Month: September 2018
A Roll of the Dice: The Story of My First Encounter with Jean-Claude Biver
“The only way to break out is to gamble.” – Jerry Jones
Las Vegas, June 3rd, 2016.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been there for work about four or five billion times (or so I’ve felt). Maybe it’s because “fake” isn’t my thing, so the fake city, fake Eiffel Tower, fake cheekbones, fake sculptures, and fake fun doesn’t really appeal to me. Or, maybe it’s because paying $27 for a mediocre gin martini presented to me by an obsequious “mixologist” seems, oh, I don’t know, like something Dean Martin would be really pissed off about if he were alive today. But man, I REALLY hate Las Vegas. Hate hate it. Like, how my eight-year-old daughter hates green foods, or like how Canadians hate the word “hate” because let’s be honest, in their minds, it could just as easily be replaced by the word “like” in any sentence. But on this night, I found myself in Las Vegas, three months into writing this here watch blog, and two glasses of wine into the COUTURE Show opening party at the Wynn hotel, sponsored by none other than LVMH watch brand, TAG Heuer.
One doesn’t have to be a WIS to know the back story of Jean-Claude Biver; one simply has to be somewhat literate and hopefully have a pulse to be even vaguely aware of the watch world giant. By the time I made the decision to take my writing over to the watch side, I’d read my fair share of articles and heard my fair share of stories of the man who many describe still as “larger than life.”
I remember just having wrapped up a conversation with Scott Saunders of London Jewelers when Mr. Biver was introduced, before he graciously took the microphone as he stepped on to the COUTURE Show stage. His remarks seemed quaint to me at first; simple, and yet substantial. Everyone in the crowd stood still, patiently hanging on to JCB’s words which were becoming more intense by the second.
“ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE!” he finally exclaimed loudly into the mic, giving credit to the Beatles for a line that even the millennials in the room would recognize. Love. He was yelling about love. Here was a man so bold, and so recognized, and so successful, and he was talking to a room full of jewelry and watch people about a universal emotion as simple – and as complicated – as love. About the power of love. About the positivity of love. And about love’s effect on everything we do in our lives and every decision we make. “All you need… is love.”
By the time he left the stage, the room acted as if it had just witnessed a modern-day prophet perform a miracle for the ages. People were cheering so vehemently I wondered if Mr. Biver would actually come back out and sing “Freebird” while we all swayed and raised our cigarette lighters. It was astonishing to witness and awe-inspiring at the same time. I wanted to start hugging strangers in the room and tell them I loved them (but I didn’t because when you do that in Vegas, people get the wrong idea about what you actually do for a living). I was invigorated, and felt kind of… well, lucky… and when you’re feeling lucky in Vegas there’s really only one place to go…
Vegas was built for a reason, and that reason was money, and money alone. Gambling is the fabric used in the tattered quilt that blankets the city, and to go and not gamble even once seems almost sacrilegious, so I decided to head inside to the Wynn’s grand casino and take my chances at the tables.
The sounds of coins falling and bells ringing are synonymous with Vegas. The smell of a casino floor can’t be replicated – nor should it – as the lingering feelings of both hope and despair hang tauntingly in the recycled air. Yet as I strolled through the crowds of thirty-something bachelors and their nightly rent-a-dates toward the blackjack area, I could see a figure walking quickly toward me in the mix of what would appear to be an entourage.
It was The Prophet, himself: Mr. Jean-Claude Biver.
I’d never met him before, nor had I met anyone in the watch world who held a position such as his. I was new still, and green, and honestly, I didn’t know crap about the industry. But he was headed my way, and I knew that if I didn’t at least tell him that I liked his speech, I’d lose an opportunity I might never get again. But what happens if I stop him and he wants to talk watches? I can’t fake it! Vegas or not, I suck at bullshitting.
The more I thought about it, the closer he got, and when he had just walked past me, I idiotically blurted out his name.
He turned toward me, almost startled, and his people turned too.
“I’m Barbara Palumbo. I write a watch blog called WhatsOnHerWrist. It’s sort of focused on women. I’m a fan though, and I saw your speech, and I just wanted to meet you.”
He smiled his wide, toothy smile as he walked back toward me and took my business card from my outstretched and slightly shaking hand, before reaching into his pocket and handing me his in return.
We spoke for a few minutes, once I calmed my nerves, and he told me to email him any time if I had any questions or needed anything. Then he shook my hand, and he and his people walked off into the desert night while I stood there staring at the plain white business card which bore his name.
Upon my return home to Atlanta, I wrote a recap of my experience at COUTUREtime and decided to take Mr. Biver up on his offer, so I emailed it to him, and to my surprise, received a reply within the hour:
“Hello Barbara, thank you for your email and article! I enjoyed reading it and could imagine you enjoying writing it. Hope to catch up with you soon.”
It was, for someone like me, a moment I won’t soon forget.
