THE CONCEPT OF MYSTERY WATCH CLUBS
The idea of a mystery watch club is a highly polarizing concept, as it seems like a fun time to some and a waste of money to others, and the ironic thing is that both of those camps often love watches equally.
Some people wonder, “Why not just buy specific watches yourself? Surely it’s cheaper?”. Others thrive off the experience and excitement that a Mystery Box creates in their life; that anticipation of not only waiting on a new watch, but not knowing what it is and creating all sorts of potential scenarios for a mind-blowing watch to land, is incredibly enjoyable for those of us who love that feeling.
Well, it’s rarely the case that a Mystery experience is a “waste of money”, bar some key examples in the industry (e.g. mushroom Brands, ultra-cheap watch models). However, if you’re looking for that extra thrill in your life and wonder about the pros and cons of Mystery Watch Subscription services, and particularly that of Timepiece Monthly, then this post is for you! I’ll run through the pros and cons of mystery watch clubs or “watch subscription services” as they’re often known, and what types of people they are “for” and “not for”.
For those who enjoy them, the majority of that enjoyment stems from the fact that it’s always exciting to receive a new timepiece (like Christmas each delivery); for those who don’t enjoy a watch club, it can feel to them like they may be duped into paying more than what the watch is actually worth, for something they didn’t even get to choose.
At Timepiece Monthly, it was this very frustration with other watch subscription clubs that drove our development of plans and ethos when we started conceptualizing what our mystery watch club would look like and what our principles would be.
When you’re looking for a club to join, it’s always important to do your research and we’d urge you to follow that path, prior to diving in. In the case of mystery watch clubs, what is the “deal”? Is it worth joining? Does it match what you are looking for, right now in terms of the method by which to grow your collection? How much does it cost? I’ll answer all these questions and more, here on this blog post. But first…
WHAT IS A “MYSTERY WATCH CLUB”?
Mystery watch clubs are subscription services designed to send out a new wristwatch to subscribers each month or quarter (most frequently used methods) to help them grow their collection in an exciting way, and importantly, those watches are not hand-picked by the member (e.g. they’re a mystery). Watch clubs are often a good place to start for those new to the watch collecting hobby, especially at a lower investment level (e.g. $100-200 per timepiece), as well as those who value experience and quality, especially in the case of Timepiece Monthly’s watch boxes, which offer a more luxurious experience than any other club in the industry.
Watch clubs often laud a “Style Profile”, where members get to showcase which types of watches they like. Unfortunately, no mystery watch club in the industry even uses this, aside from Timepiece Monthly, which can be a frustration for members of those other clubs. In contrast, at Timepiece Monthly, our single biggest focus out of the gate was to build a functional style profiler which assisted members in their choices and actually helped our team in choosing better watches for individual tastes, to maximize our service.
WHY SOME ARGUE MYSTERY WATCH CLUBS ARE A BAD IDEA
There are two proposed “issues” with this method of receiving a watch, which many antagonists “against” watch clubs, will raise.
First, with so many brands, styles, sizes, colors, movements and materials used in watches these days, the “miss” rate must be incredibly high, right? Therefore, you must be better to choose your own watch in a store or online, one that you “know” you will love. *There is a very important issue with this logic, as discussed a little later.
Second, a higher-level, luxury investment like a watch is a lot of money to “gamble” on a Mystery Box. Surely it’s better to ‘pick your own’ watches and you’ll probably save more money at the same time too, right?
Those two points make a case for not going the Mystery Watch route, and if those arguments speak strongly to you, then that is all you need to know to make the decision – it’s probably not for you.
However, you may find it worthwhile to read on and gather the “Devil’s Advocate” opposing view, as the aforementioned antagonists who argue against the validity of mystery watch services exclude a number of very important mitigation techniques and counter-mechanisms.
