As the owner of WatchGauge, I often get asked (particularly from those who are not "watch enthusiasts",
"What Is a Microbrand?"
Such a conversation came up not long ago with a guy who had a few nice (main stream brand) watches, and the conversation was both interesting, as well as a conversation that I feel like I have a lot.
It got me thinking, what if there are people out there searching on YouTube and the web, "What is a Microbrand?". I thought I'd make a video explaining what I believe a Microbrand to be, as well as answers to some other questions, such as, "Who Buys Microbrands?", and "Are All Microbrands Created Equally?", and others.
What is a Microbrand?
Here are the characteristics that I believe define a Microbrand.
1. Independently Owned: There's something nice about supporting an owner of a small business. Additionally, they are usually passionate watch collectors/enthusiasts themselves so as a consumer of Microbrands, it's likely you will have a commonality.
2. Outsource Manufacturing: Most (if not all) Microbrands outsource the manufacturing of the watch components such as dials, cases, bezels, hands and bracelets. One exception that comes to mind is Vortic Watches. They make their own cases and re purpose dials, hands and movements from vintage pocket watches.
3. Low Production Numbers: As in true Microbrews, Microbrand watches are made in small batches. Typically less that 300 units per model, and in many cases much less. It's kind of nice knowing that you're one of only a handful of people in the world wearing the same watch.
4. Outsourced Movements: In-house or Proprietary watch movements are extremely expensive to develop an manufacture. In to the Millions of dollars. So it only makes sense that Microbrands purchase movements from 3rd party movement manufacturers such as Miyota, Seiko, ETA, and others.
5. Almost Exclusively Sold Online: The best sales model for Microbrands is to sell online almost exclusively. The reach is immediate and eons broader to reach potential clients as opposed to displaying their watches in a brick-and-mortar store and hoping that the next person comes in and buys one.
6. Engaged Owners: As I had mentioned, Microbrand owners are typically watch enthusiasts and collectors themselves. They tend to have a passion and connection to their clients far greater than a mainstream brand. Additionally their customer service is usually much better.
Who Buys Microbrands?
The next question I tackle is, who are the people buying Microbrands. The short answer is anyone! But I'll break it down a little bit more deeply.
1. Enthusiasts: The typical buyer of a Microbrand is someone who is much more engaged in the hobby of watch collecting than say the normal person who buys a TAG Heuer or an Omega. They tend to spend time in watch groups and forums and watch Youtube channels that are watch related.
2. The New Watch Collector: As a new watch collector, purchasing a watch for 3, 5, or $10,000 or more can be daunting. And what's to say that that person isn't going to regret that purchase in the not too distant future as they learn more and more about watches? Buying a Microbrand for between $300 and $900 (average price range of Micros) or a few of them as the new collector develops their taste and style in watches is a much more sensible choice.
3. The Price Conscious Watch Buyer: If you're anything like me, I've got three kids all heavily involved in sports, a mortgage, car payments, and although before kids I'd spend $5-10k on a watch for myself, doing so now wouldn't be prudent. So to keep my interest and my watch buying hobby going, buying a $300-$900 Microbrand is much less of a guilt ridden experience.
4. The High-End Collector who has been bitten by the Microbrand bug: I have many clients that have purchased Microbrands from WatchGauge who also have Rolex, Patek, IWC, Vach, and others, but have been turned onto Microbrands and love them! They may still buy the expensive stuff, but the variety and accessibility of Micros are very appealing to them. I've actually heard quite often that when they travel they bring a few of their Microbrands because if goodness-forbid something happens to it, it isn't thousands of dollars gone.
Are All Microbrands Created Equally?
Absolutely not! As with any consumer products, there are good, bad, and ugly (figuratively and literally).
The question comes into play then, how does a normal consumer differentiate between the good Microbrands and the not-so-good ones?
Do your homework! Chances are, if you are interested in any Microbrand and that brand is worth anything whatsoever, there'll be a ton of information on the web. Here's what I'd suggest:
- Read reviews on blogs
- Search watch forums and Facebook groups for discussions
- Search Youtube for the brand and see if you can find reviews
- (Shameless self promotion) - Buy from a trusted retailer like WatchGauge. The only watches that I'll ever sell on WatchGauge are brands that I myself would buy and own for myself, so I'd say they're worthy for you as well.