Watch collectors

Watch enthusiasts always find each other


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December 2020

Watch enthusiasts always find each other

Some of them have been active for two centuries, others just since last year; horological societies, associations and clubs feed the global watchmaking ecosystem. How have these groups of enthusiasts (and professionals) navigated this unprecedented period? We bring you a selection of testimonials, from Japan to Silicon Valley.


eyond the venerable national horological societies and associations that have been active for centuries, in recent years we have seen more and more watch collectors’ clubs being created around the world. It’s a sign both of the vitality of the horological scene, amplified by the new social possibilities of digital technology, but also of the desire to come together physically to share a passion for what remains, even in the age of the web, a very tangible object.

Increasingly, these associations and collectors are taking initiatives, for example to launch limited editions with brands, organise meetings and expand the global watchmaking community. In the face of the pandemic, we wanted to give a voice to those who, today more than ever, are helping to maintain the passion for watchmaking around the world. How have they organised themselves this year? What special actions have they put in place? Here is a series of testimonials.

“We expanded our financial aid programs to watchmakers”

Nicholas Manousos, Horological Society of New York, USA Nicholas Manousos, Horological Society of New York, USA

“Before the pandemic, our association was known for its very well attended lectures. Our last in-person lecture was March 2, 2020, with François-Paul Journe and Osama Sendi. I remember that night very clearly, as the city was already on edge with news of the coronavirus beginning to appear elsewhere around the country.”

“Our monthly lectures and horological education classes are now held online using Zoom. Moving our events completely online has worked well. We had a lecture with Grand Seiko that attracted over 400 attendees from 23 different countries. Virtual lectures have made it possible for us to expand our reach around the world.”

“We also saw the challenges that many working watchmakers were facing because of the economic situation. With that in mind, we expanded our financial aid programs. For the first time, financial aid was given directly to working watchmakers and watchmaking schools, in addition to our traditional scholarships for watchmaking students. In total, we awarded $155,000 in financial aid for 2020.”

“This crisis puts local customers in the foreground”

Thomas Campion, Lausanne Watch Club, Switzerland Thomas Campion, Lausanne Watch Club, Switzerland

“By limiting tourism, the crisis has at least had the merit of placing local customers and collectors back in centre stage. In this sense we have contributed to the development of new communities in Europe, which will soon be grouped together in the form of a network.

“These synergies will enable us to offer more visibility to the brands, and to accompany them throughout the year at local events, meeting their clients in different markets.”

“The growing number of people affected by the virus and its psychological impact should have a lasting impact on our relationships with communities and events. Thus, we will be developing new formats in Switzerland and in Europe, on a more regular rhythm, limiting the number of people attending in favour of more personal encounters.”

Watch enthusiasts always find each other

“Driving technical innovation for a better future for the watch industry”

Etsuro Nakajima, The Horological Institute of Japan (HIJ), Japan Etsuro Nakajima, The Horological Institute of Japan (HIJ), Japan

“The Horological Institute of Japan (HIJ) is an academic society established in 1948 to promote investigation and research into the watch industry and its technological applications. The activities for HIJ members include attending an annual micro-mechatronics meeting, workshops in the spring and fall, and guided tours. We also publish a bulletin called “Micromechatronics” twice a year.”

“Due to the pandemic, we were advised to exercise social distancing and avoid gatherings. We decided to publish the members’ bulletin in June and December. Bi-monthly online meetings were held for the directors and steering committee members, for managing the institute and discussing how to deal with the pandemic.”

“In 2021, we are expecting to revitalise our activities by taking countermeasures for unpredictable situations. We may hold online and/or face-to-face meetings depending on the members’ preferences. We will pursue our mission to facilitate technical discussions between watch manufacturers and engineers, driving technical innovation for a better future for the watch industry, and actively work on networking with other companies and members of universities.”

“A massive digitisation initiative”

Dr. Bernhard Huber, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Chronometrie, Germany Bernhard Huber, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Chronometrie, Germany

“The board meetings and meetings of the extended board were all held as video conferences. Most of the regional and specialised conferences had to be cancelled.”

“On the proposal of the board, the General Assembly decided to launch a massive digitisation initiative and released the necessary funds for this project. At least for the first half of 2021, we continue to expect restrictions on our activities.”

“However, as a first result of our digitisation campaign, it will be possible to attend also online the meetings of our regional chapters and of our specialised interest groups.”


©Horological Society of New York

“Pragmatically, we assume that all activities will be done online”

Dr. James Nye, Antiquarian Horological Society, United Kingdom Dr James Nye, Antiquarian Horological Society, United Kingdom

“The pandemic has halted physical meetings, to which the response has been to move online for webinars and video conference meetings. The main initiative is to encourage our sections and groups around the UK, and internationally, to hold their meetings via Zoom or Teams.”

