Month: June 2016
Punk Rock, Morning Scotch, and All the Balls a Writer Can Handle: Watch Week in Vegas Part 2 – Quality Time at Clockwork and Swiss Watch
“To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.” – Patti Smith, punk rock poet laureate
What is freedom to you? Seriously, I’m asking you. Or rather, I am suggesting for the sake of this piece that you ask yourself that question. When you hear the word “freedom,” what’s the first thing you think of? Is it our country? A sense of nationalism? Divorce? Leaving your job? Travel? Not paying your taxes? A night out without the kids? Going commando? Paragliding? What makes you free in your own mind? How would you make yourself free if you could?
For me, freedom means the ability to write how I’d like without penalty. It means working for myself, and expressing myself through the voice that separates me from the pack. Freedom, by all accounts, means that I’m uninhibited; that I can strip a story to its bare bones and tell it as it happened without the fear of being fired, fined, or frankly, f**ked. That is my freedom; being unattached. It is what gives me the wings to fly as far as I’m able or as near as I wish, but what also allows me to chirp whenever I feel the need, and as loudly as I deem fit.
And at that end of the day, that, quite honestly, is very much punk rock.
In between my volunteer work at the Women’s Jewelry Association station that was set up right outside the entrance to the JCK show, I was able to make appointments with some of the watch brands at Swiss Watch as well as at the other two watch sections of JCK: Clockwork, and LUXURY Watch. The Swiss Watch show has long provided a place where notable brands such as Longines, Carl F. Bucherer, Tissot, Frederique Constant, and Perrelet are able to comfortably show their wares to retailers far away from the batsh*t craziness that is the show floor. Getting up to the suites at Swiss Watch is no small feat, however, for the entrance is heavily guarded and requires not only an appointment, but also a phone call confirming said appointment, a show badge, photo ID, proof of residency, blood type, mother’s maiden name, voter registration card, life insurance policy, first-born male child, frequent flyer number, AARP membership card, and a handwritten letter of permission from your parents. But once they get those things you pretty much have free rein. Clearly, I’m using satire here but the truth is that with all of the nuttiness going on in this country, you probably don’t want your entire inventory of Swiss timepieces set up in the middle of some one-sided booth with a sign that says “honor system” beneath it.
My favorite meeting in the suites had to be with Ball Watch Company for a couple of solid yet also slightly disturbing reasons. For one, the company is called, “Ball”… um, have you met me, people? Hell, have you read me? You can’t throw a watch brand by the name of “Ball” my way and expect that I’m just going to let that slide. Every one of my comedic idols would shun me if I were to not mention how exciting it was to see all of the Balls spread out on the table during my appointment, or the fact that the tan ones had a really good weight to them. (I mean it, folks, those were some hefty Balls. I’m thinking of getting a couple of my own.) And while it’s no secret that I’m desperately trying to make coffee spew from your nose as you read this, the reality is that I have been a longtime lover of Balls. In fact, back in May of 2014, I wrote a piece on my jewelry blog about the watch brands I was looking forward to seeing at Swiss Watch, and Ball Watch Company was first on my list. Here’s a passage from that post about the Balls I was anxious to get my hands on:
Models of interest:
- DeepQUEST: (Because the title reminds me of my trip to Cancun in the 90’s for spring break. IT HAS TO DO WITH SNORKELING, YOU PERVS.) 43mm diameter, titanium single-block case, automatic helium release valve.
- Big Boy: (Um, what man doesn’t want a watch by this name?) 46mm diameter, anti-reflective convex sapphire crystal, stainless steel, screwed-in crown.
- Roman: (The name of my son. Or rather, the thing that happened nine months after I experienced *DeepQUEST* with *Big Boy.*) 41mm diameter, automatic caliber, crocodile strap with stainless buckle, shock resistant to 5,000G’s.
So as you can see, I’ve been researching Balls for years. I can’t even begin to describe to you how many hours in my adult life I’ve spent on the internet looking at pictures of Balls, so to have them here, in Las Vegas, right in front of my face and in all of their glistening glory, brought me immeasurable joy.
