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: The Negativity of the Online World
TEXT Francis Cheung

The internet is a great platform for watch enthusiasts to exchange their knowledge, experience and opinions on the current happenings in the industry, and while some extend their real world persona into the digital realm, there is also room for shadow profiles or an unrelated account name for those who wish to remain discreet (for whatever reason that may be). This anonymity allows a relatively carefree mindset without the obligation and social norms that would otherwise be expected from our true identity, especially when it comes to the more controversial subjects in the watch world. This can certainly generate a more engaging atmosphere that is beneficial to a critical discussion, although unfortunately, such a system increasingly leads to some abuse and a degeneration of the normal etiquette within the online world.

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Take the collaboration between Audemars Piguet and Marvel, for example, namely the Black Panther Royal Oak Concept watch, which is one of the most controversial releases this year to date. Along with the in-house coordinated auction format co-hosted by Audemars Piguet CEO François-Henry Bennahmias and actor and comedian Kevin Hart, it triggered numerous animated discussions. A quick scroll of the related content on any social media and you will find a plethora of pejoratives. While that may certainly represent some aspects of how the public receives the watch, with some comments showing the sensible side of valid reasoning, there was the other side of pervasive, disparaging words that are rather distant from the subject itself, and more often than not, uncalled for. 

Of course, when arriving at a discussion of design and aesthetics, everyone is welcome to have their own take as it is certainly a very subjective matter, but there are certainly other aspects that require a much closer observation and consideration, such as the level of finishing, movement architecture, or even the concept itself, which can be adequately evaluated based on the renderings or press images, and even those are, in most cases, not truly representative of the watch when seen in person. 

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Auction previews exist for this reason; on top of those who wish to inspect and examine the condition, it is also a channel that provides a realistic and accurate impression of an object. Such a tangible event is perhaps the best way to learn, or even to verify your taste and perspective through direct interaction with these meticulous instruments. I am often surprised by the misalignment of the impression formed just by reading the catalogue and condition report. That said, it is perhaps a bit early to arrive at a complete opinion before handling the real watch, which is helpful in providing insights that are not written on the specification sheet, nor gleaned from photos alone. Coming back to the AP x Marvel Black Panther watch, there is no denying that it was not conceived to please everyone, which it doesn’t have to; there has been more than enough interest that the entire production was quickly spoken for, and they are extremely rare on the secondary market, indicating that most were acquired by clients that truly appreciated this unexpected meeting between some of the finest Swiss watchmaking and a modern cultural phenomenon.

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Another happening that elicited some questionable responses would be the recent internet launch from Ming Horology. For those who did not follow, the launch of the 17.09 was separated into a quantity-limited batch on the first night and the time-limited batch on the following night, and during the first night, all 150 examples of both colour versions were sold out in under a minute, which was surprisingly fast., It was understandably rather frustrating to those who wished to purchase the watch with an extra bit of scarcity value. The disappointment was quickly expressed within the commenting section on Instagram with somewhat aggressive call-outs and accusations, and certain individuals directly approaching the team with a rather unfriendly tone. Ming Thein had to later disclaim some of the false accusations on the lack of counter-bot measure and the presumption of pre-selling some of the watches. The fact is, the popularity of Ming Horology’s creations has perhaps outpaced their own expectations, which has turned every one of their launches into a daunting task as the demand far outpaces the supply.

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© Antiquorum

Speaking of limited supply, how could we not mention the unfathomable craze over the new green dial Patek Philippe Nautilus reference 5711. Built on top of the already elevated hype of the blue dial Nautilus, this novel dial colour is rumoured to be manufactured for only a year, denoting the end of the reference’s production. Although Patek Philippe has been, as usual, rather circumspect on these details, the hype has proven to be going very strong, with the first and the most recent example, single sealed, surfaced at Antiquorum going under the hammer for 416,000 Euros (including premium). It is an astronomical price indeed, but the kicker is perhaps how the auction house had inadvertently uncovered the seller’s identity by framing the name on the certificate in one of their photographs. 

Unfortunately, the community was more upset by the act of flipping a new watch, especially such a hot commodity, and the fact that the watch hammered at 15 times its original price which, for the most part, had overshadowed the fact that the seller became victimised. While Antiquorum may share some of the blame due to their oversight, it almost turned into a personal vendetta against the seller, with the social media horde playing detective to track him and the boutique the watch came from down. In the past, such results would have perhaps brought praise, but social media has led to a complete turnaround on that aspect; it will be interesting to see how the next green dial 5711 (and there undoubtedly will be a few) will perform on the secondary market.

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Amid being relatively rare incidents to have happened, these impulsive behaviours should really be discouraged simply because they are an unnecessary way to dispose of dissatisfaction. As a watch enthusiast, I can certainly see, and sympathise with where all these are coming from. But depending on the subject, the watch community would be much better served by a more classy and collected manner if one is to adequately criticise on a subject, say, a thorough and convincing write up. It is certainly a format that better echos the like-minded and brings awareness to a certain idea (or problem), and even when you are not up for the writing format, a more light-hearted meme or humorous comment would bring a dose of positivity that recently seems to be lacking in our virtual worlds.