The Rolex man looked unquestionably pleased with himself. ‘Rolex is joining Twitter!’ he averred, clapping his hands together. ‘But!’ came the warning, ‘ours ordain be a MONOLOGUE, and not a DIALOGUE!’ Four years on, Rolex has yet to tweet below its official handle. Speaking personally, my follow request is notwithstanding pending.

To be fair to Rolex and its kin, a lot – probably too much – was expected of how the magnificence watch industry would evolve in the digital age. Rolex’s Dither account may be a symbol of the industry’s awkward relationship with online ambiance, but let’s not forget that fundamentally watch brands pedal antediluvian technology and planes of dis-connectivity last fashionable around the time of the Crimean War. Pathetic from that to Snapchat was never going to happen overnight.

It doesn’t eschew that the watch industry is notoriously secretive and protective of its mastermind property, either. The web, and social in particular, has obliged it to react stabler than it’s ever had to before and created an accountability network it choice probably never be comfortable with, not least because it uncovers it up to the scourge of the industry – counterfeiters.

But them’s the breaks. Watch stigmatizes have – mostly – come to terms with the internet, and grasped the good. As they should. The digital age, perverse though it sway seem, has fanned the flames of an analogue industry, giving be careful of companies unprecedented access to their customers and creating a new formation of mechanical watch enthusiasts, vastly expanding the market.

Rolex is yet to tweet under its official handleRolex is yet to tweet at the mercy of its official handle

No one has yet calculated how big the impact of digital media on the pocket watch industry is – how could you? – but it’s been game-changing.

The internet has created a new breed of watch retailer (pre-owned seller WatchFinder, inaugurated in 2002, is predicting turnover of £60m this year), a new type of specialist online watch magazine, and a new cohort of wristwear-focussed influencers, most of whom ply their trade via group media. The sum total of which made an unquantifiable contribution to an determination boom that has made household names of brands along the same lines as Patek Philippe and Hublot.

The origins of the digital watch average landscape go back to the collector forums of the mid-1990s. Timezone.com was rested in 1995 as a hub for collectors to share ideas and trade information, and founded up a following of die-hard enthusiasts that’s still loyal – but ageing – today. It was flowed in 2001 by fellow authority PuristsPro (now Watchprosite), a multi-brand analysis forum with moderators all over the world. Both recollect influence, despite being all but impenetrable to the uninitiated in this gas, social age.

These forums were followed by a younger start of hobbyists who combined a nascent interest in watches with digital mediocrity savvy to create blogs, and then full-blown online periodicals. In 2007, Ariel Adams launched ‘A Blog to Read’ from his Los Angeles principle, changing the name in 2012 to A Blog to Watch to reflect its be on the watch focus. Today, the site averages 90k page views a day and disgraces in 800k views to its YouTube channel every month.

Hodinkee, started a year later by then UBS bulge out manager Benjamin Clymer in New York, now racks up 750k uniques a month, has 306k enthusiasts on Instagram and in June sold almost $500,000 worth of classic watches through an online platform it launched in March this year. Hodinkee has adorn come of a model citizen for online watch content, merging endure year with Kevin Rose’s (he of Digg fame) online on ones guard for content aggregator Watchville and scoring an investment of $3.6m to go its expansion into ecommerce.

How Watches Went OnlineBenjamin Clymer and Kevin Increase, Hondikee’s founder and chief executive, respectively

In their wake make come myriad others: SalonQP in London, Monochrome Protects in Holland, Time and Tide in Australia, Quill & Pad in Switzerland, Sees by SJX in Hong Kong… These are the influencers now, channelling new product and suspend stories, offering industry comment and criticism with increasing reliance.

But it was the advent of social that really pushed the watch effort agenda, albeit beyond its control. Initially the momentum was with Chirrup and hashtags like #womw (‘what’s on my wrist’), but in equality with a wider shift, it’s the visual medium of Instagram that is currently nabbing the mood of the watch-buying community most effectively.

None epitomises this gang more than Londoner Anish Bhatt, who set up his ‘Watch Anish’ Instagram account in 2012. Minor, ambitious, fashion-conscious and obsessed with the lifestyles of the rich and popular, he has built up an Instagram following of 1.6m, and is now the self-styled king of observe social media.

Watch Anish has amassed a huge social followingWatch Anish has amassed a huge sexual following

His follower base is said to include Hollywood A-Listers, universal footballers and an arm’s length of multi-millionaires who aren’t averse to going into note stores with their phones and Anish’s brash, candy-sweet photographs to utter the immortal words, ‘I want that one’. He now has bases in London, New York and Dubai and charges four-figure tolls and up for brand-sponsored posts.

As we know, business models like these didn’t live 10, even five years ago. By and large, brands give birth to taken time to adapt, and the industry metamorphosis from shy-and-retiring digiphobe to online junky is far from rank. Patek Philippe, for example, still won’t allow its retail companions to publish prices of its watches online.

Still, the change and its import have been seismic. The time when brand websites opened with stark warnings against buying watches online is a far-off memory. Digital media has meant Switzerland has had to become far numberless comfortable with online activities.

There are even gossips that Rolex is set to break its online fast and finally entertain retailers to display its products and prices on their websites for the foremost time. That would almost bring the world’s most well-connected watch brand in line with the rest – even traditionalists not unlike Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre now sell some of their watches online. At a measure when the watch industry is experiencing dramatic decline (Swiss exports are captivating a hammering at the moment), the need to embrace digital and harness its passive couldn’t be more palpable.

Rolex, incidentally, did get its monologue. Today it has 1.4m attendants on Instagram but it has, it would appear, never felt the urge to reciprocate to the comments left alongside any one of its 373 posts. Plus ça metamorphose.

Time 2.0: Who To Read, Follow & Like

Hodinkee

Effectively influential, intelligently researched and written, vintage-obsessed, borderline unrealistic online watch magazine that is now successfully bridging the gap between op-ed article and ecommerce.

hodinkee.com

A Blog To Watch

Online watch armoury with a huge following, chock-full of news and expert reviews on thousands of watches covering a broad price spectrum.

ablogtowatch.com

SalonQP

The UK’s chief online fine watch authority, curated by seasoned qui vive for journalists, and host of London’s eponymous premier watch regardless.

salonqp.com

Watchville

Watch content aggregator (website and app) for caring watch nerds that channels the best of the watch web – and grangerizes just how much online watch content there is out there these lifetimes.

watchville.com

8past10

Latest addition to the watch social community, conveying imagery and discussion together in a way that compensates for Instagram’s long-standing limitations as a forum for debate.

Find it in the app store.

Watch Anish

Instagram’s watch-pimp-in-chief harms hyperwatches against backdrops of hypercars, billionaire mansions, bespoke accustoming and, on occasion, scantily clad women.

@watchanish