I was greeted with a scotch and a smile by a young, handsome man when I walked into the hotel suite (or as I like to call it – flashbacks of my twenties [and occasional forties]) whom I recognized to be Wes Burke, marketing and communications director at Ball Watch USA. If you have yet to meet Wes then you’re not as happy in your life as you could be. This ray of sunshine sprinkled with the sweat of Christmas elves will make you fall in love with anything he’s pushing, so prepare yourself if he approaches you, especially if he’s providing booze before noon. Good booze before noon. And lots of it.
I mentioned to Wes that what I really wanted him to show me were his women’s Balls. These Balls are smaller in size but that didn’t make them any less glorious. While several of the Balls appealed to me, I found two in particular that really piqued my interest. First was the ladies Trainmaster Moon Phase with mother of pearl dial (though, by rights, I expressed to Wes that Ball should change the name to the Ladies TrainMISTRESS Moon Phase because there is a big market for dominatrix watch collectors [or so I’ve heard] and Ball could corner that market without the use of whips or Shibari. Don’t ask me why I know that term. Seriously. Just… just don’t.) I particularly liked the black leather strap on the Trainmistress Trainmaster because… well… you know what they say… once you go black leather strap…
The other Ball that I found interesting simply because it didn’t look like any of the Balls I had seen in my life was the Ladies Conductor Transcendent Diamond. Rather than being round, this Ball had almost a cushion shape to it, which appealed to me, aesthetically, because I like it when designs (and people, and ideas, and body parts, and blogs) go against the norm. The one I tried on had a mother of pearl face, white leather strap, and stainless steel diamond bezel which made it eye catching enough for the watch buyers out there who like it when their Balls get attention.
It was a fun-filled meeting where I learned many things about Balls that I had not known prior. And all kidding aside, the watches themselves are very much legit. They’re hitting a price point that is sought out right now, especially with sales numbers declining for Swiss Watches across the board. And they’re doing it by not taking themselves so seriously. This is key, people. I said the same thing in the article I recently wrote for InDesign.Jewelry: fun is where it’s at, and if you can’t have some fun with Balls in your life, then you probably can’t have fun with anything.
The other experience I want to talk about in this post is the unexpected one I had with Jack Mason watches. For starters, they had the coolest, raddest, and most phallic-looking booth in all of Vegas: an Airstream trailer (seriously, don’t those things look like Bullets?). I didn’t have a pre-scheduled meeting set with Jack Mason, but on my way back from the Red Bar Crew Mixer event being held in the Clockwork lounge (which by the way, was where I FINALLY got to meet social media pal and watch writer Ed Estlow, along with Faisel Nayani, Kevin Mantell, Paul Erhardt, and some bearded dude named Adam), I swung by the Airstream to at least take a peek. Thankfully I ran into Taisia Fredrickson who handles Jack Mason’s brand and digital content, and she invited me inside so that I could have a closer look.
Let me point out the first thing that grabbed me about this brand and that likely may never let me go: the genre of music playing inside the trailer was Punk. Effing. Rock. Taisia informed me that they carefully select the music and try their best to keep it a diverse mix but also representative of the brand, and any watch brand that has punk rock playing in their booth is a watch brand I want to get to know.
Taisia explained to me that the Jack Mason watches were all designed in Dallas, Texas and the company is headquartered there, but as to not run into any Shinola-like trouble (my term, not hers) she was clear that the parts were made and assembled elsewhere. The movements are Japanese, the leather straps are made in Italy, and the watches are assembled in China. You know what, I’m all about disclosure, and I respect that Taisia was up front right off the bat so that there was no confusion and so that I didn’t immediately think that the watches were U.S. made. So, now that the details on the manufacturing have been stated, I want to talk a little bit about the look of the watch and why I think they’d be a great starter watch for someone who may not have the funds to go for something like a Tudor, or even the stash to buy a price point watch like a Hamilton.
Their watches are separated into two different series types: Nautical and Aviation, the latter allowing them to offer pilot-type watches and chronographs with stainless steel cases for under three-hundred bucks. And from an American design standpoint, they truly took care to make these watches look a LOT more expensive than they are, down to the subtle red, white, and blue markings on the watch’s second-hand. They are clear that these watches are accessories and not necessarily heirlooms, but also that they’re nice accessories and that they’re proud of how the pieces are designed.
