Interview with James Lamdin, Analog/Shift

Who is James Lamdin?

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I am James Lamdin, the Founder of Analog/Shift, a leading vintage watch retailer based in New York City. I am 34, and was born in the state of Vermont in New England. I’ve lived in NYC for 12 years and couldn’t imagine calling anywhere else my home! In addition to collecting vintage watches, I also enjoy:

  1. Collecting, restoring, and driving vintage cars, particularly BMW and Porsche. I enjoy getting on the race track whenever possible, but that is altogether too infrequent!

  2. Travel – my business takes me all over the world to procure inventory and meet clients, but I enjoy exploring and always try to add on a few extra days of personal time.

  3. I also have a passion for single malt scotch, film studies, and cooking.

 

Your daily or weekly sources or channels? Your favourite daily channels/ sources through which you keep informed about watch industry and community?

My daily sources for information on the watch industry include Hodinkee, Worn & Wound, Quill & Pad, The Grey NATO Podcast, and Instagram.

 

What is Analog/Shift?

Analogshift.com is our primary web presence and eCommerce platform, and it hosts hundreds of thousands of unique vistors monthly.

I think our website stands out amongst other dealers with our incredible photography and our lengthy product descriptions, which go far beyond the normal “size/condition/price” format. Our archives feature thousands of sold pieces, and has become a bit of an online encylopedia for vintage enthusiasts.

We’re very proud of it!


How did you start Analog/Shift?

I started Analog/Shift from a desire to change the way vintage watches are dealt; first by building a real brand around my business and offering eCommerce, and secondly by providing transparency, a real guarantee, and more information on our timepieces than any other retailer. We approach each timepiece as unique, and tell their stories at length. Its very time consuming, but it pays off and we love what we do!

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I came to vintage watch collecting at a young age, and frankly getting into the business was never part of the plan. After careers in outdoor equipment and the luxury automotive industries, I wanted to follow my passion for watches into the professional realm, either by working for an auction house or a modern brand.

I wasn’t getting anywhere with either option at the time, and had quit my job to focus on making a transition. With the encouragement and support of some colleagues and friends with ties to the watch business, I set about launching my own enterprise, and Analog/Shift was born.

I was fortunate to launch the brand at a time when interest in vintage watches was really growing amongst younger collectors in particular, and the way we do business really resonated with them. As with all small businesses, we at some pointes struggled to compete on the acquisition front with more well-heeled dealers, but years later we have more watches than we can keep up with!

Ultimately, I have no real interest in selling watches, but I love helping people find and buy them. I think this comes through in every aspect of our business.

I’m humbled to have grown a team of people who feel the same way, and are damned good at what they do, each earning the respect of our colleagues and clients along the way.

 

What is your opinion about “blogging, videoblogging and microinfluencers ecosystem” impacting on watch industry?

The impact of the digital media space on the watch industry cannot be understated. In very short order, the online watch community moved from antiquated forums to the blogging/social media space, and it has been hugely impactful on businesses such as ours.

I’d say the “influencer” term is somewhat nuanced, but more on that a bit later!

 

How do you imagine Analog/Shift in the future? Evolution or next steps…

Analog/Shift came about in part to provide a solution to a major defecit in the vintage watch market: a singular, reliable brand name.

For the most part, vintage dealers are individuals – many of them excellent and trustworthy in their own right, for the record – but there is a limited sustainability to their development, staying power, and ability to meet the needs of a growing marketplace if you’re a one-man show.

Our continuing goal is to maintain our position as the most trustworthy brand name in vintage, and we expect to meet it by continuing sustainable growth, developing an even larger team, and opening points of sale in additional cities (we are currently represented in New York, Boston, and Chicago), and have affiliated partner dealers in Baltimore and Milwaukee.

That said, we are very picky about who we’ll work with, and choosing partners with integrity, knowledge, and respect is a tall order!

 

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What do you think about eCommerce on brand new watches (like is doing Hodinkee) and keeping the editorial independence of reviews and brand content? eCommerce vs. Content?

This is a tricky question to answer. Sites such as Hodinkee are indeed the gold standard in watch industry editorial, and have been incredibly inspirational to many collectors and startup entrepreneurs, myself included.

