Those Pretty MVMT Watches You've Been Seeing Ads For Are Not What They Seem
If you are a millennial with a Facebook account who is at all interested in fashion accessories, you have likely seen an ad or two for the new bougie watch company called MVMT, pronounced "Movement." I know, I know...bear with me. And maybe you've even seen your favorite YouTuber promote them as a sponsor. They are well known for their minimalistic luxurious look to them and their stylish Instagram-worthy advertisements. But now is the time that we must beg the most important question a consumer can ask: Are they really as great as they appear to be? There is a lot of reason right now to believe that this is not the case. Let's delve into why you should proceed with caution when choosing to spend $100+ on a MVMT watch.
Right now I'm in a stage of my life where fast fashion doesn't suit me, and I'm finding it more important to own fewer pieces of high quality garments, than a large quantity of more hastily made products. In fact this was a topic that fashion designer Shayan Pashai discussed with me in our recent Q&A. Fast fashion companies tend to not concern themselves with whether or not you look and feel good in their clothing, and certainly are not interested in creating garments that will last you a long time (hence the name fast fashion.) They are instead more interested in giving the market what it wants based on trends, at a price that will justify throwing it into the donation bin in the next year or so.
And if you consider yourself a fashionista with experimental tendencies who would rather test out the trends on a dime, you do you. But for those of us who don't prefer to shop for a new wardrobe each year, it can be hard to find pieces and brands you can trust to deliver quality. And that's what has turned me onto many start ups and small businesses that specialize in specific products and materials. By seeking quality, specialization and customer satisfaction guarantees, I have made better decisions for my wallet and wardrobe.
So when I first saw these watches on my Facebook feed, I was excited that I had potentially found a small watch company that would make attractive quality products for the age group I'm in. I clicked on the ad during one of their sales and found the watch I was most interested in: the Santa Monica.
At $115, the Santa Monica was a well-priced attractive watch with a large face, a minimalistic touch and a genuine leather strap. Typically watches this attractive are around $190-250. And inexpensive watches are typically made in the fast fashion manner. But perhaps, I thought, this startup-looking site could be my ticket out of the fast-fashion watch market (as I don't have the cash for a designer watch at the moment.)
All seemed well and good until I reached the customer reviews section. My mouth almost dropped when I saw the stats. 338 customer reviews (not just ratings, but reviews) with an almost 5 star average. Suddenly I realized I was not dealing with a tiny start up. But separately from that, I suddenly became skeptical. Even popular items on Amazon - the leader in e-commerce - don't always have 338 written reviews. If you know anything about reviews and ratings, it's so difficult to get people to state their opinion unless they're really ticked off. Every time I buy something online, I get emails begging me to review the product, but usually don't have time to do it. And they're telling me that this one Santa Monica watch just so happens to have compelled 338 people to write a review? And a positive one at that?
I scrolled through the reviews and found only 5 star ratings. As you can see from the screenshot below, some comments are in-depth while others are incredibly generic and short. And something else I noticed is that you can only look at 4 reviews at a time and that you can't simply view all 1 or 2 star reviews the way you can on most sites. You have to scroll to find them.
While scrolling, the reviews got shorter and more generic. But I couldn't find any of the less than 5 star reviews that I knew had to be there based on the fact that the product didn't have a full 5 stars on its main page. So I clicked on another watch called the Orion, which only had 189 reviews (again, why is every customer of theirs so dedicated to leaving their opinions? Is there an incentives program for leaving a review?) And I was able to scroll far enough to realize that the reviews aren't ordered by date, but by the rating. So you scroll through all of the 5 star reviews first, and then make your way to the 4 star reviews, then the 3 star reviews etc. That - in my opinion - is shady...but I digress.
Here are just a few examples of less than favorable reviews for Orion.
And maybe all this doesn't set off any red flags for you, but as someone who shops online frequently, it's rare that I find a company that can get hundreds of their customers to post positive reviews consistently this many products. I then visited other sections of their site for their bracelets that accompany the watches. Even the most popular bracelets only had a handful of reviews.
