When Swatch Attacks

Much of this video is pure cringe — PERSONALLY, I LOVE THE SWATCH GROUP! — and it suffers from the typical YouTube disease of stretching a five-minute explanation into a half-hour drag, but it might be worth your attention.

If you don’t like watching videos, here’s the scoop: The great people at Vortic take pocketwatches from the World War I era, fix them up, then put them into Colorado-made wristwatch cases. I am a Vortic owner, I’ve visited the tiny workshop in which they do their work. I’m a fan.

The Swatch Group is not a fan. Swatch, which owns a variety of brands like Omega in addition to, ah, Swatch, is now the owner of the Hamilton brand. They use “Hamilton” as a skinsuit brand beneath which they sell watches made from Swiss and, ahem, overseas components. They’re pissed off that Vortic re-cases Hamilton pocketwatches. They don’t think that a watch made in the United States by the original Hamilton factory should be permitted to retain the brand. That should belong to the modern globalized conglomerate known as Swatch Group.

Wednesday morning, Vortic will be defending itself in Federal court. This is the most one-sided contest humanly imaginable. Were I a billionaire, I’d fund Vortic’s defense. Since I’m not, I’ll be voting with my pocket: no more Swatch group stuff for me.

16 Replies to “When Swatch Attacks”

  1. AvatarJohn C.

    Interesting that what David and Goliath implicitly by their actions agree to is that involving themselves with the reputation of the old American industrial concern Hamilton lifts them up over where they would be without the glom on. What happened to the idea of corner cutting big business and unruly ethnic blue collar labor that left everything we did second string and suspect? Both the characters acting out David and Goliath are obviously among the best today. It is not an argument between a Parsee Indian sweatshop and a PLA worker’s paradise. I suspect David will have to pay a token fee to license the Hamilton name or stop using Hamilton movements.

  2. Avatarrambo furum

    Aesthetically, I’d have to be on Team Swatch, even though I hate that lug grille thing they do that locks you into their proprietary bands.

    I’d have to assume that Vortic people is capitalizing on the Hamilton brand name or else it would have been removed or concealed. Even ignoring the lucre, an owner needs to protect their brand. Leno has talked about how custom cars made of Rolls Royce parts can’t externally bear their logo or name.

    • AvatarWill Krawczyk

      So by your logic when an Auction house sells a Rolex, it shouldn’t because it’s capitalizing on Rolex’s name? Wtf is the point of brand then?

  3. Avatarrambo furum

    I listened to as much of this as I could, and I am now strongly, very strongly, on Team Swatch. Vortic knows they are infringing, and that nobody wants their bougie crap absent the esteemed name of the original maker. Their sanctimoniousness is obscene. They really think they have some moral superiority. All they would have to do is vaguely allude to the movement provenance and blur out the name in photos. But they are too hipster arrogant to do that, and of course nobody would be interested.

    They are definitely akin to the biblical David in that they are not playing by the rules. But I hope the Singer Hamilton-On-A-Strap jerks lose bigly.

    • AvatarWill

      You could be on ESPN with this hot take.

      What’s wrong with re-purposing old watches and selling them? They aren’t claiming they’re new Hamilton watches and a ruling would crater the used market and the idea that once you sell it, you can’t tell people what to do with it.

      • Avatarcaltemus

        If anything, the fact that these old watches are still workable would be a testament to the quality of Hamilton products. Maybe swatch doesn’t want the new Hamilton’s to be shown up by higher quality, american-made antiques.

  4. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    This sounds similar to what Rolex is doing suing La Californienne, a boutique operation that customizes used Rolexes. Though in that case (no horological pun intended) La Californienne appears to be making custom dials to which they are afixing Rolex logos which is pretty iffy in terms of IP.

    I wonder how James Glickenhaus feels about this. Ferrari wouldn’t let him put the prancing horse on the P3/4 tribute car he had built, so he started his own car company.

  5. AvatarShocktastic

    I’m sort of a watch guy so another context for Jack’s post is referring to ETA, a company that is part of the Swatch group, which makes various grades of mechanical watch movements used in a number of fancy watch brands such as the very common 2824 movement. 15 or 20 years ago, when you dropped off your not-so-expensive non-Omega-but-ETA-hearted watch, the watch repair-person might find it easier or cheaper to drop in a new ETA movement as opposed to adjusting the old movement of your watch. Either way you got a $150-200 bill but your watch ran better so you were unaware of the movement transplant. ETA used to sell its mechanical movements to all sorts of watch companies such as certain blingy (cough cough Jack ratted them out already) Bangs Bling-Bling companies. Now ETA is reducing its sales to watchmakers outside of the Swatch group. The cheap watch servicing days are gone unless the tech can drop in an anonymous (e.g. Miyota or Seiko movement) unseen or your 2824-x has an easy remedy. I love the loud ticking sounds of my cheap old 2824 military watch (can hear it through my pillow) but every 2-5 days I have to adjust the time. My cheap Miyota/Citizen/Seiko movements keeps better time than my old 300M, Speedmaster, and Daytona but I never had them properly serviced. Sold them long ago. Farewell.

    • AvatarRonnie Schreiber

      Sellita makes a clone of the 2824-2, the SW200, that a number of watchmakers are using now that the Swatch group is restricting access to the ETA movements. It looks like they are about $175 retail for the movement.

  6. AvatarCJinSD

    I don’t really have a dog in the watch fight. In spite of being half Italian, I grew up believing that men don’t wear jewelry. My parents received Hamilton manual-winding watches as wedding presents in the mid ’60s and both watches ceased functioning by the late ’70s. I think Vortic had a very clever idea in reconditioning and repurposing century-old pocket watches in this age of giant wristwatch affectation. They aren’t banking on the names of the movement manufacturers as much as they are on their authenticity as antiques. They sell their watches with the name of the city of movement manufacture, not the brand of the watchmaker. Should they have the logo of an active concern on the face of a Vortic, no matter how tenuous the connection between ‘Hamilton’ of today and Hamilton of Lancaster? Sadly, that’s where lawyers seek their rent.

    My biggest concern from the video is the state of ‘journalism’ today. They’d love to cover this story completely and objectively, but everyone on the watch beat is dependent on Swatch for their livelihood. Is it any wonder that the people covering politics and global corporatism can’t tell the truth about climate science?


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