The interwebz are ablaze with outrage and indignation over HoDinkee’s $5900 Eight-Day Travel Clock. As we pointed out here and here, the online retailer masquerading as a journalistic enterprise jumped the shark with a HoDinkee-branded product that seems cobbled together, at best. Our man Jose Pereztroika has taken a deep dive into the HoDinkee clock and it’s not pretty. Literally . . .
The main but not only issue with the HoDinkee’s Eight-Day Travel Clock: the movement. HoDinkee’s website goes into some detail – some might call it braggadocio – on how they came to using a defunct mechanical movement from a defunct company called Pontifa.
Our vintage movements were originally built by a small Swiss manufacture named Pontifa, located in Les Ponts-de-Martel, in the canton of Neuchâtel. Founded in 1850, Pontifa produced movements used in everything from pocket watches to dashboard clocks, but its speciality was eight-day travel alarm clocks just like ours.
Movements built by Pontifa were used by some of the most prestigious firms in watchmaking for decades, and to find any number of them in unused, practically new-old-stock condition like we did is unheard of in the contemporary clock collecting community.
Strangely – or not -HoDinkee didn’t include a single image of the key-wound Pontifa movement lingering inside the goatskin-covered clock. Not on the product page and not in their apologia. Mr. Pereztroika looked into that.
Truth matters, so in @hodinkee‘s defense, some luxury brands did indeed use Pontifa 73XX calibers – due to lack of alternatives. The 73XX movements were born as a niche product in the 1980s, in a time when mechanical table and travel clocks were almost wiped out by quartz and digital.
It appears that Montandon & Cie – the owner of the Pontifa brand – produced the 73XX calibers until Eric Montandon’s death in 2014. In 2016 the company was liquidated. I suspect that’s when Hodinkee got their hands on these leftovers.
The movements in question are NOT VINTAGE in my opinion. As a matter of fact, Audemars Piguet used the 73XX in their Royal Oak table clocks made between 2005 and 2013/14. But here’s the thing: these clocks were mostly gifts given to frequent buyers.
Some sources say the clocks sometimes retailed for 4k. With their “Grand Tapisserie” dial, applied hour-markers, date complication and the iconic octagonal bezel with eight polished screws, AP’s table clocks truly ARE objets d’art.
So that’s the movement issue. Well, plus this summation: “The Pontifa movement installed in Hodinkee’s travel clock is a chunky, unrefined and historically irrelevant key-winding unit. No wonder no pictures of the movement were shown.”
But wait, there’s more! Keen-eyed commentators have spied with their little collective eye defects that belie the Clock’s $5900 price tag. At @hodinkeetravelclock (a spoof account), the anonymous poster noticed something not quite right about the clock’s typography.
This is a big deal because HoDinkee made a HUGE deal out of their clock’s ditchwater dull typeface. Like this:
The HODINKEE Eight-Day Travel Clock uses a typeface developed by world-renowned designer, avid watch collector, and friend of HODINKEE Jonathan Hoefler that is inspired by the unique lettering and numerals found in vintage wristwatches.
The development of this specific typeface, called Decimal, was featured in the 2019 Netflix series Abstract: The Art of Design – you also might remember Hoefler from an episode of HODINKEE Radio that ran not long after its debut. Decimal was born out of a deep appreciation for vintage wristwatches – the same can be said for the creation of HODINKEE, so the partnership was a natural fit.
And the hits (to HoDinkee) keep happening.
Zooming in on the back of the Eight-Day Travel Clock, we can see misaligned screws, both relative to each other and within the holes into which they’re sunk. Remember: this is a $5900 clock.
The photo above – also from the Eight-Day Travel Clock product page – shows poorly attached leather on the front. It’s a startling lack of craftsmanship. The defect is made all the more egregious by HoDinkee’s price justification in their post-conflagration “Quick Note To Our Readers.”
Instead of doing a mass product with automated manufacturing in Asia, we made a decision to do a small batch production run using a movement we thought was special, assembled by hand in Switzerland by one of the most creative companies in the business. There is no economy of scale. This kind of specialized production is not inexpensive to execute.
“Asia” is home to some of the world’s finest designers, machinists and hand finishers; men and women perfectly capable of doing a far better job of construction than what’s on display here.
There’s no getting around it: the HoDinkee clock is a disaster for the doomed online retailer. This foray into a Hodinkee-branded product was ill-advised, ill-judged, ill-timed and poorly executed. The best that can be said: the HoDinkee clock opened readers’ eyes to the site’s snobbery and greed.