With a limit on how much of a budgetary offset to opertaional costs advertising can bring, offering a point of sale on a curated selection of new timepieces is a logical next step, and I suspect they are doing quite well with it, as their brand has exceptional respect. With that said, it is natural to question the ethics and integrity at play when you’re reporting on the same products you sell, and it can shake consumer confidence.

I think the answer is that its very much a case by case basis, and its important to form your own opinions on the individuals or brands that are merging editorial review and commerce, and determine for yourself if they are someone you’d do business with.

I’m very fortunate to have known the Hodinkee team for a very, very long time and know that much like my own business, Hodinkee is built on a passion for watches and watch collecting above all else.

There are other businesses doing similar things I couldn’t say the same about.

 

Do you think about eCommerce? And about SocialMedia in order to open the global scope of worlwide buyers.

Analog/Shift was designed from the start, to be an eCommerce platform, and was in fact one of the earliest dealer websites to offer online checkout. While it is no longer our primary sales channel (many of our clients find us online or through social media and then contact us directly, or visit us at our Manhattan boutique), it is always there, and we do business globally using the eCommerce site.

 

Is eBay or Catawiki (and similar online platforms) good channels to selling your products? What do you think about it?

We do not utilize eBay or Catawiki for sales channels – while the traffic and appeal is widespread, they do not allow us to manage the process and experience for our clients. I believe we stand out amongst other online watch dealers due to our photography and detailed descriptions, as well as the overall user experience on our site and social media pages – we’d likely lose this if we went onto a mainstream sales channel like eBay.

 

How do you manage the online and offline mix with the new targets and new behaviours of young buyers?

I’m not sure we make much of a distinction here. Our online personas are exactly who we are in real life; authenticity is very much our guiding principle in all we do.

Since opening our New York City boutique, we have been able to move more of our conversations “offline”, but of course we have clients worldwide, and not everyone can make it in, so we focus on online and offline strategies equally.

 

How do you manage a true vintage Experience in your Point of Sale?

I think our site speaks for itself; we have the best Art Director in the business – Atom Moore’s brilliant work photographing timepieces is legendary in its own right, and our love of telling real stories about our timepieces is front and center.

As for our boutique, the entire place is a vintage enthusiast’s heaven! We of course welcome readers to make an appointment and come visit us whenever you’re next in New York City to see for yourself what we mean.

 

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What is your Blog or Instagram/Facebook profile (some links). How do you manage your community? (campaigns, crossing campaigns with other blogs, or communities or markets,…)

Social media is naturally a big piece of our marketing strategy, and in fact have never paid a dime for traditional advertising or SEO placement. We value partnerships and collaborative marketing and have partnered with and been featured by numerous media sources across print and web outlets – links available on our website.

 

What was your first watch that started the love for Watches or that started the spark?

The DOXA Sub 300/300T. This watch captured my imagination years before I had ever actually seen one! My favorite escapist fiction novelist, Clive Cussler, wrote one into his book series as the watch his hero wore – generally being referenced as “Dirk Pitt’s orange faced DOXA diving watch” or something similar. I didn’t know what that meant, but Dirk Pitt was my favorite literary hero and I knew I had to have one – I was probably about 11 years old.

Many years later, when my Grandfather passed away, I inherited a number of his watches and other possessions, and was driven to learn about these items to better understand his life. During this process, I became the unknowing recipient of a love of stories told through objects, and began a journey into collecting that landed me where I am today.

When I started collecting on my own, it was that orange dial DOXA Sub that I knew I had to find.

 

How is your collection structured?

Loosely!

I buy what I love, I buy what I like to wear, and I buy some pieces just to “preserve” in my own little museum collection. I have modern, vintage, antique, pocket watches, and all sorts of horological periphery. I DO tend to collect in batches, which sometimes results with numerous variants of a particular model or category, but there isn’t much method to the madness.

 

The way how it has evolved?

I think its fair to say my collection has evolved upwards and outwards as my financial means grew in the past 15 years, which is pretty straightforward. I now own pieces – and even duplicates of pieces – that I could only dream of in the early days of collecting. Of course, in the first few years, everything was worn on rotation; I now sometimes purchase pieces to “sit on” – not necessarily just for financial investment, but just because I love them, even if it wouldn’t be something I’d wear daily.

