Independent Insights with: Jonathan, Jonathan T Reviews
In this column, we interview brand-owners and creators in the independent watchmaking scene to learn about the people behind the brand, and the reasons why they do the things they do. Through these conversations, we hope for readers to discover that a brand is beyond just the sum of its products, and explore the depth of thinking that goes into shaping a brand.
This, we believe, will truly elevate the consumer experience, and redefine the way we enjoy a brand's products.
Schedule: Bi-monthly, or as our schedule permits
Jonathan Taliani, Jonathan T Reviews
In this instalment of Independent Insights, we interview Jonathan of Jonathan T Reviews. Known for his supercharged reviews that pulls you in and gets you excited about the watch on hand, and his furry little friend that greets you at the start of every review (a little more on that in the interview), Jonathan is an up and coming reviewer whom we feel should be one of your go-to reviewers for your independent watch review needs! Find out more about Jonathan T Reviews at: https://www.youtube.com/user/jonathantaliani
Let’s hear it from Jonathan!
Jonathan Taliani with fiancée
Part 1. – Introducing Jonathan
Constellar: Great to have you here with us Jonathan for this episode of Independent Insights. Let’s kick things off with a self-introduction.
Jonathan: Hey watch friends, this is Jonathan Taliani of the cleverly named [insert eye roll] YouTube and Instagram watch review channel, Jonathan T Reviews. I started this channel as a passion project during the global COVID pandemic after years of letting fear hold me back. Thanks for taking the time to learn more about me!
C: We all know you for being a watch collector and a watch reviewer. What other hobbies do you participate in and would like to share with everyone?
Jonathan: I’ve often been described as a hobbyist… which is to say I’m a passionate guy about a lot of random things. Beyond my family, my primary passion and love in life is animals. Amongst other things, I’m on the board of a local humane society and try to better the lives of and enjoy animals whenever possible. I also enjoy working out (and collecting weight equipment), gardening, collecting pocket knives and various other things, and just generally finding things to research and discuss.
C: That is quite the repertoire of hobbies. We especially love what you are doing to support animals! Your depth of passion in the things you do really show through in how you conduct your watch reviews!
Now, for the question we are most curious about: What is your definition of an ideal watch?
Jonathan: Like many enthusiasts, I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect watch. That’s one of the beauties of the hobby, everyone has different styles, preferences, etc. I thoroughly enjoy experiencing different flavors of watches depending on the occasion, industry trends (important as a reviewer), and my evolving personal preferences. Lately, I’ve been most gravitating to dressier sport watches and preferring the 38-40mm size range. However, I enjoy a wide variety of materials, designs, sizes, styles, etc.
C: We thoroughly agree that each and every collector has his/her different style and preference. To each his own, as one might say.
Would you like to share more about your watch collection and how it has changed ever since you created Jonathan T Reviews?
Jonathan: I maintain a relatively humble collection by the standards of many enthusiasts and reviewers, keeping a healthy (I swear, I don't have a problem…) mix of brands, sizes and styles. While I have owned watches most of my life, my true love for the art of watchmaking started with my first mechanical watch, an obscure Japanese market exclusive Citizen with an 8200 movement. Far from prestigious, but I was in awe from day one. From its beautifully patterned dial, complemented by blued hardware, to the wondrous precision engineering that could achieve remarkable accuracy via a spring power source, I was hooked.
As one might guess from my channel, my preferences have since veered primarily towards microbrands. Beyond the design ingenuity of many brands, I’m struck with the passion and inspired by the dream pursuit of most brand owners. These days, I am steadily rotating through an array of review loaners alongside my personal collection. Just like my morning coffee, selecting and typically starting/setting my watch is a beloved part of my ritual to start the day.
Jonathan's prized JDM Citizen
C: It's hard to not like the degree of innovation and value microbrands bring to the market, especially when you have to go in-depth for your reviews! Out of the many watches in your collection, if you had to pick only one watch, which would be your favourite?
Jonathan: You’re really posing a regular Sophie’s Choice here. After telling my other watches to cover their ears, I’m going to cheat and pick two: a Zelos Nova Aventurine and Direnzo DRZ04 Mondial White.
