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Thread: Vintage brand relaunches

  1. #1
    Craftsman Idontgram's Avatar
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    Vintage brand relaunches

    I’ve noticed that in recent years there have been a lot of vintage brand relaunches (Aqua star, Vertex, Fears, O&W, Yema, Nivada Grenchen etc etc).

    While it’s great to see some fantastic watches make a comeback, I struggle to imagine how these brands move forward in the next 5 or 10 years. Are they just well-timed but cynical cash-grabs, genuinely enthusiast-driven optimism or am I missing the long term strategy?

  2. #2
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    Yes, there are an incredible number of new watch companies that have popped up in the last few years, and it's not just old brands being re-born. Honestly, I think most of these re-born brands as well as many microbrand and boutique brands are cashing in to some extent on the mainstream attention given to watches in the past few years.

    I don't know if cashing in though is necessarily the same thing as your reference to a cynical cash grab. In a way, any new business has as it's objective the acquisition of cash, and so I don't necessarily view them in a bad light or consider them cynical.

    That being said, with the sheer number of new and resurrected brands, there is a sifting process that is advisable and that is part of the fun for a watch enthusiast. Even among those brands you list, there are some I'm more keen on/ trust more than others.

    What I do thing is slightly cynical is the marketing of some brands with 'stories' which unfortunately l just don't believe. Honestly, the more a new brand trades on a story, the more I turn off to them, and sometimes the re-born brands are the worst for this.

    What I do look out for with these new or reborn brands is an explanation of who is behind the project and where their watches are made - not just assembled. Openness is where these new brands can create something new and exciting, given the traditional secrecy of the big Swiss brands.

  3. #3
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    Sorry, I got carried away with my initial reply and missed one of the key points you made, which is longevity, and it is an important point.

    I'm quite passionate about smaller independent brands and have spoken to a few of them. These tend to be brands created by people who have already been involved in the watch industry fo a while, and my experience is that these people generally do have a long term strategy, because they understand the business and also have good contacts (for components, finishing etc). I think they will last the course.

    I'd be less sure about some brands created just by enthusiasts, but I can forgive that because their enthusiasm has just got the better of them.

    I do think some of the revived brands are 'winging' it to an extent, especially those that are offering watches in the lower price range. They can get their watches or at least many of their components from Asia without major financial investment and therefore without a long term strategy.

  4. #4
    Craftsman Idontgram's Avatar
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    Interesting points, thank you.

    I must say, I’m less fussed about where products come from so long as the quality control is in place. I accept that if the watch isn’t assembled in Asia, many of the parts are made there and if not that, the materials (eg steel) probably come from there. I think this permeates all manufacturing and I have no issue with it.

    Open communication is very welcome and I think one of the benefits of the smaller re-issue brands and their direct to consumer strategy is the feeling of connection one has.

    To add to my earlier point, Fears is clearly pushing forward with their designs,; I also like that Vertex relaunched with a modern version of the dirty dozen field watch. I think these brands seem to be looking ahead. Yema has done a little bit with the superman in making GMT versions and relatively modern reinterpretations / colourways of their designs in partnership with the French military but I do wonder what a brand like Zodiac/Nivada/Timor looks like once people tire of reissues and limited edition colours, great as they are for now.

  5. #5
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shubs View Post

    What I do look out for with these new or reborn brands is an explanation of who is behind the project and where their watches are made - not just assembled. Openness is where these new brands can create something new and exciting, given the traditional secrecy of the big Swiss brands.
    I think I read somewhere that some Le Jour was relaunched and is owned by Gnomon Watches (the watches are all made and assembled in the Far East somewhere). Happy to be proven wrong on that though as I can't remember where I saw it. I assume some other resurrected brands are similar.

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    I'm happy to accept manufacturing realities too, but I do like to make an informed choice. Culturally, Switzerland is quite a secretive country and the Swiss watch brands are highly secretive. In this day and age, I think that attitude is outdated or at least we should be critical of it. And I do feel informed criticism is slightly missing in the watch world, with the watch media adopting a symbiotic relationship with brands. I feel smaller brands could steal a march by adopting more openness.

    Your example of Fears as well as Vertex are interesting. I was sceptical of both when they started - both are I think being carried on by relatives of those originally involved with the brands, and I just thought they were being opportunistic and going for a quick cash grab. But Fears are I think an example of a brand that is genuine and has a longer term plan - at least I hope so. I really didn't like Vertex when they started because their obnoxious marketing strategy seemed to confirm the idea of a cash grab. I gather their watches are decent quality, but I'm still not sure about them, and where they go beyond dirty dozen re-issues (likewise Timor). I think a brand like Pinion has a better chance of longer term success.

    Nivada are a classic example of a re-born brand with a couple of experienced watch brand 'investors' involved. No idea where their watches are made and given that Nivada Grenchen were not a huge brand in their original incarnation, I wonder how long they can last with re-issues. I do slightly wonder if their backers will simply move on to another brand name in relatively short order.

    An example of an enthusiastic brand that I like is Newmark. Of course the intention of the re-born brand is commercial, but the person behind them is a genuine enthusiast. Also, the pricing is such that there is no great need for smoke and mirrors when it comes to where they are made.

