Hello. My name is John, and I have a watch problem.
Look, I’ve always called watches “boys’ jewelry.” Even in our less binary age, women have a lot of great jewelry, and the more expensive it is, the better. Guys get watches. Most men will invest in one or two and wear them forever. But I like variety and have managed to amass a decent collection that spans just about any sartorial occasion.
When somebody told me about Watch Gang, I thought they were messing with me. For a $150-a-month subscription, Watch Gang would send me a mystery watch — worth up to $500 — every month. (Quarterly or on-demand options are also available.) I was hesitant. Would I end up with a wardrobe of no-name plastic watches with inflated price tags and no recognizable brand names? What the heck? But I gave it a try.
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First, I should mention that Watch Gang has been around since 2016 and has more than 2 million members. Thirty thousand are actively receiving watches from one of the subscription models. They must be doing something right. The real genius of the site is that there are several ways you can choose to shop.
As I mentioned, the Black Tier subscription is $150 a month. Watch Gang will send the subscriber a watch worth up to $500 on either a monthly, quarterly, or on-demand basis. A more value-priced $75 option is also available (with watches worth up to $150), as is a Platinum Tier version, at $400 (sending watches worth up to $1,500). Not only do members get high-quality watches at a premium price, but they are also automatically entered into a contest to win a Rolex every Friday.
I began my membership by completing a questionnaire that not only asked rudimentary questions about my life and personal style, but then skewed sort of right-brain by asking me to choose from images that would provide some insight into my watch requirements.
“The questionnaire really helps us curate for our customers,” said founder and CEO Matt Gallagher. “We can see that in one year, people prefer to spend more time outdoors, but the next year they go out on dates or to concerts, which helps influence what we procure for our members.”
I have to say I was impressed with the first two models to arrive at my door. The Aeromat Vol de Nuit White Steel chronograph is inspired by the writer and pilot Antoine de St Exupery (author of The Little Prince) and runs on a Seiko quartz movement.
It’s a sturdy, handsome watch that looks more expensive than its MSRP of $275. It’s the kind of watch I’d want to pair with jeans, a white t-shirt, and a leather jacket, which means I’ll probably be wearing it a lot this fall.
The second is a Spinnaker Limited Edition Hass Fumee Black, where Watch Gang nailed me. I love automatic watches, but this one, with diver styling, a stainless case, and a textured brown/black face, is sure to become a favorite. It comes with a steel bracelet attached and a dark taupe “NATO” fabric strap as an option. What’s great is that neither of these brands is one that I would necessarily have even looked for before.
Another quick entry into the club is to sign up for WatchText. If you’re the guy who likes to get in and out of the store as fast as possible, WatchText is for you. The program offers limited quantity deals on emerging brands and established names like Rolex and Tag Heuer. Provide your mobile phone number, shipping, and payment information. Watch Gang sends texts with various watch deals. If you see one you like, hit Instant Checkout, and you’re done. (Oh, and yes, you’re still entered into that chance to win a free Rolex every month.) I can be very spontaneous, so I decided this would be too dangerous for my wallet.
Of course, you can also go to the Watch Gang Store on the site and buy a watch (how boring). Anybody can shop there, but members get exclusive pricing. The store features a variety of brands, styles, and prices. Some brands aren’t exactly household names, like the newer Italian company Out of Order or the nearly 150-year-old Swiss maker Armand Nicolet, but Tag Heuer, Versus Versace, and Zodiac are also on the menu. Some exclusives are part of a collaboration Watch Gang did with the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The store also features Grails for Good, a unique fundraising option. For a pre-set donation of $5 to $200, you’ll be awarded 100 to 2,000 entries into a drawing for a high-end collectible watch (at one point, the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch, valued at $6,3000). Grails has raised $50,000 in two and a half years, with proceeds going to organizations like My Friend’s Place, Autism Speaks, and Wounded Warriors.
If Grails for Good appeals to the gambler in you, you’ll also want to check out Watch Gang’s Wheel of Watches. The more you buy, the more credits you build up. Use the credits to add potential watches to the wheel, take a spin, and you may win one of the watches you chose, or a Grail from Rolex, Omega, Tag Heuer, etc. There is nothing like interactive mystery shopping with a little side of gambling.
I’ve got to be honest. So far, there is very little I’d change. I’m torn about whether I think that the many options for buying on the site are confusing, fun, or just a way to interact with a lot of different guys. Also, as a heads up, Watch Gang has a strict no refund or return policy, which struck me as a bit off-putting. “It’s a mystery club,” Gallagher said. “If you don’t want to take the risk, you don’t have to, but if you do, we’re asking you to essentially live with what you get. If you don’t like it, we do have a community with like 40,000 people who are actively buying, selling, and trading with each other.”
Risk it! Between the survey and the expert purchasing team at Watch Gang, they’re most likely sending great watches that you’ll love. You don’t have to do it forever, either! Do it for a year to beef up your watch wardrobe. (Hey… wouldn’t a gift subscription be an excellent idea for Dad or a best bud who needs to up his timepiece game?) If you end up with one or two you don’t like, save the packaging and gift them at holiday-time, birthdays, or Grads-and-Dads season.
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