MIGHT the exit of Jim Skelton from ShopNBC be due to eroding watch sales?

Just days after ShopNBC released Q4 results for 2010, Mr. Skelton disappeared from the airwaves and neither side is saying anything of substance. You’ll remember that I speculated he would be gone a year ago following a series of bizarre, on-air actions and statements in October of 2009 after the announcement that Tim Temple was being brought back to the network who had fired him six years prior. What followed were twelve months that saw one Invicta flop and scandal after another. But dead watches and hands that fell off were not limited to Invicta as other brands sold by the network arrived in non-working order to customers. Mr. Skelton continued his hostile behavior, famously throwing a ruler on the set and teasing Larry Magen about his dye job to the point that Mr. Magen snapped on the air. Mr. Skelton was also absent for long stretches of time, leading many to believe that the end of the Skelton era had arrived. Upon his return he began calling out this blog as well as individual members of the Watchlords forum as well as adopting a very snide tone with his forum membership.

As people complained on watchgeeks about inferior products and misleading statements used to sell the watches they were systematically banned or bullied by the Yellow shirt enforcers into silence on the Watchgeek forum. But these heavy handed actions didn’t stop the descent; seemingly generating more. As the one year anniversary of my original blog approached, Mr. Skelton started bragging about signing a long term, no cut contract.

EVEN I was surprised when I saw the news. I assumed I had seemingly made the correct case but was off by a year. I did forget about the earnings call and so I took a look at the earnings information released by VVTV. At first I was equally shocked about the 6% decline in watch sales against the same time period last year at the psychological height of the depression. But is it really that shocking? The former individual owners of Watchgeeks, as well as others who I’d consider friends of this blog, usually downplay my suggestion that Shop watch sales were driven primarily by Watchgeek membership and it has always been thought, albeit anecdotally, that all of the testimonial calls into Mr. Skelton’s shows were plants. But in a thread on WG concerning Mr. Skelton’s split with Shop, we seem to have proof:

A friendship developed on email, and we would exchange idea’s and questions on the timepiece’s. One day Jim emailed me and asked to call into the show, as a customer, who, wanted to express feelings about timepiece’s and invicta models and my experience’s with them.

I called in several times, regarding many timepiece’s and vendor models as well.

I don’t think it is a stretch to believe that Mr. Skelton had bonuses tied to sales and he was not your ordinary shopping channel host. He was a cheerleader and apologist for Invicta long before he ever came to TV, possibly with a retail background. By some accounts a hand picked successor to Tim Temple by Eyal Cool J. Temple who, supposedly wanted more control over product and to push the higher-end. But realistically the margins are much smaller with those classes of timepieces. It makes a lot more sense to sell a Chinese assembled watch marked “Swiss” at several times it’s actual unit cost. Reaching out to just a few dozen individuals like the person quoted above would not only generate sales because of an implied “friendship” but would push other members into making multiple purchases as well; specifically shut ins and individuals with little or no self esteem and a need to belong.

BUT the decline in sales doesn’t fall completely on Mr. Skelton. ShopNBC advertised diamonds on watches that were actually crystal; they marketed Chinese made watches as having a Swiss pedigree; they used a man-made composite of sandstone and marketed it as natural; they sold turquoise dial watches that were a cheap mineral alternative and they sold watches that featured hands that fell of. People started criticizing the fact that every hyped model was just a different color dial or rubber instead of a steel bracelet like the previous version. Again, the complaints grew louder and those voices disappeared. Michael Davis, at the time a Watchgeek owner and still the Technical Brand Manager for Invicta, issued the now famous edict – there is no free speech at Watchgeeks.

There isn’t a doubt in my mind that people tired of getting products that were advertised as something they were not and that they tired of the heavy handedness of the forum. I’d expect a decline in sales to follow. Need more proof? Just take a look at how outrageous his sales presentations became.

IT was my belief in the fall of 2009 that Mr. Skelton would soon be benched. It didn’t come to pass on the original timeline. But now it has, and if we work backwards with a little math based on Mr. Skelton’s own comment on that original blog, he signed in late September or early October of 2009. I’d expect that to run one year, which would have placed his resigning again in that same September / October timeframe. It is now the end of March which would make a late September signing the 6 month mark. I do believe he is going to end up on WoW.tv or an Invicta launched channel. And I think a lot of people will follow him there and he’ll be just fine. Free of the employer oversight that seemingly burned him so many times over the past few years.