I’m looking forward to the launch of their women’s line this October and will absolutely be buying one for myself because honestly, I really just like how they look. I’d drop a couple of hundred dollars on a pair of shoes without blinking an eye so why wouldn’t I on a chronograph that’s as appealing as anything else I might wear, right? Fun, people. Fun is king. If you didn’t believe that statement to be true you wouldn’t be reading my blog in the first place.
That’s all the time we have for today, but stay tuned for the third and final installment in my coverage of the watch events in Las Vegas as I get into what goes down when the lights go up. Until then, be careful not to break your, or anyone else’s Balls.
Roulette, Cuvette, Black Jack, Black Bay, Craps, Straps, and Multiple Hands: Watch Week in Vegas Part 1 – COUTUREtime
“The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling.” – Ambrose Bierce, American editorialist/journalist/satirist.
I was inexplicably confused.
On the one hand, I had several of my retailer friends warning me that I couldn’t do what I felt I wanted to because I’d be pigeonholed. “You realize you can’t write your watch blog in the same voice you use to write your jewelry blog, right? I mean, these are the Swiss we’re talking about. You don’t want to piss them off, and they’re not going to understand you.”
The warning made sense. For one, the watch industry is known for being conservative with few exceptions. “They’re right,” I thought. “I can’t write as colorfully as I’d like. I’m going to have to tone it down.”
But then, I got to Baselworld, where I met, in person, many of the watch journalists and editors I’d been following for quite some time. There, the tone and tune was dramatically different. “If you write your watch blog the way you write your jewelry blog, you’re going to KILL IT. Nobody is writing the way you write. It’s refreshing. And it’s needed.”
Like I said… mind meldingly confused.
Yet as I continued to pen (key) piece after piece here I found that my work and my storytelling was finding its own natural path. The very first posts come off a little more reserved but the last was playful, daring, and borderline controversial. The story is as important to me – speaking from the writer’s side – as the product discussed or the brands highlighted. The story is what makes the reader remember what it was they read. We often hear the word “stickiness” when we’re talking about content. What sticks? What makes thing stick? How do you make something sticky? You make something stick by being memorable; by not regurgitating canned text and copying and pasting press releases. You make it sticky by experiencing the moments in which you write; by breathing emotion into the words you print on pages or publish on the interwebs. Posting something daily and calling it blogging doesn’t make you a writer; it makes you a content creator. To be a writer you must live what you share. To be a writer you have to believe in that which you express, paid post or not. To be a writer you must see the world, your life, and your business through the eyes of a writer. Every mishap is a story. Every joke is a line. Every dinner, a side note. And every city, an adventure.
For the last couple of years on the blog of my alter ego (Adornmentality.com) I have written a multi-part series called, “Tales From the Strip” which covers the back stories of Las Vegas Jewelry Week. Every year these are my most-read blog posts as they delve deeply into what really goes down during those long, hard, but fun seven or more days. Yes, I discuss brands, and product, and designers, but what I mostly talk about is real life. That’s the stickiness of Vegas. Vegas is both as real and as fake as life can be. Body parts? Fake. Money lost? Real. Adoration? Fake. Swollen feet? Real. And because of the success of those posts I decided I wanted to do something similar here on the watch blog. Maybe I won’t get into the story of my near wardrobe malfunction at my Montblanc appointment. And maybe I won’t talk about the creepy watch-sector guy who hit on everything that had a set of eyeballs (and honestly that’s not entirely true because I saw him talking to that blonde woman with the eye patch). But then again, maybe I will. I don’t know for sure as I haven’t written it yet. I‘ll see where my memory takes me, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
Just be careful. The seats might be a wee bit sticky.
I had one full day plus two hours the next day to cover the brands exhibiting at COUTUREtime at the Wynn. I strategically made my appointments well over a month in advance to ensure that I’d be on the lists of the companies I didn’t get the chance to see at Baselworld. Brands such as Tudor, Hermès, TAG Heuer and Chopard. For the most part these people didn’t know me from Adam (not Craniotes, as everyone knows him and I doubt anyone would ever confuse us. [My beard is nicer]). Or at least, that’s what I thought, however, a few actually had heard about the blog, which was a pretty rad ego boost to the chagrin of those who have to live with me.
