Refactoring and Restarting
It's time to take this project in a slightly different direction
When I started this website last year, I did so with a fairly simple premise: Cover the world of independent and microbrand watches. That's it. Nothing complicated: just that.
I didn’t think about it any deeper than that. I figured doing the news aspect of it would be a fairly lazy affair; after all, how much news and how many events could there be for a subset of the already somewhat niche market that wristwatches are?
I mean, it's not like I was going to cover Seiko's seemingly weekly releases or Casio's hourly push of a new G-Shock. I figured there'd be a handful of releases a year and it would give me time to do some really cool in-depth reviews and features on indie/microbrand watches.
Clearly, I was wrong. In fact, I think there was a period in January and February of this year where it felt like there were weekly releases from one brand or another and I felt like all I was doing was putting up rewritten press releases.
It's not ALL bad...
Still, I did do a few cool pieces. I pushed out two Field Reports (on the Hesilli Original Series One and the Dufrane Travis) that were 2500+ words each. I had a lot of fun doing my favorite watches of 2022 in three parts (Part I, Part II, Part III). And I even had an opinion piece on the merits of discussing or reviewing sold-out watches.
... but it IS repetitive
Apart from those posts mentioned above, all the rest I put up were about new releases and drops. It really feels like the indie/microbrand sector of the watch industry is in the middle of a growth explosion. Yeah, even in this economy.
I found myself getting really excited about these new releases and then wincing as I realized what I’d have to do. I'd have to take the press release, see if there was any new info about that watch from the people who had pre-release unit, then take that info, repackage it, then post it along with stock images. I haven't yet gotten to the point where watch makers are sending me pre-release units to play with before the press release. Heck, I just got onto the embargoed press release list for a few places. So I was stuck with a job that ChatGPT could do just as easily and, well, that wasn't gonna fly with me.
BTW, none of the posts on this site were written by ChatGPT or Bard or any other AI. This place is full of hand-crafted words.
For better or for worse...
So, here we are, about a year since I launched the site and... it's not what I wanted to be doing. In fact, posting those aforementioned rewritten press releases is downright irritating. I want to talk about watches, dive into pieces I've actually gotten hands-on, make fun lists, pontificate in a wall of text about something that really gets my blood flowing, post awesome photos and videos that aren't subject to SEO or a social algorithm, things like that.
Also, I'm trying to build this site into a business. Something that satisfies my own desire to explore this amazing niche in the world of watches while at the same time generating an income. I'm convinced that there's sufficient interest in this topic to keep it going. If I'm getting irritated at the thought of posting something on my site though, then this endeavor isn't going to last long.
So I'm going take a turn and go in a slightly different direction.
The thing is, new releases ARE interesting. Who doesn't like a new drop? I finally realized what was missing from my routine: Context and color.
When three microbrands came out with GMT watches in the narrow space of just two weeks, I posted about all of them. What I missed, however, was context. Why did three brands - which became five in short order - all suddenly release new GMT watches? The missing link - the aforementioned context - was that Seiko had made available to them the same inexpensive movement that powered one of their hits from 2022: the NH34 inside the sub-$500 SSK series of GMTs.
That context is interesting to me - and I think it'd be interesting to a few readers as well. I'd have some tweaking to do to make sure I don't lose a bunch of readers in the technical nerdery, but that's not really a problem for me right now.
Then there's color. There are some interesting conversations I've been having with a number of people. For example, I had an extended conversation via Instagram DMs with someone who just wrapped up a pretty successful funding round for a new watch on Kickstarter. We talked level of effort and numbers and I was surprised/not surprised at some of what I learned.
Similarly awesome stories abound in this amazing little world. My story about how I ended up with a C1 Bel Canto is a nice little one, as is my acquisition of a pre-owned Baltic MR01 that very nearly didn't make it to me and the seller who went above and beyond to make it right. Those are the stories I pause on and pay attention to.
More importantly, those are the stories I want to tell.
So how am I going to do that?
Making a blog successful is hard; by default, it feels like blogs often go for the widest possible audience and, in doing so, seem to reach fewer people than they'd like.
That's not to say there aren't successful blogs out there: Worn and Wound, Fratello, and Hodinkee come to mind right away. However, I never really go to their home pages to see what's new. I filter them into Feedly.com, my preferred RSS newsreader, then skim the stories.
But even that's not my preferred way of getting my watch fix. No, that pleasure comes from the newsletters from W&W, Fratello, and Hodinkee. They pop up in my email periodically, and I actually like to sit down and read through those emails. Newsletters have actually turned my email into a fun place again.
A lot of my newsletter subscriptions happen to be hosted on Substack and I found myself becoming a paid subscriber to quite a few of them. To balance things out, I even dropped my subscriptions to a few mainstream outlets (sorry GQ, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Atlantic, Wall Street Journal) to make room for independents like Platformer, Central Division, Yolo Intel, and more. I found myself being drawn more to niche publications and independent publishers who do an amazing job of drilling deep into topics that actually provide some joy into my life (bless you, Yolanda Edwards).
It struck me then that what I was trying to do was exactly what these publications and independent publishers had done. And in doing so, they provide a fantastic template for me to follow.
The big reveal...
So I moved over to Substack. No more messing around in Wordpress code to find that elusive CSS property that will fix the text overflow issue in the sidebar or tweak the post layout type to make it look good. I focus 100% on the content and let Substack handle the presentation and delivery - and, if you, dear reader, eventually deem it appropriate, even some financing through paid subscriptions.
Past archive of the site will be available to all for free for the moment. As I develop more content, some of it - like watch reviews, for example - will still be free. I'm working on some cool stuff, though, and there's some room for paid-subscriber-only content down the road, which I'm really looking forward to.
Most importantly, it'll give me the chance to speak with a voice that more closely reflects what it would be like to have a conversation with a fellow watch nerd. Yeah, I'll still post my nerdy data tables and such - assuming Substack gets around to allowing custom embeds and tables - but they will be in the context of a more conversational approach - kinda like this wordy post.
So, there it is. We'll see how this goes but honestly I'm more excited about this now than I was when I first launched I&M. This... feels right to me. It's the right move at the right time in the right format. I hope that if you're reading this, you'll come along for the ride.
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