Sad but true: we’ve all had to adapt to the pandemic lifestyle and one casualty for the watch community is the absence of watch meet-ups. For enthusiasts, nothing is better than sinking a few pints and talking watches. During these get togethers, watch lovers can candidly speak about our passion and geek out over the timepieces we love. Today such engagement is sorely missed, but recently a new app for iOS has stepped in to fill the void: Clubhouse. The platform was not built specifically for the watch community, but its design really caters to casual, enthusiastic and meaningful discussion with every “room” filled with insights and perspectives you may not have normally had the opportunity to engage with. The only catch to Clubhouse, for now, is that you need to be invited to join the app by an existing user.
What is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is an audio-only chat platform where users can join moderated “rooms” to discuss new and recurring topics of choice. These rooms can vary in size, at times reaching 100 users all eagerly listening to the subject at hand. On the surface you might think such a space would be chaotic, but the moderator framework really controls the conversation to prevent it from degenerating into a free-for-all shouting match. The way “rooms” work is that the creator and users they handpick serve as moderators of the room. Moderators typically “set the room” and lead the discussion topic, and later prompt listeners to speak as well by inviting them to the “stage”. As a listener, all you have to do is raise your hand if you would like to chime in by tapping the hand icon in the chatroom dock. If you would prefer not to speak, do not worry: the platform is filled with industry experts that you may just want to listen to from brand marketers, watchmakers, brand executives, journalists, content creators and auction-house specialists.
While a new medium, a Clubhouse etiquette has already been established
For those looking to join, it’s helpful to understand the unwritten rules of the platform. Within the watch-related “rooms” at least, it is customary to mute yourself when not currently speaking. In slightly more formal “rooms”, it is typically assumed that a speaker should wait until they are prompted by a moderator before providing their thoughts to the forum. In more casual “rooms” it can be a bit more of a popcorn discussion, but in any case you should always try to be conscientious that you don’t hog the microphone and allow others to share their thoughts as well. Do not try to make a room your personal sermon or TedTalk. That being said, don’t be afraid to raise your hand and join in on the discussion. The whole idea is to engage with people you may not have been able to.
I also want to make a very important disclaimer. Clubhouse is a space that is not meant to be recorded or rebroadcasted. There is no built-in feature to do such a thing, but obviously there are means to make it happen. If a room is to be recorded, which I have only seen once for a live podcast, it should be disclosed – therefore users can decide if they are comfortable engaging in a recorded “room” or would prefer to just listen in that instance. While juicy anecdotes and watch facts are shared in abundance, it is not the place to source quotes for content and that is a widely held golden rule established by users of the platform. Like Las Vegas, what happens on Clubhouse stays on Clubhouse. This ensures it is a safe space for conversation and, as a result, you get much more open insight into the varying topics of discussion.
How is Clubhouse changing the way we engage with watches?
While physical watch meet-ups are local, attendees on Clubhouse are global so you can connect with a wide spectrum of people you would never meet – even without a global pandemic. On Clubhouse you might get to engage with industry titans like Jean Claude Biver and Moser CEO Edouard Meylan, content creators such as Adrian Barker from Bark & Jack, Rikki and Rick of Scottish Watches and Kat and Katlen of Tenn & Two, plus many others. While it may seem intimidating to be on a digital stage with the aforementioned names, fortunately they are just as eager to speak with users. In short, Clubhouse has drastically improved the access we have to speak about watches candidly – whether with fellow enthusiasts or industry players.
This level of access creates value both ways. It is not only a means for enthusiasts to engage with brands, but a way for brands to get genuine and thoughtful feedback from the community. Clubhouse is a space that really stimulates free and genuine dialogue.
To convey the vibe on Clubhouse, imagine a Horological Society of New York lecture or trade fair panel. Clubhouse “rooms” are equally insightful, with users chiming in on subjects such as watch collecting 101, unpopular watch opinions, dissecting the way brands engage with gender, and even Q&As with brand creators such as Ming Thein. Some “rooms” are more framed in discussion with the conversation really sticking to a set topic for a specified time period. Other more casual ones can actually go on for hours, a revolving door of topics and participants sustaining the room throughout the day.
The glaring difference, and in a way the benefit, of taking the conversation to an audio-only digital platform is that everyone is on the same playing field. It is not exclusive and you’re free to talk watches in your pyjamas nursing a glass of whiskey and nobody will judge you for it. You don’t have to be an influencer or horology superstar to participate. All you really need to join in on the fun is an iPhone, a love for watches, and an invite from a pal already on Clubhouse.
I’m only one user of many now enjoying the platform, so I pinged Josh Shanks, Editor-in-Chief of Watchonista.com, to see if he felt the same way. Josh explained, “I signed up for Clubhouse only 10 days ago and it already kind of feels like what Instagram felt like five years ago. The community is active and engaged and super motivated and I love that it’s not controlled by algorithms and you can just pop in and out of chat rooms and and really talk about a number of topics. It’s super fun and it acts kind of like a quasi panel discussion / podcast which I find really cool.
“I think being in the industry I took for granted the fact that so many collectors, so many enthusiasts and even brands themselves never really heard direct feedback from consumers and I love that it offers an unfiltered, unfettered access to the industry. I love that you have everyone from Edouard Meylan at Moser, to Laetitia Hirschy who’s on the PR side, to [veteran watch journalist] Suzanne Wong all together chatting like we were at a bar. What’s really cool about Clubhouse is that you can have those same bar-room conversations without fear of persecution or reparations of someone recording that and leaking it. It really feels just open and honest and I love that.”