CHANGING THE GAME – A TRUE WATCH STYLE PROFILER
As mentioned briefly above, the first of these mitigation techniques is that no other watch club actually uses a “Style Profiler”, even though a few claim to. At Timepiece Monthly, one of the very first features launched on the site was a custom Style Profiler, which takes into account the attributes and features members specifically want to see in their individual watches, and these selections can be managed and changed with ease, at any time, by the member. The Style Profiler that Timepiece Monthly uses incorporates selections in –
- Sizes of watches (30mm up to 55mm),
- Styles of watches (e.g. Dive, dress, chronograph, field, pilot),
- Colors of watches (dark, light, bright colors),
- Band materials (e.g. leather, Steel, rubber, cloth) and
- Factors which a member would consider an absolute “deal-breaker” (e.g. if they loathe gold, bronze, leather, quartz movements and so on).
Add to this the fact that Timepiece Monthly offers a Style Profile guarantee (again, something no other watch club has been bold enough to do, we are that confident in the quality of our watches, and selections), means that the “risk” is actually very, very low, especially when coupled with the adherence to the “Only genuine Brands”, “Only genuine MSRP” and “Only high quality” principles that the Timepiece Monthly ethos was founded upon.
CHANGING THE GAME AGAIN – THE MEMBER’S CHOICE WATCH FACILITY
The second feature that Timepiece Monthly introduced in 2021 is something incredibly unique to and distinct from ANY other mystery watch service, and that is the “Member’s Choice” facility, which has been incredibly well received by members. For members who want a “total” mystery, hand-matched to their aforementioned Style Profile, they need do nothing each delivery, simply wait for the Timepiece Monthly team to hand-match a watch in the current rotation to their profile, hand-wrap, bundle with accessories, and ship out.
However, we recognized that some members, in any (or every) given month may prefer to have an option of a little more control over their mystery watch selection. So, in recognition of this notion, we designed and built a system whereby, for 7 days after every subscription, all members get to log into the Member’s Choice area in their subscriptions dashboard, view a selection of the coming month’s rotation (approx. 30-40 watch models which change each month), and select or “lock in” any watches in that rotation (from 3 choices upward).
Then the Timepiece Monthly team gets to choose one of these selections for the member. So it’s not a “total mystery” but it still provides a degree of surprise and experience for the members, while allowing more control, should they desire it. That is a pretty cool feature, and one that we value, as do our current members.
NOT ALL WATCHES WORK OUT, EVEN WHEN YOU PICK THEM YOURSELF
The other factor, that detractors of mystery watch clubs conveniently choose to ignore, is that watch collecting is a very subjective and emotional experience; this is the very foundation of what TPM was built upon and one that all Mystery Watch clubs speak to by attempting to enhance that excitement, anticipation and experience (the Mystery, in and of itself, increases the palpable excitement and therefore release of happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin, yay!).
For example, how many times have you bought a specific watch in an online store, direct from the manufacturer, or even in person and expected it to be an ‘all-time’ keeper, been incredibly excited to receive it, and then when it arrived… you just didn’t “feel” it? Hard to put your finger on why, it just didn’t ‘gel’ with your wrist, right? Well, welcome to watch collecting! This is the feeling every watch collector has had at one time or another. I still get that feeling, actually more often than not, when new watches land. But that’s also the fun of watch collecting … experiencing new brands, models, and deciding for yourself if they’ll stay.
If they don’t gel, then you have an amazing opportunity in groups like the TPM Watch Exchange, to trade for another watch, or sell outright, and have a ton of fun doing so (e.g. run an auction!). In fact, it was always the ‘trading’ experience that I personally had most fun with, outside of the excitement of receiving a new watch and unboxing it. That’s why trading became such a central part of the TPM community from day one.
You see, watch collecting isn’t just about ‘getting’ watches. It is (and should be) about the fun involved in engaging with like-minded people in the community, buying/selling/trading watches and waiting for that next watch to land, and the method by which you acquire these watches really doesn’t have to be “one or the other”. In my collecting experience, which spans thousands of watches over the years, I have enjoyed all methods of collecting, very often simultaneously… for example, I’ve got mystery watches one month, while concurrently buying my own in online stores, or from community members, or on auctions, or the local AD’s.
