Ben Clymer (Hodinkee)
|David Senra||Feb 24, 2019|
David’s Notes now has audio! If you want to listen to me talk about these notes, use the audio player above.
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.
Hodinkee’s storytelling moves a lot of product. We made 36 watches at $45,000 apiece. We sold them out in 20 minutes. We had 400 people on the waiting list after. The only promotion of that watch was one blog post on our site. We are creating the demand and we are fulfilling the demand.