What does everyone think of the Stack Watch?

Discussion in 'Magic Forum' started by Antonio Diavolo, May 4, 2020.

  1. Before getting into my thoughts, please keep this civil and refrain from needlessly trashing Ellusionist or anyone involved with the watch. I want to keep this discussion rational and civil as I am genuinely curious as to what others think of this product.

    Over the past week or so, there has been a lot of discussion of Ellusionist's new release, "The Stack Watch" with many people criticizing it. Personally, I don't like the product but I'll get into that later.

    Here are a few common criticisms I've seen:
    1. It encourages laziness. Learning the stack is far more beneficial in the long run.
    2. The advertising is misleading.
    3. The way the watch functions makes it impractical.
    4. It's exposing a well-kept secret.

    These arguments are rather simplistic, and I don't think they represent the majority's opinion on the product, but they were ones I wanted to address.

    Number 1
    As for #1, I agree and disagree with this statement. I personally do not think using a crib is lazy at all. Heck, Juan himself recommends using one in the book! It can be a very useful safety net for those who are not 100% confident in their ability to recall the stack. I do think memorizing the stack is more beneficial in the long run, but that takes a lot time and practice. Before one has mastered the stack, using a crib is a great way to ensure nothing goes wrong. However, this first argument about laziness has a lot of ties with the second point and how the product is being presented.

    Number 2
    Going into point 2, these are direct quotes from the page for this product on the Ellusionist site:

    "THE STACK WATCH is the world's first anti-memory wearable for stack work in card magic. A covert, must-wear device for deciphering a stacked deck... Without you having to ever know stack."

    "You don't need to try to learn it, because the watch is there for you, exactly when you need it. It's instant, requires no work, no memory songs, no concentration and no testing. Everything you can do with mnemonica has just been made simple, because you don't have to learn it. Don't say I will. Say I don't need to."

    "Everything taught in Tamariz' Mnemonica or Pit Hartling's incredible book 'In Order To Amaze' is now possible to perform with the STACK WATCH."

    Here is where I have many of my issues with this product. I don't think whoever wrote this intended anything harmful with these statements, but I personally feel like these are very misleading. First of all, implying that you don't need to learn the stack at all to use the watch to it's full potential is outright wrong. This watch is definitely best utilized as a crib for those who are already at least a bit familiar with the stack.

    The way the watch functions allows you to easily locate what card lies at a named position in the stack, which is a very useful feature. However, another fundamental piece of memdeck work is knowing what position a named card lies at. As the card indices are very small, all the same color, and are very close together, I can't imagine someone with no knowledge of the stack being able to efficiently and discretely locate a card on the bezel and then find it's position. As stated before, this would be much easier for someone who has a general knowledge of the stack and knows roughly where a card is. Even Pete Turner has said this could be a valuable reminder for those with memory problems, which is a good point.

    Also, saying you can perform any trick in Juan's book does not seem correct to me. For the sake of argument, let's assume that someone with no knowledge of the stack is able to use this watch efficiently, one still has to justify looking at their watch twice during the trick. This may work for the trick Pete demonstrates in the live demo, but many of the tricks in Juan's book require you to be able to figure out the position or card quickly and do not really lend themselves to the watch presentation. Even Juan's suggested "Joker crib" method is limited in it's application. It can be a helpful learning tool but will not replace memorizing the deck for many tricks.

    Once again, I do not think Ellusionist intended anything harmful with these statements. I just think whoever wrote the ad copy did not fully think through the implications of advertising the watch in this way.

    Number 3
    I agree and disagree with this. I think if one is trying to use this as a substitute for mnemonica, it would be very impractical. As stated before, locating a card on the bezel would likely be difficult to execute if one has no knowledge of the stack. Pete has demonstrated (in the live video) that the watch can be used naturally in certain contexts if one is somewhat familiar with the stack. It will take practice, but it is possible. I don't think this watch is applicable to all stack work, but it definitely has it's place.

    Number 4
    I have only seen this argument a handful of times and I personally don't think there's much validity to this statement. First of all, Ellusionist is a site for magicians. Sure they got some mainstream attention when they released the Pyro Mini but their core market is still magicians. Despite the misleading ad copy, it seems as though the people buying the watch were previously aware of the existence of the stack. The existence of Mnemonica isn't much of a secret within the magic community. You can find study tools online for free. If one was dedicated enough to learn Mnemonica but didn't want to spend $50+ on the book, they could easily do so.

