YEAR IN REVIEW 2014: Letter from the Editor

YEAR IN REVIEW 2014: Letter from the Editor

Felix Scholz


The concept of Time+Tide in its most basic form was first proposed to me in a café. A café down a laneway. So very Melbourne, I know.

It was around this time last year that Andrew McUtchen and I were discussing the watch scene in Australia and the early seeds were planted. As the conversation, and the coffees, continued, the seeds grew into an Instagram account, a newspaper and then a website.

Our fairly rapid growth in 2014 has moved in step with the world’s burgeoning interest in timepieces. I’ve been writing about watches for more than a few years now, but none in my time have seen quite this boom of awareness in watches, especially in Australia. Years ago if I mentioned a watch brand that wasn’t Rolex or Omega eyes would glaze over. Nowadays I’m talking to people who know their JLC from their AP, and can chat about the merits of in-house manufacture. Watches seem to be part of the wider mens heritage fashion trend that’s been sweeping the world. This is largely thanks to online magazines like Hodinkee and influencers like WatchAnish. Together these new media forces have helped to reframe the discourse of watches into the realm of cool as opposed to geek.

But along with this broader shift I think people are tired of just using their phone to tell the time, and want their wrist to make a statement. And the numbers tell a similar story. Australia imported 25% more Swiss watches this year than we did in 2012. China, on the other hand, has seen an 11% drop in imports. And while we’re a small player in the global market, we’re growing, and the Swiss brands are beginning to notice. We’re seeing a greater depth and diversity of brands available here.

All this is great news for Australian watch lovers.

Which brings us back to that café. The gist of this discussion was that Australia, for all this interest had a relative paucity of quality watch content; a few magazine supplements or special editions and a small number of online writers and that was it. In a way this is understandable, we’re on the other side of the world from the horological hub.

It’s understandable but not acceptable.

It’s unacceptable because we need Australian watch content. That means Australian watch journalism and Australian watch photography. Even though we live in a global market, and I read on a daily basis watch sites from the US to the UAE, Holland and Hong Kong there’s something important about local coverage. Local events, local brands, and yes, local retail prices. And I’m not alone. In the months after Time+Tide launched, we’ve seen an Australian edition of Revolution, one of the bigger watch magazines. We’ve also seen mainstream print media get into the online watch space, with the launch of the Fairfax backed Watch-Next. Clearly Australia wants more when it comes to watches.

So that’s where we are. But where are we going?  To me it seems like the watch industry is thriving on the increased attention, and interest in the golden years of watchmaking. We’ve seen strong heritage pieces in the last few years (so much so that the GPHG added a ‘Revival Prize’). But while we’re all enjoying this trip down memory lane the brand aren’t resting on their back catalogues. Increasing accessibility to materials like silicium / silicone and ceramic are making watches using these materials more widely available. And uncertainty about movement supply is causing a lot of brands to bring their movement manufacturing in-house. This increasing vertical integration makes for interesting horological times.

Oh, and we finally seem to have gotten over our insecurities and have returned to a semblance of watchsize sanity. Bravo, men. Sure there are still dinner plates out there, but we’re seeing a welcome return to sub-40mm case diameters. About time.

And as for Time+Tide? Well, 2014 was a bigger year than any of us imagined, but I feel pretty confident in saying that you ain’t seen nothing yet.