And that’s where TPM comes in, because we have our Mystery Box bundles, members store, concierge service and private community trading group (which is free to join and not predicated on being a member with TPM), so that enthusiasts just like us (and you) can do this and have real fun along the way, utilizing many different methods, starting with the Mystery watch experience, which is quite simply, a great experience.
So really, that argument of Mystery boxes being a “waste of money”, and people should just ‘pick their own watches’, doesn’t quite stack up because it ignores the fact that it’s not a “one or other” choice in terms of the best method of building your collection.
In fact, you’ll see in the case studies below why this notion is incredibly inaccurate, for genuine mystery watch clubs like Timepiece Monthly. In addition, with the use of the Style Profiler and the breadth of Brands and models in our portfolio, the Timepiece Monthly team report very often, that members receive a watch and respond ‘I’d NEVER have picked this for myself, but I love it so much, TPM knocked it out of the park!”. That is the experience that a truly optimized Mystery Watch Club can bring to you, and that’s why Timepiece Monthly built something incredibly unique in the mystery watch realm.
WHAT FUELED THE CREATION OF THIS PARTICULAR WATCH CLUB?
The truth is, as some of you may be aware, that myself (Alex Fleck) and our Co-Founder, Anthony Jones, met as members of a (now) competitor site, Watch Gang. We were monthly members at that club (a membership maintained exclusively to gain access to the trading community), but we grew increasingly disillusioned with the somewhat dubious practice of creating/selling mushroom Brands or models, made up by large Chinese factories, coupled with the establishment of clearly and massively over-inflated MSRP (effectively exerting ‘control’ of the market for a specific model of watch by manufacturing its’ MSRP, not based on material value, but for marketing purposes), with some watches being promoted as “worth $1300-1400”, and on membership for just $300, when in reality, the MSRP was made up to match the marketing tagline, and not the correct way around – e.g. genuine MSRP priced on material cost to the manufacturer, and correctly reported with appropriate markups, would be around $230-300.
So, when we went to build a range of Mystery Box services, the rock solid foundation of our conviction was to firstly only provide genuine brands and brands with genuine MSRP. In TPM you won’t find the company claiming that the watches are worth 5-6 TIMES your monthly membership, as that could simply never be true, if MSRP was to be genuine.
No, TPM don’t claim those kinds of astronomical savings, but we do guarantee genuine savings on genuine Brands and a large added-value bonus of bundled complimentary accessories like straps. I’d love to discuss some case studies below, to explain this concept a little more.
First, on average, the 5 main TPM plans map out like so:
> NATO – Member price $149 – MSRP $249+ – Avg minimum savings $80+, including bundled accessories
> CROWN – Member price $239 – MSRP $349+ – Avg minimum savings $110+, including bundled accessories
> BEZEL – Member price $349 – MSRP $549+ – Avg minimum savings $200+, including bundled accessories
> CRYSTAL – Member price $479 – MSRP $699+ – Avg minimum savings $220+, including bundled accessories
> SAPPHIRE – Member price $599 – MSRP $850+ – Avg minimum savings $250+, including bundled accessories
Examples of the watches we put out in every plan can be found HERE
*If you’re reading this prior to 4th July 2021, please note the Nato and Crystal plans will relaunch as options in that week, along with other mystery bundles including “Maxi” Bundle with more than one watch, should you prefer to collect more rapidly.
DOING THE MATH (REAL WORLD MYSTERY WATCH CASE STUDIES)
Another important myth to dispel is that watch clubs’ watches can be purchased ‘cheaper’ elsewhere. That can very well be the case in the instance of mushroom brand watches like those from companies like Resultco, Dalshire, Nisimov or Montrichard (e.g. larger factory Brands that other watch clubs use), but at Timepiece Monthly we pledged an “only genuine” Brand philosophy at conception that deftly redefines and maximizes the value proposition for members. In fact, due to the process by which we negotiate deals for members we often save members many $100’s over what they could feasibly buy a new model from a well-renowned brand like NTH, Ocean Crawler, or Gruppo Gamma (i.e. genuine microbrands fueled by passion for horology and a commitment to quality).
