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SDC Weekly 13; Swatch x Blancpain; Information Overload; Character Traits
The Rolling Stones, Hodinkee firing staff, How to tie knots, and a funny letter from Hunter S Thompson.
“Happy is the man who can make others better, not merely when he is in their company, but even when he is in their thoughts”
― Seneca, Moral Letters to Lucilius
Hello again! Welcome, or welcome back to old subs … thank you for subscribing - you can find the older editions of SDC Weekly here. Last week’s edition was pretty popular, as it covered the Rolex / Bucherer acquisition. Directl link here, if you missed it.
Here are a couple of mock-ups I found online … No doubt, you’ve probably seen several others online - some aren’t bad! There’s also a bit more about their launch day media here for interest.
In March 2022, I wrote about the MoonSwatch launch:
The conclusion in short: “this was a win for the Swatch group… and … to Mr. Hayek, chapeau sir!” - one quote from by mate Tommy, which I shared in the post:
"For a lot of people, this might be like a democratised AkriviA would be to high end collectors, and I would camp out a week for that."
The difference this time around, is that Blancpain is not Omega, and the Fifty Fathoms is not the iconic Speedmaster. “Thanks Captain Obvious” I hear you muttering… Here’s my reply:
Sorry, couldn’t help myself! Reference to of the best films of all time, after all.
On Monday I posted a story on Instagram soliciting people’s opinions on this Swatch/Blancpain collaboration. Two things struck me - the volume of replies, and how overwhelmingly negative the general consensus was. People who never usually reply to anything, felt compelled to share their opinion - this is really interesting, and in fact, these usually-silent folks tended to have neutral or even positive reactions. The rest, mostly vitriol.
I found this strange because most of these folks neither own a Blancpain, nor ever considered one… yet, here they were, loudly proclaiming how preposterous this move is. Sometimes it feels like negative rhetoric is a favoured pastime for bored collectors - given I make memes so often, I do of course use this to my advantage, so I concede not to be entirely guilt-free either… but, I digress, yet again.
The strategic lens to this collaboration was highlighted by a handful of replies, and it goes something like this: Blancpain is an unknown brand, and Swatch is still enjoying the fruits of the Omega collaboration. Even non-watch people (whether profiteers or otherwise) still line up for each ridiculous new MoonSwatch edition… so the Swatch stores are fairly hot property, even now.
For Blancpain to get a seat at Swatch’s hype table, is a brand boost of previously impossible proportions - and that’s all there is to it. This is less about the aspirational owners, or the ability to limit supply and create hype - but rather, a simple and quite frankly, genius way to leverage the Swatch Group brand portfolio and create synergies across the board.
One unplanned consequence which I believe will unfold… people who previously thought Blancpain was overpriced, will become curious enough to dabble with what I assume will be a low-cost alternative. The leaked designs seem to show the date window has been removed, and overall, the design seemed pretty decent. Maybe you wouldn’t have a Fifty Fathoms for anything over 7 grand… but perhaps at under a grand, you’re happy to f*ck around and find out1? This may even lead to a revision of the Blancpain catalogue, as they adapt to create the luxury version of a cheap thing which became popular? Who knows - right now we have no details to enable a thorough analysis anyway, so let’s wait and see. I still see it as a positive business decision, just like the MoonSwatch.
Random thought… We live in the information age, and we can access almost all of humanity’s collective knowledge at the touch of a button. The problem with all of this information, is that it can handicap us; it can hinder us to the point of causing inaction.
By simply telling ourselves we are “still gathering data”, we can put off any action indefinitely… and since we are actually doing something (data gathering), it feels like 'progress, when in fact it is simply procrastination in disguise.
So the question to ask ourselves is simple: Do we actually require more information, or should we be taking action using the information we already have?
“If more information was the answer, then we'd all be billionaires with perfect abs.”
You probably know by now, I am a fan of Warren Buffett. He celebrated his 93rd birthday last week, so here’s another Buffett-inspired post in honour of that.
In his 2001 speech to University of Georgia Students, he asked them: If you could invest in a friend and get 10% of their income for life, who would you pick?
After they answered, he asked them: Why would you invest in that person? What character traits do they have?
Then he asked another question: If you had to pay 10% of a friend's earnings for life, who would you pick and why?
In doing this, he was able to provide them with a list of positive character traits to adopt, and another list of traits to avoid. Neat! But so what?
1. This is not just about money or earnings. We could easily apply this thinking to anything we value. Consider happiness: do you have a friend who is always happy, and who you admire for their ability to remain positive? Who would you pick, if you could get 10% of anyone’s happiness. Same for watch collecting - whose collection do you admire, and why? What traits can you adopt from them? Have you ever asked them for advice? If not, why not?
2. This experiment works because it short-circuits a human shortcoming: Poor self-awareness. We suck at seeing things in ourselves, but we are incredibly good at seeing things in other people; especially flaws. You’ve seen it many times, where a friend might be in an unhealthy relationship, and while it took you 3 days to realise it, they have been suffering for 3 years and still stick around.
Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow is an epic read about cognitive biases and how humans come to conclusions about what is true in the world. He summarised his book with the following quote, which makes this point perfectly:
“The premise of this book is that it is easier to recognize other people’s mistakes than our own.”
Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow
3. Merit is all that matters. As Buffett said during his speech, the choice could not be made on the basis of a friend having rich parents. It was all about their behaviour and character. In other words, if you wanted 10% of someone’s fitness, it would not be because of their Greek-god genetics, but because of their actions, habits and dedicated nature. The same applies to watch collecting. Many people with limited budgets still manage to curate their collections really well - it isn’t about the absolute monetary value, but about identifying key drivers, mental models and habits which help them stay the course with utmost discipline.
So, who would you pick, and why?! Curious to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Links of interest
On August 17th the above teaser ad showed up in the Hackey Gazette… Now we know: The Rolling Stones announced they’re releasing their first album of original material since 2005’s “A Bigger Bang!” They plan to livestream their latest offering TODAY via a YouTube event with Jimmy Fallon at 14:30 UK time (09:30 ET). Here’s the trailer:
Excited yet? Gimme shelter!
🤩 A new technique can filter out microplastics from drinking water.
💸 Times are tough, as Hodinkee cuts a workforce by 20%.
👶 What can adults learn from kids’ friendships?
🧶 Learn how to tie all kinds of knots!
💀 Apparently, humankind was once nearly extinct!
If you haven’t already seen it, I shared a new post on Sunday:
Here’s the gist of it: Challenge your beliefs constantly and have “Strong Opinions, Weakly Held”.
It’s paywalled, but will be sent to free subscribers via email - so if you haven’t already, go ahead and subscribe now :)
One final but simple request – if you enjoy the posts I publish, please consider doing me the huge favor of simply clicking the “like” (heart) button when you are done reading. When new readers arrive at a Substack and are considering whether to read or subscribe, apparently one of the strongest indicators of quality they look for is the average number of likes each article generates. The last post on beliefs has had just over a thousand views in ~3 days - and only 3 likes - that is despite the fact that more than 3 readers commented to say they liked it! While I am not so arrogant to presume everyone will like what they read here, I think the ratio has a room for improvement.
Pressing the heart at the end of every piece costs you nothing and means the world to me. So, thanks in advance!
Bonus link: The Epic Struggle between Good and Neutral
Here is an example of gonzo emotional clarity, a letter from Hunter S. Thompson to Anthony Burgess, in response to the latter attempting to weasel out of a writing commission for Rolling Stone magazine (where Thompson was an editor). Read the sidebar on the left for context, before reading the main letter.
If you enjoyed this post, please do me the HUGE favor of simply clicking the LIKE button!