A week after the New York Times explored Dave Portnoy’s questionable ties to the explosive sports betting business, the ignominious Barstool Sports founder introduced an inexplicable new endeavor: Brick Watch Company. If the name isn’t obvious enough, it’s a watch company. And timepiece experts are not amused.
Before launching Brick, Portnoy claimed that he didn’t become “a watch guy” until he was rich enough to afford a Rolex. It’s a questionable claim to fame for anyone attempting to wade into the competitive, cluttered, and passionately jargon-y watch industry. Nevertheless, Brick Watch Company launched in November 2022 with an initial collection of $2,400 watches.
Watch experts immediately had a field day. Redditors quickly pointed out the disparity between the price and the product while aficionados across social media dug into the questionable details.
Brick’s problems range from Portnoy’s derivative watch designs (complete with plain, sexless branding) to the quartz movements.
For the uninitiated, there’s nothing functionally wrong with quartz movements: they’re battery-powered, unlike automatic mechanical movements, and tend to keep time better. They’re also far less desirable to anyone interested in higher-end watches.
Think of automatic versus manual transmissions in cars. Automatic transmissions are certainly more user-friendly but, for experienced collectors who crave a tangible relationship to their car, automatic transmissions are like bowling with bumpers.
Quartz movements provide the same conundrum to watch collectors. If you care enough about watches to cough up $2,400, you’re gonna want something a little more substantial and a lot more sophisticated.
As commenters underlined, the other selling points for Portnoy’s watches also fall short of the $2,400 price tag: he purports that they’re made in America but they’re likely assembled domestically, not produced start to finish. Even Shinola, which built its brand upon American-made watches, acknowledges that its watches are assembled in America of international parts.
No one is doing start-to-finish American-made timepieces at scale and, if they were, they’d likely be producing more nuanced designs. Plus, there’s a reason most high-end watch companies tout their Swiss manufacturing: it represents a level of watchmaking pedigree, quality, and craft that “made in USA” simply doesn’t.
The final straw for Portnoy was a tweet that matched the return addresses of Brick to another company that produces watches for as little as $42.
For eight excruciating minutes, Portnoy melted down about a “volcano of hate,” misrepresented the arguments made against his watch company, made fun of how someone dresses (?), and inadvertently referred to financial website Benzinga as “Bazinga.”
It’s classic Portnoy, a blustery gish gallop past any legitimate criticism of his watch company. Not pretty.
But also not surprising, for anyone familiar with Portnoy’s efforts to hawk cheap wares. As one commenter said, “At his core, Dave is a snake oil salesman.”