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    Craftsman Idontgram's Avatar
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    I agree regarding Vertex, I wasn’t a huge fan of the design and even less the marketing but at least they were doing something new with a classic design, rather than an unimaginative re-release cashing in on the brand name (though they did that in a different way). I think that warrants credit and points towards the ability to develop the brand identity. Time will tell, I guess.

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    Grand Master ryanb741's Avatar
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    I bought the Nivada Grenchen Chronomaster Aviator Sea Diver reissue. It had blown me away and would be worth twice the money to me. Fabulous thing.

    Sent from my SM-G950F using Tapatalk

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    Everyone is entitled to their opinion and the thread does ask fair questions about motives and longevity but I will come to the defence of Vertex who have gone beyond Dirty Dozen re-issues. I have an MP45 Monopusher Chronograph, which is excellent quality and based upon a Vertex design from 1945 that was eventually taken on by Lemania. I believe they are developing a diver at the moment as well.

  10. #10
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    Fair enough on Vertex - I've read quite a few positive comments on their watches. At the moment they do still to be trading on the military connection, which can surely only carry them so far, so it'll be interesting to see what they do come up with next.

    They do raise another potential issue with respect to longevity though, and that is how far can a brand go if it's pretty much a one person company (as Vertex was, but maybe isn't now) and that person has no technical experience or expertise in watch making. To be fair though, that is also the case with Fears and I suppose a company like Christoper Ward (two or three people, not one), who have been successful nevertheless.

  11. #11
    Master earlofsodbury's Avatar
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    Interesting topic, especially the longevity angle, after-all, if your USP is all about looking backwards, your options for moving forwards are somewhat limited...

    I think there's a lot of idealism involved in watch startups - a desire to do something different or make a personal dream come true; an element of naivety too - it's a packed, tough and competitive marketplace and lots of startups fail before launch; and certainly bags of optimism! Not sure greed has much to do with it - not many people are getting rich selling watches outside of the top two-dozen megabrands.

    When I started looking for a nice watch I found the marketplace confusing, biased and hard to research. Since my memory is awful, I started taking note of brands of interest, then of brands to avoid, then - somewhat haphazardly - each new one I encountered. That far-from-complete list currently has >1000 nominal brands extant today! You could argue every one is catering to the vintage market since the mechanical wristwatch is an anachronism. Certainly most have some kind of vintage-styled offering, even if not a recognisable name. What a daunting marketplace to try to get noticed in!

    I sometimes wonder why people choose to revive an ancient name - one whose ghosts are long-forgotten, who has little legacy besides rare, corroded husks on ebay... The factory, the people - vanished 40 years ago. Only a few nerds like us know the legacy, and chances are we'll bitch about how the new watch fails to live up to it!

    And then what? The rest of your life raiding a back catalogue with more horrors than heroes? Ugh! Not for the fain-hearted.

    Best of luck to them mind, the diversity is always welcome.

  12. #12
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shubs View Post

    Nivada are a classic example of a re-born brand with a couple of experienced watch brand 'investors' involved. No idea where their watches are made and given that Nivada Grenchen were not a huge brand in their original incarnation, I wonder how long they can last with re-issues. I do slightly wonder if their backers will simply move on to another brand name in relatively short order.
    Well you don't know much about the Nivada brand because it was never reborn it has been sold to different owners but never died. The people involved now are much more interested in the brand and watches than the Mexican firm that had bought it originally. I don't know if you know this but Swiss is on the dial and given what counts as Swiss made most brands out there would count in the "where is it truly made" question.

    Rolex has been making re-issues of their line up for years and the Chronomaster has had a following just as long so there are a lot of holes in your thoughts.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shubs View Post
    Fears are I think an example of a brand that is genuine and has a longer term plan - at least I hope so.
    Fears have a long term plan, the owner seems very genuine on his IG page talking about wanting to be a custodian of the brand and making decisions thinking about the next 150 years which should be reassuring for you, if not a bit optimistic.

    In terms of the watch itself, the Brunswick is a beautiful design and I think the variants they've come out with so far are all exceptional (minus the brown limited edition). My biggest gripe and the sole reason I havent bought one yet is that the pricing seems off the mark, but I've not seen one in the flesh so perhaps it's worth it in the metal as the majority of their IG films are talking about the hand finishing, hours of work that go into it, the hundreds of steps per component, the QC checking etc etc. Coupled with the fact I've never seen one for sale on the secondary market suggests when people have them, they love them

    While the Brunswick is great, it would be good for them to release a 2nd design so we can see whether the brand has any legs, a one trick pony wont last 150 years that they are pushing for.

  14. #14
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    [QUOTE=jk103;5745632]Well you don't know much about the Nivada brand because it was never reborn it has been sold to different owners but never died.

    Well my lack of knowledge of the Nivada Grenchen brand appears to be shared by the current owners as their website says the brand was re-born in 2018.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vortex89 View Post
    In terms of the watch itself, the Brunswick is a beautiful design and I think the variants they've come out with so far are all exceptional (minus the brown limited edition).
    Funnily enough I think the brown limited edition is one of their best yet.

