Back in the day, Hodinkee published independent watch reviews for horophiles looking for solid intel. Those days are gone. The website now sells the watches it “reviews.” Careful readers will discount Hodinkee’s Lake Woebegone-take on timepieces, where every watch is above average and “criticism” is couched more carefully than Roche Bobois. The uninitiated are on notice: the website’s “Just Because” series is a Hodinkee scam. And it goes a little something like this . . .
Last year, Omega made headlines by announcing a solid gold Speedmaster by way of the insanely cool Apollo 11 Anniversary Limited Edition, but did you know that is far from the only example of a solid precious metal sports watch from Omega?
James Stacy’s ode to OMEGA is nothing less than a full-throated sales pitch for Rolex’s crosstown competitor. Great watches, sure, but the lack of anything resembling a Chinese wall between the Hodinkee scam “review” and OMEGA itself makes this piece nauseatingly sycophantic. Here’s how Mr. Stacy explains his choice of subject matter:
This is a Just Because, mostly because I asked to borrow these three models from Omega… just because.
As Maxwell Smart would say, Mr. Stacy missed it by THAT MUCH. Let me help.
“This is a Just Because just because my employer banks big bucks selling OMEGAs at a healthy profit and I’m happy to sell my journalistic soul to wear a $34,000 gold watch I could never afford.”
Hodinkee founder and boss Benjamin Clymer makes bank on the website’s online sales – they’re an authorized dealer for 14 brands. And the income generated by no-risk bricks and mortar endeavors (e.g., You’re Invited: We Are Popping Up With Omega In SoHo, New York).
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge Hodinkee founder Benjamin Clymer his millions. Oh wait. I do. The self-proclaimed High Priest of Horology made that money by selling out. It’s not a crime, but it is a betrayal of the trust his readers placed in him that gave him his start.
Hodinkee’s reviews make no mention of the inherent conflict of interest informing their judgments. The editors never fess-up when a manufacturer-sponsored all-expenses-paid junket enables a review or feature. Do writers or editors receive “free” watches? Perish the thought! (Alternatively, alert the IRS.)
And then there are “sponsored posts” – articles written by or in conjunction with watchmakers, cleared by the manufacturers’ sales and marketing departments, presented in the same typeface and style as “regular” posts.
Sponsored posts aren’t perfidious in and of themselves, but how can you trust Hodinkee to provide an independent take on those watches in addition to “carefully curated” pimpage? You can’t. You shouldn’t.
Watches aren’t guns. If a watch goes wrong, no one gets killed or not killed (during a legal use of lethal force). Even so, as the founder and editor of The Truth About Cars and The Truth About Guns, I believe a “review” website makes a covenant with its readers to provide honest editorial. Or, at the very least, honestly identified editorial.
I’m sure readers of The Truth About Watches know what’s what. It’s the average punter who falls victim to Hodinkee’s bright shiny object approach to content. Rest assured, we won’t abandon our editorial independence for anyone. We won’t accept money for a link to a watch seller.
The Truth About Watches will never make a fraction of the money that Hondikee does. But we will continue to the truth about watches. It’s in our name. It’s what we do. Just because . . . it’s the right thing to do.