The luxury watch world is pretty low-key place, but on Thursday it was jolted by the news that Digg founder Kevin Rose would be merging his watch news site, Watchville, with one of the respected online watch publications out there, Hodinkee.
Mr. Rose will take the full-time position of chief executive of Watchville and plans to move to Manhattan, where Hodinkee is based, by the end of the month. Along with Benjamin Clymer, Hodinkee’s founder and editorial director, the team has raised $US3.6 million from True Ventures and a handful of angel investors to continue expanding the effort.
After the merger, Watchville and Hodinkee will continue to exist and grow as stand-alone entities under the same roof.
And at Hodinkee, founder Ben Clymer announced that Rose would be assuming the role of CEO. He also provided some additional detail about the investors who are in on the deal and and said that Hodinkee and Watchville will operate under one roof:
Now, since I know many of you feel closely connected with HODINKEE, I want to share with you a little bit of background too because I’m often asked how the business of HODINKEE works. HODINKEE and Watchville are merging to create one company, HODINKEE, Inc. HODINKEE. Inc. has then secured an additional $US3.6 million in funding (it’s not a secret — it’s published here). This money comes from some absolutely amazing partners, including True Ventures, Google Ventures, Twitter’s Evan Williams, Basecamp’s Jason Fried, and Mr. John Mayer. All of us will now work together to bring more watch information to more people, with the goal of empowering the consumer first and foremost.
According to Isaac, Rose experienced something of a horological epiphany at about the same time Digg was collapsing in fairly spectacular fashion. His gateway drug was a watch he inherited from his father, and after that he was off and running, taking a deep dive into a realm in which timepieces change hands for thousands of dollars, sell for far more than that at auction, and are endless compared and debated by obsessive collectors who debate the details of complicated movements and the merits of Rolexes versus Omegas, Patek Philppes versus Audermars Piguets.
Hodinkee was started by Clymer, who once worked at UBS, as a labour of entrepreneurial love in 2008. The Times’ called him the “high priest to a growing cult of young mechanical-watch lovers that includes whiskered heritage-brand devotees, fashion-forward Wall Street analysts and more than a few celebrities” in a 2013 profile.
In a short period of time, Hodinkee has grown to be a go-to resource for the vintage-watch community. In fact, although Clymer and his contributors cover new watches, the site is routinely credited with popularising the vintage watch craze that over the past decade has seen prices soar for older Rolexes, Heuers, Omegas, and other classic Swiss brands.
This is really the first clear sign that the online watch world has real commercial prospects, outside the current hodgepodge of e-commerce sites, eBay, and market aggregators such as Chrono24.com Rose’s objective seems to be clearing up a lot of the dicey transactions that occur with watches on the internet, outside the established network of authorised dealers. A more trustworthy marketplace would be a huge leap forward for watches, and to Rose’s credit, he probably couldn’t partner with a more beloved publication than Hodinkee.
Currently, Watchville gathers watch news and content from the web and puts it all in one place. But if the Times’ reporting is accurate, Rose wants to turbocharge both the existing site and Hodinkee by infusing both with a healthy dose of technology and commerce. To that end, he’s moving to New York to preside over the new venture.
We reached out to Hodinkee for comment and will update this post when we learn more.