    I agree, their prices seem a little high, but their watches do seem to sell quite well and as you say, you rarely see them for re-sale. It's also interesting to see a brand focusing on dressier watches at a time when sports models are the big seller. If they can make some headway in this market, it bodes well for the future-

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by jk103 View Post
    Well you don't know much about the Nivada brand because it was never reborn it has been sold to different owners but never died. The people involved now are much more interested in the brand and watches than the Mexican firm that had bought it originally. I don't know if you know this but Swiss is on the dial and given what counts as Swiss made most brands out there would count in the "where is it truly made" question.

    Rolex has been making re-issues of their line up for years and the Chronomaster has had a following just as long so there are a lot of holes in your thoughts.
    I doubt many people “Know much” about Nivada watches any more than the hundreds of small watch brands around at the time. What we are seeing is a revival of small unheard of brand names and it’s questionable how successful they are going to be, you may know a lot about them but your hostile response is hardly going to encourage people to take a closer look or even care. To compare Rolex reissuing a watch to a brand the vast majority of the public will have no knowledge of makes no sense.

    Regarding the issue of Swiss I think that probably refers to a certain brand who tend to be creative with the use of the word and the origins of parts and assembly and considering the amount of “New old brands” springing up its perfectly normal to question where they are made.

    It’s one thing to charge a few hundred quid and expect people to take a shot but if you are charging north of a few grand expect people to question why they should when there are established brands out there to choose from.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by robert75 View Post
    I doubt many people “Know much” about Nivada watches any more than the hundreds of small watch brands around at the time. What we are seeing is a revival of small unheard of brand names and it’s questionable how successful they are going to be, you may know a lot about them but your hostile response is hardly going to encourage people to take a closer look or even care. To compare Rolex reissuing a watch to a brand the vast majority of the public will have no knowledge of makes no sense.

    Regarding the issue of Swiss I think that probably refers to a certain brand who tend to be creative with the use of the word and the origins of parts and assembly and considering the amount of “New old brands” springing up its perfectly normal to question where they are made.
    I do not think Nivada can be included in ‘hundreds of small brands available at that time’. It has significant history and quite popular models that most WIS would be familiar with.
    Re the ‘creative brand’ - are you referring to Doxa?:-)

  18. #18
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    It's true that quite a few watch enthusiasts have heard of Nivada Grenchen, but I have a feeling that that is primarily through the Chronomaster. The new owners of the brand have already re-issued that classic, so the challenge will be in maintaining interest and ensuring longevity for the brand, which is what the OP was thinking about. I'm guessing the Depthomatic will be their next re-issue.

  19. #19
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    [QUOTE=Shubs;5745844]
    Quote Originally Posted by jk103 View Post
    Well you don't know much about the Nivada brand because it was never reborn it has been sold to different owners but never died.

    Well my lack of knowledge of the Nivada Grenchen brand appears to be shared by the current owners as their website says the brand was re-born in 2018.
    Not really, regardless of what the current owners may have used as an advertising gimmick it's not true. The brand was highly coveted in it's day and I can remember a prime example being able to be had for less than $300.00 without WABI. When the family ( I believe the son) decided to get out they sold to their largest customer why that customer never used the brand to their advantage is a complete mystery

    I researched the brand long before the current owners bought it from the Mexican Luxury company that held the rights and had always hoped they would start selling watches again.

    The best thing that could have happened was for the new owners to do what they have done which was to bring it back to market. So it's clear you really didn't use anything other than a simple statement from the new owners to comment on the brands history instead of researching first.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by robert75 View Post
    I doubt many people “Know much” about Nivada watches any more than the hundreds of small watch brands around at the time. What we are seeing is a revival of small unheard of brand names and it’s questionable how successful they are going to be, you may know a lot about them but your hostile response is hardly going to encourage people to take a closer look or even care. To compare Rolex reissuing a watch to a brand the vast majority of the public will have no knowledge of makes no sense.

    Regarding the issue of Swiss I think that probably refers to a certain brand who tend to be creative with the use of the word and the origins of parts and assembly and considering the amount of “New old brands” springing up its perfectly normal to question where they are made.

    It’s one thing to charge a few hundred quid and expect people to take a shot but if you are charging north of a few grand expect people to question why they should when there are established brands out there to choose from.

    Robert

    Nivada is hardly unheard of and is hugely popular among the WIS nor were they a small watch brand in their day. It is not a new old brand either they never went out of business plenty of current popular brands wish they could claim the same heritage.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by jk103 View Post
    Robert

    Nivada is hardly unheard of and is hugely popular among the WIS nor were they a small watch brand in their day. It is not a new old brand either they never went out of business plenty of current popular brands wish they could claim the same heritage.
    I think you misunderstood what I meant, the WIS community is a small proportion of the greater watch buying world who have likely never heard of the brand and to compete with more established names is always going to be a big ask.

  22. #22
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    There's a decent piece from Jack Forster of Hodinkee about the new incarnation of Nivada Grenchen under the heading "The Rebirth Of Nivada Grenchen With New Versions Of The Chronomaster And Antarctic"

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