27th column for trade magazine De Juwelier – Apple Watch is de Swatch van de jaren ’10

28 06 2019

Do you think Apple Watch is dominating the watch industry? This is my third column in 2019 for Dutch trade magazine “De Juwelier” and 27th in total. And, I am sharing my opinion about the Apple Watch and comparing it to Swatch back in the 1980s.

You can find every single article in PDF format on the Oak Consultancy page.

I have written about smart watches and the Apple watch before, but it is still on my mind. In this column I write why I believe it is a good thing Apple sells 33 million watches every year. Especially for the traditional watch industry and makers.

To download the PDF, please click here.
Magazine got launched 27 June 2019 in physical format and this is the text in Dutch:

Apple Watch is de Swatch van de jaren '10

“Apple Watch is de Swatch van de jaren ‘10”

 Het zal u wellicht verbazen, maar ik moet eerlijk bekennen dat ik blij ben dat er van de Apple Watch 33 miljoen stuks per jaar verkocht worden. Ja, dat leest u goed: Apple verkoopt 33 miljoen horloges en ik ben er blij mee. Waarom? Ik ben van mening dat de rol van de Apple Watch vergelijkbaar is met die van Swatch in de jaren ‘80. Ik durf dan ook te stellen dat de Apple Watch de horloge-industrie gaat redden in de nabije toekomst, omdat het dragen van een Apple Watch een jonge generatie opvoedt om überhaupt iets te dragen aan hun pols. Als de nieuwe generatie straks niets meer gewend is of wil dragen aan haar pols, kan het immers zo maar zijn dat het polshorloge straks hetzelfde lot is beschoren als uw grootvaders zakhorloge…

Eeuwenlang zijn klokken en horloges louter mechanisch geweest. Op een gegeven moment hadden slimme klokken- en horlogemakers zelfs zo veel aan het concept verbeterd, dat het mogelijk werd om een nauwkeurige horloge dagelijks om te pols te dragen. Het mechanische polshorloge was er in soorten en maten, van puur functioneel tot rijk gedecoreerd en voorzien van additionele complicaties, van eenvoudige instrumenten tot ware kunstwerkjes. Een nauwkeurig polshorloge was een onmisbaar en trots bezit. 

Maar toen kwam quartz om de hoek kijken. Toen eind jaren 60 de eerste quartz polshorloges werden geïntroduceerd waren ze vele malen nauwkeuriger dan de ‘ouderwetse’ mechanische horloges. Ze waren ook stevig aan de prijs, maar dit laatste zou rap veranderen. Quartz horloges werden snel –exponentieel- goedkoper. In het verlengde hiervan werd het bezit van een nauwkeurig horloge een vanzelfsprekendheid en van een trots bezit werd het horloge gedegradeerd tot een eenvoudig gebruiksvoorwerp.

Het duurde een aantal decennia voordat horloges weer in een ander licht gezien zouden worden. Opvallend genoeg komt dat voornamelijk door de ontwikkeling van het Zwitserse Swatch horloge. De bedenker van het Swatch horloge en de oprichter van de Swatch Group wordt vaak de redder van de Zwitserse horloge-industrie genoemd. Hij heeft véél geld verdiend met Swatch en dit vervolgens geïnvesteerd in klassieke merken, waarvan velen op het punt van omvallen stonden. Dit is van onmiskenbaar belang geweest, maar belangrijker is wat hij met Swatch heeft bereikt: hij heeft horloges weer hip, fun en relevant gemaakt. Het polshorloge als sieraad, als accessoire, als verzamelbaar object.

Mechanische horloges en quartz horloges hebben bewezen heel goed naast elkaar te kunnen bestaan. Hetzelfde verwacht ik van smart watches. Smart watches hebben geen lange levensduur, ze hebben niets met esthetiek of kunst te maken. Het zijn functionele zielloze gereedschappen die na een (paar) jaar worden vervangen voor een nieuwer en beter exemplaar. Waar ze echter onbewust een hele belangrijk rol spelen, is in het feit dat ze een jongere generatie leren dat ze iets dragen aan hun pols. Plus dat deze jongelui de tijd tot zich nemen vanaf hun pols – en niet van hun mobiele telefoon.

