arthur Touchot posted about a Geneva court ruling Yoko Ono is the owner of one of the world's most valuable watches, it was finally time to tell the full complete story of John Lennon’s long-lost 2499. It turns out the case was only the beginning of a story of extortion, theft, and a watch that traveled around the world. Now that we know where it is, will we ever see it?
Five examples of the Rolex 6062 appeared at auction last fall, so it was a perfect time to take a deep dive into my favorite Rolex reference ever. Maybe my favorite in-depth piece of the year, followed closely by my article on Rolex “albino” dials.
4/ The TAG Heuer Carrera 'Glassbox' 39mm: It's Time To Care About The Carrera Again, A Week On The Wrist
My first crack at one of Hodinkee’s signature formats, and it featured one of the best relaunches of the year, the new Carrera. Well designed and full of heritage, it’s exactly the kind of watch TAG Heuer should be making.
Vintage Cartier watches are extremely rare, so when an early platinum Tank Cintrée sold for $500k earlier this year, it made me think about restoration, originality, and how these are valued in different corners of the collecting world. With Cartier continuing to be hot, this article seemed to spark some decent discussion – I got as many comments/questions about it as any I wrote.
Note: I’ll send one follow-up email in the next few days with coverage of my favorite indies from 2023 and some quick thoughts because it should be a big year for Berneron, Xhevdet Rexhepi, and Furlan Marri (among others).
Top 5: Jealousy List 2023
One of my favorite year-end lists is the Bloomberg Jealousy List, its annual exercise in humility recognizing the best stories at other outlets that Bloomberg writers wish they’d published.
It’s something I did in 2020 and 2021. I don’t have time for a full-fledged list, but there are a few long-form pieces I find myself continually revisiting. Some are from the world of watches and some are watch adjacent. All are excellent.
A deep dive into the history of LVMH and how Bernard Arnault built his luxury empire. The conglomerate has reshaped the world of luxury, and it’s made a huge investment in the watch industry over the past few years. If you want to understand its plans and strategy for the watch world, this podcast probably offers some hints.
Meanwhile, OT Podcast continues to be my most consistent watch pod listen; I loved their interview with Alan “Hammer.”: Rescapement started as a newsletter, so I’ve still got a soft spot for ‘sletters and believe in them as a format. These two come closest to carrying on whatever it is I started with Rescapement a few years ago. GQ for the culture, Fourth Wheel for the inside baseball.
2/ How Larry Gagosian Reshaped The Art World, The New Yorker
I love a good profile, and there’s so much to learn about the art world from this one. There’s this line often thrown around that “watches are become more like art” – this shows what that could mean.
4/ Books: Books are still a great technology for learning about watches. I received a number this year, highlighted by Helmut Crott’s The Dial. Here are five others focused on JLC, Patek, the Polerouter, and more.
5/ Videos: Watch YouTube feels like a completely different world sometimes, but ID Guy is a smaller channel run by an industrial designer who makes great videos about watches and design that I enjoy.
3 Best Watches of 2023
I could only think of three…
Chopard L.U.C 1860, my pick for best release of 2023
Rolex “Les Mans” Daytona, the best release of the year from the most important watch brand
Cartier Baignoire Bangle, that Cartier has made a mini Baignoire one of the hardest watches to get speaks to the brand’s ability to set trends.
Also interesting is how Cartier’s releases (I’m thinking of the Baignoire and the Normale here) have impacted the market for the corresponding vintage models. I called the Crash the “most important watch of 2021” in my first article for Hodinkee, and honestly I thought the interest in Cartier would’ve slowed down by now. While the Crash market has plateaued, interest in the rest of Cartier’s shapes keeps on going.
Thanks for reading my year in review. I love sending out these updates because I know they reach the people who have been following along with me the longest. It was great to be able to meet so many old Rescapement fans in 2023, and I hope I meet more of you this year – last year was a crazy one for watches and something tells me 2024 might be the same.
Finally… Here’s a cool clock.