Ben Clymer (Hodinkee)

  
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Ben Clymer is the founder of Hodinkee.

  • Hodinkee began as my personal blog about watches. It began out of a love for these mechanical objects, a love of writing, and a love for the internet. 

  • It quickly evolved into creating original storytelling. Original videography, original photography, and really strong writing. 

  • This was in 2010. I was a graduate student in journalism. My professors were curious how I could pay my rent in SoHo from a blog about watches. 

  • What I realized is we hit on something that hadn’t been touched before: An approachable vehicle to explain this world of high luxury to men. Most luxury publications are focused on women.

  • I never intended to turn this into a business. I wanted to be a journalist. Hodinkee got me into journalism graduate school. While I was in graduate school Hodinkee really took off. 

  • After some initial success [Time named Hodinkee one of the 50 best websites in the world] we launched an e-commerce platform [built on shopify]. We designed some straps for vintage Rolex’s and Omega’s etc...We sold out instantly. In just a few hours. 

  • Now we do limited edition watches. We collaborate with high-end watchmakers to design products that say Hodinkee on the back. They are sold exclusively through us. We take a margin just like any other retailer. 

  • One of the greatest things that ever happened to me was what I didn’t know. When I started Hodinkee I didn’t know what a publicist was. I didn’t know what a marketing person was. I didn’t know anything about the media’s relationship with industry. If I did I would have reached out and asked what they wanted me to cover. I was writing about the stuff that I was interested in. As an enthusiast. This is what ultimately differentiated us. [Innovation usually comes from industry outsiders. Listen to Founders #61 for an example of this.] 

  • High-end watches are a champagne and caviar world. That’s not me. You can appreciate watches, like I do, in a way that has nothing to do with cost. 

  • Hodinkee started out as a media brand. Now we view Hodinkee as a consumer brand that does media. We sell 25,000 straps a year. We sell a few thousand watches a year. 

  • We have an anti-hypebeast model. Hodinkee is about quality made products that are made to last. Things that have a design ethos that is not trending specific. This is about lasting design. Something that will look great years down the road. 

  • You were bootstrapped for a long time. Now you raised money. Why? I was anti venture capital for a long time because I didn’t want to build a big business. I wanted to build a wonderful business for me. Kevin Rose and Tony Fadel convinced me to take some money and build this together. All of our investors are fans. That’s the difference for us. 

  • We must stay focused. We are a watch publication. We have no plans to make content for any other products. It is tempting for your own vanity to say I could do this again in cars, or architecture etc. We have a wonderful opportunity ahead of us in watches [$20 billion a year industry]. It would be foolish to take our foot off the gas and go into other domains. 

  • We don’t want to be the biggest anything. We just want to be the most influential. 

  • We have an audience, not just traffic. We have a real community. We’ll say, “Hey come to this bar tomorrow at 6 pm just to hang out and talk.” A thousand people will show up. They are excited to come bullshit about watches with other watch people.