Zijn 33 miljoen horloges er veel of weinig? De gehele Zwitserse industrie heeft vorig jaar een kleine 24 miljoen horloges verkocht. De Japanse industrie bijna 68 miljoen, en China in combinatie met Hong Kong een kleine 900 miljoen. Een gemiddeld Zwitsers horloge kost echter ruim 800 dollars, een horloge geëxporteerd uit Hong Kong circa 26 dollars en uit China slechts gemiddeld 4 dollars. Hieruit kunnen wij concluderen dat Apple op papier, met een gemiddelde verkoopprijs van 218 dollars, zeer zeker een geduchte concurrent is voor de traditionele horlogemakers

Wat ik om mij heen zie is dat de dragers van Apple horloges boven gemiddeld vaak een analoge wijzerplaat kiezen om de tijd af te lezen. De meest populaire wijzerplaats is de meest simpele is in design – een mix tussen een Mondaine treinstation klok en een pilotenhorloge van IWC. Op de tweede plaats staat de wijzerplaat met Mickey Mouse, welke geïnspireerd lijkt te zijn op originele designs van Gerald Genta. En dat terwijl de mogelijkheden vrijwel onbeperkt zijn, en een wijzerplaat gewisseld is door middel van een simpele download en een veeg met de vinger.

De Apple Watch en alle andere smartwatches zijn dus eigenlijk geen bedreiging voor de gehele horloge-industrie! Misschien alleen voor het fashion-segment en het instapniveau… De enige traditionele horlogeproducenten waarvan ik denk dat ze echt onder lijden zijn bijvoorbeeld de Fossil Group met al haar merken, de Movado Group en Timex. In het instap-segment van de horloge-industrie worden dan ook meer en meer smartwatches aangeboden worden.

Wat in mijn opinie een echte dreigement is voor de horloge-industrie, is mogelijkheid dat er helemaal geen behoefte zal zijn aan horloges en dat heeft met mode, trends en lifestyle te maken! Herinnert u nog mijn column: “Is de tijd wel rond?” in dit prachtige vakblad? Daar waarschuwde ik al voor het gevaar voor de bestaansrecht van analoge (ronde) horloges indien jongere generaties op school (en thuis) uitsluitend digitale tijd voorgeschoteld krijgen. Misschien moeten wij eigenlijk dus wel heel blij en dankbaar zijn dat Apple zo succesvol is?!

Reageren op deze column is mogelijk door een e-mail te sturen naar alon@oakconsultancy.com of te bellen naar Oak Consultancy, tel. 020-2602100. Aanvullende informatie is ook beschikbaar op OakConsultancy.



Why retro is such a big thing?

5 10 2018

What is it with retro and vintage designs? I was born in 1979 and grew up in the eighties, yet I’ve always been fond of design from the sixties. While my interests, taste and preferences shifted when transitioning from a teenager into a young adult by the end of the nineties, my admiration for watches, cars, furniture and music from the sixties didn’t fade a bit. I thought this might very well pass with time, yet we’re now well into the 2010’s and I’m still a fan. Why is that?

You will probably have noticed that vintage and retro are booming – whether talking fashion, furniture, watches or basically any other field of interest.  By now it’s hardly something new, as it seems this trend has been going steady for at least 10 years. While there doesn’t seem to be a proper definition of the term ‘vintage’, to me it represents objects of at least 25 years old. Retro to me is the modern counterpart: classic designs, modern production. Are you counting with me? This means that objects from my youth are now considered vintage and retro. I must be getting old!

Steve McQueen on Le Mans race track with Heuer Monaco watch on.

Steve McQueen on Le Mans race track with Heuer Monaco watch on. (Credit: unknown).

Vintage
Why is vintage so popular? I thought about this and discussed it with my friends. Let’s stay with watches. I think the following factors play a part;

–          There will never be more watches from one certain year. It’s even more likely there will be less in time, as pieces will get irreparably damaged, lost, et cetera. Vintage watches will become more rare as time passes, even more so when factoring in the growing demand.

–          Buying vintage watches demands a fair bit of knowledge and a good eye. Finding the right model in the right configuration and right condition, can be a challenging hunt. The watch as a coveted trophy.

–          Every vintage watch is unique. They all carry a history, that they show to varying extent through scratches, discoloration, and other types of patina. The watches allow us to dream about times gone by.

–          In a broader sense it is often said that in times of crisis and turmoil people tend to prefer more traditional and subtle looks and virtues.

–          Lastly people loving buying stuff that they couldn’t afford back when they were younger. And how cool is it to own a birth year watch?

The evolution of the Mark Pilot watches by IWC Schaffhausen.