 I often jest that I don’t have any money, but have a bunch of really cool watches; a statement that is pretty accurate!

 

Do you have any Holy Grail you are still looking for it?

Interestingly, no. 

I’m humbled to be in a position where I get to help clients locate and acquire their Holy Grails all the time, so some of that magic feeling wears off on me from time to time, but for the most part there isn’t any “ONE” piece I can’t live without – at least not at this time.

There are plenty of pieces I’d like to find and own, of course!

 

Your favourite Brands?

I’m probably the only vintage dealer you’ll ever meet who doesn’t live, eat, and breathe Rolex, but I do have a particular affection for the 1675 series GMT-Master, so it makes the list for sure.

There’s also a special place in my heart for A. Lange & Söhne, Bremont, Cartier, DOXA, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Seiko, Laurent Ferrier, Universal Geneve, Heuer, and Tudor, amongst a sincere appreciation for all sorts of cool “off-brand” watches.

 

Some favorite watch or model that you will never get rid of?

My first DOXA Sub 300 “Black Lung”, my Rolex Root Beer 1675/8, and my grandfather’s Movado HS360 Datron Chronograph are here to stay, for sure.

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Tips for someone who starts their collection.

Start by buying what you love; not what someone tells you to love.

Whether you’re buying new or vintage, buy the seller first: develop a relationship with someone you can trust, as this will be an essential part of your collecting journey, and if you start by doing business with someone who doesn’t have your best interests at heart, it can be a bad start to a wonderful hobby.

 

Tips for someone who wants to put order in their collection.

I’m probably not the person to ask, LOL!

I think that as your tastes evolve, you’re likely to obtain representative samples from all across the horological spectrum, and while that might look outwardly like a hodgepodge of watches with no connecting thread or theme (at least the way a box full of Military-Issued Submariners might), to me it represents a well-rounded appreciation of watches from numerous categories.

Order is overrated.

 

What is your favorite complication?

Great question! I suppose looking at my collection, it would be regatta timers and chronographs in general.

With that said, I love a good moon phase indicator – probably the most whimsical complication!

 

Is Vintage Watch Collecting a true Investment?

It certainly can be!

Conventional wisdom on collecting vintage watches 15 or 20 years ago was to buy with your heart, not your head – meaning if you buy what you love it can never be a bad investment. It’s a wonderful sentiment, and one I subscribe to, at least in part. But the difference today, of course, is that values in vintage have come up tremendously, and are continuing to do so year over year.

In my view, if you’re spending serious money, be it $2000 – or $20,000 – or $200,000 on a watch, you’d better involve your head in the equation!

With that said, with some thoughtful guidance and strategy, there are very sensible places to invest in vintage watches that may offer short or long term returns, or at the very least hold value and allow you to wear and enjoy your investment on a daily basis.

 

Is vintage Watching an alternative way to diversify a mid or long term investments?

Totally. While I wouldn’t necessarily advocate putting one’s entire life savings into any one commodity, adding some quality watches into your investment portfolio is anything but crazy.

 

At Andhora.com we have a large worldwide community of Stopwatch collectors: What do you think of the Stopwatches collectors?

I think stopwatches are great!

They are interesting horological devices and I have a number in my collection. I don’t think they have the broader appeal that wrist-wearable timepieces have, but that’s part of their charm.

 

Can be Stopwatches complementary to watch collection?

Absolutely. As I mention above, “horological periphery” including stopwatches, pocket watches, desk and wall clocks, scientific timers, dash instruments, etc., all follow a common theme, and make for great additions to a wristwatch collection.

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Are the stopwatches the great unknown and forgotten of watch collection?

Interesting question. I think in many ways, pocket watches are more the unknown and forgotten category to most wristwatch collectors today. Stopwatches are instruments and hold a slightly different appeal, whereas pocket watches are the direct predecessor to wristwatches, and there is a lot of forgotten knowledge about them. I’d love to see pocket watches make a true return, but they are much more fragile and hard to use on a regular basis than a wristwatch, so it seems sadly unlikely, at least in a mainstream sense.