    I have also heard people say that laymen may see the word "Stack" on the watch and then Google "stack watch", find Ellusionist's site, and learn the secret. This was a similar criticism that some had with the initial release of the Turner Watch. I think this argument may have held some weight for the Turner Watch as the trick is entirely focused on the watch itself, the stack watch is a peripheral. If utilized properly, the focus should be on the deck and not the watch.

    However, lets say for the sake of example that someone did see the "Stack" on the watch, Googled it, and found the secret. Obviously this would likely be the fault of the magician for drawing too much attention to the watch, but let's say hypothetically that someone did this.
    They would find out about the watch and thus the Mnemonica stack. However, I don't think this is as big of a deal as it seems. A magician unintentionally exposing a well-kept secret sucks but really, the true potential of Mnemonica is still housed in the book. They do know that a magician can memorize a deck and use that for their trick. Despite this, I think many of us have had the experience of fooling someone (or even a magician) with a method they know. For laymen (and sometimes magicians) certain methods can be difficult to recognize outside of a context they're familiar with. This is especially true of memdeck work as the order of the deck will look random to someone unaware of the stack and most of the work occurs in the magician's mind. I don't think Mnemonica is going to become public knowledge with the release of this device or that it will ruin stack work for laymen.
    ForceProof101 and 010rusty like this.
  2. My Thoughts
    Although a the above points contained my opinion, I tried to have a slightly more objective look at the product and defended it against a few points that I thought were unfounded, despite my thoughts on the product as a whole. This section is more about me explicitly saying what I don't like about the product.

    Although my initial feeling was something along the lines of "this is a bad product", I've since shifted my opinion given statements from Pete and Geraint. The marketing was the main thing bothering me. I don't think it's inherently awful and I'm sure many people will find it useful but personally, I still don't like the product. I think one's money and time would be better spent on the Mnemonica book. Mastering a memorized deck will bring your card magic to a whole new level and it's definitely worth it to spend time learning the stack. The book will also provide you with many effects that utilize the stack to it's full potential.

    For those who want to use the watch to learn the stack, I'm not sure this is the best option. Due to the cluttered and tiny writing on the bezel, I don't think one could build up the proper card-number associations necessary to use the stack effectively.

    The methods in the book may not work for you but there are many other options on the market, which I think would be a better use of $50 but to each his own. The Memory Arts book (and ebooks) is a good option as it provides methods for learning Mnemonica which can be applied to any other stack or a series of items. The Learn Mnemonica app could also be a useful tool to strengthen and speed up your associations. I found Rick Lax's Mnemonica Trainer video very helpful. I do not own it but I have heard good things about Memorandum by Woody Aragon.

    I do think using the watch as a crib/safety net while learning the deck would be the best way to use it but personally, this wouldn't be my first choice. For me, $52 is a lot to spend on something that will be rendered obsolete with practice and has cheaper alternatives.
    My personal favorite crib is the one included in the Phoenix deck. It's cheap and hides in plain sight and seems a lot easier to use than the watch, in my opinion. That is entirely personal preference. I'm also not a fan of the Mnemonica stickers as they would not be practical.

    For those with memory issues, a crib is a wonderful tool but I think there may be easier to use and less expensive alternatives as mentioned above. Once again, that's entirely personal preference as this is not an issue I have. Whatever works for you is going to be the best option.

    And for those who intend to use this watch as a substitute for learning the stack, I'm not sure how useful it will be. I may be biased since I am already fairly familiar with the stack (definitely haven't mastered it yet), but I really don't think that buying this watch will effectively replace memorizing the stack. I think it would be best used as a supplement to learning or using the stack rather than an outright replacement.

    I think the marketing was very misleading and could have been done better while still selling the value of this product to the public.

    Anyways, what do you guys think? Feel free to refute any of my points above as well. Once again, please keep things civilized. Don't attack anyone at Ellusionist or anyone with a different opinion.
    ForceProof101 and 010rusty like this.
  3. I'll say this, I've never bought anything related to magic other than books online, and when I get the guts and wish to do so, I won't buy Stack Watch.


    It feels impractical.

    BUT, I'd DEFINITELY buy that watch as a collectible. Definitely. It looks cool and has a stack printed on it! There's nothing not to like about it as a classy, modern-day- magician's accessory.

    PS:- Why would anybody thrash Ellusionist? Ellusionist is an amazing company! They, Theory XI and Vanishing Inc feel like the few companies that keep us alive.
  4. Ellusionist has made some...questionable decisions in the past. Most of which relates to how they market certain products (i.e. the How to Read Minds Kit, Show To Go, and Stack Watch).