“Two of our London Lectures were rescheduled for 2021, but the November 2020 Lecture went ahead as a webinar with strong attendance. The recent Dingwall Beloe/ Harrison lecture arranged by the Clockmakers Company and the British Museum had some 500 attending.”

“The production of Antiquarian Horology, the quarterly journal, has not been affected, with issues continuing on schedule, and at their standard size. The editor continues to receive a large number of submissions, so the journal is in very healthy shape. The only noticeable difference is an understandable reduction in advertising from members of the horological trade.”

“We have planned for all our activities to be online. It seems more pragmatic to assume that we cannot meet physically, and then later to change to physical meetings, if these become possible. The upside of all this is that it has forced us to consider earlier how we can provide our lecture content both online and in person, when physical meetings become possible.”

“We launched two new collaborative timepieces”

Gabe Reilly, Collective, USA Gabe Reilly, Collective, USA

“With Covid-19 outbreaks and political uncertainty in the USA, we shifted the launch dates of our new collaborative projects. We launched two collaborations this year – the J.N. Shapiro Infinity Series P.01 for Collective and the H. Moser & Cie. Pioneer Centre Seconds Rotating Bezel C.02 for Collective – both of which sold quickly, demonstrating strong demand for new products despite the challenging environment.”

“On the positive side, the shift to a purely online community has accelerated the growth of our geographic footprint beyond our core in Silicon Valley. This means no matter where our members are, they can participate fully in the community. We accelerated our investments in our website, e-commerce, email and CRM systems. And we shifted our events plans online. For instance, we worked with one brand to host a virtual brunch.”

“Going forward, we are anticipating both best and worst case scenarios. For instance, for future collaborations and events, we are planning both online-only experiences as well as hybrid in-person and online approaches. Even if things go back to a pre-pandemic normal in 2021, we will have learned how to execute online well, and to make our community accessible to more members.”


©J.N. Shapiro Infinity Series P.01 for Collective. Atom Moore

“Online voting was a big hit with our members”

Jean-Michel Piguet, Chronométrophilia, Switzerland Jean-Michel Piguet, Chronometrophilia, Switzerland

“Chronométrophilia’s activities have obviously been disrupted by the health crisis, all the more so as our association has a good number of people at risk because of their age. The main activities of our association being meetings, visits to companies, museums or exhibitions, we had to completely cancel the programme planned for the year 2020.”

“Our general assembly was to take place at the end of March in Biel with a visit to the new Omega museum and the Swatch museum. This was replaced by a general meeting by correspondence, with voting possible online on our website. Many members thanked us for this possibility.”

“This health crisis was an opportunity for us to reflect on how we could maintain liaison and contact with our members. To this end, we have set up a newsletter, which we will certainly maintain in the future. For 2021, we hope that the situation will improve, so that we can resume our traditional activities (visits, conferences, meetings).”

“Still many opportunities for the watch industry in China”

Daniel Sum, Shanghai Watch Gang, China Daniel Sum, Shanghai Watch Gang, China

“At the beginning of the year many of us were abroad for Chinese New Year and that’s when the virus started to hit, so we were all separated from each other. During the first half of the year, no one was in the mood to gather. It seemed the wrong thing to do and also to publicise. During July I managed to return to Shanghai and it seemed everything was back to normal. We started to have gatherings again and everyone turned out as usual. Gatherings are happening every three weeks or so.”

“With regards to the Shanghai Watch Festival, it wasn’t feasible to execute this year, as it wouldn’t have been to the standard we wished. Many independent brands aren’t able to travel without quarantine, and for the big brands – despite sales increasing significantly within the domestic China market – our understanding is that budgets are constantly being cut to balance the books globally.”

“I do find it somewhat ironic that China and the Chinese in particular have always been the main market for watches, and that is highlighted more now than ever, yet brands still fail to commit fully. I am looking forward to seeing more brands taking the plunge into the Chinese market and hopefully we can help them gain access here. So for the watch industry in China I think there are many opportunities.”

“I would say digital media use has gone up – but that would be true for many other industries. Meeting people and seeing watches is very different when done virtually – and I’m not sure right now technology can replace that. Next year, at least for the first half, I do not see anything changing and I am not convinced that the borders will open, since we are now going into the winter months when the virus will spread more rapidly, especially in uncontrollable regions, which Europe very much is.”

“Even when things open, I do feel that Chinese will be tentative about travelling. One, because of the risk, and also because of the general anti-Chinese sentiment which is now present globally. I am not saying they won’t go out, but it may not be in huge numbers. China is very large so domestic travel is also an option for Chinese who want to somewhat assuage the urge to travel.”