Microbrand Watches: Good Enough?

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Axios kick axios on Kickstarter

Over on kickstarter. the Axios’ Watches Ironclad Robust 500m Swiss Automatic Dive Watch met its $21,795 funding target in three minutes. As of this writing, the company raised $189,614. If you need proof that microbrand watches are The Next Big Thing in traditional watchmaking, there you go. And why is that? Money . . .

Kickstarter Axios dive watch

The Ironclad microbrand watch is motivated by a Sellita SW200-1 movement. It’s got a fully lumed ceramic insert. It’s not a Rolex but it looks like a Rolex. There’s no mention of water resistance, but that didn’tt hamper buyers. Most importantly, Ironclad costs $651.

That’s a bargain compared to anything any of the major watchmakers produce. Axios achieved the price point in two ways. First, it’s made in China, where wages are so low it should be a crime. Second, you can round down their marketing costs to zero.

The costs of selling a Swiss watch

Check out the marketing costs for a Swiss $1000 automatic watch. With low overhead, labor, parts and marketing, is it any wonder Singapore-based Axios and its Asian ilk can offer a quality mechanical watch for a fraction of the price of mainstream manufacturer?

The same holds true for western microbrand watches like Dufrane, Shinola, Vero (below), Sternglass and dozens more, all of which can compete on price using off-the-shelf quartz or automatic movements, all of whom bring in the bucks through cheap-as-chips Instagram feeds and ads.

Vero microband watches have their own thing

We’re not just talking about riffs on famous designs. Competing in an explosively competitive market, these companies are creating unique timepieces with distinctive styles. What’s not to love?

A couple of things.

If you’re “investing” in a watch on Kickstarter, promised delivery dates can be a long way off, postponed or cancelled. (Axios says their dive watch will ship in March.) Yes, you can lose your money. (Don’t ask me how I know.) Kickstarter kinda sorta acknowledges the danger:

Launching a Kickstarter is a very public act, and creators put their reputations at risk when they do. Creators are encouraged to share links and as much background information as possible so backers can make informed decisions about the projects they support.

Ming microbrand watches are hard to buy, easy to love

If you’re buying from a microbrand watch company with something of a track record (e.g., Ming), you’re highly likely to [eventually] get what you pay for.

Which is not necessarily — or even probably — the high quality timepiece produced by the Big Boys. And while brick-and-mortar authorized dealers selling big name timepieces charge you full whack for a watch, you can always knock on their door if something really sucks or goes wrong.

Those caveats aside, yes, microbrand watches are good enough. They’re stylish, often unique and most of all relatively inexpensive (even the expensive ones). The chances of buying something truly miserable are low. And if you do, your buyer’s remorse is nothing like it would be on a big ticket timepiece. So there is that.

Oh, and please buy American-assembled microbrand watches. Just sayin’.

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