I thought I was taking "lost wax casting for jewelry" class this quarter. Turns out I'm taking "beat the shit out of it with a hammer" class. This is not particularly useful from a watchmaking standpoint. From an aesthetic standpoint it's bullshit too as my instructor is fond of copper for banging the shit out of, as well as lots of visible toolmarks. Monday we listened to a guy who went from being a touring MMA thug to being a "hammersmith" - he makes "vessels" out of copper and silver by banging on them with a hammer. He brought some. Including the white cotton gloves you need to put on to handle them. He had a "vessel" that took him a year to make. He's trying to sell it for $21,000.
Fuck everything about that.
There's a country called Global Blue whose whole world is getting you a refund on the taxes you paid while on vacation. They have a 40-year, 50-country history of what people from where buy on vacation and what they pay for it. And while the 1%ers buy an average of five luxury items a year, the global middle class buys something they can't afford, purely because they think it's cool, every year. According to RBC, one in ten Americans who make over $100k a year are planning on buying a Rolex in 2019. Seems awfully specific, doesn't it? But that sort of specificity is readily available. And I'm in a program that thinks you should either (A) make things that any schlub can buy without having to justify it to anyone or (B) exhaust countless hours into your "vision project" that you schlep around to art fairs that you're not being paid for so that you can make things that any schlub can buy without having to justify it. She taught us how to sharpen #11 blades once. Which are ten cents each, Amazon Prime. I appreciate frugality. But when you're selling sunk time, the less time you sink the more you're paying yourself per hour.
a year in the making. $21k.
I've been busily hammering nickel silver into a ball, one hemisphere at a time. I'm about 20 annealings through the process at this point and I have about 2/3rds of a ball. I'm to the point where a sandbag and a ball peen hammer decreases my radius about a 32nd of an inch each time... because we don't have dapping blocks big enough to do this for some asinine reason. I nearly bought that dapping block yesterday. $130. Because then the problem would be solved and I'd have perfectly mirror-smooth hemispheres in about 30 minutes. But people already resent me for being able to afford tools and materials (my instructor said that a hand-faceted synthetic sapphire I have "almost made her stop hating gemstones") and then I'd be stuck with 15lbs of dapping blocks which are mostly useful for hammering bottlecaps into beads.
Got a buddy. Takes 130 hours to make a watch dial. Buys a movement, buys a case, buys a strap, buys a box, sells it for $30k. As my cousin pointed out, that's "lawyer money." He's sold ten of 'em. And I don't know what would offend my class more - the fact that he's selling his work for $30k or the fact that he's only putting 130 hours into it.
Or the fact that the reason I don't have a rose engine is I'm working on programming a CNC machine to do it in 130 minutes.
I've triangulated myself to a peerless corner of the world again. It's lonely here. There are no signposts. But people I haven't talked to in a decade are looking me up and asking me what watch they should buy because I posted a picture on Instagram and that was all it took to remind them that watches are cool and they should buy one. I've got three "daddy wore it 'til he was dead" watches in my drawer right now, to be refurbished for others, that together aren't worth $5. The proletariat has been cowed into believing that only the most ostentatious asshole on the planet pays more than a hot meal's worth for jewelry but then they hang onto it for fucking generations. Unless it's a fucking Apple watch. That shit you'll buy every other year for $500 because we haven't punched each other down on consumer electronics for some asinine reason.
It occurred to me yesterday that when you start virtue signaling your allegiance to the social strata above yours, that strata commends you while your current class castigates you. Your boss will say "nice watch" and mean it; your friends will say "nice watch" and mean "...douchebag." I'm quick to point out that my Schadenporsche cost Prius money but a friend invited me to test drive his $170k i8 roadster yesterday. And when I wore the 14k Omega I fixed for a friend to pick up my daughter I could feel the eyes of all the teachers on me while knowing the guy who arranges the money for the school would love to see it.
You know who's paying to rebuild Notre Dame? LVMH and Kering. Cheapest brand in LVMH's stable is Sephora. Cheapest thing Kering owns is Saint Laurent. That 300 million euros you heard about? 200 of it is LVMH, 100 of it is Kering. And on the one hand, it's horrifying that a bunch of luxury marketers can just throw a third of a billion euros at a reconstruction project. But on the other hand Kering cleared 3 billion euros last year and Renault cleared 57.
You know what everyone in the watch world is mad about right now? The fact that Timex is assembling watches in America again but they're using quartz. TIMEX. I've got a Timex movement. It says "no jewels unadjusted." When you wind it it makes a sound like tinsel being crushed between your teeth. Because on the one hand, who on earth would buy a $500 timex when that will get you a beautiful made-in-Shenzen Apple watch? But on the other hand who on earth would buy a $500 timex that doesn't have 21 jewels and COSC certification?
This is why country clubs exist - so that both sides can hate each other without having to think it through. And I'm not in one and I don't want to be and the amount of opportunity being buried in prejudice makes my heart heavier than a useless $130 dapping block I don't want to be judged for buying.