At the most recent Pop Up Flea, a temporary Americana brand and menswear bazaar in New York City, one unexpected vendor stood out. Not only was the sheer size of its crowd impressive, but it wasn’t even a traditional retail store. The popular booth featured the watch blog Hodinkee—pronounced ho-dinkey—founded by former UBS consultant Ben Clymer.
Clymer was there to sell vintage watches, owned by others, as part of a larger marketing effort that he hopes will make Hodinkee the online destination for all things watch. So far, the strategy seems to be working. Clymer says Hodinkee gets about 300,000 unique visitors a month from more than 50 countries. Traffic to the site doubled in 2011 and grew 120 percent in 2012.
Hodinkee already has partnerships with online retailers Gilt, Park & Bond and Club Monaco. Clymer helps those outlets select watches to sell on their sites. John Mayer is a regular contributor to Hodinkee and Clymer is in talks to launch a web series on Jay-Z’s Life + Times YouTube channel. Clymer says there are currently no plans for a retail operation, but Hodinkee continues to add new products, including straps, pouches and ties to its online store.
Reuters spoke with Clymer to find out how he built Hodinkee, what worked, what didn’t and what’s next.
Tell me about when you started Hodinkee.
I started it when I was working at UBS as a consultant. I have always liked watches and mechanical watches. My grandfather had given me an Omega when I was 16. I always liked to write so I looked at my Omega Speedmaster at the time and thought, what is this? Why is this special? I posted a blog and started researching the bigger brands—Rolex, Patek Philippe —and writing what I was learning each day. And then an editor [got in touch] kind of randomly and said I really like what you’re doing, writing about these high-end watches from a younger perspective, and interviewed me for GQ.com. After that, 1,000 people came to the site and that was the first big break.
So you never had a business plan and you never did a competitive landscape analysis. You just went for it?