Watch collector Interview with Gabriel Benador
A big watch collector and investor encourages watch brands to rethink their customer relations.
As a watch collector, what do you think about the current situation on the watch market?
I think the situation is dire and only getting bleaker with each new report. Many brands are stuck in their old ways of thinking and are scared to adapt new strategies that would make them more current with the times and accessible (at least in terms of communication) with their audience. I am confident that we will see a strong weeding-out of weaker brands, in the near future. For the most part, the entire industry needs to be overhauled. That said, I think it is a great time to be a collector as many brands are offering perks and pieces are more readily available and at greater discounts. It’s a buyer’s market.
What were your three most recent purchases, and how did you choose them?
In the last two years, I have narrowed my focus down to two main themes: Patek Philippe and Independents. I try to balance out each Patek acquisition with an independent and vice-versa. My last three Pateks: Aquanaut Travel Time (5164a) with a Tiffany stamped dial, Nautilus 3700 (from 1979 with cork box and papers), Calatrava 5565a (made in an edition of 300 for the opening of the Geneva salon in 2006). My last three independents: MB&F LM1 Dubai Edition, F.P Journe Tourbillon Souverain Black Label Version, Greubel Forsey Double Tourbillon technique 30 degrees in black ADLC titanium.
You run a collectors’ club in New York. How does it work?
It’s a very open and welcoming group called RedBar. I’ve been a member for almost four years now and I met some of my closest friends there. We meet weekly at a bar to drink and talk watches. Sometimes, we also host brands to come meet with our group, in a very casual and low-key setting. There’s no ego there, it’s all about the love of watches and love of learning and discussing watches with enthusiastic collectors.
As a customer, are you satisfied with the relationship with watch brands?
I don’t think anyone is satisfied with the communication and openness with the majority of the large brands. Unless, of course, you are a big-time collector. It’s a problem. But, on the flip side, the independents have got it right. They know how to communicate with us, they understand that importance of face-to-face contact. It isn’t about advertisements, or press mentions, it’s about the personal contact and personal communication of the brand to collectors. No one does this better than the independent brands – MB&F, Urwerk, Arnold and Son, Greubel Forsey, etc.
You are one of the founders and shareholders of Volleto, an application that brings together owners of luxury objects and the brands who make them, in particular watch brands. Why?
I believe that communication is one of the biggest challenges that brands face today. Volleto is aiming to bridge the communication gap between brand and collector, with a solution that matters today, in an organic way. There are many social media and media tools available for brands, but their problem is that they aim at the mass public with little, if no, direct contact from individual to the brand and vice versa. Whereas, with Volleto, we aim to target the individual and bring him/her closer to the brand by providing a direct line of communication in a relevant, useful, and extremely cost effective manner.
I don’t think anyone is satisfied with the communication and openness with the majority of the large brands.
What is your vision for Volleto?
Simply, my vision for Volleto is for the brands to understand that their communication to collectors is the number one priority, and it needs to improve and we have the tools to make that happen. The issues we are seeing within the Swiss watch industry is the lack of malleability at implementing new strategies to keep with the times. Decisions take too long and time is wasted on antiquated bureaucracies. Social Media is moving rapidly and the majority are two or three steps behind. Volleto provides the direct line of communication that most buyers of luxury goods hope for. There is no reason for brands not to be utilizing all the modes of communication available to them.