Interview with David Chalmers, Calibre11

What is Calibre11?

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Calibre 11 is a website dedicated to collectors of Heuer and TAG Heuer watches. The site began in 2009 and has expanded over the last ~10 years to include a full range of modern and vintage catalogues, the official partner to TAG Heuer for Heuer and TAG Heuer watch forums and the popular “Ultimate Guides”, which are dedicated long-form articles focused on the history of each major Heuer and TAG Heuer model. There is also a vibrant Instagram site, Facebook and Twitter…essentially, wherever collectors are!


How did you start Calibre11?

Calibre 11 began when I realised that I was researching models and questions for various watch forums, and that often the same answers were being asked over and over again. Why? Because the forum format is a poor way of creating easy to find, well organised content- that was the value is turning those answers into long-form articles with as many photos as possible. That was in 2009, and then in 2010 I was asked by TAG Heuer to attend the Baselworld show, which co-incided with the launch of the first Carrera 1887.

 

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

I hate the term “blog” and have never used it to describe Calibre 11. Blogs imply an amateur, stream of thought type format- I’d like to think that what Calibre 11 does has more depth than that. And depth is important- you have to have credibility and substance. Many Instagram influencers have little substance and are a short-term sugar hit, so I don’t have much time for that part of the market and don’t expect it will stay around long-term. There are some brilliant watch websites out there that I enjoy reading- Time+Tide Watches (which I am involved with, but don’t write for), Hodinkee, Monochrome, Fratello have been fantastic over many years and do have that depth and substance. There are some big name watch websites that I don’t think have this same quality.

 

How do you imagine Calibre11 in the future? Evolution or next steps…

We’ve done our first limited edition watch this year with TAG Heuer and have a fantastic partnership with the brand for almost a decade now. That one was special because we were able to licence the Jo Siffert name and signature for the watch. People might expect that TAG Heuer licences the name, but  that’s not the case- we did it.

We won’t do a watch every year, but it’s a fantastic way to offer highly specialised designs that may not work in the mainstream, but do work for collectors. 

 

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?

I don’t see any problems with this- everyone knows that these sites sell watches, so this is only a problem if the reader is unaware of the broader business model of the company. I’ve been around long enough to remember some of the print journalists who used to look down on the new media sites and talk about “real journalism”- and guess what? Those journalists today are doing the same thing and have shifted online. Some traditional journalists have been successful in making the change, but others haven’t and you see those sites have basically died.

 

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

eBay seems to be losing some relevance, and I think that’s because it doesn’t tell you any stories about the watches that are for sale. What works well in e-commecrce is to tell the story of a watch and show people how it can look, maybe with a different strap, or something other than the stock studio images.

 

How do you manage a true vintage Experience in your Site?

Photos and catalogue images are important to building out any vintage story, as they offer the evidence on what hands were offered with a particular watch- without these hard data points from the manufacturer, a lot of vintage can simply be based on opinion. 

 

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

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For me, it was my TAG Heuer 4000, my first “good watch’. but while I really loved that watch, it wasn’t until a I bought a Heuer Monza Re-edition in 2000 that it started to turn into an obession and that idea that maybe you could own more than one watch!

 

How is your collection structured?

I sold most of my vintage Heuer collection several years ago to TAG Heuer. I loved these watches and had several NOS examples, but I found that just looking at a beautiful watch in a box and not wearing it wasn’t that exciting. I’ve never regretted selling the watches and still love the way they look- but I don’t feel tempted to buy them back again.

 

Your favourite Brands?

TAG Heuer, Sinn, JLC and AP.

 

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

Easy- my 2018 Autavia Jo Siffert Collectors Edition by Calibre 11!
 

Tips for someone who starts their collection.

Play the long game, don’t spend more than you can comfortably afford and don’t buy a watch as an investment- EVER! Buy a watch because you love it, and don’t worry about what people online will say…you have to live with the watch.

 

What is your favorite complication?

The Chronograph.

 

Is Vintage Watch Collecting a true Investment?

No, I think it’s a dangerous assumption to make. Any in the world of vintage Heuer, the truth is that it’s only some models that have really appreciated (mainly the 1960s Carreras and Autavias)- many of the others have basically been flat for 10 years, or gone up by no more than inflation. 

 

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

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It’s a very niche part of the watch collecting world and I have to say one that I don’t know well enough to comment. I wonder if the value of Stopwatches will always be compromised by the fact that you can’t really wear your stopwatch like you can your watch…but you guys will know a lot more about these than me!

 

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

Actually, the popularity of vintage watches is a problem for the brands. The truth is that watch journalists love writing about vintage designs and re-editions- but they represent a fraction of the sales worldwide. Do you know why TAG Heuer makes 44mm large watches with a date function? Because that’s what buyers want! But if you read only the online opinions, you’d think the opposite was true. Watch journalists and collectors have to understand that they represent a very small part of the overall market.

 

 Heuer Autavia Jo Siffert, limited edition by Calibre11

Heuer Autavia Jo Siffert, limited edition by Calibre11

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

Yes, I think it’s important for watch brands to be involved in this market, if only to work out for themselves what this market is all about and why it is or is not right for their brand. Today’s smartwatches are still tethered to the phone- but this is changing. The problem is that the more the smartwatch becomes like a smartphone, it loses it’s purpose..because you already have a phone.

 

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

It’s a bit of both- as it always has been. Richemont’s Baume brand is an interesting step in this direction.

 

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

Sure, but not as important as they like to think! 

 

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?

Keep going! Keep engaging with your community and keep evolving. The mistake that some sites may is to not change- they look the same now as they did five years ago, which doesn’t work. You have to keep evolving to stay relevant. Congratulations on what you have achieved so far and above all, make sure that it remains fun and not just business.