Forces behind the Sources: Watchbox’s Tim Mosso
Editor’s note: We all love to read about watches, and from a variety of sources. The reason so many watch review sources co-exist is that different voices, different opinions help broaden our horizons and understanding about the watch industry. So we approached a number of experts in their own rights, people that matter, voices that make a difference in the watch world every day. We are calling this series of interview articles: Forces behind the Sources. We are essentially unmasking the forces behind your favourite watch review sources, putting them under the spotlight. For our previous interviews, please head to our dedicated interviews page here. Today we are offering the insights from another master of this field, Watchbox’s Tim Mosso, the wizard of the online watch video world.
Robert Clark Seger, the American singer, songwriter and musician once said: “Be original. That’s my best advice. You’re going to find that there’s something that you do well, and try to do it with as much originality as you can, and don’t skimp on the words. Work on the words”.
If I was to define Tim Mosso’s work, I think the above quote does justice. His body of work is not only original (and informative), but I think it’s also safe to say that he is never at a loss for words when talking about watches. A master of reviewing watches, Tim Mosso’s videos have become the by-word in production excellence.
Unmasking A Legend
If you are a watch enthusiast, collector, seller or writer, you are bound to come across Tim Mosso’s work. Having worked in the industry for a while now, Tim Mosso has carved out a trusty name for himself. The sources such as Watchbox and Govberg he authoritatively showcases his reviewing talents for, are all well respected. The approach may have sales overtures to it — rightly so, after all he is in the business of promoting and selling watches — but his style also has a heartfelt sincere undertone to it, one that is laced with genuine enthusiasm and an encyclopaedia’s worth of knowledge.
aBlogtoWatch calls Tim Mosso a “savant watch-knowledge guru” and appreciates his “perspectives on collecting, buying, selling, and mere horological appreciation”. Rikki from Scottish Watches Podcast says that Tim Mosso is the guy “who got both Rick and myself interested in the hobby of horology and watches.” The Female Singapore online magazine praises “his typical honest style” and calls him “a respected industry expert” who has been crucial in Watchbox’s “4.5 million unique views on YouTube each month”.
So when I say his videos are the work of a genius, that statement carries weight. And rightfully so. His videos are simple, no frills, and to the point; and his work reflects the mastery of a prolific watch reviewer who in his own distinctive style manages to train off a lengthy yet eloquently pieced together video review as if it was child’s play.
Why WYGDAI likes Watchbox Studios
His ideology behind what the type of watch review videos he is producing via Watchbox Studios resonates with our team’s. I co-founded Watch Ya Gonna Do About It because there was too much snobbery based prejudiced content out in the watch reviewing world of late that I was finding it hard to appreciate the industry. So I created a site that would feature content that I would personally like to read.
In the same vein, there’s Mosso’s reasoning: “My goal today remains the same goal as when I started. The videos I produce are the informative ones I couldn’t find when I was a collector outside the industry looking inward.”
To date I haven’t come across videos that reveal so much about a watch in such a short span (most of them are around the 5 minute mark). His watch channels are one of those that I have personally followed and enjoyed over the years, marvelled at the skills and the production content.
We recently had the opportunity to interview the man himself. In this interview we find out a bit more about his journey to Watchbox, his first watch(es), what makes him tick, and also how Covid-19 is shaping the present watch industry. So without further adieu, we present our latest Force behind the Source, Tim Mosso.
The American Dream
“I lived the true American dream, because I was able to pursue what I set as my goals at a very young age,” said Mario Gabriele Andretti, the famous Italian-born American racing driver who is one of the most successful Americans in the history of the sport.
Tim Mosso’s chequered career reminds me of the above quote. It has tested the waters of the US Navy and soaked itself in the eccentric vibe that Miami brings with Watch-u-Want. It has now led the man to be at the creative helm of Watchbox.
“I left the U.S. Navy in early 2013 with two short-term goals,” begins Mosso.
“First, re-habilitate an exceptionally bad knee injury so I could walk without a limp and get back on my road bike. Second, test the waters to see if my previously low-level watch hobby could become a source of income. My knee recovery moved slowly, but I was working as a freelance website copywriter for preowned watch vendors by late 2013. I started seeking a path more relevant to my previous work with naval public affairs, and that turned into a move to Miami and a full-time marketing job with Watch-u-Want,” says Mosso.
