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Would you spend $100,000 on a wristwatch?

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Talking about time, I got a nudge from Bloomberg about an artist in time. The story is about Max Büsser who, with his band of revolutionaries, made products they wanted themselves and built a huge fandom on the way. What’s the product?

A wristwatch.

Max worked for luxury jeweller Harry Winston but was unhappy. He had recognition, fame (at least of the watchmaking kind) and money … and was miserable. The reason was that he was creating watches he didn’t like.

“I was very good at creating products I didn’t like but I thought people would like,” he says. “I hated myself.”

But then his father died, he went into therapy and decided to do his own thing. The result is a company called MB&F, which stands for Max Büsser & Friends.

It’s a company that produces only a small amount of stuff of very high quality. It produced a mere 30 watches in its first run and 125 the next yet, in process, created a huge fanbase. MB&F’s sales then hit a five-year low of 15 million Swiss francs ($16.3 million) in 2020, as the pandemic disrupted retail and production, but rebounded sharply to a record 21.2 million francs in 2021, when the company produced 278 watches. Last year was its best, with sales reaching 28 million francs on 350 watches produced. MB&F forecasts production of about 440 watches in 2023, with revenue well above 30 million francs.

This is because each watch sells for over $100,000.

$100,000????

I had to ask:

And was duly answered:

The mention of Thorstein Veblen led me down a rabbit hole, and I realised that conspicuous consumption is what makes us all feel challenged. Veblen was probably the first to truly articulate conspicuous consumption in a social and economic context:

“In 1899, the sociologist Thorstein Veblen coined the term conspicuous consumption to explain the spending of money on and the acquiring of luxury commodities (goods and services) specifically as a public display of economic power—the income and the accumulated wealth—of the buyer.”

I hadn’t thought about it for a while, but I guess it’s why we can look at the opening of the Royal Atlantis Hotel, where apartments sell for $5 million or more, or the person who arrives at school in a Bentley with envy. It’s called Keeping up with the Joneses.

The fact is that, in society and economics, there’s always someone better off than you. Even the elite have this issue. Take any name – let’s say Jeff Bezos – and there’s always someone wealthier and more powerful and wealthier than you.

Tough.

It’s probably getting older but, these days, I don’t care. What counts for me is living a happy life, being able to pay my bills, and walking the dog. What’s yours?

Meantime, I still don’t want a watch from MB&F or Patek Philippe. I get the time on my phone. Oh, and btw, time doesn’t exist, which I mentioned yesterday, but did you know that Einstein also discovered that, if time does exist, then your head is older than your feet?

 

 

Postscript: how about spending $5.5 million on a watch? March 2023, and a rare Patek Philippe watch sold for $5.8 million in Hong Kong, the highest price ever paid for a timepiece in an online auction.

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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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