While the size and design elements of the two differ, they both fall perfectly into the aforementioned dressy sports watch style that has been speaking to me lately. Both to me exude a delicate balance of what I would describe as approachable class and elegance. Neither has even a hint of pretention while still being (to me) inarguably, luxuriously striking. Both watches serve equally well in a suit or jeans, lending to superb versatility as well. On top of all these attributes, they’re from two brands and owners I tremendously respect.
Jonathan's Zelos Nova Aventurine and Direnzo DRZ04 Mondial White
C: You're playing against the rules Jon! But I guess we can let that slide since we have difficulty choosing between the two ourselves! We can definitely say that we have similar preferences when it comes to dressy watches, and we think that you will agree with our design language too.
We noticed that you have a picture of a dog in all your reviews. Please do tell us more about him/her.
Jonathan: Oh yes, our babies must be represented, even if not necessarily the most theme fitting for the channel. The pictured little dude is named Max, though he also goes by Mini, Mini Man, and many other nicknames. He’s now just over three years old but would have been around one in that picture. We also have three other dogs and four cats, along with a cycle of foster critters from time to time. All of our animals are rescues. While I would have loved to feature the entire family, there’s only so much space to fit in a logo and still have it be legible. In the end, how could that silly snaggletooth grin not become a mainstay of the channel?!
Zelos Mako ft. handsome Max in the background
C: What a dashing young boy! We're pretty sure he has developed a fine taste for horology with all the exposure he is getting over at Jonathan T Reviews!
Part 2. Insights into Jonathan T Reviews
Jonathan T Reviews on Youtube
Constellar: Now let us learn more about Jonathan T Reviews. Share with us how did your Youtube Channel come into being?
Jonathan: Starting a review medium is something I’ve wanted to do my entire life, long before the ubiquity of YouTube or even the internet. As a kid, I loved reading car, technology, bodybuilding, etc. magazines. The mix of artful yet informative writing while dissecting the intricacies of products of all forms always resonated on a deep level with me. While I’m still learning to have my personality come through in reviews, I’m confident anyone familiar with my channel knows that I’m a details guy. Throughout my life, I was told I should be an attorney, salesman, instruction manual writer, etc. To me, being a reviewer nicely harmonizes elements from all those vocations (though it’s never my intention to give legal advice in my reviews ;)
C: We are glad that you are now doing something that you had long wanted to do for your entire life, and we're especially into your style of "detailed" reviews. May we ask if Jonathan T Reviews is a full time pursuit for you?
Jonathan: While I dedicate a lot of time to Jonathan T Reviews, it is just a side pursuit. It’s primarily a means to give back and further engage with the enthusiast community. Professionally, I have a legal and business background. I’m presently the Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Counsel of a business in the health insurance industry. I also do some other forms of consultancy. If I had to identify a common thread between them all, I’d say it’s my detail orientation that serves me well in each arena.
C: How about your future plans for Jonathan T Reviews? Congratulations on hitting the 1,000 subscriber mark by the way.
Jonathan: Starting this channel was as much a journey of personal growth (pushing out of my comfort zone with being on camera and putting myself “out there”) as it was a means to try and give back to and engage the community on a deeper level. Throughout the process, I’ve tried to approach it with no expectations of people watching or enjoying my content, which is admittedly a struggle for my very Type A personality. I’m self-aware enough to realize I’m verbose in my analytical style and that won’t appeal to everyone. Having recently passed my one-year anniversary and, with it, the YouTube critical 1,000 subscribers, I’m still amazed to have received so much love and support from the community.
During this first year, I’ve had the tremendous pleasure of interacting with a host of enthusiasts, brand owners, and other reviewers. I’d love to see the channel continue to grow and build these relationships, but I’m doing my best to stay focused on its origins and take things one day at a time. I have so much love for everyone that has supported and encouraged me along the way.
C: We're happy for you in taking these steps to advance your personal growth. The watch review segment would have lost a great avenue for information should you not have taken this bold step.
How would you personally describe your style of presentation for Jonathan T Reviews?
Jonathan: Does long winded overly analytical pontification count as a style? Joking aside (though it’s probably not far from the truth), my goal is to cover the nitty-gritty details of the watches I review. Buying a watch from pics and a spec sheet is really challenging, especially with so many amazing options on the market. I strive to approach my reviews from an in-depth spec overview (going beyond the typical product sheet and from my own measurements), examination of all the primary components across lighting and conditions, and finally wrapping it all up with my personal assessment of the positives, opportunities for improvement, and closing takeaways.