CASE STUDY ONE
Take a brand like NTH, for example. They have a strict retail policy which means that their watches are never available anywhere for anything more than a 3-5% off MSRP. Their Tropics watches, as an example, hold an MSRP of $750. This means that the best deal online for these watches from a verified dealer, will ever be, is $712.50. At Timepiece Monthly, these watches go out on the Sapphire Mystery Box Plan, at $599. Even without the bundled accessories which add approx $75 in value to the delivery, the member ultimately saves at least $113.50, or 15% (10-12% more than any retail deal). Add the $75 of bundled accessories and the rate of saving goes up to $188.50 or 27%!
CASE STUDY TWO
In actuality, that is an example at the LOWER end of savings in the instance of Timepiece Monthly on the Sapphire Plan. By contrast, let’s now take, for instance, a Gruppo Gamma Divemaster (See them here — https://gruppogammawatches.com/collections/gruppo-gamma-divemaster )
These watches have a genuine retail value of $950 and also go out on the Timepiece Monthly Sapphire Plan at $599. This amounts to a saving of 37% off MSRP, or $351! Add in the bundled accessories and the saving becomes $426 or 41.5%OFF MSRP!
IS THIS A ONE-OFF? WHAT ABOUT OTHER PLANS?
CASE STUDY THREE
One of the most popular Timepiece Monthly plans is Bezel Plan, sitting at $349 per month or quarter. Two key examples in this plan are watches by Hemel and Heitis, two of the most well-respected and revered microbrands. The Hemel Airfoil and Heitis Okeanos Explorer Bronze (pictured below) both retail at $499, and feature high-end materials like sapphire crystals, ceramic bezels, bronze cases (Heitis) and hand-wound or automatic movements, so alongside bundled accessories the MSRP value of these watches on this plan exceeds $550. That means a saving of $200 over MSRP or almost 37% for watches that also have a strict retail policy for verified dealers (e.g. no discounts more than 5-10%).
CASE STUDY FOUR
Similarly, on Crown Plan ($239), the lowest saving available is on the incredibly popular Speedracer chronograph by Ocean X (pictured below). These watches retail at $279 but offer some of the highest value-propositions of any watch in the lineup with the sapphire crystal, ceramic bezel and incredible steel bracelet at the price point. Including bundled accessories, this plan offers $300 in value for a low monthly/quarterly buy-in of $239, which is a $60 or 20% saving.
These prices are not only unavailable anywhere online, and are reward for trusting in the Mystery watch experience with a genuine-brand-only offering like Timepiece Monthly, but they would simply not be allowed with any other retailer. This is one of the incredible benefits of the Timepiece Monthly mystery watch club, because the company has amassed the largest collection of genuine brands and models in its’ lineup, of ANY watch club, globally. When you couple genuine brands, genuine MSRP, fantastic watches and a system that mitigates “mystery” risk by matching watches to Style Profiles to watches in the portfolio (and offers both a Style Profile Guarantee AND a system to select a range of watches yourself), and THEN reinforces the excitement of receiving new watches by hand-wrapping and bundling complimentary accessories… well… It just makes sense, for those who value an experience and want to take their watch collection to the next level.
WHAT IS TPM ABOUT?
The first thing we set about securing, when we started TPM, was a range of Brands that we would be excited to see and receive in our own hands, at any time. We already had extensive experience trading watches and we always had high standards in terms of which watches we brought in or allowed to stay in our collections. So when we looked for build, movement, design, kit, we already had stellar standards to maintain. Having traded thousands of watches over the years on a personal basis, we found that Microbrands, and other genuine Brands, tended to consistently provide a better balance between unique designs, genuine MSRP, high build quality and attention to detail, as well as one-to-one service.