We are all familiar with Mosso being in front of the camera or his voice booming loud, rattling off the various features of a watch like a train in quest for its destination. His initial tryst with the industry wasn’t always in the limelight though. Over time, Mosso’s exceptional work saw him being led from the shadows into the spotlight.
“There was never a clear-cut title or job description relating to my role, but I undertook a series of expanding multimedia campaigns during my first two years in Miami. For the most part, this consisted of social media exposure with a heavy focus on YouTube, but my role largely was unseen. In the early years, I rarely appeared on camera,” explains Mosso.
“Watch-u-Want, which began as an eBay account in 2001, grew steadily through 2014 and 2015, but our acquisition by Govberg in 2016 marked a step into operations on a larger scale. At that point, we were viewed as the preowned arm of Govberg, a multi-store authorized dealer of new watches based out of Philadelphia. In 2017, a private equity firm out of Singapore, CMIA Capital, acquired a large interest in the combined GB/WuW, a capital infusion was received, and preowned watches became the focus. Foreign offices were created, and large investments in logistics, sales, and watchmaking professionalized our operations,” he continues.
“At Danny Govberg’s insistence, I began appearing on camera in 2016 with expanded roles as a voice for the company and a public-facing product specialist. The individual watch reviews were supplemented by studio recordings and live web-shows in 2017. I created a separate YouTube channel to segregate the product pitches from the themed shows in early 2017 and ventured into Instagram later that year. 2017 also was the year when I began to attend industry trade shows and collector events on behalf of Watchbox,” expands Mosso.
As someone who has led an interesting career surrounded by watches, and not only has been in the industry for a while but has also come across an insane number of used watches, he is someone I am very keen on talking to about how the present Covid-19 is shaping the industry.
“Low value watches – those under $1,000 (USD) – have taken a beating as global economies have retrenched. This product category has been and remains the most volatile and sensitive to mainstream consumer sentiment, so its fortunes roughly track conventional indicators such as unemployment, GDP growth, and “wealth effect” influences of secondary factors such as home value and equity market results,” begins Mosso.
I reckon he has a point here. There is of-course no certainty in where the global market is headed, and what is to become of the state of affairs of the general populace, let alone the survival of something as trivial as watches (in the grand scheme of things).
The Swiss watch industry has been reeling of late anyway, and the virus is unlikely to help its case. The New York Times last month reported that “with Swiss exports down more than 80 percent in April and supply lines disrupted, the industry faces an uncertain future.” Oliver R. Müller in watchesbysjx earlier this year reported that “the industry sold 3m fewer watches in 2019. That’s a 13% decrease from the year before, and the sharpest loss so far, continuing a downward trend that has seen volume decreasing from 30m watches a year at the peak to 20.6m last year”.
Perhaps then the best way to understand the current watch economies is to break them down by global regions. No two countries or regions are displaying similar behavioural patterns when it comes to the spreading and containment of virus. And depending upon the region, the watch industry can expect to see some turnaround and increase or decrease in sales/outcomes.
“For the time being, the luxury and high-luxury marketplace of watches priced at or above $10,000 U.S. has proved to be resilient. If the pandemic abates or coping measures become less burdensome, this high-end buyer may never leave the watch marketplace. Already, we’re seeing a robust resurgence of premium collector demand out of Hong Kong, China, and Singapore. Areas that have mitigated or managed Covid-19 are demonstrating that a quick rebound is possible,” he begins.
“However, Europe and the United States present questions. Europe remains tense and clenched in anticipation of a second wave of infections. This is challenging, because Europe is locked in a currency union and common market without any coordination of national policy. Economic fortunes are collective, but public health policies are not. With Covid-19 responses as divergent as Sweden and Norway and mitigation successes as disparate as Germany and Italy, predictions regarding Europe’s appetite for luxuries in a few months’ time are nothing but guesses.