    The Fiddle Stick was another bizarre release but the Kickstarter got fully funded and then some so I guess it was successful.
  5. It is an interesting concept, but ultimately I see a couple of problems with using it in performance. First, I don't see how your looking at your watch will go unnoticed, especially if you have to turn the bezel. Second, I probably won't be able to use it because I need reading glasses and wouldn't be able to see the numbers without putting them on. Third, I think the math is easier without the watch (at least for me).
  6. All fair points.
    010rusty likes this.
  7. imagine charging for this...the ultimate "con"
  8. I think a lot of the initial ire around this product was a result of people thinking "oh great, how many botched stack-deck performances are going to come out of this?" as well as the anti-practice sentiment in the marketing. It also seemed to feed the notion that memorization work (as well as any "sleight of mind") is especially difficult/more difficult than normal sleight of hand practice, which I personally disagree with.

    I think that if the product hadn't been billed as an alternative to the memorization process, and instead was billed as, "hey, this is a cool watch and it can serve as an out if you ever blank on your stack," it would have been viewed as much more legitimate.

    Also, mayyyyybe it wasn't the best idea to predicate the marketing on the idea that everyone is too busy to learn stack in the midst of a pandemic when many people have more time than they know what to do with. Unforeseen circumstances, I suppose.
  9. I completely agree! That last point is an interesting one as well. If there's a time to learn a stack, it's now!
  10. I'm not sure I'd call it a "con" per se. I don't think they're trying to scam people or anything
  11. I have a different perspective. I've been using my own stack and mnemonica for about 10 years now, so you'd think I don't need the watch. But guess what? There are some other things that you can do with the watch. For example, a trick I do, but takes a hell of a bit of mental gymnastics, is an ACAAN that utilizes a move that looks pretty much identical to a rollover pass. I haven't received my watch yet (it's on the way) but looking at the pictures I've already figured out how I can quickly "glance at the time" and know what card I need to split at for the pass.

    People keep thinking that you'd do every trick with the watch. You'd look like you have OCD if you did that. You can however use it for one or two tricks out of many without drawing attention to it. You definitely need to have other tricks around it if you are incorporating it in a routine. It's simply a clever crib - you wouldn't gawk at your crib in the middle of every trick you do, either. I really think people are poopooing just for the sake of feeling superior when the reality is they just don't get it. They did that with PT's HTRM as well, even though the videos that come with it are superior to anything else you could ask for. You can expect as much from the video for this watch as well.
  12. That's a fair point. If you have a use for it, more power to you!

    I addressed a lot of the stuff in your latter paragraph in my initial post. A lot of the problems people have come from the marketing. The website explicitly states "Everything taught in Tamariz' Mnemonica or Pit Hartling's incredible book 'In Order To Amaze' is now possible to perform with the STACK WATCH."

    Which, as you said, is flat out wrong. I agree that this is best used as a crib for certain tricks. It's just a shame that Ellusionist is advertising this as a "no work" alternative to learning the stack when that is not the case.
  13. I didn't say that was wrong. I can't think of a mnemonica trick or effect that *can't* be done with the watch. I am guessing you and some other folks are thinking that it means "all of them consecutively," which isn't what the blurb says.
    MohanaMisra likes this.
  14. This is exactly why I'm not concerned that people would figure it out. A card carrying magician with cards named on his attire. Imagine that! I see it as the same thing as when Porsche owners buy Porsche watches, jackets, wallets, etc. Hell, I have a poker card themed pot grinder. I doubt anyone would assume it is a magic gimmick just because it has a full house painted on it.

    And even still, most laypeople wouldn't realize the initials refer to cards anyway. It looks like a typical but artsy utility watch. They'd have to look pretty closely to even get curious about the meaning anyway. Other magicians who know about stacks would get the connection, and they'd be in on it already anyway. Guaranteed to make them jealous, heh.
    Antonio Diavolo and MohanaMisra like this.
  15. I also don't think laymen would notice it. It looks pretty discrete to me.

  16. overcharging and Capitalizing on the niche market of magic/mentalists products, this isn't the first and won't be the last
  17. But then that is the thing however. It seems easier to memorise the stack rather than look at the watch suddenly, mid-performance. When magicians have to practice to make card peeks look like nothing, I don't know how much additional practice looking 'secretly' at a watch would take!
    But again, I view the watch as a collector's item ("Remember the time when Ellusionist brought out a Stack Watch?") and if anybody else buys it because of that, they wouldn't care if the card names were discrete or flashy. Again, I like the design of the watch. :)

    (According to the pictures I've seen till now, that is.)
    Antonio Diavolo likes this.
  18. That’s a good point. I just meant if you were using the watch as an EDC, I don’t think people would notice the card indices. If you’re looking at it a lot, then it would be a lot more obvious

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