Watchismo is a carefully curated watch collection by brothers Mitch & Andrew Greenblatt, modern horological enthusiasts with a passion for unique timepieces. Purveyors of wrist-borne time machines since 1999, Watchismo is a singular source for unusual modern watches from around the world.
Q: What was it about cutting edge and unique watches that led you to launch an online retail store back in 1999?
WATCHISMO: The contemporary watch market was very very dull in the late nineties. Very few watches had interesting designs and even fewer were affordable. That led us to the world of obscure vintage watches - strange timepieces that were developed in a remarkable ten year span between 1965 and 1975 when so much change in the world allowed for true eccentricity of design in all areas imaginable, especially fashion, art and industrial design. If you're resourceful, you can find a selection of outstanding examples -- many of the holy grails of watch design -- in a now-out-of-print book by Dutch collector Pieter Doensen, called "Watch - History of the Modern Wrist Watch".
Born purely as a passion for collecting, our vintage collection grew to a point that the habit needed financial support. This led to the creation of the first Watchismo.com store at the turn of the century and was ultimately cemented by an editor at Vogue who said they would mention us in the famed September issue if we had an online store to promote. Nuff said, so we built it as a commercial reliquary for only the most unusual vintage watches of that era.
Years later, the modern watch world started to play catch-up and from the early part of the century, designs improved for unique and affordable watches so we started slowly carrying more and more modern brands. We buy as enthisiasts and with a collector's eye, never adding product we don't consider worthy of our aesthetic or that we wouldn't like to wear ourselves!
Q: How do you discover the obscure timepieces you offer through your store?
WATCHISMO: Vintage was always a challenge but when you immerse yourself in something, you find a way. Years of establishing friendships with dealers around the world was key in the early days of the business.
Finding modern watches requires everything from attending the annual watch fair in Switzerland called "Baselworld" to roaming cities around the world for local companies producing something unique. Just recently on a vacation to Barcelona, we discovered a Spanish brand called 666 Barcelona at a small watch shop on Las Ramblas. At the time the line was distributed only in Spain, so we approached them about being sold at Watchismo and it has been a great success. We're also contacted directly from the watch companies who pitch us their timepieces. Some we take on or test out but many are turned down if they don't "fit" our sensibilities.
Q: What are some particularly unique aspects of your timepieces that set them apart from those found elsewhere?
WATCHISMO: Well, we curate our watch collection, as mentioned above, we definitely imagine an overall feel for our store as if you were at gallery or museum. Representing a collection is a product of its own in a way, and we want the experience of shopping with us to be a unique one. Even though we have thousands of styles, you won't or shouldn't feel as if you're looking for a needle in a haystack of mediocrity.
Q: How are different designs infused to make watches a wearable form of art?
WATCHISMO: As more everyday objects offer time (especially cellphones), watches have been challenged to express themselves with more "umph" in our opinion. There are more designer inspired models, statement watches of a different sort. More and more watches are using bright colors, radical case shapes and most of all, new and unusual ways of telling time outside of digital or analog displays. Some are challenging the wearer/viewer to "understand" the time or best yet, watches that truly find a new way to display time that is both readable and give us something to contemplate or discuss. Many watches we sell are true conversation starters... a close friend of Watchismo stopped short of saying that a watch of ours... well, I'll just say it impressed his date.
Q: What designs or features do you predict we will see on timepieces in the coming years to complement modern technology?
WATCHISMO: We hope and count on designers to push the limits of what can display time on the wrist. Everything from the minimalist beauty of stating just the time in a stylish way to absurd kinetic sculptures that blur the lines of taste. Some of our minimalist favorites include the one-handed watches of Germany's Botta, the witty Italian brand Nava with their just slightly off-kilter concepts of displaying time to the perfectly simple watches of French designer Philippe Starck. Our favorite eccentrics are often from Japan -- summed up best by our new brand Seahope who continually challenge the viewer with what are sometimes "time-puzzles" or just plain innovative new displays.
I'm sure we'll offer watches of higher function but have no plans on being what could be an iWatch style timepiece. But you never know what is around the corner, we just plan on selling fun watches with good solid designs...oh and of course for the best price!
Q: Which brands or watch designs receive the most feedback? Why do you think this is so?
WATCHISMO: A watch that has always been a best seller and somewhat controversial is from a concept artist/designer in the UK - Mr. Jones Watches, "The Accurate". Billed as the most 'accurate' timepiece in the world it just features a simple traditional analog watch with hour, minute and seconds hand. But the statement is in what the hands say and the "Momento Mori" message they convey. The hour hand says "Remember" and the minutes say "You Will Die". It may seem dark but the artist Crispin Jones explains it best:
"The dial and rim of the glass on the Accurate is mirrored, so that the wearer is reflected in the watch face (so that there is no ambiguity about who the message is aimed at). The Accurate is a link to the venerable tradition of the memento mori - an object designed to remind us that life is brief and that we should seize the moment while we are here.
"Today everyone has a mobile phone to do the really functional timekeeping, this means that the wristwatch is free to do something a bit different. The watches I design reflect and comment on society, both on the role that time plays in all our lives and also on the social impact of technology."
Summed up, this watch hit a nerve with people all over and has been very popular since we started selling it last year.
Q: Your daily watch deals receive a large response from buyers -- how have you used affordability as a tool for your online store?
WATCHISMO: This was an experiment to engage our regular customers and fans from Facebook. We had no idea it would be such a great success! Who knew people love great deals?? But of course, that is why it has been popular... We offer the best prices anywhere for short one-day sales that our customers seem to keep close eyes for watches they like.
Q: You have been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers -- What has made your business so appealing to the media? In what ways has this helped your business change or grow?
WATCHISMO: We've been fortunate to hit a nerve -- and I'm not sure it's the same nerve for everyone because watches are such a fiercely personal statement for each individual. There are a million places to buy a watch but all of them are purely commercial, just product for products sake. We hope that our combination of good design, appropriate collection, big detailed photos, ease of navigation and clear presentation are the right mix to showcase our individuality. It seems to me that whenever you love to do something, it shows and we hope that comes across to everyone that visits Watchismo.com!
Q: It is evident that you have a very large fan base on Facebook -- what ways have you marketed your business and products to drive customers, both new and old, to your store?
WATCHISMO: We have relied so much on word of mouth and being referred to by some of the most interesting blogs and websites today. Sites like BoingBoing.net, Gizmodo.com and many other influential sites have been great supporters of our products so their editorial helps us tell our story while connecting customers with our store. A site like BoingBoing can direct over 10,000 people to us in one day when they feature us. Combined with regular (but not overwhelming) email campaigns, we try and stay in direct touch with our customers and fans. It's a relationship, not a business transaction.
Q: What else would you like to tell us about Watchismo or new product designs on the horizon?
WATCHISMO: Actually, we are just back from a production meeting in Switzerland for the early stages of the very first 'Watchismo' designed timepiece. It's a design we've been perfecting over the past two years with our CAD designer and will embody all our past interests in both style and function. We've absorbed so much during the past 12 years in business and are gearing up to produce a Time Machine like no other!