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“Time Present and Time Past”: London’s Horology Forum and the Wondrous World of Watchmaking

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“If all time is eternally present/All time is unredeemable.”

The above lines were taken from the “Burnt Norton” poem in T.S. Eliot’s famed works, The Four Quartets. And while many refer to the poet as being an American because he was born in St. Louis, Eliot had technically renounced his United States citizenship in 1927 after legally becoming a British subject. Despite what was written on his 1888 birth certificate, Eliot considered himself to be quite the Englishman until the day of his death in 1965, and it is widely known that the poet lived his life obsessed with a single primary concept…

Time.

The first international Horology Forum took place on September 11th and 12th in the heart of London. The event – the brainchild of the creators of Dubai Watch Week and co-sponsored by Christie’s auction house – invited experts and novices alike to attend a series of thought-provoking panels and take part in free-flowing discussions in order to “bridge the widening generation gap between tradition and innovation,” according to the forum’s organizers. In other words, a slew of folks from all over the world gathered in the city where T.S. Eliot took his final breaths and likely closed the book on his obsession with time.

The forum itself consisted of five panels (Battle of the Soothsayers; Cultural Clout – the iBuyer Cult; The British Watch Industry: Colonizing Greenwich Meridian; When David Clocks Goliath; and, Genta and Daniels’ Punctual Yet Untimely Legacy), and one good ol’ fashioned British roast (which actually turned out to be a bit more of a ‘warming’ due to the very British politeness of those on the panel).

As an honored invitee to the event and guest moderator for the iBuyer Cult panel, I was treated not only to the experience of listening to and learning from speakers such as Peter Speake-Marin, Mohammed Abdulmagied Seddiqi, Fabrizio Buonamassa, Grégory Dourde, Christine Hutter, and Roger Smith, but was also able to take part in additional events such as a fascinating seminar at Christie’s Late on

iBuyer Cult panel (picture by Dubai Watch Week)

how color plays a major role in watchmaking (and always has throughout history), and an auctioneer training class that happened prior to Wednesday’s first panel discussion. Members of the press were also given the opportunity to interview the speakers and the moderators, allowing me to take full advantage of one-on-one time with H. Moser & Cie CEO Edouard Meylan, actor and watch designer Aldis Hodge, and Christie’s SVP and International Head of Watches John Reardon.

Mr. Reardon told me about his first experience with mechanical watches. “I will share a story today I never shared before,” he said to me when we first sat down for his interview, “because I’m inspired by the Princess Leia sticker you have on your computer. When I was six or seven years old, my parents, for Christmas, gave me a Buck Rodgers plastic watch. I was obsessed with sci-fi things as a child. It was a mechanical watch with plastic gears, and they were all different colors. I still have it to this day, and it still doesn’t work, because the first thing I did was take it apart. I was curious, ‘how does this little machine work?’ so I took it apart and tried to put it back together. I was inspired and curious as to how these little objects tell time, from a little kid’s perspective.”

Aldis Hodge (picture by Alan Hart)

Mr. Hodge also allowed me to take a glimpse into his childhood, to where his passion for watches and watch design began. “I love natural elements. I had a scientific mind when I was younger; I always wanted to be an engineer of some sort. For me, [getting into watchmaking] is a staple of achievement because I’ve been an actor since I was 2 or 3 years old. I would have had to quit that entirely in order to achieve my academic desires, but with watchmaking, that sort of encompasses art, architecture, engineering, and science.”

My conversation with Mr. Meylan delved more into his thoughts on the changes occurring in Basel, his company’s presence there, and which markets around the world he sees as becoming key players in the success of his brand. “Right now, for us, our two biggest markets are Asia and Europe, with Hong Kong and Switzerland being substantial. Germany and France are also good markets for us in Europe. But the two markets where we are seeing the strongest growth are definitely the Middle East and the United States. My brother just moved to Dubai, actually. We opened an office there, and the brand is really doing well.”

