What if you like a watch but you dislike the brand that made it? There’s a light-hearted question to ponder this Saturday morning. We all have watch brands that are close to our hearts as well as some that are really not. We know it doesn’t matter in the big picture, but some brands tend to rub us the wrong way. That, however, does not keep them from releasing an awesome watch now and then. It may be so awesome, in fact, that has you questioning your beliefs.

Have you ever bought a watch from a brand that you really do not like? Would you even consider it?

Tribalism and the narrating self

I have written an article on how the narrating self is involved in how we behave as watch aficionados. In short, I believe we tell ourselves a fabricated, congruent story about who we are. For instance, I tell myself that I am into subtle, smaller watches, which informs many of my preferences. This does not always make sense. When I fall for a large, brightly colored Doxa, I have some cognitive dissonance to overcome.

I think we dislike brands that do not align with the values we like to attribute to ourselves. To take myself as an example again, I tell myself that I dislike Hublot. Why? Because the brand does not align with my ideas about history, value, and understated classical design. Consequently, Hublot does not quite fit my idea of why watches are great. That does not mean that Hublot cannot make a watch that I would love, though. In fact, if I take a loupe to my distaste for it, there really isn’t much there at all.

When you bring individuals and their narrating selves together, you tend to get tribalism. It is much easier to be among people who agree with you, so we bunch together and lash out at people with differing preferences. And as a result, people gang up on certain brands. We see this happening in the comments section whenever we speak of Rolex and Tudor or the MoonSwatch. “I am a Rolex person and not a Tudor person” is the narrating self trying to make sense of the world. Come on, Fratelli, admit it: you have such ideas of yourself too!

IWC Mark XVIII Heritage like a watch from a brand you don't

A watch I lust after from a brand I am angry at

The idea for this article came up as a result of my latest watch crush. I am crushing hard on the IWC Mark XVIII Heritage. The classical aesthetic of a pilot’s watch paired with the warm hue of titanium is irresistible to me. I love the fat, blued hands, and the dark brown strap works miracles with the dull gray case. I even atypically like the beige lume on this one because it brings everything together perfectly.

But — as if it matters to anyone — I am a bit angry at IWC. The brand was already alienating me with oversized watches and the typical vagueness surrounding in-house calibers. But then IWC reissued the Ingenieur and lost me completely. I felt the design was okayish, but the execution and price? Not so much. I know I am overly sensitive to this stuff, but it makes me feel that the brand’s decision-makers are mistreating watch fans in favor of profit. That makes me quite happy not to wear one.

Now, I am in the comfortable position of not being in the market for a new watch at all, so this is purely hypothetical. But would I buy a Mark XVIII now? I guess I would. I think I could judge the watch on its merits alone. But there is a slight nagging feeling in the back of my mind. Maybe it would limit my enjoyment of the watch as compared to one from a brand that I admire more.

Hublot Classic Fusion

A brand as a symbol of values

That nagging feeling makes sense if you consider that a brand really is a symbol of a set of values. By design, those values resonate with personal values in a specific target audience. This creates a sense of connection with a brand. It is why, with some brands, you feel they just consistently do the right things. Those brands are aligned with your values. This means that the brand is intended for you and people like you.

For example, I recently purchased a pair of jeans from a tiny Dutch brand called Benzak. It is run by a “guy like me” who does something very similar with high-end Japanese selvedge denim as I aim to do with watches with VPC. He has the sort of maniacal eye for detail and a product-first approach that I really appreciate. If there is a way to make jeans better, he will pursue it. There is very little fashion-lifestyle embellishment in his branding, yet he captures a particular type of coolness that I like. In short, what he is putting out resonates with me.

That makes his products more enjoyable for me than they may be on technical merit alone. If I could have bought an identical pair of jeans from a brand I don’t care about — say, Tommy Hilfiger — they would feel different. I wouldn’t feel as much a “part of it” as I do now.


Panerai Luminor PAM 116 in gray titanium with a tobacco-brown dial

Does a watch brand have to resonate with you?

There are several more examples besides IWC for me. I like the solar-powered Aquaracer, but TAG Heuer does not speak to me at all. I lust after a Panerai Radiomir but find the brand hard to defend in recent years.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are brands I would aspire to buy into. I have always loved Vacheron Constantin, for instance. I was at the brand’s manufacture last year, and the people were as lovely as the craftsmanship was impressive. Perhaps I will never own one, but if I did, that name on the dial would add to my experience. This is not an external status thing. I am purely talking about the feeling that the watch would trigger in me in isolation.

Now, I still see myself owning and wearing a Panerai and an IWC. The Aquaracer? Not so much. Why? Well, honestly, because my infatuation with that watch isn’t big enough to overpower my reluctance. So perhaps, in the end, I do pick the watch over the brand. The Mark XVIII and the Radiomir speak to me so loudly that they make me like the respective brands more. And that is even though both are certainly not small or subtle. It seems, then, that I do not quite have a thorough understanding of my desires and biases after all.

How about you? Have you ever purchased a watch from a brand you didn’t like? Would you consider it? Let us know in the comments below! 

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