Authentic, passionate and optimistic: Meet Toolwatch’s Marc Montagne
Editor’s note: This interview with Toolwatch’s Marc Montagne is our latest interview with industry leaders and influential watch collectors. For our introductory ones please head to our dedicated interviews page here.
In this interview we find out a bit more about Toolwatch app’s founder Marc Montagne’s first watch, his love for Oscar Wilde, what advice he has for watch collectors, the journey to establishing the Toolwatch app, and also how Covid-19 is influencing the present watch community. So without further adieu, we present Toolwatch’s Marc Montagne.
To Define Is To Limit
Marc Montagne, the founder of Toolwatch app is a fascinating person. But I wouldn’t dare begin to define him. After all, Montagne’s hero Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray says: “To define is to limit”.
I am used to dealing with writers, editors, watch brand publicists, founders, salesmen, collectors and enthusiasts, and one thing that sets Montagne apart is his own unique personality. Apart from his watch collection or Toolwatch app — more on these two in a bit — the one thing that really speaks of individuality rather than herd mentality is his intense love for one of literature’s greats, Oscar Wilde.
“In my opinion, Oscar Wilde is the greatest artist ever,” begins Montagne.
“You can feel how talented he was by reading his work but also by his character and the way he lived. He has a quote that expresses this quite well: “I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.” The Picture of Dorian Gray is a unique masterpiece that I enjoy reading year over year and that I have gifted so many times, it’s a pity he wrote a single novel.”
It’s said that if you are going to be anything, be genuine. That’s the word I have come to associate (not define) Montagne with. For me this rings true in both his private watch collection and his love for horology as evident is his quest for accuracy.
Price of Everything and Value of Nothing
Continuing on the Oscar Wilde ride, we present the following quote: “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
This rings especially true for some collectors and watch enthusiasts out there who simply know how much extra they need to pay in the grey market over the retail cost of certain steel sports watches but don’t really understand why these watches have achieved the legendary status that they deserve. Somehow breaking this attitude is Montagne.
Montagne is also a collector himself. I was fortunate enough to look at his collection, and a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote jumped out at me: “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a moulder of consensus.” He has strong views on collecting and the art behind it. And rightly so. Collecting can more often be, and should be, simply beyond pandering to the mine’s-bigger-than-yours mentality. It should be about the love for horology, the quest for accuracy, the desire for wearing something unique and useful.
“Authenticity. At the end of the day, no one needs a watch. It is all about the genuine emotion that you feel when you find a watch that resonates with you and this cannot be faked. The good news is that this joy can be felt with any kind of watch, complicated or simple hour/minute, modern or vintage, cheap or expensive, it is all about the authenticity that was placed in the creation of the piece,” begins Montagne.
“I also believe that more and more, collectors are looking for watches that provide great value. I’m not talking about crazy money but it just sucks when you know that the watch you just bought instantly saw its value drop of 40%.
“However, good products will always maintain their value and collectors are aware of that. Those products will continue enjoying a bright future while lower quality watches will have a harder time moving forward,” he further explains.
Most People Only Exist
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all,” is another one of Oscar Wilde’s gems.
Montagne’s own personal collection speaks volumes of his personality and taste. Including the likes of Omega Speedmaster, Rolex Submariner, Patek Philippe Nautilus, it’s the collection that dreams are made of. He has a Nautilus, but it’s not the 5711/1A. He has a Speedmaster, but it’s not the latest in line of limited edition iterations. On the flip side, he also has an obscure Datejust — but relevant because it’s from his birth year — a Panerai Radiomir, an obscure French made LIP watch, and a JLC Reverso among others.
“I don’t understand collectors that are stuck with a single brand, there is so much more to explore and learn from and you should always remain open minded,” says Montagne.
Harping back to our earlier Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, Montagne’s watches begin to emerge as a collection that’s not searching for consensus but has the potential to mould it. If you don’t believe me, just look at the Vacheron Constantin Metiers d’Art Elegance Sartoriale reference 1400U/000G-B218. This 18k white gold cased, tartan patterned cerulean blue dialled beauty is not the first watch from VC that comes to mind when one thinks of the brand.
Or even his Omega Speedmaster 50th Anniversary Limited Series from 2007 is not the latest Snoopy or Speedy Tuesday Limited Edition. But they are both stunning pieces that are sure to elicit response and reactions even from seasoned collectors.
Be yourself; everyone else is already taken
Most of us initially reel under the cyclonic world of horology that’s so difficult to manoeuvre. Montagne has managed to come out on the other side, forging his own path when it comes to starting his collection.
“My first mechanical wristwatch was an Omega Speedmaster 50th anniversary that I got when I was twenty years old. Back then I knew less about watches and Omega, in particular the Speedmaster, (and it) represented the perfect luxury sports watch.
“Today I have also developed an appreciation for many other brands, I could almost say that I love them all but for different reasons! Of course some brands and/or watches won’t resonate so much with me but watches are a passion, there is nothing rational and I can potentially enjoy anything,” says Montagne.
Of-course someone who is a collector and a part of the watch industry — Montagne is the Digital Manager for Vacheron Constantin and the founder of the Toolwatch app — he is bound to have his set of pet peeves.
