Dave Portnoy is finding out the hard way that just because you’ve launched a successful media brand, you can’t just waltz into the watch industry and expect to be successful there, too.
The controversial founder of pop culture blog Barstool Sports – best known for his brash online persona and surprisingly viral pizza reviews – has launched his very own watch brand, named Brick Watch Company: a name that supposedly refers to how he built Barstool “brick by brick” but also a self-deprecating play on words referring to broken goods.
Portnoy unveiled the brand in typical Portnoy style, claiming that he’s been working on the project for over two years and has invested “millions of dollars” into creating a “clean, simple, good-looking, well-made watch,” as well as saying “hopefully people buy the watches and like them – and if not, well, f*ck you.”
In short: people don’t like them, and now Portnoy’s saying f*ck you. Why? Well, the watches, which are unbelievably generic in design and construction, are incredibly cheap-looking – yet Portnoy’s trying to sell them for US$2,400 each. Ooft.
WATCH brand strategy expert @shwinnabego explain some of the problems with Dave Portnoy’s watch brand below.
Critics have had a field day savaging Brick Watch Company, rightly pointing out that at that sort of price, you could easily afford a watch from a genuine Swiss watch brand like Baume & Mercier, Longines or Tissot, and you’d have a much more luxurious, better-made product.
As Gear Patrol put it, “there’s little indication as to what makes Brick watches more expensive than those with similar descriptions — aside from simply targeting a price bracket where they think they can sell,” adding:
“You truly have many, many better options. You can get excellent automatic chronographs for these prices and less… As Portnoy puts it in his Twitter video introducing the brand, “It ain’t cheap, but it ain’t ten grand. If it said ‘Rolex’ on it, it would be at least ten grand,” revealing him to presumably have no idea what makes Rolexes expensive.”Gear Patrol
Highsnobiety put it even more simply: “if you care enough about watches to cough up $2,400, you’re gonna want something a little more substantial and a lot more sophisticated.”
Commenters online have pointed out that Portnoy’s also lifted product descriptions straight from OMEGA, and the legal templates on Portnoy’s website have simply been copy/pasted from a generic template and not even filled out properly. It also seems as if virtually identical watches to Brick’s are selling elsewhere for $42.
In response, Portnoy posted an 8-minute-long meltdown on Twitter, complaining about “watch dorks” and “haters” trying to destroy his efforts, singling out menswear writer Derek Guy (@dieworkwear) in particular who had the temerity to (rightfully) suggest that selling a “$42 watch for $2,400 is shameful”.
He failed, however, to address critics’ core complaints: that the watches are far too expensive for what they are, and that the entire brand feels like a shonk.
Portnoy’s ham-fisted attempt at trying to enter the watch market speaks to a broader issue, however: the proliferation of cheap, low-quality ‘direct to consumer’ or ‘Kickstarter’ watch brands, which all represent the same grift.
You’ve no doubt encountered a few online, as they market themselves very aggressively across social media: Filippo Loreti, MVMT, Valuchi, Vincero… They all claim that traditional watch brands mark up their products excessively, but by “bypassing traditional channels” and “cutting out the middle man” they can sell real premium watches to customers at a fraction of the price.
Their marketing typically features lots of customer testimonials where claims like “I own Rolexes but I get more compliments wearing this watch” are commonplace. They also do a lot of influencer marketing, where you’ll see mid-tier influencers shill the ever-loving their watches.
In that sense, Portnoy’s his own influencer: using his millionaire status to imply that he intuitively knows something about luxury, or at the very least, can access genuine luxury – therefore if the watch is good enough for him, it’s good enough for other luxury shoppers.
The reality is that these watch brands use cheap, generic movements; incredibly derivative designs (some of which are just straight-up copyright infringement) and are incredibly opaque about where these watches are made. Many are simply just drop-shipped from China.
What’s most laughable is their claim that they’re actually luxury products. Virtually none of them feature the sort of construction or quality materials that you’d need to use to qualify as a high-end watch. More to the point, no serious watch fan would ever take someone wearing one of these watches seriously, as they’re so obviously terrible.
They’re entirely designed to sucker in people who don’t know anything about watches but are desperate to look cool or have a status symbol to show off. They might be cheaper than a typical Swiss or Japanese watch, but they’re still ridiculously overpriced, especially when comparable watches can be purchased from Alibaba or Taobao for cents on the dollar.
Brick Watch Company is just a particularly egregious example of the same old scam. It’s clear that Portnoy’s just trying to leverage his fame and status as a self-made millionaire to hawk cheap watches to his adoring fans for outrageous prices.
But it’s a bit of a bizarre move: it’s one thing fooling someone who doesn’t know anything about watches to buy an MVMT for a few hundred dollars, but someone who’s got a few thousand dollars spare to spend on a watch is highly unlikely to go for watches like these. How many of Portnoy’s fans would be in a position to fall for this, anyway? Not that many people have that sort of spare change.
Alternatively, Portnoy could be the one being scammed here: maybe he truly doesn’t know anything about watches, is getting terrible advice or is simply drinking his own Kool-Aid, and has spent buckets of his own cash on a venture that’s doomed to fail (although we don’t think that’s the case).
Fools and their money are easily parted, we suppose.