Kobold Watches: Invicta take notes!

October 8, 2010

FROM the October 1 edition of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review:

Kobold Watch Co. is turning out high-end watches at its headquarters in Robinson at roughly half capacity these days — which is perfectly fine with its owner and founder.

Michael Kobold deliberately limits his handmade watch production to less than 2,500 a year. Partly because of the recession, the company produced only 1,200 watches last year, about the same as in 2008.

“It’s important for quality control,” said Kobold. “And it’s a matter of exclusivity. With a lot of our competitors, they’ve gotten to be commodities.”

The company he founded in 1998 is one of the few remaining watchmakers in America. Kobold produces 30 models, with most of them priced between $2,500 and $5,000; others reach as high as $42,000.

Each watch is built to function in extreme conditions, such as frigid temperatures during mountain climbing, water pressures of deep-sea diving and breakage from combat fighting.

Kobold’s cachet appeals to the well-heeled and well-known. Wearers include actors Kiefer Sutherland of the TV series “24,” Pittsburgh native Jeff Goldblum and James Gandolfini, star of “The Sopranos.” When the mob series ended in 2007, Gandolfini presented his fellow actors and entire crew with Kobold watches, including gold ones — at a cost of about $3 million, Kobold said.

The watches rest on the wrists of British race car star Sir Stirling Moss and numerous Navy SEALs. The company’s “brand ambassador” is explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, a polar explorer and mountain climber dubbed the “greatest living explorer” by the Guinness Book of World Records.

“In the expedition business, I need equipment that is happy in the cold and can keep out all the dust and moisture so it can work accurately,” said Sir “Ran,” 66, reached in Somerset, England.

Sir Ran receives no money for his endorsements, only his favorite watch: Kobold’s The Phantom model, which features a special lubricant inside to function in temperatures down to minus-45 degrees Fahrenheit. The former Rolex wearer/endorser switched allegiances several years ago after some convincing from Kobold’s owner.

“Michael is a very fine and trustworthy person with strong willpower who makes fantastic watches,” said Sir Ran, who climbed Mt. Everest with the watchmaker in May 2009.

Kobold’s production capacity is limited largely by its number of workers — just nine people, including Kobold. And only four of them assemble the timepieces.

“It’s a great watch. You don’t run into many of them out there because Kobold doesn’t produce many, and I like that,” said Kobold wearer Gary Girdvainis, who is editor-in-chief at International Watch magazine, Fairfield, Conn.

“There’s very few high-end watchmakers in this country. Most are Swiss-based, and a few are German,” said Girdvainis, who has followed the industry for about 20 years. “But Kobold’s watches are more robust and better built than the average Swiss watch.”

Credit the passion and magnetism of Michael Kobold, 31. Born to a German industrialist, Kobold became fascinated with watches as a teen in Frankfurt. At age 16, he sought out and interned with a famed German watchmaker for three years.

After he moved to Pittsburgh and enrolled at Carnegie Mellon University, Kobold founded the company as a class project at age 19 while working toward his bachelors of managerial economics degree, which he earned in 2001.

“He wrote a business plan on selling expensive watches. And I thought, ‘How many people are going to go on the Internet to buy expensive watches?'” said Jack Roseman, retired CMU professor of entrepreneurship.

“I did not appreciate his marketing skills at first. But I learned he wins people over,” said Roseman of McCandless. “Michael will go anywhere to anyone in society to try to sell them a watch.”

Kobold, who designs all his company’s watches in concert with its daredevil wearers, is an adventurer. He climbed Mt. Everest twice — in 2009 and in May — to raise money for the Navy SEALs Warrior Fund, a nonprofit group that offers support to wounded SEALs and their families.

It takes two to three years of training, usually at institutions in Switzerland and Germany, to became a proper watchmaker, he said.

Kobold watches are stamped with “Pittsburgh, PA,” but they do not carry a “Made in the U.S.A.” emblem. That’s because the Federal Trade Commission requires that manufacturers stating such claims make “all or virtually all” of the product in the United States.

While Kobold obtains all its cases and crystals from American manufacturers, it must source its “movements” (components) from Swiss manufacturers. The company assembles about 90 percent of its watches at the Robinson facility and about 10 percent in Switzerland

“No watches — not ours or any of our competitors — can say, ‘Made in the U.S.A.,'” Kobold said. The component manufacturing base does not exist in the United States, he said.

“It’s a nightmare because many (suppliers) go out of business,” Kobold said. For instance, he recently discovered one of his suppliers, a fifth-generation company in Switzerland, ceased operations.

“They hadn’t received a single order in 11 months. So now, we’re trying to buy their machines,” Kobold said.

“What we’re trying to do is not only be based in America but move manufacturing jobs to this country,” he said.