“One of my biggest pet peeve is the discussion about in-house movements! Look at all the watches that are setting crazy records at the auctions, almost none of them used a movement from the brand that has it’s name on the dial! Of course it is great to see brands investing in the development of their calibers but that’s just not enough to make a great watch! On the other side, I believe that watch decorations are still under appreciated and I much prefer a generic movement well decorated versus an in-house with poor decoration and probably less reliable.”
Enthusiastic and passionate watch collectors will agree that alongside pet peeves often exist ideologies and unique tastes.
“Well I guess it would be hard to find it in a mechanical watch but how about a button that would teleport you to any place in the world? How’s that for a world time watch?” asks Montagne.
His other wish for an ideal watch comes as a reaction to his love for Oscar Wilde.
“His (Wilde’s) quotes have been helpful at different periods of my life and if I could time travel (maybe another fantasy for a watch!) it would be to share a diner with him. I’ve always known I belonged in the 19th century!”
To Be Perfect Is To Have Changed Often
Moving on from the personal side of collecting to the professional side of things, as we mentioned earlier, Montagne is also the founder of Toolwatch app.
“To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often,” said Winston Churchill.
Toolwatch app is one of the most respected watch accuracy testing websites/apps, and it sure has an interesting journey behind it. But is it suited to adapt in today’s ever evolving pace?
In short, yes. Its founders actively engage with the watch community on various online platforms to ensure that their app is the best.
“As a tool solely dedicated to watch geeks, we will expand on the features that have made Toolwatch successful today. We are currently working on a quite ambitious update of the full experience which will integrate a few services to help our users taking care of their watch collection. Since the app is open sourced, we welcome any ideas and contributions! Ultimately, we really want the watch community to shape the tool to make it the most useful for any watch lover. Like with the development of a watch it takes a lot of time but we are excited with what is coming next!”
According to their website, Toolwatch aims at being the most convenient way for measuring the accuracy of a mechanical watch. Toolwatch synchronises a collector’s internet browser with the U. S. Naval Observatory’s atomic clocks cluster which produces a weighted average of several commercial atomic frequency standards. Simply put, the app uses the most accurate atomic clock on earth to synchronise your favourite timepieces. But how did this come to happen?
“It’s crazy to see that this little app has grown over the years and is being used daily by tens of thousands of users throughout the world when the initial idea was quite selfish!,” begins Montagne.
“As watch collectors, I guess we are all a bit obsessed and one of my initial obsession was accuracy. To me, the most complicated, rare or beautiful watches are worth nothing if they can’t give proper time. That doesn’t mean however that I should get a quartz watch as I do have a soft spot for the romanticism of mechanical imperfection. Watchmakers have always competed for achieving the best accuracy and this is still the case today when you look at all the certifications and technical improvements. I’m inspired by that quest for perfection. So I started measuring my watches! I would compare my watch to an atomic clock then log everything in an excel file,” tells Montagne about his app.
“I was sharing that file with other collectors but the overall experience wasn’t super convenient. This is when the idea for an app came. Actually it started as a website which crashed in its first week and people kept asking for an app, so we built it (and bought better servers)!”
Expect the unexpected
We have established that not only is Montagne a collector but also very much a part of the Swiss watch industry. Given he is also based in Switzerland, we figured it would be a good opportunity for us to find out how Covid-19 is affecting the ground zero of the Fine watchmaking industry.
“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect,” said Oscar Wilde. This resonates with Montagne’s thinking about the world’s capacity to adapt and be reactive.
“This crisis has shown us that the world can completely change in an unthinkable way, almost instantly. Everything that you thought you knew is completely irrelevant today. The industry will double down on digital and ecommerce, which is quite an opportunity considering how late watchmaking was compared to other industries. Retail will have to reinvent itself post-crisis as the relationship that customers will have with stores will have changed permanently.
“Placed into perspective, this is “just” a new crisis following the protests in Hong Kong, the yellow vest in France, the Brexit, the tensions between China and the US and many more. This illustrates how “multi crisis” our world is and how the capacity to adapt and be reactive will be important for watchmaking and pretty much everyone. The capacity of being quick and adaptive will be extremely crucial and quite a challenge for an industry used to taking (and making!) its time.
“I remain nonetheless optimistic and in times like these, I always remember Churchill’s word: “Never waste a good crisis!” and I believe that it will be a very exciting time to be in the watchmaking industry,” explains Montagne.
It’s been a pleasure knowing more about Montagne and his Toolwatch app. Given we are on the topic of Winston Churchill, allow me to finish this feature with another of his quotes that sums up the positivity we have felt throughout this interview: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Marc Montagne through his positive views, whether they be on watch collecting, his website/app or his response to the Covid-19 pandemic, is one Oscar Wilde devotee that’s authentic, passionate and optimistic to the core.
We wish to thank Toolwatch’s Marc Montagne for his time with this interview, and also take this opportunity to give voice to the other two co-founders of this app, Mathieu and Vincent. To find out more about the app, visit the website here. To pursue Montagne in his horological adventures, visit his Instagram page here. And to read more of our interviews, please head here.