So when we started Timepiece Monthly, it was very much based upon offering quality watches that we would be delighted to receive ourselves (there’s not a watch model we send out that has not passed through our hands and been approved for our members).
After that foundational realization, we then quickly gravitated towards focusing on two major stakeholders within our platform… The Community, and the Brands. We felt that we could best serve both groups by being the conduit or ‘facilitators’ to their exposure and experience with their passion for horology, regardless of whether they were new to the hobby or experienced like ourselves. For instance, by building a community of like-minded, passionate individuals who are in it to have fun and share a mutual respect for horology, we could engage simultaneously with members & Brands both, by:
- bringing enjoyment and experience to the members of our platform by introducing them to new and exciting Brands/models they would not otherwise have come into contact with (e.g. by us doing the ground work in the background in bringing new Brands and models on board, constantly)
- bringing exposure and growth to the Brands by introducing them to new members who may never have seen or heard of their Brand otherwise.
At TPM, we do the groundwork with Brands, negotiating great prices for our members and putting a ton of time and effort into growing a bustling, excited community of members who appreciate watches in all their forms and functions. We are welcoming to new Brands and, really importantly, the EXPERIENCE we bring to the table, is second to none in the industry.
That’s why from day one we designed our Mystery Boxes to be hand-wrapped and style-profile-matched to our members individual tastes, also by hand. No other watch club or watch subscription service goes to this length to provide a true experience for their members, rather, you tend to receive a watch in a box, which always disappointed both Anthony and I when we were members of previous watch clubs. Those ‘watches in boxes’ haven’t been matched to your defined preferences, nor have they provided a genuine guarantee to do so.
The next thing we did, just 7 months into our existence, was decide to bundle free accessories with each Mystery watch; again, based on discussions between Anthony and I about the very things WE would love to receive on our doorstep and to once again redefine what Mystery watch clubs could be, and what they could “do”, for members. So now with every delivery we bundle cool accessories like straps, tools, polishing cloths, travel rolls/boxes, watch winders, alongside Branded items from our partner Brands, like T-Shirts, UV lights (for those lovely lume shots), Coasies, caps, mugs, pens and many more.
In fact, the key to our enjoyment in what we do, is always innovating, always introducing new watches, Brands AND accessories every single month, for our members. In making our decisions as to what to bring to our members, we always go with:
Would WE love to receive this in a bundle, as passionate watch enthusiasts?
Does this offer MASSIVE value for our members?
Is it well designed, well built and made with passion by the Brand?
If the answer is “no” to any of those questions, the watch, or the bundled accessories, simply don’t get passed our Quality Control.
SO, WHO IS A MYSTERY WATCH CLUB “FOR”?
There are a few criteria that make you the perfect match for a Mystery watch subscription club. First, if you are new to watches and don’t know what’s out there, and want to experience many new styles, Brands and models to help learn and define what you do love, the Mystery box is the absolute best way to start your new passion for horology.
Next, if you enjoy an “experience” and value that high on your list, the experience is second to none, at Timepiece Monthly due to the features mentioned above.
Also, if you have a high disposable income and value quality, you can get involved with luxury Brands, and save even more money with our exclusive high-level plans like Sapphire ($599) and Tourbillon ($1099).
The key is that, with Timepiece Monthly, you have as much (or little) control as you would like through our Style Profiler, which we genuinely use for each member, and our Member’s Choice facility. Bundle that (get it!?), with complimentary accessories like luxury straps, tools, and more, and you have an experience each month… this is largely why members have coined us the “Gold Standard” of Mystery Watch Clubs.
From $149 upward, we have plans for all budgets and tastes, and a system that is robust is tailoring the experience for your preferred choices, at any given moment.
If you have any queries, just let us know, and for now, if you’d like to experience the best (actually, the only) bundles the Mystery Watch Club has to offer, try a plan today.
In case you’re interested to see how the major players in this industry stack up…