Hodinkee is taking online watch retailing to a new level

HodinkeeThe Hodinkee Store is streamlining choices and eliminating the intimidation.
  • Hodinkee, the popular watch news and lifestyle site, is now an authorised retailer of some prestigious watch brands.
  • The new Hodinkee Shop features a carefully curated selection of timepieces.
  • The much-admired website is taking an innovative approach to combining passion with commerce.

Popular watch news and lifestyle site Hodinkee has been around since 2008.

During that time, the site, started by timepiece guru Ben Clymer after a stint in consulting and a return to grad school, has grown to become perhaps the most highly regarded resource for information on new and vintage watches.

Clymer has become something of a watch-world celebrity, and Hodinkee itself has grown to a staff of 25, with an infusion of investment in 2015 led by Digg cofounder Kevin Rose, who took over as Hodinkee CEO for a few years before going into venture capital in the Bay Area.

“I started Hodinkee out of a pure love of watches and the act of storytelling, we’ve grown up quite a bit,” Clymer wrote in November.

Back in the CEO’s seat, Clymer made something of an unexpected leap into territory Hodinkee had explored but not fully committed to.

“Never did I think this little site would become a business, but when life gives you an opportunity to do something special, it’s a mistake to not pursue it. Since 2015, we’ve been working with the best watch brands in the world to conceive great products for you. Today, we take it one step further.”

The one step further is Hodinkee actually selling new watches, as opposed to just Hodinkee-branded horological accessories, straps, and vintage timepieces.

Ben Clymer HodinkeeScreenshot via HodinkeeHodinkee CEO Ben Clymer.

Adding value to every purchase

The Hodinkee Store is streamlining choices and eliminating the intimidation. Buy a watch there, and you join a very pleasant and supportive club that’s small yet passionate. In the end, the web’s favourite watch resource is trying to restore something that the advent of e-commerce has deprived enthusiasts of: a tasteful purchase.

The shop will offer a suite of services to go along with the purchase. Eneuri Acosta, Hodinkee’s COO who joined recently after working for Cadillac, said that this would include a digital record of the watch’s documentation, a valuable extra these days when buyers want to see a timepiece’s papers to ensure its provenance.

I’ve bought watches online and in stores, and without question I would consider making my next buy through the Hodinkee Shop – even if a watch I wanted wasn’t for sale there. I think other customers might feel the same.

Let’s say you want a Rolex or an Omega, neither of which is partnered with Hodinkee. You might go for a Grand Seiko or Nomos simply because it has the Hodinkee seal of approval alongside a well-crafted narrative about what makes the watch worthy.

In this sense Hodinkee is capitalising on the beginnings of an online-commerce trend: authenticity paired with a superb buying experience. It’s pretty easy to buy a watch on the web, but it’s also necessary to contend with information- and choice-overload. At a dealer, the brick-and-mortar vibe can be intimidating.

Hodinkee ShopHodinkeeBeautiful photos are a big part of the buying experience.

All the right partners

The groundwork was laid for this undertaking by the site’s partnership with watchmakers such as Zenith, TAG-Heuer, and even Swatch on special-edition pieces.

The company, based in New York, learned that there was both substantial demand and good e-commerce to be found in taking its accumulated knowledge (vast) and goodwill (equally vast), not to mention trust (enormous) and applying it to watch sales.

That meant taking a valuable editorial property with an interest in selling a few cool things and transforming it into a larger e-commerce platform that could sell some pretty expensive watches as an authorised dealer.

The trick was to maintain Hodinkee’s hard-won editorial integrity while also selecting a highly curated selection of timepieces. Launch partners were a who’s who of watchmakers that over the years Hodinkee has praised (and critiqued, when appropriate): Grand Seiko, Longines, Nomos Glash├╝tte, Oris, Ressence, TAG Heuer, Vacheron Constantin, and Zenith.

Grand Seiko in particular is an appealing inclusion, as the watches can be difficult to track down in the US, despite having a reputation for being the Rolexes of Japan.

According to Acosta, the design of the new Hodinkee Shop was intended to deal with a fundamental pain point: Buying a good watch often isn’t that much fun.

He explained to me that the buying experience is highly curated, including even some “new old stock” TAG-Heuer that had been unavailable. You’re not going to find every single Oris or Longines piece, for example, just the ones that make the Hodinkee cut – watches they loved. Choices run the gamut from a very affordable Oris Divers 65, at just under $US2,000, to a stunning Vacheron Constantin Historiques Cornes De Vache 1955 for $US72,500.

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