The Paradox of Choice – quasi book summary and discussion

Barry Schwartz is an American psychologist, Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College, and since 2016 has been visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley. His work focuses on the intersection of psychology and economics… He is also the author of the book “The Paradox of Choice” and he talks about the concepts from the book in this TED talk. In this post I wanted to outline some of the key points he makes, and connect them to a watch collector’s decision-making processes.

Will the Apple Watch kill the luxury watch industry?

According to Neil Cybart at Above Avalon (the world’s top ranked Apple analyst), it took just over five years for the installed base of the Apple Watch to surpass 100 million people, and its growth trajectory continues to accelerate. What does this mean for the ‘traditional’ Swiss watch industry, and how should they react? A 14-year-old who wears an Apple watch today, will have worn nothing else until they’re old enough to afford a Rolex – The question is, when this day comes, will they want one?

Purchases under pressure

Yesterday, over lunch with the infamous @nycwatchguy and @f1ptb… … we discussed the concept of purchases under pressure. In the current environment this issue is far more pronounced, due to the rise of limited editions, the increased popularity of independent watchmaking (who have lower supply inherently) and because of general hype with any popular watches – often fuelled by the influx of profiteers into the watch game, who tend to pose as genuine enthusiasts or collectors. This also raised the question of what defines a “genuine” enthusiast anyway; and when is it ok to sell a watch without being labelled a flipper? Thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, and thought I would share a bit here.

The “Front Page Test” for watch collectors

The “Front Page Test” is an easy ethics standard which requires asking yourself: “How would I feel if the course of action I am considering were reported on the front page of the local newspaper or in a popular blog?”. The idea is, if you feel this would be uncomfortable or create problems for you, then the best course of action is to change the intended course of action. Simple as that.

Do you like it, or do you want it?

It is likely that you have, at some time in your life, really wanted something… but upon finally getting it, felt rather disappointed. Pehaps you thought a career change was the solution to all your problems, but realised it wasn’t, once you had done it. Or perhaps you thought you’d like living in another country, but ended up regretting the move. Why does this happen? Why do we find a divergence between what we think something will be like, and the ultimate reality when we finally experience it?

The Watch Collector’s Matrix

Do you sometimes feel like you spend all your time putting out proverbial fires in your life? At the end of the day do you feel completely sapped and drained of energy, and yet can’t point to anything of real significance which you accomplished that day? Yes? Well then, you are probably confusing the urgent with the important!

In terms of watch purchasing decisions, people tend to have similar problems – where the ‘importance’ is replaced with ‘desire’ – since the purchase of a luxury watch is rarely important. I will talk about the Eisenhower matrix before exploring The Watch Collector’s Matrix in its application to watch purchasing decisions.

Watch collectors: Don’t buy what you like!

Without the aforementioned deep-diving, the purchase of any watch is more transactional. This is why you should not simply “buy what you like”. This is common advice given to new collectors, and the problem with this advice, is the very nature of what you like, is likely a temporary conclusion.