“The U.S. did not uniformly staunch the epidemic before commencing returns to normal social and commercial activities. This matters immensely because the United States was one of the success stories of 2019 for the Swiss (watches), and U.S. growth helped to offset the effects of that year’s Hong Kong unrest. If the current U.S. economic downturn proves persistent and/or the Covid pandemic resurges, we may begin to see retrenchments even at the top of the watch market towards the end of 2020. Alternatively, the luxury watch market could follow major U.S. stock indices and decouple from the downward fortunes of the economy as a whole,” he explains in detail.
So overall how does he reckon COVID-19 is going to change the industry?
“In any case, the outcome for Swiss watch brands will be fewer jobs, fewer brands, and lower volume at least for 2020 and 2021. Too many smaller brands were on the cusp of failure even in a fairly good economic climate, and too many large brands were over-extended. The effects of the Covid-19 global pandemic and faltering economies are being seen already, and new challenges will continue to impose themselves for the foreseeable future,” says Mosso.
Talking about smaller brands, I am inclined to ask if he thinks COVID-19 caused the exit of big brands from Baselworld, or that this was going to happen either way? His answer is inline with what other experts such as Monochrome’s Frank Geelan or Quill & Pad’s Ian Skellern had to say: Baselworld was going to take a beating no matter what.
“There is no question that brands large and small intended to depart Baselworld with or without a public health rationale. All of the Swatch brands, Breitling, and tiny marques such as Corum and Bremont abandoned the show long before the first news (of the virus). All of this Basel damage occurred in 2018 and 2019. Moreover, the show had been bleeding exhibitors since at least 2016, and reductions of guests, business days, and exhibition spaces had been underway in earnest since that time,” informs Mosso.
Earlier this year the AFR went on to report that the “the coronavirus has brought an end to a years-old split among big players, in effect resetting the watch business”. So given there has been a fallout and shake up in the Swiss watch industry, both due to the virus and the demise of Baselworld’s once legendary status, there is also a strong chance that smaller or let’s say independent watch brands will now find it harder to survive in and post the current global economic state.
“Cash is king. Both brands and retailers that are well capitalised stand a better chance of coping with the effects of an economic downturn. Moreover, strong financials ensure that vendors and brands alike are able to take advantage of generally good times or local economic resurgences such as those currently seen in East Asia. In all likelihood, we will see more failures of brands that lack corporate parents or substantial cash and cash equivalents. The latter almost exclusively describes independents and mid-size group brands,” says Mosso.
So in such a volatile and unpredictable global scenario, what direction does he think WatchBox — a leading platform for the buying, selling, and trading of pre-owned luxury watches — is heading?
“This is a bit beyond my remit as a product specialist for the company. Speaking purely from conjecture, growth is good, and partnerships are great. It would be wonderful to open regional offices in new and dynamic markets. Partnerships with other vendors or OEMs would be a blast for the product access it would bring to me. But all of this is speculative and aspirational; I’m speaking solely as Tim Mosso on this account,” tells Mosso.
The Beautifully Intricate World Of Watch Collecting
And this is fair enough; we don’t wish to put him in a spot. I understand where he is coming from. So let’s talk about setting more up his alley, the watch collectors’ world; a world that I reckon no matter what, will always have it’s hardcore pursuers as long as watches are being made. So what does the master of video reviewing, and an avid watch collector himself, has to say about what today’s watch collectors are looking for in his opinion?
“There seems to be a great deal of confusion surrounding questions of value, quality, and condition, so I believe that today’s collector is looking for trustworthy sources of product knowledge before he makes a purchase. Too many tastes, wrist sizes, and daily routines exist to declare that collectors in general are looking for any specific feature or style. But spending thousands – or more – on a watch is a leap of faith that can be eased by acting with confidence,” begins Mosso.
For anyone who is into watch collecting, or any collecting hobby for that matter, will attest to the fact that it’s a world full of twists and turns, confusions success and failures, achievements and regrets. It is always good to have trustworthy sources and opinion-makers to resort to.
“My job is to explain all types of watches including those I dislike personally. When you offer a collector a clear and trustworthy account of fit, product quality, contextual background such as manufacturer or model history, and product features, then the collector’s choice becomes better informed and more likely to satisfy. For this reason, I try to stick to facts in my presentations.