Compare Kobold watches to Invicta’s latest marketing gimmick- the Coalition Forces. These pieces are stamped “Field Tested” on the back. Recently one of the members of watchgeeks asked on the forum what tests the timepieces were put through. Of course, forum owner and ShopNBC horological expert Jim Skelton didn’t know and had to put the question to Invicta CEO Eyal Lalo. His response was priceless, “..it is simply a marketing and branding slogan, there were no actual field tests performed.”

At least they’re being honest finally.

Okay, they admit that this timepiece, that on several occasion they have marketed on the air as being made to “military standards” and “field tested” is just more obtuse schlock and parody. But recently, old Skelton sunk to a new low when he said  this watch and future Invicta military influenced designs are a tribute to our men and women overseas…

“…I am very proud of Invicta for doing this because all of this is really honoring our great service men and women that are overseas right now protecting our rights, protecting our freedoms as a country and this is one of the ways…you know think about it this way you’ve got a friend or family member that may be deployed currently. Really great gift to give them that they can actually use as a practical tool, or when they come back just as a commemoration of what they’ve done….”

Here’s the video

Where Kobold is actually making military timepieces and doing something for wounded SEALs, Invicta and ShopNBC despicably use the men and woman in the Armed services for sales.

12 Responses to “Kobold Watches: Invicta take notes!”

  1. OffTheKoolAid Says:

    Ah…just when you thought they could not sink any lower. Jimbo, you are such slime and a real black mark on the watch industry.

    Trust me Jimmy…you are one of those that “they are not laughing with you, they are laughing at you”.

    How anybody continues to buy that crap after all the lies, shameless behavior and all the other stunts you, Michael “one more for the road” Davis and ‘lil Ms FREE SHIPPING have pulled in the name of your scuz bucket puppet master is beyond me.

    Now you have decided to exploit the Military to push that crap…how do you look at your pudgy little self in the mirror?

  2. Big P Says:

    This is the best read/article this website ever did or import, speaks volumes, great job betterskills!!!!

  3. Teflon Lalo Says:

    kobold watches I believe use unfinished german autos that kobold finishes in the usa.
    they have some nice designs & make superior durable timepieces.
    the above article is well written, kobold also pays tribute to seals, which makes me very happy.
    kobold timepieces look to be what america needs badly, american made goods, I think it’s something like 83-87% of their watches are usa.
    I have decided because of betterskills, I am going to purchase my first kobold, then I will let you all know first hand the abuse it handles.

  4. betterskills Says:

    Tell ’em this blog sent you! ;D

  5. krane11367 Says:


    Dude, thanks so much for following up on this – I knew you’d get the facts, but the intro really surprised me. I agree; this is your best work yet.

    As for those who blindly continue to follow IWG: If these are your people, then you obviously have little self-respect for yourself, for watchmaking, or for much of anything else. If this spew by Skelton doesn’t wake you the hell up, what will?

  6. Big P Says:

    This article is so nice I even read it twice.


  7. badgeek Says:

    Well done as always BS. The levels that those Involved with Invicta will stoop Is mind blowing. JS,Michael(havent seen my dick sense 96)Davis and the blond troll are nothing but shit stains with teeth

  8. OffTheKoolAid Says:

    The watch has been tested. It has survived repeatedly being moved in an arc, such as might happen with the constant bringing of the cheap bottle of booze to your mouth…like a wino might do.

    I hope nobody feels this is a reference to Michael “bottoms up…no Jim, not your bottom, I was talking about the shot glass” Davis.

  9. Big P Says:

    I have to say, seeing Robert Dreyfuss from Rotary watches again made me feel really good, he’s too good for NBC.

    I happen to own a few Rotary’s and I love them very much.

    Seeing Mr. Dreyfuss back on NBC or anywhere for that matter ups the level of class and makes for quality television for watch enthusiasts, too bad he was only on but for a brief moment or two.

    I wish NBC would bring back Philip watches, Chase Durer watches, etc, but it’s very hard to mingle in quality respectful brands with NBC’s riff raff.

    Now look at Incrapta, stealing a page from Android watches, now their making dials with the Android funky purple and lime green etc, nothing Incrapta does is original, Wing Liang probably cannot help but laugh at these goons.

    At least Croton is still there, but they all have to compete for airtime with all that Chinese garbage, shame.

  10. Vicki Says:

    I saw that dickhead spew that BS. He’s a real dirt bag. Now he’ll be selling the Imperious Douchebag, perhaps dedicated to the survivors of the Haitian earthquake. Anyway I enjoyed the informative post on Kobold!

  11. Fed Up Says:

    my lord!!!!!!!!!!!!
    what the hell is it the invicta channel now??????
    i actually get nausea looking at these mongoloids

  12. […] the forum. I’d expect a decline in sales to follow. Need more proof? Just take a look at how outrageous his sales presentations […]

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