My first appointment of the day was with Montblanc, which translates to my first middle-aged hot flash of the day as I walked in to see a life-sized poster of Hugh Jackman standing before me. This is no Wolverine Hugh, either (not that I don’t love pork chop sideburns, leather pants, and claws, but that’s for another blog entirely). This is Oscar-hosting Hugh. “The Fountain” Hugh. “Oscar & Leopold” Hugh. The Hugh you want to take home to meet your mother only to get into a fight with your mother because she drilled a peep hole in the guest bedroom where Hugh was staying. Hugh, alone, is influential enough to make me buy that ladies’ Boheme ExoTourbillon Stop-Second in rose gold even on a writer’s salary. I mean, do I really need this second kidney? Or this second lung? Pfffft. Lungs are for punks. Weaklings, even. But tourbillons, well, those are for stylish people.
All kidding aside (momentarily), the crew at Montblanc was wonderful and incredibly patient, even as I had a wardrobe near-mishap trying to take a picture under a table to get proper lighting. Many thanks to Florent-Aymeric Dubiez, VP of Marketing at Montblanc, as well as Training Director, Jonathan Berke, for making my first experience with the brand one to reflect upon happily. I am enamored by what the brand is doing and at the price points that they’re doing it. Keep up the stunning work and don’t you ever stop showing me pictures of Hugh. I will hunt you down like Wolverine would if you do.
I then headed over to see a watch company that holds a very special place in my heart: Baume et Mercier. Not only did one of my closest friends work for the company for years, but the Hampton was the first official Swiss watch I ever owned. Back in 2002, shortly after 9/11, I left the watch I owned in a bin going through airport security. Thankfully, because the human race and the TSA are so honest, they honestly told me, “You’re never going to see that watch again. Honestly.” With the money I had saved working a part time job slinging Cosmopolitans and Mojitos at a Philadelphia nightclub, I went out and bought myself a Baume et Mercier Hampton avec bracelet. The watch is still a part of my collection (when am I allowed to call what I own an actual “collection”? Anyone?) And I even took it with me to Vegas to show the Baume et Mercier folks.
I worked with Sandrine Donguy, B et M’s Marketing and Communication Director, who showed me the new Petite Promesse watches and their video campaign. I was thrilled to see that the brand was putting a focus on not just women’s watches, but on young women’s watches – and that they were going after women of the Gen Y set. Only a handful of watch brands are reaching this market so it was refreshing to see firsthand how the campaign was being run. While there I was also able to check out the Shelby Cobra limited edition watch and had a little fun playing around in the car itself. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This picture is worth just four: hell to the yes.
After leaving B et M, I went to visit with a brand I have been anxious to see ever since being introduced to Ana Martins – Bovet. Dear, sweet Bovet. If you were a man and I were a single women I’d follow you everywhere until such time the restraining order took effect. I think I love you and I don’t just say that to every watch brand; I usually save it for brands containing vowels. Your style is not for the weak at heart, nor is it for the bleak of wallet, but man, I’m obsessed with you, particularly with your “Shooting Star” timepiece in rose gold. I mean, jumping hour with retrograde minutes, 5-day tourbillon, hemispheric worldwide time function with selectable time zones, hemispheric moon phase, and oh, so much more? STAAAHP!! This is not a WATCH! This belongs in a NASA bunker! I feel like I need a degree to own this thing, it’s just that intricate. Nevertheless, I was enormously taken with it and with many of the other pieces in your collection (including Duane’s bespoke watch hand-painted with a picture of his puppies). A. Dorbs.
This was my first experience getting to visit brands in the villas. While I’m not new to writing, my past Jewelry Weeks in Vegas meant working for someone else, so to be there as an independent meant that I had more time to see those I had not been privy to in the past. The feeling of having only the “journalist” label was sweet, and riding the villa elevators knowing I would soon be sitting down with those I had only studied from afar up to this point was humbling.
I stepped off at floor two and headed down the brightly-hued but dimly lit hallway toward villa 208. I was alone but could see a group of four men conversing in my path about twenty or so feet in front of me. As I got closer, however, I started recognizing most of their faces: Will, Frank, and Anna Wintour Ben (only if you read the NYT piece will you get that reference). The Hodinkee gang, less a few talented and favored exceptions, were quietly chatting as I walked past.