“There are enough emotional factors that influence a collector’s choice of watch, so I act as the reference for concrete product attributes. It’s not as romantic as pitching a watch as “James Bond’s choice” or “developed with Navy SEALs,” but 007 and commandos aren’t the ones who need to be satisfied with your purchase,” he explains.
Talking about watch collecting, I wanted to also find out what his own take on this twisted but fun world is.
“My first watch was a Timex multifunction quartz that my grandpa ordered for me after cutting some requisite volume of Wheaties box tops. That was around 1992, and I wish I still had the watch,” begins Mosso.
“The earliest watch that remains in my possession is a 1998 Casio G-Shock that I received for the holidays from my parents. I still have it, and it stayed with me from high school through Navy boot camp. This watch is so weathered and decomposed from years, sweat, and abuse that my mom doesn’t even like to see it anymore, so it acts solely as a gym timer these days.
“My first high-grade watch remains in my collection, and it’s a 1973 gold-filled Omega De Ville Seamaster that belonged to my grandpa. He received it as a retirement present after 25 years with Remington Electric Shaver,” shares Mosso.
It’s always nice and a welcome change to come across someone who is comfortable with and kind enough to share their own personal watch collecting journey. And even though Tim Mosso is also known in watch circles as a collector of a very special Maison — one that many would argue deserves a place in the ‘Holy Trinity’ of the watch world — I am glad to note that he is open to the idea of collecting other brands and expanding his horizons. This is something that again resonates well with me as I personally don’t like to limit my collection to one type or brand.
“Although I’m known as a Jaeger-LeCoultre collector, and I still love the brand, my list of favourites have expanded to include A. Lange & Sohne, Ressence, De Bethune, Sinn, Ulysse Nardin, Zenith, Blancpain, and Charles Frodsham. Honestly, I could go on, because I’m more a fan of company philosophies these days. The ones that act in good faith towards clients, innovate, and compromise as little as possible are my favourites.”
For someone who has so many interesting takes on the watch collecting worlds, and for someone who has been around their share of watches, there is bound to be a definition of an ideal watch (for themselves).
“When I was about 8 years old, I had a dream about a watch that had a built-in video communicator, a hologram projector, and a laser beam cutter. I’m certain it was inspired in part or entirely by something I saw on TV, but I like to remember it as my dream watch. So, if De Bethune can please build this for me, I’ll guarantee at least one sale,” says Mosso.
“In the realm of the real, I’d like a Ulysse Nardin Sonata Silicium from 2008. It’s the minute repeater of alarm watches, a GMT, and my favourite Sonata variant. Or perhaps I’d opt for the original MIH watch,” he adds.
The Lotus Moment: Acknowledging What’s Wrong And Parting Words Of Wisdom
Whoopi Goldberg once said: “I don’t have pet peeves like some people. I have whole kennels of irritation”.
What’s life without a few gripes, huh?! Our watch industry is an interesting one. Like most creative industries, on one hand it gives you a canvas to paint the world as you see it. On the other hand, it also has its quirks and deep-set ways that sometimes can drive one up the wall. No creative person is immune to it, and the honest ones will admit to this.
“Anger, judgement, and jealousy. Given the price of luxury watches, there aren’t too many actual children in the hobby, but we have no shortage of adults willing to play that role. From YouTube to real-world watch clubs and collector social circles, there is a shocking amount of vitriol. None of this is necessary. Be nice; pay compliments or politely demur.
“All of us are borderline-worshipping stuff that nobody needs, so we should be mutually non-judgmental. This is a silly hobby in which we spend silly money on silly things. My Jaeger-LeCoultre Duometre is as ridiculous as your Hublot King Power from a life-priorities standpoint. Let’s enjoy the clown parade, because we’re stars of the show.
“Please, people, have fun,” wraps up Mosso.
I started this article with a reference to originality. Allow me to finish in the same spirit.
“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation,” said Herman Melville, the prolific American novelist best-known for his work Moby-Dick.
Tim Moss through his body of work manages to defy even Herman Melville. Mosso’s work proves that neither did he fail in originality, nor did he imitate. In his case, ‘it became better to succeed with originality than to fail with imitation’.