How do you see the relationship between the current watch industry and the vintage watch?

As a part-time watch journalist, I’ve had the fortune of really digging into this dichotomy, exploring the modern wristwatch industry as a writer and dealing in the vintage watch market professionally and simoultaneously.

I think at this juncture, there is a tremendous amount of interest by modern watch manufacturers to pay homage to their history, not only in re-issuing their historical pieces, but in trying to recapture the exclusivity and brand equity that their vintage offerings have more inherently.

I also see vintage tastes informing modern production in terms of size, materials, and of course design, and the opposite is also true. A recent re-embracing of two tone wristwatches by brands such as Audemars Piguet, Tudor, Rolex, Seiko, and Girard-Perregaux, for example, has seemingly increased appreciation and value for vintage two-tone models.

Ultimately, I think it behooves contemporary brands to continue support for their vintage models on a parts and service basis, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Classic Centers” for more brands open in the near future, much in the way the big players in the automotive industry have. It’s a huge market opportunity for them, for certain.

 

Do you think the industry is focusing the strategy of SmartWatches?

I think there is a recent memory of the quartz crisis still fresh in the minds of most watch industry executives, and a desire to “get ahead” of this potential problem for market share. So it makes a certain amount of sense that these brands would put some resources towards capitalizing on the trend instead of getting rolled over by it.

With that said, most Smart Watches are really in no way related to mechanical watchmaking, aside from the fact that they are worn on the wrist, and I think there is real value in doing what you’re good at, instead of diversifying into what I believe will be a relatively short-lived fad.

Simply put, mechanical watches can – if maintained and used properly – be used forever, while digital gadgetry of all sorts has a limited lifespan, if for no other reason that they will be rendered obsolete quickly. Mechanical watches have no true purpose and are a luxury and emotional purchase.

Watch brands should focus on that element of the zeitgeist.

 

What do you think about the relationship between Millennials (young segment of population) and mechanical watches?

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Its a very important one! At Analog/Shift, younger buyers are a significant part of our client base. I think the interest millenials have in vintage and mechanical things is a complicated one, but there is no doubt it is a widespread and important cultural shift.

Whereas their parents embraced all things digital to speed up and ease their lives, millenials grew up in a very fast-paced, digital, and internet-based culture. I think, amongst other reasons, that their interest in “slower tech” comes from a desire to disconnect and enjoy the journey a bit more.

 

Do you think the watch industry needs to connect with the young target or remain focused on tradition, luxury,…?

Short answer? Yes to both. I don’t think they are necessarily disparate.

 

What do you think about the strategy of Brand concentration in global luxury holdings like LVMH, SwatchGroup, Richemont,…?

From a production, distribution, and marketing standpoint, it makes a lot of sense for these conglomerates to funnel resources through brand holding concentrations. With that said, it can and does sometimes slow innovation, and I think some of the most interesting things in contemporary horology are coming from the Independent space.

 

What do you think about social networks and microinfluencers. Are they important for the whole watch industry? (and for the whole watch ecosystem)

Social networking is important in every industry these days. Influence through social media such as Instagram has proven to be hugely important in both vintage and contemporary watch marketing and the associated ecosystem, no question.

With that said, terms such as “tastemaker” and “influencer” are already being overused and abused, and there is a risk of losing authenticity if brands align with anyone and everyone with a strong social following, instead of focusing on individuals, groups, or brands that actually espouse the virtues they are trying to portray to their consumer base.

I think this issue is far from “settled” and there will be a social media upheaval on the near horizon as this continues to work itself out.

Andhora.com is a small blog in spanish done by vintage wristwatch and stopwatch lovers & collectors, with a growing community of friends and followers in Spain and Latin America. What would be your best advise for Andhora.com in order to keep growing and become a true reference?

The love of mechanical watchmaking is universal and knows no cultural, gender, or language barriers. While much of the luxury watch industry is primarily focused on French, English, and Chinese language markets, everyone benefits if sites like Andhora continue to share information, opinion, and resources on the hobby that brings us all together.

Keep up the great work, and thanks so much for reaching out!