There are so many other great reviewers out there with superior narration, videography and editing skills, so I just try to be my natural self and dive into the watches as I would in conversing with a fellow enthusiast (yes, I really do engage in lengthy analyses in real life… just ask my immensely patient fiancée).
C: This is something we feel that all up and coming reviewers will like to know. Is there a typical process that you undergo in preparation for a watch review?
Jonathan: As a smaller review channel, many of my watches are purchased on my own for my collection or just to review. However, I’ve also been fortunate to build relationships with many great brand owners and receive review samples as well. Occasionally, generous brand owners even donate one to the channel (I strive to be transparent as to the source/conditions in my videos). While I’m open to reviewing a variety of watches, I generally try to focus on ones that interest me personally.
Whether the overall design or the incorporation of a unique/innovative element, if it doesn’t excite me on some level, my review probably isn’t going to excite my viewers either. Every review begins with thoroughly researching the individual watch and its components (ex: movement, lume grade, etc.). But the sum of parts doesn’t always tell you what it’s like to live with a watch. Whenever possible, I like to spend at least a week or two getting to know a watch on the wrist before preparing my review. I want my feedback to be meaningful for both my viewers and the brand owner. I do my best to treat watches respectfully (which is the way I treat my entire collection) but try to experience them all as a typical consumer (heat/humidity, all day on the wrist, across lighting conditions, etc.).
My goal is to always provide comprehensive and balanced feedback to help fellow enthusiasts feel more confident in their decisions to buy or skip a watch or accessory and to help brand owners continuously improve their offerings.
C: I'm sure many of us agree that an honest review is always well-appreciated as watch collecting can be an expensive hobby.
How would you describe your very first video for Jonathan T Reviews? Looking back on your journey, would you have done things differently, if you were given the opportunity to start all over again?
Jonathan: My first video summed up in a word, terror! I honestly haven’t gone back to watch it, though I’m confident it would be cringe worthy. After countless restarts, I finally built up the momentum to start the review in earnest. With a tremble in my voice, a shiver in my hands and a shirt that increasingly needed to be laundered, I pushed ahead. I’d like to think the content and insight was decent but the delivery was likely meek and awkward. In a nutshell, not that different than my current reviews… I’m certainly still a work in progress, but I feel I’ve largely found my early delivery style (I say early, as I hope to always improve).
I now have standardized note templates and am infinitely more comfortable on camera, which is not to say I’ve become one with the medium. Ultimately, all I can say is hats off to my early supporters that stepped up and hit that subscribe button despite being subjected to crimes against humanity.
The main thing I wish I could do over was taking the plunge to start my channel years earlier. It was overwhelming to start and far from perfect, but I cheated myself out of years I could have been getting better and growing with my fellow community members. I will caution anyone considering starting a channel, it is a ton of work to do it right and comes with a lot of emotional struggles (finding the time, fighting the algorithm, coping with negative comments, etc.) but that’s true of starting nearly any business/project/etc.
C: We are sure it is worthwhile after all this time. What would you say has been your most unforgettable experience in the running of Jonathan T Review?
Jonathan: I’ve been blessed to experience so many unforgettable memories. From receiving kind feedback and expressions of appreciation from supporters to lining up review prototypes before official announcements, the community has given me much back in return for my efforts.
Recently passing the 1,000 subscriber mark on YouTube was a bit of a pipe dream when I started and is one of my most proud accomplishments to date. Not only does it feel amazing to have so many people out there supporting me, but it has implications with YouTube for content creators that viewers may not realize. Along with other requirements, that is the threshold for consideration into the YouTube Partner Program. Yes, that program brings monetization so I can start receiving a modest amount from YouTube for my content, but it also opens up other creator tools (live videos, still images/community posts, access to YouTube support for channel issues, etc.).
Anyone that watches YouTube videos has I’m sure heard one billion times about the impact of hitting that subscribe button, liking, commenting, etc. and there is a reason, it truly does mean a lot for content creators.
Part 3. Industry talk
Constellar: Let's start things off with something interesting! In your opinion, what makes for a good watch reviewer?
