I became interested in watches around the same time as I started to become engrossed in crypto and was struck by the number of similarities in arriving at an understanding of both subcultures.
Both, to the uninitiated, can appear superficial and slightly laughable. Watches are nothing more than a status symbol, a means to overtly display one’s wealth, are they not? And cryptocurrencies are mere Chuck E. Cheese coupons, a pyramid scheme sucking in millions of unsuspecting and greedy investors (as an aside, Bitcoin must be the best advertisement Chuck E. Cheese has ever had — being British I would never have heard of them without it).
It is only once you begin to read more into both topics that you end up realising the depth to both. Admittedly, crypto has far more to learn and directions to go off in, taking the interested on a voyage through economics, history, philosophy, law, psychology and much more. But watches are a rich vein of their own, offering elegant expressions of human ingenuity which appear ever more beautiful when contrasted with an increasingly busy and digital world.
However, the real similarity I noticed was that there is a common route as to how people’s viewpoints move upon discovering both watches and crypto (although this is only really relevant for those new in the last two years).
There is a well-worn path in watches. Just as Bitcoin is the best known cryptoasset and thus is the default point of entry for many, Rolex represents the public’s idea of what a watch should be; desirable, expensive and instantly recognisable (and coincidentally has proven to be a fantastic investment for most owners).
But then you start looking into watches more. And there are tens of thousands of watches. They’re all so shiny! And they’re cheaper than Rolex. And they’re just as well-made! What’s really the difference between this £7,000 Rolex and that £3,000 Tag Heuer? Sure, you’ve seen Rolex sponsoring Formula 1 and Wimbledon, but Tag Heuer sponsor the Premier League and Chris Hemsworth. You always liked him, he was great in Rush. Or the £1,000 Oris? That looks nice too, bit more daring than that Rolex, and they’ve been around a year longer than Rolex, so it’s not like they’re some Jonny come lately.
You start to espouse the pointlessness of Rolex. It’s all just marketing you explain. It’s just because they’re so well known, one of the first to get celebrity endorsements, just lucky. They’re not innovative. Look, their designs are the same as they were 50 years ago! The world needs change.
Plus the mark-up they charge is insane, you’re better off getting this £500 micro-brand instead — its got its own movement and it’s just as good as a Rolex. Just look at the ratio — you could get 10 of them for one Rolex. Maybe in 20 years it will appreciate in price just like with Rolex. After all, if it wasn’t for Rolex artificially limiting supply they’d be half the price.
But then you keep digging. And you realise that Rolex are where they are for a reason. It’s because they understand the value in keeping something true to what it was, maintaining their heritage rather than simply playing off it. And they have been responsible for some of the most important innovations. And actually, you’d always thought that that Pepsi GMT was your favourite watch. And you can get that Daytona today and flip it tomorrow for double its worth, no problem. What an investment.
In the next edition of lazy and forced analogies: TRON— the Austin Allegro of the crypto world?
Disclaimer: Of the assets mentioned above, I hold BTC, Tag Heuer and multiple Oris’s. You can find my full disclosure here.