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 a collection of watches that sell for $2,400 apiece.
Watch experts (and, really, everyone with an eye for aesthetics) immediately had a field day. Redditors quickly pointed out the disparity between the price and the product while watch aficionados across social media dug into the company's less savory 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 and tend to keep time better than automatic mechanical movements. 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 gearheads and car collectors who crave a tangible relationship to the act of driving, driving a car with an automatic transmission is 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, other selling points for Portnoy's watches also fall short of the price tag: the watches are apparently assembled in America of international parts but that's not nearly as impactful as domestically producing watches in America from start to finish nor is it clear that the assembly process is being handled by ethical factories that pay livable wages to experienced craftspeople. Shinola, for meanwhile, sells American-assembled watches for $600 and with far more thoughtful designs to boot.
It also ought to be obvious but there's a reason that true high-end watch companies tout their Swiss manufacturing: it represents a level of watchmaking pedigree, quality, and craft that "assembled in USA" simply doesn't.
The final straw for Portnoy was a tweet that matched the return addresses of Brick to another American company that produces watches for as little as $42.
For eight excruciating minutes, Portnoy melted down in a video uploaded to Twitter over the "volcano of hate," misrepresented the arguments made against his watch company, published a private conversation wherein Portnoy clumsily attempts (and fails) to bowl over one of his critics, and inadvertently referred to financial website Benzinga as "Bazinga."
It's classic Portnoy, a blustery gish gallop past any legitimate criticism. Embarrassing.
But also not surprising for anyone familiar with Portnoy's previous efforts to hawk cheap wares (frozen pizzas, anyone?).
As one commenter succinctly replied, "At his core, Dave is a snake oil salesman."