Back in January, I joined Watch Gang to get into watch collecting. My thoughts at the time were along the lines of seeing what’s out there and determining what I liked and disliked. It had been a while since I had bought a watch, and I wanted to know what was available for what I was thinking of spending on a regular basis. This seemed, to me, to be the best way to learn about a hobby I was dedicating a huge amount of time to. Also, I knew absolutely nothing about watches.
Keep that last part in mind, because it’s going to explain an awful, awful lot.
For those of you that don’t know Watch Gang is an international service based here in the States that promise to send you a watch that is “guaranteed to be worth more than your membership fee”.
There are three tiers: Original ($29), Black ($99), and Platinum ($299). These prices are in USD. They also give you a chance, every week, to win a Seiko, Tag Heuer, or Rolex. Every week. I thought, for 30 bucks, this sounds amazing. I’m not out of much money, and if I don’t like the watch, I could always just sell it and make a couple dollars. Win-Win.
Before giving money to the cause, I did a lot of research. As is the case today, there is very, very little on the side of bad commentary about Watch Gang. I didn’t know if this was because they were so good at what they were doing, there weren’t many members, they were new, or that no one had simply taken the time to write about the club. I was cautious about joining but knew it was month to month and that I could cancel at any time, so I joined.
While waiting on my first Original tier subscription (sub), I fell down the rabbit hole. I started watching a lot of The Urban Gentry, My Watch Addictions, Teddy Baldassarre, Watchfinder & Co (those hands, man…), Bark & Jack, and a few other mainstays in the watch community. I’m not one of these people that believe everything I see, so I pieced together the best of what I could from the brands that had been featured through the years in Watch Gang, mostly on the strength of My Watch Addictions, because that guy bought EVERYTHING. All three tiers. What was more engaging was that he didn’t like everything. But what he did like, was along the lines of my personal style. He was like my go-to for any info on micro-brands – which was the crux of all the subs that were going out each month.
Within a couple of weeks of buying the subscription, I learned about movements and what was good and what was bad. I discovered and learned how to pronounce, Patek Phillipe and Jaeger-LeCoultre. I began to understand why Rolex was so popular, and why the second-hand glides. I bought a Flighty. I bought a Timex Weekender and Yacht Racer. Picked up an Orient Sea King. There were some really cool Invicta’s in there, too 😊. Fact is, I was beginning to learn more about quality, price points, my particular tastes, and more importantly value.
Value has nothing to do with a watches’ price. Materials, originality, innovation, design, history, and cultural impact determine the value of a watch. All of this would have been great to know BEFORE I joined Watch Gang.
My first watch was a Nautis Dive Pro 200. It felt of good quality, had the performance specs for a diver (200m WR) and looked nice. It was on a leather band, which wasn’t that big of a deal to me, and it was also quartz. $30 seemed like a steal. I looked it up and the company website had them for $175. I couldn’t find any on sale online anywhere else, but I figured they were a super new micro-brand. So far, so good. I was getting exactly what I was paying for.
The next month, without warning, the monthly subscription shot up from $29 to $29 + shipping + tax. This came to a total of $43 and some change. This was a big deal. The promise of the company was to ship out a watch GUARANTEED to be worth between $50-$150. I started looking at the other watches other members were sent and none of them were selling on eBay or Amazon, or anywhere else for more than $65. The likelihood of me getting a watch that did not represent value at the price point was extremely high. I complained. They did nothing. I told myself I would see what I got and take it from there.
February brought a really nice piece from J. Brackett called the Verona. It looked similar to a Rolex DateJust but again was quartz. No biggie. I’m not completely enthralled with automatics at this point, and I did not have a single dress watch. I bought a different strap because the brown one it came on was a very funky looking shade, and proceeded to wear it satisfied. I paid $43, site had it for $195, and the internet had it averaged around $50.
Since March was my birthday month, I decided to upgrade to Black. I thought that upgrading would be my best bet to get an automatic watch. This decision was the beginning of the end.
In all, the subscription price was $115. I had, by now, seen almost 50 videos saying how awesome Seiko 5’s were and how there were good watches to be had for that price. I knew that there were some members that had gotten a Seiko or Citizen for a Black sub, so I rolled the dice. I received a Weil & Harburg Murdoch. This is a single-eye, Swiss made, quartz chronograph. Sapphire crystal. Carbon Fiber dial. I didn’t even know someone made a chronograph with one subdial. I put it on to take a photo, put it back in the box, put the box under the TV. It never made it to my watch box.
I was disappointed but figured I would just go back down to the Original subs and stay there. I had decided to buy an Omega Seamaster Railmaster (22.214.171.124.01.001) and just wanted to keep the sub in case I won a Rolex. $43 is still a cheap raffle ticket in comparison. After I was billed, I sent them a message stating I’d like to go to On Demand, which is basically deciding to suspend the subscription until I decided to pay. What they did instead was refund the money for the month of April and cancel the subscription. I sent a message and asked why they did that, and instead of contacting me to explain, they charged me AGAIN and took 10% off. They didn’t ask if it was ok to do so, they didn’t explain why they refunded the first charge. I was simply told they didn’t understand and charged my account so I wouldn’t miss the ship date for April.
When the April watch came, I had already seen the writing on the wall. It was going to be my last month anyway, but as long as the watch was of good quality, I wouldn’t say anything. I received a PureDial Square Legacy. In purple. I had never seen a purple dialed watch before, so I decided to inspect it further.
There were some serious QC issues. The logo was crooked and a few of the hour markers were misaligned. I wrote and complained and was told they did not accept returns and did not issue refunds for faulty watches. By that point, I just wanted it to be over.
Then, they sent me a second PureDial. When the double payment happened, it queued 2 watches! They wouldn’t take it back, and they wouldn’t refund me the money.
Watch Gang is a great tool to learn about watches…if YouTube didn’t exist. If you were keeping track, I spent about $230 in subscription fees over the course of 4 months. What I learned was that while it’s smart to not spend a lot of money when starting a watch collection, it is tremendously stupid to spend money blindly. If I had a choice in the watches I received, I would have enjoyed the membership more, but that defeats the purpose of joining a subscription box service. If you are thinking of joining Watch Gang, you need to be aware of some key points.
One, you will not like every watch you receive. They do offer a preference page on their site when you sign up but some of the watches I received seem to bear no resemblance to the preferences I selected. It seemed to me that there are watches that are selected to be sent out each month and they are based more on how long you’ve been a member than what you like and don’t like in a watch.
Secondly, and most importantly, you are not going to receive a bunch of desirable watches. These watches are from fringe micro brands in the Original and Black tiers, and there is not a huge market for them. The Facebook group that is dedicated to members does allow trading and selling, but nothing in these two brackets ever go for at least what you paid for them. Your best bet would be to seek out local markets, or other online selling avenues.
If you can keep these two points in mind, you will save yourself disappointment and frustration. The fact is, I can’t recommend anyone join. The chances of getting something you don’t like is too great. It is better to save your money and buy watches of a higher personal value. I could have bought a Seiko Turtle or invested in other avenues to learn about watches, watchmaking, and the market.
You can find Sanford at @quest327