Will it be 6 months from now? Is that the real Watch Commander on Twitter claiming to be in Minnesota or an impostor?

Will ShopNBC even be around 6 months from now?

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IT has been a summer of scandal for the Invicta Watch Group following a winter of troubles.

The latest IWG problem for July is with the Invicta II Women’s Classique Boutique Quartz Diamond watch. The ‘diamond’ bit is as flawed as Diamond Jim!

Let’s start with the ShopNBC description:

“The round 316L stainless steel case comes in your choice of gold-tone, silver-tone and even two-tone if you can’t make up your mind. The gold-tone and silver-tone options display coordinating bezels while the two-tone option displays a silver-tone case with a gold-tone bezel. Twenty four beautiful diamond accents are set around the bezel.

The 316L stainless steel bracelet displays in the case coordinating color and the gold-tone is plated in 18K gold. The two-tone option appears in both gold-tone and silver-tone. Notice two diamond accented bracelet links located near the dial totaling an additional 18 diamond accents.”

UNFORTUNATLY for one consumer, the sad truth was revealed by a local jeweler where he took his wife’s newly acquired timepiece to replace a diamond that had fallen out, only to find out that the ‘diamonds’ are actually crystals! This scandal surfaced like the others; on the Watchgeeks website. CZ Jim Skelton quickly stepped in and locked the thread down.

Like the Swinese revelation, ShopNBC quickly moved to pull down videos that featured Shop and Invicta employees promoting the value of the pieces because of the diamonds. The diamonds being a major point of the sales presentation.

One is reminded of the ShopNBC/Renato scandal a few years ago where Renato diamond timepieces where sold with claims that the diamond quality was much higher than they actually were. This resulted in a timeout for the brand which has recently resurfaced on the number three network. When is Invicta going to get a time out? When are watchgeek/Invicta consumers going to stop buying this junk?

Some are claiming that they attempted to alert both the network and fellow TV brand watch collectors that the watch did not have diamonds; only to be rebuffed as any truth apparently is in the world of TV watch collecting. If this is truly the case, one wonders why the self described horological genius, who just so happens to rep diamonds in his internet forum handle, Jim Skelton didn’t pick up on this or how Michael “Grape Ape” Davis, Invicta’s Technical Brand Manager missed it? I mean these folks will tell you they are experts but oddly enough are only hosts and salesman whenever scandals break. Really, what’s the difference between this watch and the Waltham Crystal Kitty watch that the network has sold? About plus $80 for the Infauxta.

INVICTA made a pretty decent $100 watch back in the day. Then they attempted to market high-end pieces and have not faired well in doing so with countless issues and questions. Now they’ve somehow managed to not even make a good cheap watch anymore.

BETTERSKILLS blog has learned that Invicta Watch Group has come to the attention of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH over the Swinagate Fiasco. This was the Invicta practice of labeling Swiss Parts watches manufactured in the Far East as SWISS and then presenting these watches as “all Swiss Made” on homeshopping’s third place network, ShopNBC. A practice carried out for several years. Intrestingly enough, when the truth was revealed on watchgeeks.net by several members of that site with links to an archived ShopNBC presentation where Eyal Lalo, Invicta CEO, made the claims, the videos mysteriously disappeared. Watchgeeks is co-owned by Invicta Technically Brand Perception Manager Michael Davis and ShopNBC host Jim Skelton. Recently, Michael Davis responded to these complaints on watchgeeks by telling memebers to stop complaining or leave. Continued complaining would would get you banned.

Invicta, who is no stranger to lawsuits, potentially has a huge issue on their hands if this is pursued as they may have violated US Customs and Swiss laws.

IF a case is openned, might the “Swiss Made” provenance of the D-D Speedway Elite also be investigated?

Betterskillsblog will keep you posted.

