A.Manzoni & Fils Crowdfunds A Bit Of Haute Horlogerie

After the success of timepieces like the Bradley, it’s no wonder watchmakers are turning to crowdfunding to get their products out the door. The latest example is something called the A.Manzoni & Fils Canopus, a very nice automatic moonphase calendar watch made by the creator of Ikepod, Oliver Ike, and designer Ilkka Suppanen.

Ikepod is best known for its pod-like design and is very well known in the world of fancy watches. Ike is an important figure in watchmaking and this watch, which is very definitely in his style, is a major work. The timepiece has some amazing, Ikepod-inspired styling and a solid Soprod A10 movement. The overall goal is to reinvigorate the brand A.Manzoni & Fils, a watch company that fell on hard times during the quartz crisis and closed in 1978. To be clear, this is a common MO for watch designers who often buy up old brands to lend their new watches an air of credibility.

Now here’s where the world of high-end watches and Kickstarter bargains diverge. The watch itself requires a pledge of $5,000 which is on par with an automatic, Swiss-made watch with a solid movement and very unique case. I can’t fault the company for asking for so much simply because of the work involved in grinding a curved crystal and building a usable, steel case with such a bulbous shape.

Then things get weird: for $1,250 they want to send you a fruit bowl. For $875 you get a credit card holder. For $175 you get a handmade wooden bookmark. While I understand Ikepod has a solid following – primarily abroad, as evidenced by the Japanese translation on the Kickstarter site – it’s pretty tough to swallow that brand loyalty will be high enough to encourage people to pick up a wooden stick for two bills.

In my other like I rail endlessly against the ridiculous things watchmakers do and, while I agree that $5K isn’t bad for a watch, the suggestion that Kickstarter folks will settle for a $1,200 fruit bowl is ludicrous. Fools and money, however, are soon parted because they’ve already sold two limited edition (of 8,888) jeweler’s loupes for $200. They’ve hit $90,000 out of an $850,000 goal, a number that I’m almost certain they will reach – Ike is that good.

Regardless, it’s fascinating that such an éminence grise in the watch world is turning to Kickstarter. There are plenty of watches (and plenty of scams) on the site and that this watch, which would normally go through standard distribution channels and end up costing $8,000, is appearing online signals a crack in the icy heart of the watch industry. In fact, fruit bowls aside, that Ike did this at all is a good thing.