Jonathan: Like the watches themselves, there are so many great reviewers and dramatically different styles. Some cover surface level details but capture real life footage and get content out quickly, others have masterful videography and editing skills that produce Hollywood level videos, and some others still have a compelling way of sucking you into a deeper story telling experience. This is one of my favorite things about YouTube as a medium. Even viewing coverage of the same watch, you’re often left with different perspectives and takeaways. Whether consuming your go-to source or trying to take in a variety of feedback, there’s a little something for everyone.
C: In your opinion, what should a brand owner prepare before reaching out to a watch reviewer such as yourself for a watch review?
Jonathan: As I’m confident is true for the brand owners themselves, I value outreach that seeks to engage me as an individual/channel and not just as “free” marketing. Like any other business dealing, the ones where it’s a mutual fit tend to provide the greatest value for everyone involved. One of the reasons I’m most drawn to microbrands is the closer interaction with the brand/owner. My reviews often don’t get into the inspiration for a watch but this is something I enjoy in understanding their design language.
Similarly, as a details guy, it’s immensely helpful to understand the finer elements. Not just SuperLuminova or an ETA movement but what specific grade. While not a requisite, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the concise yet exceptionally thoughtful review packets some brands prepare.
C: As a reviewer, do you have any predictions for the independent/microbrand space for the near future?
Jonathan: I’m sure most people within the community have noticed the explosion, and arguably saturation, within the microbrand space. It often feels like there’s a new brand/model endlessly on the horizon. To me, this has overwhelmingly been a great thing even if not every offering has been a monumental success. Through this trend, we’ve seen the growth of enthusiast groups along with the proliferation of countless innovations and refinements from watch brands. From the use of novel materials for cases and dials to added complications on storied movements, it’s been an exciting time to follow watches. Maybe it won’t continue forever, but I’m settled in with my popcorn and enjoying the show while I can.
C: Are there any brands and brand owners you admire in our segment? We would love to know who they are, and what they are doing well.
Jonathan: This is a tough question to answer, as I will inevitably give short shrift to so many brands and owners that I value for both their watches and friendship. I will however forge ahead and highlight a brand owner that exemplifies everything I love about the microbrand community.
For anyone that knows my channel in advance of this interview, I’m sure my response will come as no surprise. Elshan Tang, founder of Zelos and partner/collaborator on numerous other brands, is the epitome of a customer/enthusiast focused brand. Whether the style of his watches resonates with you or not (the brand has branched far beyond its origins, so I imagine this is a diminishing segment of the community), Elshan constantly pushes the bar with his designs, material choices, customized movements, etc. In and of itself that would be enough to make me appreciate the brand, along with his active community engagement and incorporation of feedback based changes, but that’s arguably not even its greatest strength.
I have yet to experience more customer-driven and superlative customer service in any industry. His philosophy of customer service seemingly gives meaning to the concept of “no questions asked.” As countless others can attest, he invariably goes above and beyond (at his logistical and financial expense) to ensure the satisfaction of his watch purchasers. While it may sound like I’m waxing on in advert fashion, my money has been where my mouth is across multiple watch boxes worth of Zelos purchases based on these personal experiences.
C: As enthusiasts that follow your channel, we had a hunch that it’ll be Zelos. How about other brands and brand owners? Which brandowner would you like to know more about?
Jonathan: There are many brand owners I would love to learn more about, but I will nominate Sergio Direnzo. In addition to his active presence within the community, Sergio brings a unique and artful design language to his pieces.
C: That is a great suggestion! We will definitely reach out to Sergio in time to come!
Part 4. Closing words from Jonathan
Constellar: Alright, that’s all we have for the interview Jon! Thank you so much for joining us on this column and for spending the time to craft your detailed response. We could definitely sense your passion through this interview, and we hope our readers now know more about you as a person. We wish you all the best with Jonathan T Reviews.
Jonathan: My sincere appreciation to Edgar and Song of Constellar for this opportunity to share more about myself. It was abundantly clear the amount of time and consideration that went into preparing this interview, though this is not surprising and in keeping with their personal transparency and wisdom from their journey. Additionally, thank YOU the reader of this article that braved through until the end. Whether you love me or hate me, I hope you at least now know a bit more about me as a person. Cheers
The family supporting Jonathan at Jonathan T Reviews