I will be the first person to admit that I’m a Hodinkee fangirl. I get the Hodinkee Daily delivered to more than one email address. I learned all I care to know about the history of spring bars, the legend of why Geneva stripes were invented, and what makes a ridiculous 18th-century mechanical pooping bird from France so special thanks to the esteemed Jack Forster. I know the difference between their Value Proposition, Hands On, and Reference Points categories. And any time some dude (or chick) from some other blog has tried dissing the site while in my presence, I’ve come to their defense as if I owned stock in the company (full disclosure: I do not own stock in the company). So here was my chance to introduce myself to those who’ve made loving the watch world a little easier for me. I’m not shy. I’m not easily intimidated. I was taller than all of them. And honestly, I had nothing to lose.
“There’s a whole bunch of Hodinkeeness going on right here!”
Great opening line, idiot. Well f**king done. Could I have been more cheesy? I think not. I think not.
Thankfully they spared me (at least to my face) the feeling of embarrassment by allowing me to introduce myself and my blog while shaking each of their hands. Ben gave me an “Ah…” nod when I mentioned that I write WhatsOnHerWrist, which left me a little unsettled, frankly. Was it, “Ah, I’ve heard of you”? Or was it, “Ah, I really don’t care”? Or maybe it was, “AH! You’re the one they’ve warned us about.” I’m guessing the third, but that’s cool, because as I got to the fourth person in the group, whose face I didn’t recognize, I upped my a**hole game by stating, “I’m sorry, I really have no idea who you are” to which he replied, “Rob.”
My scotches-from-the-night-before-soaked brain was suddenly a flurry of activity. Rob. Rob. Why does that name sound familiar? Does Hodinkee have a Rob on their staff? No. Plus this guy doesn’t have a beard so I doubt they’d hire him. Hmm. Ah well. I’ll figure it out eventually.
And I did, about three feet into my walking away and realizing that this Rob was the Rob I was supposed to be meeting with as he was the Rob from Hermès. Mother. Bleeper.
Four letter words were all I could conjure internally as I now had to make a 180-degree turn and walk back, past the Hodincrew, past good ol’ Rob, and sheepishly into the Hermès suite.
I. Could. Have. DIED.
Thankfully, I was greeted pleasantly by Senior Sales Manager Andrea Galella, who offered me something to drink. I wanted to order a glass of champagne with a side of cyanide but settled for a sparkling water as to not add “drunken lush” to my already unquestionable “dipsh*t” status.
Andrea started to show me some of the new Cape Cod series watches when Rob joined our conversation. I apologized for not knowing who he was and eventually settled into work mode. Rob was serious, and a little dry, but knowledgeable, and at one point asked me what the name of my watch blog was. As Andrea and I discussed styles and as I showed her the Hermes timepiece I was currently wearing, I could see Rob on his phone, shoulders shaking, and giggling under his breath. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on until I realized what he was reading…
“Wait. Wait a minute. Andrea, you’ve got to hear this,” Rob said, now full-on laughing, before he proceeded to read aloud the first few paragraphs of my last blog post. He then looked up at me and said, “You’re pretty funny,” which is when I knew that Rob and I were going to get along just fine. Actually, likely better than fine.
My 3 o’clock appointment was with TAG Heuer’s Marketing VP, Francoise Bezzola, who graciously showed me around and gave me the rundown on what was newly released in time for the COUTURE show. And I finally got the chance to play around with the TAG Heuer CONNECTED watch, which if I’m being honest, is the only smart watch available on the market right now that I’d even consider buying. I was also fortunate enough to meet the man himself – Jean-Claude Biver – later that same evening after the COUTURE opening party, sponsored by TAG Heuer. Mr. Biver was warm and kind and has since stayed in contact with me, to my amazement. It’s easy to see why he is thought so highly of.
Following TAG Heuer, I traipsed down to visit some of the darlingest watch folks I know – the crew at ORIS. How anyone could not like ORIS is beyond me, and I’m not just saying that because their name is super fun to say. The watches are wearable, affordable, and smartly designed. The staff is fun, accommodating, and inclusive. And they throw some pretty rad parties which they invite me to, so, you know… bonus. When I first sat down with them at Baselworld I spent a lot of time focusing on their women’s watches (which are designed by a woman) but it wasn’t until this trip that I was able to get my hands on and spend some time with their Divers Sixty Five watch, which greatly appealed to me in the blue dial and with the blue NATO strap. At 42mm it’s a bit too large for my wrist but that likely won’t stop me from eventually getting it for my significant other. Unless, of course, he starts some sh*t in which case I’ll buy him a fake Breitling from some New York street vendor in the East Village and call it a day.