PEOPLE wanna know; what is a Technical Brand Manager? The only individual that I’ve ever known to have this title is Michael “Grape Ape” Davis; co-owner of watchgeeks.net and Technical Brand Manager of Invicta Watch Group. Magilla Gorilla has never answered this question; “What is a Technical Brand Manager?” He won’t even address it. He’s real quick to spit out movement specs as seen on Google and to talk down to people who call bullshit on his various statements and question his “technical chops.” But the minute the shit hit the fan over Invicta’s Swinagate he quickly made the point that he repeats what he’s told; that he just sells the watches and doesn’t know what’s in them. A lot of people have taken him to task on such maters because his title leads them to assume that he’s involved in the manufacturing process. Still others know he isn’t and just wanna bust his balls. He’s really no different than a lot of the people out there whose collections and horological world view consist only of TV brands but the difference is that they have not been knighted the Technical Brand Manager by a design house.

His “Big Statement” a few days ago may finally have provided some insight into just what a technical brand manager is. After months of questions he finally addressed WG members regarding Swinagate and the Great D-D debacle of 2010. But it wasn’t the apology they sought or any explanation of what might have gone wrong on past TTV presentations. He spoke not as an employee of Invicta, but as the owner of the forum. In a nutshell he said stop complaining or leave. If you continue to complain, you’ll be banned. Davis states that the site has no expectation of free speech because it is HIS forum and he makes the rules.

HIS actual purpose is to managing brand perception. That’s why Invicta is his employer and the sites financer. Through the use of proxies, i.e. True Geeks and Super Geeks, as well as Mods and the owners themselves, Invicta is attempting to rewrite the narrative and create a false perception of what they actually are, a trademark/design house and what they are not; a true manufacturer of quality timepieces.

Some of the first negative perceptions about the brand followed Lalo’s main cheerleader and master Photoshoper, Jim Skelton. Both he and Davis were run off of BDWF because members apparently didn’t want to involuntarily become Invicta forum members. Davis has stated that he was “tired of the negativity” but if the recent months at WGs are any indication, one has to ask why “negativity” seems to follow Invicta around?

Part of managing the Invicta image was to cultivate a small group of what I like to refer to as Yellow Shirts, or Invictards. These loyal bodies will go out of their way to squash any “negative” posts; negativity defined as complaints regarding poor CS, QC or discussions of the outright lies used to market Invicta products. They use amateur bullying tactics like belittling the posters and piling on in mass. Most people who haven’t been around the net from its inception are not aware of the Internet Tuff Guy and so they just avoid further conflict; they also care about how they are perceived by the greater community.

I realized this early on by paying attention to key word frequency patterns; like “Malcontent”. A word thrown my way a few times which I later found out that this is what they call anyone who strays from the party line on watchgeeks. I’ve also noticed that these Yellow Shirts claim I’m “negative” – again, this is code for Truth.

Some of these same pit bulls also lavish great praise on the brand, relating stories about how they stop retail traffic with their watches. The most striking contrast of the detachment from reality were some of the WG members that went to great lengths to try and turn the tone of D-D Speedway complaint threads with their experience of flawless pieces without defect, and one in particular that implied that the appraised value of the watch made keeping defective models worth the continued value pays on a non-functioning piece.

This approach had been very effective for a few years , but flop after flop has created more and more disillusioned consumers. The curtain has been pulled back; the emperor is naked.

Are these folks compensated in some way? What skin do they have in this continued game? If they are receiving compensation or free watches, this would surely violate the FTCs rules of disclosure for bloggers with “material connections” These rules do also include “word-of-mouth” marketers which these individuals would fall under in this instance.

AS for the “Technical” bit of the title, I do believe that is to delineate his role as the man running Invicta’s active web initiative; watchgeeks is Invicta. It also allows for a murkiness around what his actual function is – turd polishin’.

I unfortunately missed Jim Skelton’s live return to TV after a month of no-shows due to one ailment after another. It’s been speculated by some that he got a “time out” from the network brass and I have to say, TMJ aggravated by bread seems unbelievable. In his absence, a lot has changed for Invicta, Watchgeeks and ShopNBC with Invicta CEO Eyal Laylo admitted that his Swiss labeled watches are in fact Chinese and the faulty Speedway Elite Reserves with D-D debacle, still without a statement from Laylo.

I’m up and watching the replay archived on shopnbc.com; only the first hour because the second is unavailable.

First, I find it odd that his lauded return was scheduled for 5 PM on a Thursday – hardly a time slot that the majority of the demographic are going to be around to see as most people are getting off work in the EST zone between the hours of 5 and 6.