The evolution of the Mark Pilot watches by IWC Schaffhausen. (Credit: Ace Photo Studio)

Retro
Retro is just as popular as vintage. Why? Again I think there are multiple forces at play;

–          The manufacturers have noticed the huge popularity of vintage watches. It’s easy for them to jump aboard this train by bringing back some of their best designs as retros.

–          Vintage watches have gotten terribly expensive in some cases. Also, not all old watches are that suitable to be worn on a daily basis. In both cases, a modern watch with a vintage look presents a good alternative, which we call retro watches.

–          As touched upon in the above, buying vintage watches can be quite challenging. How do you know it’s all original and correct? It’s nearly impossible. Unless you buy a new watch at your local authorized dealer.

I want to close this column with a sharp note: maybe vintage and retro are popular because there are very little good new designs? Maybe today’s design just isn’t cutting edge anymore? I really had to dig in order to come up with well-designed objects from the past three decades with the potential to become collectors’ items. May I suggest the Aston Martin DB9 (2004), iPhone 5 (2012) and the Nike Free Flyknit (2012). And of course I have to finish with a watch: the Urwerk UR-103 (2003).

My icons
What are my favorite vintage objects? I’ve compiled a small, non-exhaustive list below. Please let me know which designs and objects you consider to be icons!

Maybe the best chronograph: the Omega Speedmaster. Must have book is the book: Moonwatch Only.

Maybe the best chronograph: the Omega Speedmaster. Must have book is the book: Moonwatch Only. (Credit: Ace Photo Studio)

Fine Watches
–          Breitling Navitimer (1952): A calculator for the pilot’s wrist. The best is the 1969 version.

–          Omega Speedmaster (1957): Arguably the best chronograph ever. Of course the whole Moonwatch thing doesn’t hurt either!

–          Heuer Carrera (1963): This watch just oozes motorsports, and is so well-balanced in terms of design.

–          Heuer Monaco (1969): The first square chronograph and truly cutting edge design.

–          Omega PloProf (1970): Form-follows-function in its truest form.

–          Casio G-Shock (1983): As robust as digital watches come.

–          Swatch (1983): No explanation needed as far as I’m concerned!

Lancia Flaminia Zagato Super Sport.

Lancia Flaminia Zagato Super Sport. (Credit: Amr El Saadany)

Cars
–          Land Rover Defender (1948): The PloProf of cars. Form Follows Function;

–          Ford Mustang (1964): Oozes the true ‘American Spirit’;

–          Lancia Flaminia Zagato Super Sport (1964): Arguablye one of the most beautiful sports cars ever;

–          Aston Martin DB4/GT Zagato (1964): Another beauty – and legendary as Sean Connery’s Bond car;

–          Lancia Delta (1979): Dressed up as HF Integrale it’s a rally monster for public roads;

–          BMW E30 3-serie (1982): My childhood favorite.

Fine Jewelry
It might surprise you that I don’t have such a list of favorite vintage iconic jewelry pieces. I think it’s because my father is a goldsmith who designed  and fabricated everything by himself. When talking jewelry, I am biased and prefer unique hand-made pieces over big name icons.

Tapio Wirkkala Bolle glassware.

Tapio Wirkkala Bolle glassware. (Credit: Luminaire)

Interior design
–          Eames Plastic Chair (1950): Dining room chairs of unrivalled beauty. I can personally attest to the fact that they work very well in living rooms too;

–          Eames Lounge Chair (1957): Timeless lounge chair – and very comfortable;

–          Achille Castiglioni Arco Floor Lamp (1962). Simply perfect;

–          Tapio Wirkkala Bolle glassware (1966): Finish design in its truest form.

https://farm2.staticflickr.com/1921/44394961444_37e1d979ea_b.jpg

My all time favorite shoe, that I collect till today: The Nike Air Jordan I.

My all time favorite shoe, that I collect till today: The Nike Air Jordan I. (Credit: Ace Photo Studio)

Shoes
–          Chuck Taylor’s All Stars (1917): over a 100 years old, but still exceedingly popular.

–          Clarks Desert Boot (1950): the best suede shoes;

–          Nike Air Jordan 1 (1983): the best sneaker ever. I collect these with much passion;

–          Nike Air Max 1 (1987): The first shoe with the see-through ‘Air’ cushion that’s so iconic now;

–          Nike Air Max 97 (1997): With the ‘Air’ cushion running along the full length of the shoe, it is truly ‘Air Max’.

Would love to hear what your favorite design objects are? And, if there is a particular era that stands out for you.