The next company to visit on my COUTUREtime journey was Graham watches, which not only makes some cool, off-the-beaten-path-type timepieces, but knows how to market them properly, thanks largely to PR woman extraordinaire, Lisa Delane. While sipping an espresso (which was probably the last thing I needed considering I have hyperactivity issues as it is… no surprises there), I was introduced to a really special watch which debuted in 2015 called the Navy SEAL Chronofighter. Graham has partnered with the Navy SEAL Foundation – the first time the organization had ever partnered with a watch or any luxury brand to create a commercially saleable product – and is donating a portion of each of the sales of the limited edition watch (500 total pieces were made) to that foundation. You see now, when I hear of partnerships like these, it makes me proud to be in the business I’m in. Well done, Graham. Keep striving to do things a little differently, a little more meaningfully, and with a little bit of edge. That’s the thing that will set you apart. Oh, and I absolutely loved meeting a Swiss guy with a sense of humor (private joke, y’all. I’m kidding. You had to be there.)
My last appointment of the day but not the last at COUTUREtime was with Chopard, a firm I had been greatly looking forward to sitting down with. And while their prior appointment ran a little long and I needed to leave early as I had to get ready for the Diamond Empowerment Fund’s “Diamonds Do Good” Awards, we still managed to get in some quality time (pun alert) to talk Happy Diamonds (#AreYouHappyDiamonds), new releases, and seriously well-made diamond watches for women. Thankfully, I knew I would be back in the Chopard villa the following Saturday at their private event, which proved to be quite enjoyable, and not just because of the abundance of Perrier-Jouet and Macallan (more on that and other events in the next post).
And this brings us to my last appointment at the Wynn which I went back for the following afternoon: Tudor.
I can’t really remember a watch brand in recent history that has caught on quite the way Tudor has. The brand has earned the respect of not only the most well-read watch journalists, but also of bloggers, instagrammers, and many other forms of social media curators. This is not your poor man’s Rolex, let me be clear. Tudor has built its own wagon, paved its own path, and found its own way to a home of high demand and great success, and after seeing the product first hand, it was easy to see why.
My appointment was with Gabriela Anastasio who was an absolute joy to work with and had such a beautiful presence. She showed me the two pieces I’d been wanting to see since their release at Baselworld: the Black Bay Dark, and the Black Bay Bronze, both of which were equally appealing to me for different reasons. And as a woman who doesn’t always want her watches to have diamonds, white straps, or a pink dial, it was refreshing to see watches like the Heritage Black Bay 36 up close; a timepiece clearly made to be unisex.
All in all, from an outsider’s point of view, COUTUREtime seemed to be a smashing success. For me, as a first-time, full-time editorialist/journalist/satirist, I could not have asked for a better experience. Thank you, Gannon Brousseau, for curating this event and gathering in the U.S. some of the top watch brands in the world. And thanks to those brands for agreeing to meet with me, for taking time with me, and for making me feel welcome. I’m looking forward to whatever is next, be it Salon QP, SIHH, or Baselworld 2017. Wherever it is, I promise to make it fun on my end.
And stay tuned for part 2 of Watch Week, which will cover the watch shows at JCK as well as some of the nighttime shenanigans, coming very soon.
Editor’s Note: I just wanted to take the time here to send a shout out to four great guys who have been overwhelmingly supportive in these last three-plus months of this blog’s life: Eric Wind, Carlos Torres, Joe Thompson, and Jason Heaton. Without your guidance, advice, feedback, and help, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to put myself out there. Thanks to all of you for being in my corner, for teaching me the proper way to pronounce Jaeger-LeCoultre, for introducing me to women and men whom you felt I needed to know, and for pushing me to share the voice that makes me who I am. I owe each of you a glass of the nicest scotch I can find. And you’ll get it, because I believe in keeping promises.