The second strange thing is that he isn’t wearing his usual Guy Fieri castoffs – he is actually in a normal looking shirt and sport jacket and he was rocking the Sonny Crokett stubble ala Miami Vice circa 1986. He almost looked normal and his delivery is noticeably subdued. He made a few sexual innuendos but he managed to just rolls those out so as to not make them obvious; he didn’t dwell and he quickly moved on. I still think the guy is a scum fuck – it appears that he changed a sig file of a member of his forum to read “I like donkey seman” in Chinese, replacing the characters that the guy had used for “Swiss Made”. The fellow in question was a little more than ticked for being lied to about the provenance of the watches, being told that his Chinese watches were “all Swiss” ; he even went out of his way to defend Skelton on my blogs! For me the give away is Skeltblo’s response to the guy – “I guess humor is subjective” which is exactly the line he used on a knife forum that he was trolling during his first medical leave for the year.

As for Jim’s next three weeks, he’s only got 6 hours for the coming week. For the week ending 7/8, Temple is back with 6 hours to Skelton’s 5 hours.  And on the week ending 7/15 – they both have 9.

Will he appear on the schedule for July’s third week?

AS if throwing around rulers on set because he doesn’t know how to read them wasn’t enough, Jim Skelton decided to bring an Internet beef that he started to ShopNBC airwaves. On the Invicta Reserve Watches show from Monday, March 29, Skelton repeatedly made reference to a series of blogs that I’ve written over the past few months. Of course he completly misrepresented the argument in an attempt to simplify and ridicule.

“If a camera goes out out of focus for a second oh it means that Jim Skelton is leaving the show!” (32:25 in)

Uh, that’s not my opinion at all dipshit. ShopNBC let’s Temple go a few years back. Your ass kissing of Lalo results in his pushing for you to be hired.

Once you’re there for awhile, you launch Watchgeeks.com with the Invicta ‘Technical Brand Manager’ Michael Davis and another guy. You plug it on the air and your numbers swell. Any descent is met with insults and bullying. Threads are routinely deleted. You even attack a coworker, Shawn Wilsie as seeking to be a “martyr” and attention seeker. Those are your own words asshole, and anyone who has a login to WG knows it’s true!

You created and facilitate a marketplace on WG where these loyal ShopNBC buyers have the ability to purchase current SNBC merchandise, slightly used, at deeply discounted prices. In my original blog, I linked to an example of a Renato that is $400 less than one at the Shop. Your response was to take the sales forum from public to private. Am I “poisoning” peoples “minds” with untruths? Anyone reading this can sign up at watchgeeks.net and see for themselves by opening a ShopNBC browser and the WG marketplace in a second and compare the merch side by side.

How did you feel when you found out that Tim Temple was contacted by the new management team? How did you feel when he was finally brought back? It seems it was on his terms which is why he’s not an employee. And you apparently had to sit on that info. When watchgeeks was open to the world, I went back and found where you were alluding to a “Big Announcement” in August. That turned out to be Temple’s return announced in October. In your Jay Leno style response to the first article you mention that you had signed a new contract the prior week; the week of October 7, 2009. Those sources that I don’t have at ShopNBC tell me that contracts are either 9 month or 12 month deals. Which did you sign?

I’ll admit I was wrong; I thought you’d be long gone by now. Still under contract but off the air and gagged. How you like it. If my math is correct the week of July 7, 2010 is the nine month point and October 2010 is the year mark. You like to accuse me of back peddeling but the truth is that I based my speculation on what I would do if I were running the network. I’d keep you under contract so you couldn’t bad mouth the network but I’d most definetly bounce your fat ass out of the chair. My thinking was that management would be concerned with keeping the zombie buyers around. I’ll give you credit where it’s due; you have quite a few moronic fanboys and girls that think buying every dial/case/braclet of a particular model is watch collecting. You’ve also managed to get a lot of people to accept lackluster quality merchandise and used items sold as “New” with the same furvour and frenzy as religious zealots. I mean I’ve read WG posts where people bitch about getting a returned, worn item as new, complete with scratches. The responses always include other members attacking them fir complaining ; paraphrased as “You should be glad you got one!” Any readers of that original blog from October can see that you do have a hold on some people by looking at the comments. Kudos to being a hero of the stupid.