Book review Zero To One

5 08 2016

My buddy Jonathan Salomon recommended me to read Peter Thiel’s book “Zero To One” back in 2015 already and I only came around to finish it this week. Not only was I totally inspired by reading it, but also regretted not reading it earlier! It was an easy and fun read. Although the topics and main subject are very philosophical and ground-breaking (actually), the book is ‘light’ and easy to read with great examples to accompany the theories projected.

Zero To One by Peter Thiel

So, what was so inspirational and what did I learn? As an entrepreneur I love to read books written by other entrepreneurs and what mistakes they made and especially what makes the successful. Peter Thiel is one of the founders of PayPal and later on teamed up with fellow futurist and serial entrepreneur Elon Musk (a.k.a. Mr. Tesla). If you like reading books about successful entrepreneurs, business books and/or innovative/new theories, Zero To One is a must-read book for you!

Well, if you do not have patience to read this complete blog post, the takeaway secret of Zero To One is:

ALWAYS ASK THE CONTRARY QUESTION!
Most answers to the contrary question are different ways of seeing the future and therefore unlocking the future!

The book starts with Thiel explaining thath he asks every applicant during a job interview this particular quesions; “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”. A very simple quesion, but very hard to ask. I immediately tried to answer the question for myself and after a few moments of tranquilly thinking I came up with an answer. After finishing the book two days later, I re-asked myself the question and came up with another question. I advice you to answer this question for yourself now. At the end of this blog post you can read my initial and final answer.

Few chapters later he explains the Power Rule (of venture capital), which is all about exponential growth. The chapter can be summarised by the first paragraph where Thiel quotes an unverified saying by Albert Einstein: “compounded interest is the greatest mathematical eight wonder of the world”, “the most powerful force in the universe”, or even “the most powerful force in the universe.” His takeaway in this chapter is (page 86): “The biggest secret in venture capital is that the best investment in a succesful fund equals or outperforms the entire rest of the fund combined.”

In Zero To One Thiel also gives HR advice in chapter nine op page 113 where he believes in a strong team that is well knit and interact well. He even makes bold statements: “As a general rule, everyone you involve with your company should be involved full-time. Sometimes you’ll have to break this rule; it usually makes sense to hire outside lawyers and accountants, for example. However, anyone who doesn’t own fundamentally stock options or drawa regular salary from your company is fundamentally misaligned. At the margin, they’ll be biased to claim value in the near term, not help you create more in the future. That’s why hiring consultants doesn’t work. Parte-time employees doesn’t work. Even working remotely should be avoided, because misalignement can creep in whenever colleagues aren’t together full-time, in the same place, every day. If you’re deciding wheteher to bring someone on board, the decision is binary. Ken Kesey was right: you’re either on the bus or off the bus.”

Three quarters into the book Zero To One the author Peter Thiel gives a small handbook with seven questions for every business, which he thinks every entrepreneur/company should answer:

1. The Engineering Question: Can you create  breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
2. The Timing Question: Is now the right time to start your particular business?
3. The Monopoly Question: Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
4. The People Question: Do you have the right team?
5. The Distribution Question: Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
6. The Durability Question: Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
7. The Secret Question: Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?

Obviously if one doesn’t have good answers to these questions, one will run into a lot of bad luck and most probably fail. Answering all seven positively will most probably lead you to fortune and success. And, getting five or six correct might work. A company that nailed all seven is Tesla according to the author.
In my opinion the seventh and last question, The Secret Question, is the most important question and is the main theme of the Zero To One Theory: ask the contrary question to find novel views & ideas. To go from zero to one, to make something from nothing and not copy something existing and make it slightly better. Thiel urges to find new ways to grow exponentially!

