Watch Packaging - What the Hell?

This a photo of two 16x12x24" bins overflowing with all the boxes from all of my current watches. Now, I confess that given the nature of my hobby, the fact that I am a watch blogger, and my own reluctance to sell watches, I probably have more than the average bear, but this is crazy. There is no good reason to have this kind of packaging in the first place. So I am asking the watch manufacturers of the world to think twice about pumping more of this stuff into our closets, and ultimately, our landfills.

Pile of watch boxes
Why do I have all this crap?
I know most of you are saying, "If you don't like them, just throw them out!" That is not an unreasonable position. Indeed, now that I have assembled them for the photo op, I am doing just that. I will weed through this pile of junk, repurpose some of the nicer boxes for warranty cards and the like, and keep only what I truly need. But if anything, that only underscores the colossal amount of waste involved.

I kept this stuff for two reasons. First, because collectors tend to like it when you can supply a watch with the "full kit." Second, because I hate tossing anything that someone put effort into, and knowing as many microbrand owners as I do, I know that they do not generally treat their packaging lightly. They put a great deal of time and effort into making the unboxing experience something memorable.

I am rethinking both of those positions. The effort that went into the box is admirable, but it has already served its purpose for the brand. Now that the watch is on my wrist, its job is done and all the stuff it came in can move along. The "full kit" situation can make a difference on some watches but not others. I will keep the box and papers for my TAG Heuer Monaco, because when that is eventually sold - I hope, by my kids or grandkids long after I die of advanced old age - having all the bits will make it more desirable. On the other hand, will the original zippered vinyl travel case increase the value of my Deep Blue Defender by a single cent? Likely not. With those two precepts in mind, I just went on a ruthless, Stalinesque purge, trashing or recycling about three-quarters of my accumulated boxes. 

So now that I have established what I don't want, what do I want instead? In general, watches are pretty sturdy. I have shipped scores of them in two layers of bubble wrap stuffed into small USPS Priority Mail boxes without incident. As a practical matter, that is all you need, and it certainly paresdown shipping costs - particularly overseas. Of course, that is unacceptable for anyone buying or selling a brand new watch. Beyond sufficient protection in transit, we need something to establish brand identity, and to provide a satisfying initial experience for the buyer.

A recent arrival opened my eyes. I purchased a Seals Model C Field Explorer, a tough and stylish tool watch. It arrived in a canvas watch roll with its extra straps, inside a cloth pouch. It was shipped in brown paper in a plain brown cardboard box. That's it. The whole kit kept the watch safe in transit without incurring the cost of shipping a glossy wooden box. It provided ample brand identity. The roll is something I will actually use. If I simply keep it for posterity or resale, it will take up very little space. If I really don’t want it, I can sell or give it away to someone who will. If just toss it in the trash (which I will not, it’s quite nice) the canvas, leather, and fabric will decompose. The worst of it will be the nylon thread and I can live with that. 

Some big brands already do a pretty good job of this. The Seiko blue box is hardly over the top and appears to be mostly recyclable, and Timex boxes are simple cardboard, but as the price of a watch goes up, so it seems does the size and cost of its presentation packaging. Now, I don't expect a Tudor to arrive this way (yet), but microbrands, I'm talking to you. You are supposed to be the innovators, taking chances and steering the market into the future. 

Seals watch roll pouch
Seals, doing watch packaging right
My ideal watch packaging would be a wad of biodegradable padding that could not be opened with being destroyed. That is highly unlikely to happen, but reusable items, lightweight packaging, and recyclable materials should not be too much to ask. Watch rolls are awesome but not for everyone. Leather pouches can at least be repurposed and won't be floating around the ocean floor for the next several millennia. If you must have a box, make it small, use cardboard or wood, and lay off the processing. Padding or other inserts should be removable. Watchmakers are a creative lot. I know I am barely scratching the surface here. 

In my reviews, I almost never mention packaging because I don’t care about it. People buy the watch, not the box. But from now on, I’m casting a more critical eye on those boxes. You want to impress me? Use something clever and sustainable. Don't ship your watch is a display box that is more than ten times bigger than it needs to be and by all means, lose the vinyl and plastic.

Come on folks, I know we can do better than this. ⬩


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