And there weren't hundreds of short ecstatic reviews about how the product was lovely and perfect. In these reviews, everyone got down and dirty with the failure of the bracelet's clasp and the extremely small size.
Not to mention that only a couple of their sunglasses actually have reviews. The ones with reviews have up to 84 reviews, while most of them have 0. When a company has hundreds and hundreds of 5 star reviews on some products and 0 on a whole lot of others, I have to question the authenticity of the volume of positive reviews on the former.
Once I made these realizations, I started to do my homework. And let's just say: I made a lot of discoveries.
The History of MVMT
On their website, MVMT tells the story of two young entrepreneurs who followed their drams and started a multi-million dollar business.
And that's how YouTubers they'd sponsored had described this company as well. Two well-meaning kids, Jake Kassan and Kramer LaPlante with a dream, who made it happen. They've since been featured on Forbes, Entrepreneur.com and CNBC.
Jake Kassan claims to have learned his hustling skills from his father who owned his own credit report business. He even remembers selling lollipops his father had received for free and making over $300 in one week. He's also been known to sell novelty light-up t-shirts to the rave and night-club scene. And he's even started another e-commerce business called NiteLifeDesigns.com, which he gained traction for via YouTube videos. He and his partner LaPlante have been able to take MVMT to new heights, with The Movado Group purchasing it recently for $100 million.
And this is where I start to get skeptical. While I admire the ambitions of this young person and his incredible understanding of social media, I have to admit that this biography of his makes me lift an eyebrow. The focus of his interviews is not on how he designs or sources materials and talent to provide his customers with the best possible product, but moreso his hustle, drive, and smarts. Every interview or background story focuses on how he got people to part with their money. I don't know about you, but I'm not an MBA...I'm just a person who needs a watch. So I don't need the 411 on how this guy makes it rain for himself. I want to know about the quality of the products he's selling.
And that's when I found out that the watches are from outside suppliers. The founders of MVMT make no qualms about the fact that their inventory is from Chinese suppliers they source through Alibaba. They may boast that the watches are made with Japanese quartz (which isn't untrue,) but what you're receiving is a mass produced product from China. They claim that what they're doing is providing the public with watches that other companies sell for $300, for half the price of the traditional retailer. And that their main objective is to create an engaging millennial shopping experience that ties in well to social media. If that's the case, fair enough. But now that I know that the product I'd receive from them would only cost them $4.50, I don't think I want to toss away $115 plus tax for that item.
Of course products can be mass produced at a small fraction of the retail price. That's how business works after all. But for a watch - a product that needs to function properly - that claims it's of great quality, I'm going to need smaller margins to be convinced to get out my wallet.
So let's look further into what the public - besides the hundreds of curated 5-star reviewers on MVMT's website - thinks about these products. Are they really the same quality as other watches on the market valued at $300?
The YOUTUBE Watch Community
Something you may not know is that there are communities of people who have a passion for watches and like to talk about the different products and trends out there! (Isn't the internet fantastic sometimes?) And it's in those communities that I found in-depth reviews from connoisseurs about MVMT watches. While everyone agrees that the watches are attractive, many agree that they've purchased watches with better quality genuine leather, and better function and fit for a lower cost than MVMT pieces. See for yourself in the videos below.
The Reddit Watch Community
And of course, no public discussion could go on without Reddit users having a go at it. Reddit user ZeGuitarist posted in r/Watches, his complaints including easily staining tan leather and time inaccuracies unrelated to battery power. He reports that even when he had his watch replaced, the problems continued. See his post here.
And here is a sample of what your average MVMT watch-related forum looks like. Pretty shocking considering hundreds of people leave 5-star reviews on the constant. See the thread here.
Whether or not someone finds these business practices to be a scam is completely subjective. It depends on what your priorities are as a consumer, how much money you're willing and able to spend, and what your opinions are on the concept of business ethics. The most important thing is that the customer is well-informed so that they can make the right decision for themselves. And personally, when I see ridiculous margins, Chinese manufacturing on luxury items, hidden 2-star reviews, forums where connoisseurs are unhappy about the product, and a background of hustling for a company's founders, I make the conscious decision to not #JoinTheMVMT.