To finish this blog post, I said I would give you my answers to the question Thiel asks every applicant during job interviews: “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”. As Thiel starts his book with this question, I initally answered the following before finishing the first chapter: “I believe that it is an important truth that retailer businesses that do not convert their traditional brick-and-mortar operation to an omni-channel business before the year 2020, will die. Especially businesses/companies that sell luxury products!” I beliee this is true and I am believing this already since 2008, hence we transformed our family business Ace Jewelers from a classic boutique business into the first luxury jewelry business to sell online and be authorised by premium luxury brands. In 2008 many people did not agree with me and unfortunately few people still today agree with me.
When I continued reading and finished reading this awesome book two days later, I noticed that Thiel is more of a philosopher than a mere businessman. He is a visionary, like his buddy Elon Musk. Really inspiring. What he means with this question is that we need to seek secrets that are hidden and contain the answer to a better future and the way to find them is by asking the contrary question… Most answers to the contrarian questions are different ways of seeing the present. So, looking at the big picture like he Thiel wants you to look at it, my answer became: “Why do people fear change? Because people are afraid of the unknown. To accelerate progress and innovation, one will need to both break dogma and take away ignorance.” So, therefore my answer to the question of what important truth do a few people agree with me on is: “Breaking dogma and fighting ignorance will propel innovation and progress.” In simple language: “We need to teach kids to think more out-of-the-box and basically give them space to grow-up like entrepreneurs. To teach that if one has different views, that does not make the outsiders and that there is no wrong if they do not copy/paste their parents/friends. Only being different can truly make society progress.” It seems my answer sounds simple and logical and obviously not a few people agree with me, but a majority… But, think twice… The majority loves their old rusty ways and are scared of change.
Like Thiel writes on page 63: “Every culture has a myth of decline from some golden age, and almost all peoples throughout history have been pessimists. Even today pessimism still dominates huge parts of the world.” But, I am positive and an optimist by nature and therefore really believe we are at the verge of a(nother) great change in society/societies and the world.

 



Augmented Confusion

24 12 2015

Last week I encountered ‘augmented confusion’ on three different occasions. I am not sure if it is an actual term or that I made it up…

What I mean by the term Augmented Confusion is that I sometimes do not remember if I met a person in real life or it has been a digital connection and when we interact I am totally confused if I actually know who I am communicating with… Last week I received messages from people via different communication channels (LinkedIn Direct Message, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp) who addressed me on a very personal and informal manner. And, my initial reaction was: that I did not know if I have met the person contacing me before and I was confused if my mind was playing tricks on me (read: suffuring mild amnesia) or that due to active social media activities these people know so much about me (and interact on such an informal and personal level).

Augmented Reality providing additional information in real life.

Credit: vrworld.com

It is (as if) our digital life is blending/converging with our real (offline) life and adds to the confusion. Hence my word/term: augmented confusion. As I try to be as open and honest as possible, I asked these people whom reached out to me if we actually have met in real life. And, lucky me, I am (still) not suffering from amnesia… I indeed did not met them in real life yet. Apparently I am so active digitally and invest so much in marketing that people (think they) have a good impression of me. And, one of the three people that reached out to me said my reputation precedes me and it made them reach out to me for a business proposal. And, in my reply in that conversation I used the term ‘augmented confusion’ for the first time to explain my confusion and ignorance about our relation.

I mutated the term Augmented Reality, which means: “an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device.” ‘My term’ augmented confusion stayed with me and I was curious if it is an actual term. My google search did not yield anything worth mentioning. When we split the term and analyse both their meanings according to Merriam-Webster dictionary:

Augmented Reality provided by mobile smart devices.

Credit: businessinsider.com

– Full Definition of augment

  1. transitive verb
  2. 1:  to make greater, more numerous, larger, or more intense <the impact of the report wasaugmented by its timing>

  3. 2:  to add an augment to (see 2augment)

  4. 3:  supplement <augmented her income>

  5. intransitive verb
  6. :  to become augmented

aug·ment·er or aug·men·torplay\-ˈmen-tər\noun
The art of confusion.

Credit: theartofconfusion.blogspot.com

– Full Definition of confusion

  1. 1:  an act or instance of confusing<confusion of the issue>

  2. 2a:  the quality or state of being confused<try to relieve their confusion>b:  a confused mass or mixture <a confusion of voices>

con·fu·sion·al play\-ˈfyüzh-nəl, -ˈfyü-zhə-nəl\adjective
Augmented Confusion created by social media

Merry Christmas and a healthy & happy New Year!

 



#Selfie or #NotToSelfie

17 12 2014

I guess that selfies are not a trend, or a fading trend for that matter. Wherever I go, I see people (multiple or single) hold their smart phones (hardly any real cameras) in from of them (with or without a telescopic stick) and taking a picture of themselves. In the street, in shops (great way for social shopping), on public transportation (yes, I love the Amsterdam Tram system) and last, but certainly not least, in the gym (in front of mirror where girls and boys lift their shirt to show of their abs).

Yesterday our own in-house Ace photographer (of Ace Photo Studio) took a picture of me while I was not paying attention. A so-called snapshot, as I did not pose and he saw a moment and shot it. I liked the picture and setting so much, I posted it on my social media channels that same day.

This is the result:
Is this selfie of Alon Ben Joseph?

Now I was wondering, should this be considered a selfie of not?

And, to start a discussion, I was wondering if you #selfie or #dontselfie and why?