But the bigger picture appears to be more straight forward. You’ll be there until your contract is up, be it 9 months or 12. We both know you won’t be re-signing. Your shitty attitude, double entendres, sexual innuendo, questionable history and bluring of the line between watchgeeks, Invicta and ShopNBC is a liability for the network and your social network usurps the imitative that ShopNBC is attempting to implement.

Instead of trolling knife forums and causing trouble you really should have memorized the English measurements that coorolate to the most popular metric sizes associated with the watches you present, especially if you cannot use a ruler. Hmm – am I reading to much into this? Maybe you don’t care because you’re not coming back.

Tell the world which contract you signed – the 9 or the 12. Prove me wrong.

The facts are as clear as that George Michael beard on your face: Daniel Green did take a swipe at you; Shawn Wilsie has disassociating himself from your site – on the air and on Fb. Seven minutes into Monday’s show linked above you backhandedly say you watched all the shows but Temple’s while getting that major surgery that kept you away from watch geeks but not from trolling knife forums. And both you and that half-a-retard looking Davis always drop Tim Temple’s, “I’m just sayin” catch phrase as an inside joke between the both of you. Ha, ha, ha – that’s so funny. Nobody picks up on it, ha, ha, ha. You even do it on WG posts by signing it! Stevie Wonder can see through it dumbass! Am I really “reading way too much into things” or are you so stupid that you don’t realize how transparent you are?

I’m just sayin’…

Liza Nutal was about four years older than me and was really passionate about beating my ass. I was about seven when it started. She would call me to her, “Hey Ronnie baby – come here…” At which point I would run in the opposite direction for home, hoping to pick up a shovel or sizable stick to fend her bull dyke ass off. I usually failed as her future record setting softball base running calves would close the distance, like a Peregrine falcon against a pigeon. They were massive and think but shaven clean. She was a hairy beast at twelve and she had a mustache and unibrow that helped to emphasize her massive and manly face. She looked exactly like Nancy from the comic strip.

She probably outweighed me by 35 lbs. Pure muscle; as compared to my fat gut and big ass in my so-blue-they-looked-black Huskies and my third grade style Special Ed unbreakable eye glass frames.

This continued until I was about ten. Now I know you’re probably thinking, “what a pussy” but you have no idea what it is like to be man handled by a huge manly girl that you could tell was getting sexual gratification from giving you sailor taps until you pissed your pants. Her huge nipples popping out of her chest as she straddled you and smiled while she felt the urine in her own crotch. Kids now a days get hot teachers and MILFs – I got a pre-teen leaning toward Lesbian, built like a linebacker with tits and a face like a bulldog.

AT some point, I became friends with the Claude. She was a few years older and was an Italian tomboy. She had an older sister who called Liza out one day. She was about seventeen and she was not going to tolerate this shit going on around her little sister. It ended that memorable summer day; very similar whether wise to today in the west of Pittsburgh.

SEVERAL years went by. I was a few years out of school, having done a stint at the Harvard on the Allegheny and this particular day found me at my Grandparents house. My uncle lived with them and my aunt by marriage lived next door. Auntie popped in at my Grandparents. “There’s a friend of yours next door.” I followed her next door, “She knew you when you two were really young…”

I followed her through her door; into the foyer past the kitchen and into the living room that looked like something out of the show Clean House. I turn right and Nancy looks up at me sheepishly – “Hey…how ya doin?”

“Are you fucking kidding me, you brought me over here to see this…this fucking giant Lesbian bitch that used to make me piss on her…this fucking piece of shi-”

“Hey! That’s enough – she is my friend – you can’t talk to her like that!”

At that I see red. “Try giving me some sailor taps now bitch – bring it on!”

MY aunt chased me out of her house saying to me, “…I didn’t know; she said you were friends…” I left it at that.

Every now and then I used to say to her jokingly, “Where is that bitch, Liza at?” The last time I asked, she didn’t think that joke was funny anymore. “You know, she rides a bike 18 miles a day. She’ll kick your ass.” I reminded her that Liza was fired from a local daycare for shaking a two year old. And we never saw eye-to-eye after that point. I think she hates the fact that I told people the story. I can’t figure out why though – it’s not like she has some sort of ‘fault.’ Recently, I was told that she was sent upstate for being a mule, or small time dealing – some bullshit. Unfortunatly it’s an American prison, so she probably has a few wives and is enjoying her stay.