R.I.P. To The Cheap Minimal Watch Trend

Editor’s Note:
Interestingly Kalindu forwarded me this article only months after I penned a very similar piece about the minimal watch trend, albeit slightly more scathing. I decided not to publish my article, but my sentiments towards the minimal watch trend are (gingerly) expressed in below. Nothing is exciting, innovative or admirable about any brand from this category, apart from Filip Tysander’s success peddling junk – fair play to him. Every day we receive emails about a new ‘affordable, minimal’ watch brand launching on Kickstarter and every day we delete the emails. It’s a saturated market of unoriginal trash where the products cost less per unit to make than the green juice your favourite Instagram ‘entrepreneur’ is promoting alongside it. People will say that’s my opinion – it’s also a fact. 

You could be this flog!

It can be aptly described using the following adjectives: clean, elegant, sleek and above all simplistic. What I’m talking about is the minimal watch trend, which encapsulates a NATO or leather strap but importantly a clean and straightforward face with the barest of essentials and a logo. Brilliantly honing the preparatory, Ivy-league panache, anyone who wears this style watch can be subconsciously categorised into the “my dad’s a lawyer, so you can’t touch me” look. Unless you’re the Starfish from Nickelodeon’s greatest cartoon, SpongeBob Square Pants and have been living under a rock for the past five years; you’ll be well aware that I’m trying to describe the minimal watch style favoured by today’s millennial.

Sounds brilliant? Yes? No, no it’s not; because the minimal watch trend is dead, sorry but that’s the cold hard truth.

It has become the man-bun of watch styles; many wanted this look, but once every Tom, Dick and Harry started donning a man-bun the trend died. I don’t believe the watch died due to an augmentation in popularity, rather I hypothesised that it died due to the number of start-ups that have flooded the market with this style of watch. Why not? From a business perspective, the minimal watch style is simple to design, cheap to manufacture, aesthetically palatable and already popular – easy money, all one had to do was create an Instagram account, gift cheap product, share user/influencer-generated content, accumulate followers and bang, you’ve got profit (well, not really but you get the drift). I need to emphasise the role of social media in this as well, namely Instagram as this is the primary form of advertising for the startup watch companies. Ironically, go back a few years, and advertising on Instagram or social media platforms would have seemed like a ludicrous idea as it broke the traditional forms of advertising. Anyone could do it, broad global reach and most appealingly, it was free. Today virtually every company has a social media account, with many going as far as dedicating employees solely to it.

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Pioneering this vehicle of advertising was Filip Tysander, a Swedish gentleman, whose inability to purchase a Rolex inspired him to invent a minimal watch company of his own. Tysander opted for a business plan, which placed Instagram at the forefront. Secondly, he departed from the watch trend of the time, which was chunky, crammed and digital to embracing the style that is the motif of this article: clean and simple. Moreover, the watch was relatively cheap, retailing for approximately $350 AUD. This combination made it not only desirable on the global market but a desire that could be achieved by many.

Novel at the time (and Tysander was without a doubt in the right place at the right time in terms of Instagram’s generous algorithms), Daniel Wellington is now valued at a staggering 180 million dollars, which is analogous to industry stalwarts such as Omega. As I stated earlier, the relative ease of the business plan and the not so hefty diminutive cost prices made it desirable to other entrepreneurs looking to set their mark on the market, and when other companies did model their businesses on Tysander’s original plan, the minimal watch trend was inadvertently placed on a time bomb. It was just a matter of time before the market was flooded with numerous watch companies tendering similar if not near identical products with different price ranges. This, as I argue, severely diminished the quality and the refreshing factor of the style. This is compounded by the fact that many minimal watch brands are essentially a copy of Daniel Wellington’s original design with the sole difference being the logo.

A generic Cluse watch.

For instance, Cluse draws remarkably similar design comparisons to Daniel Wellington from the watch face to the watchstraps. Moreover, watch brands Kapten and Sons, Elmore Lewis, The Horse, The Fifth and countless other brands are in a similar boat with the analogous designs. The point is as I’ve reiterated throughout, the market has been flooded with extremely similar products to the degree that I believe the style has lost its flare and the refreshing attraction it once possessed.

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