You see, I guess I’m still green. I like people who are nice to me; who take the time to mentor me, and do right by me, knowing that I’m in this to learn, and that no matter what happens, or what road bumps I hit, I’m not giving up. I like writing about brands who employ good people; positive people. I enjoy sharing their stories because this industry is about more than mere material possessions with a history. Watches ARE their people. Watches wouldn’t exist without their designers or their creators or their marketers or sellers or CEOs or those, like me, who tell their stories. And this simple moment – this gamble that I took in Vegas at the very beginning – put me on the right mental path, because it showed me that someone as important to the watch world as Jean-Claude Biver was willing to take the time and share a kind word of support with someone like me, who was just starting out.
So, to you, Mr. Biver, I say “cheers” today. Cheers on celebrating your 69th birthday, on celebrating forty extraordinary years doing what you seemingly love, and on deciding to take time for you in a different way than you had been recently. We know that you’re still around for those of us who have questions or need anything, but speaking for myself, you already gave me what it was I needed.
Thank you, sir. I guess that’s really all I wanted to say through this story. Merci.
Horology Takes Center Stage in London: an Interview with Melika Yazdjerdi
Last November I had the privilege of being invited to attend my first ever Dubai Watch Week which I wrote about here on this very blog. It was unlike anything I’d experienced in the watch industry before; there were classes for things like enameling, engraving, and watchmaking. And there were presentations by big-named brands that were more intimate than those which occur at the trade shows. But the part that stood out most for me was the Horology Forum; a series of panel discussions covering a variety of topics and including an even wider variety of personalities and experts from a wide range of the watch world.
This year, in lieu of a complete program in Dubai, the organizers of Dubai Watch Week joined forces with Christie’s to bring the Horology Forum concept to London. I sat down this week with Melika Yazdjerdi — Director of Dubai Watch Week — to find out about the first edition of the International Horology Forum and if we can expect to see more editions in the future.
BP: So happy to be in London, Melika, and thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. When did the idea for the International Horology Forum first come to mind? Was it before or after the 2017 edition of Dubai Watch Week?
MY: When we developed the blueprint for Dubai Watch Week back in 2015, we wanted to create different programs with the goal that it would eventually evolve into a self-sustaining and independent horological entity. The Horology Forum is one of the key programs that drives the progression of Dubai Watch Week and we have been waiting for the right time to launch the first international chapter. The whole point of the Horology Forum was always to unite watch industry players from all around the globe with ease and in a casual manner. Like the nature of the free-flowing content of the Forum, the event is malleable and is not constricted to a location or time.
BP: Who are you hoping to see in attendance at the inaugural event taking place in London this September? Is it geared toward any one group in particular?
MY: We hope to see collectors, journalists and anyone with an appreciation for the art of time keeping. We also anticipate new collectors or novice enthusiasts interested in delving deeper into horology and meeting patrons of the industry. It is always important to reach new audiences or even old skeptics and bridge the ever-growing gap between the puritans and innovators.
BP: Was there a reason London, specifically, was chosen as the location for the International Horology Forum?
MY: It was a mutual decision between the Christie’s and the Dubai Watch Week team as London is an important horological market and has a rich heritage in the industry. A great number of collectors and watch enthusiasts as well as some prominent figures of the community are based there, which makes it the platform for the first international Horology Forum. London is also a centralized city, similar to Dubai’s demographic make up which is a great melting pot for us to cater to. Geographically, London is accessible to a majority of the members in the industry, marrying the European, Asian, and American markets.
BP: Do you have plans to have more Horology Forums take place in the future? If yes, would you consider alternate locations and how frequently would you like to see an International Horology Forum take place?
MY: The Horology Forum is an annual event and an integral part of the Dubai Watch Week programs. The aim is to have forum held every alternate year at Dubai Watch Week, and every other year abroad. As for its location, we do not plan on committing to a single destination internationally.
BP: What can attendees expect to experience at the first International Horology Forum that they would not experience elsewhere in the watch world?
MY: In addition to harvesting a relaxed and impactful environment for riveting discussions between our panelists, we are focusing on the revival of the British horological legacy. Together with Christie’s, we are also organizing the first “Auctioneer Training” in the Horology Forum for the media, so that they can have firsthand experience in the art of auction sales. Furthermore, a new activity will be introduced this year called “The Roast” where audience members will ask the ‘Roast Panelists’ Carte Blanche questions to further enrich a genuine exchange of information and ideas.
BP: How did the partnership with Christie’s Auction House come to fruition for this event?
MY: Christie’s has been a principal supporter of Dubai Watch Week and has been a partner since the first edition of Dubai Watch Week. Each year, we develop and introduce new pioneering programs and initiatives with the aim to educate and preserve the rich heritage of the colorful horological history.
BP: Will Horology Forum be geared more toward watch collectors and watch experts, or will novices also benefit from being in attendance?
MY: The event is catered to everyone who understands and appreciates the art of horology.
BP: And lastly, when should we expect to hear more about the next edition of Dubai Watch Week?
MY: The 4th edition will be dedicated to showcasing the ingenuity and creativity of the industry, aptly themed, Innovation and Technology. There is an astronomical amount of talent, skill, modernism, and dedication when it comes to the watch industry, and we would like to celebrate that aspect. We plan to share more details by the end of the year.
Many thanks to Melika Yazdjerdi for taking the time to share her thoughts with me about Horology Forum which starts tomorrow, September 11th, and runs through September 12th. You can find the complete list of panel discussion topics here.