In 2008 at the age of 25, Benjamin Clymer, a former UBS consultant, began a revolutionary adventure that would change the wristwatch industry for years to come. Hodinkee, pronounced “ho-dinky,” is derived from the Czech word “hodinky,” which means wristwatch. Hodinkee, which began its humble beginnings on Tumblr as Clymer’s adventure, grew into the website that has expanded to be among the finest platforms for watch knowledge—old and new—in the world. Over the past nine years, it has become a hub for fans and advertisers.
The man behind the origins of Hodinkee, Benjamin Clymer, lives in downtown New York City and holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. His interests in watches began after his grandfather had given him an Omega Speedmaster when he was 16 years old. After he began documenting his research into bigger brands of watches on Tumblr, an editor with GQ.com contacted Clymer requesting an interview. That interview launched Hodinkee’s first big break bringing in 1,000 people to the site in one day.
Benjamin Clymer has become widely considered to be the leading voice in the wristwatch industry. He is regularly quoted in major publications, including The New York Times, Reuters, Forbes, Departures, GQ, and Financial Times. In 2013 he was dubbed “The High Priest of Horology” by The New York Times. “Benjamin has acted as a consultant and guest speaker for Apple, and was named to ‘The Hypebeast Hundred’ as one of the 100 most important influencers in global culture in both 2013 and 2014.”1 He frequently curates items for vintage watch sales and spends most of his time traveling the world, jetting to everywhere from Geneva to Tokyo to tour watch factories and report on high-end watch auctions.
You might be wondering why Hodinkee is so special. Unlike some of its competitors, Hodinkee does not take the exclusive world of fine watchmaking too seriously. Even the name Hodinkee was Clymer’s way of poking fun at the mainly serious business. Clymer also believes that its success is attributed to the fact that it attracts both young and veteran mechanical watch lovers, unlike other platforms. In a recent interview Clymer explains that “Hodinkee doesn’t buy into all the pretense that surrounds the industry. At the end of the day the watch industry doesn’t really matter. It’s fun, it’s beautiful, and there’s something worth preserving for sure, but it’s being logical and reasonable in regards to watch buying that sets us apart.”2 Unlike its competitors, Hodinkee acts as an escape from the mundane.
People migrate to the website for Hodinkee’s array of information for various interests in the watch industry. There are those who look at it as a true intellectual study in investment vehicles and how watches appreciate or depreciate, and then there are the social parameters of watches. “There are watches that have assisted in changing history!” exclaims Clymer. “When Apollo 13 failed, the Omega Speedmaster was integral to its safe return to Earth. At the Time of Edmund Hillary’s ascent to Everest, and when they went down to the Mariana Trench, a mechanical watch is all they had,” describes Clymer. “The thing that most people forget in our day and age is that any mechanical watch is certainly a luxury. Digital time telling didn’t really exist until the mid-‘70s when Formula One pushed it forward. These were tools critical to the survival of any explorer and any scientist on an expedition. Vintage watches aren’t viewed as luxury items. You view them as an heirloom from a simpler time when these watches were critical to everyday life.”3 These are the passions that drive watch collectors and watchmakers.
The success of Hodinkee can be well attributed to its strong following. The average follower is 34 years old with an average income of over $250,000. Generally, the readers have master’s degrees. About 90 percent of those who read and listen to Hodinkee are young wealthy men and women. Clymer’s approach in advertising is that as soon as they stop “being real” with people, their influence will be gone. The people behind Hodinkee are well aware of that and strive to keep their audience pleased. According to Clymer, the business is certainly profitable with revenue in the six figures.
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. In 2013 Hodinkee was named to Time Magazine’s 50 Best Websites. The aBlogtoWatch named Hodinkee as the world’s most popular watch block with watch reviews, industry information, and buying guides. Others, such as iW Magazine, refer to it as “The definitive source for watch enthusiasts.”4 Throughout the past few years Hodinkee has gained great popularity as the data show. According to Google Trends, Hodinkee has climbed the scales of interest since its beginnings in 2008 and has exceeded the interests of one of its main competitors, Watchuseek.com. As of March 2016 Hodinkee.com leads in interest over Watchuseek.com and continually shows evidence of its growing popularity in the watch community across the globe.
Clymer’s main goal for Hodinkee is to be a driving force behind the renaissance of the watch in the United States, if not the world. “That sounds grandiose, but we’ve been successful because we write about things that are often perceived as pretentious, and slightly obnoxious, and ridiculously expensive and overpriced, in a way that explains them to normal people, that they can understand and appreciate them.”5 He explains that if you fully embrace the fact that wearing a very expensive watch is ridiculous and have fun with it, then you can build more of a community around it. Benjamin Clymer strives to make Hodinkee into the go-to source and main talking point for mechanical watches in general; so far, he and his crew at Hodinkee are doing a pretty grand job.