What Horology Forum and Dubai Watch Week succeed at accomplishing, where some other horologically-themed events falter, is invoking discussions that are current and relevant, and which are also hot topics often able to be intelligently debated. The panel I moderated is a perfect example of this. When I asked Scottish watch designer Fiona Krüger if there was a time when a watch world dilettante ever commented on one of her designs via the internet, she said that they had and proceeded to give an example of a remark made on her most recent watch release, the Chaos Mechanical Entropy. “One of the examples I got online was, ‘somebody take her computer away’ to which my reaction was, ‘I’m sorry mate, but I draw everything by hand in a sketch book, so, unlucky for you.’” We eventually moved the panel in the direction of influencers – particularly on social media – and whether or not the term is seen as a “dirty word” in the horological world. Watch brand D1 Milano’s founder Dario Spallone was the first to offer an opinion. “For me, an influencer is someone who influences the purchasing habit of the consumer. It’s not only about being an Instagram influencer. It’s also about being someone who – in real life – intertwines with the brand’s values.” And while discussion and debate happened naturally during each of Horology Forum’s panels, it was the eventual audience participation that left many wanting more. This is where the beauty of this event truly blooms into something spectacular, and this is why it’s incredibly important to gather people from every area of the watch world – be they designer, watchmaker, savant, collector, journalist, blogger, executive, retailer, or novice – in order to better understand our industry. What we, as attendees of Horology Forum and Dubai Watch Week, get to experience is the horological world through someone else’s eyes. We get to look at how the masters see their life’s work, at how artists are inspired, at what writers find interesting, and at what retailers do to speak to their customers. If every industry – heck, if every government – held an event yearly like this, we’d likely find that we’d see one another in a different way, and that we’d understand each other or, at bare minimum, hear each other out. I doubt that everything discussed at Horology Forum was agreed upon by all those in attendance, but it also wasn’t supposed to be. The event was created to make us think, at least in my opinion it was, and it certainly made me think long and hard about why I chose to write about watches and how I’ll see them in the future.

Panel on British Watchmaking (picture by DWW)

My days spent in London leading up to and including this event were invaluable. Listening to the stories about Gérald Genta and the “rebirth” of British watchmaking were indispensable. And gaining the knowledge I did while still a rookie in the world of watch journalism was, well, irreplaceable. But mostly, the entire experience is one that will remain truly unforgettable.

The final experience we had as a collective group was a beautifully arranged dinner at Boulestin, courtesy of our hosts. There, we were invited to relax in the company of our peers, sip fine wine and eat delicious French fare before saying our final goodbyes and heading off to our little corners of the Earth. It was a magnificent send-off filled with warmth and cheer, and I’m ever grateful to all of those who made it possible, and who also asked me to play such an important part in it.

So, to Melika Yazdjerdi – whom I had the pleasure of interviewing prior to this year’s Horology Forum – I congratulate you on a truly special, successful, one-of-a-kind experience. Your vision comes to life in this event, and we in the watch community owe you a debt of gratitude. To Hind Seddiqi and your entire team of AMAZING WOMEN, I cannot thank you enough. I have never felt so welcomed and so valued in the watch community as I had during this event. Thank you so, so much. To Shruti Dileep, what can I say? Thank you for being my “go-to” for everything; every question, every need, every worry. You’re the best. And to Dominique Mahoney, well, I feel like we were separated at birth, and I’ll just leave it at that. I cannot wait to work with you again someday. Thank you to John Reardon and those at Christie’s who helped to make this possible, and special thanks to everyone at Seddiqi Holdings who played a part in the organization and follow-through of Horology Forum.

iBuyer Cult panel in progress (picture by Alan Hart)

“I journeyed to London, to the timekept City/Where the River flows, with foreign flotations.” – T.S. Eliot, The Rock

Horology Takes Center Stage in London: an Interview with Melika Yazdjerdi

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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 blogIt 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.

Ups, Downs, Rumors, and Truths: The WOHW No Bullsh*t 2017 Year in Review

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For a year that started off with the inauguration of a p*ssy-grabbing, attention-seeking, twitter-obsessed nutjob, 2017 sure as heck turned out better than I expected from a professional standpoint. So without holding back, I’m going to reflect on all that made this year both great and less than stellar, while addressing a few things I’d like to clear up before 2018 knocks on my door.

The Ups, Chronologically

Because Charris. Because SIHH.

January 2017 started off brilliantly with an invite to my first ever Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva. This came as a surprise to me, as well as to many others, since at the time I had only been writing about watches for ten months total. However, my first SIHH was an experience I’ll never forget, and with an invite to attend the 2018 edition it was clear to me that the Richemont brands were largely on board with what I’m doing as a watch writer, and where I’m headed in the future.

March’s Baselworld also proved to be successful, more so when compared to the edition I attended the year before where I pretty much had to bribe the brands with gold bullion in order to get an appointment. Not only was it easier to see watch companies (who thankfully recognized my name and face this year), but it also proved to be a great year for writing gigs, with several interviews happening during the show for various well-known and well-respected publications.

April was filled with speaking engagements at the American Gem Society Conclave in Hollywood, The Women’s Jewelry Association chapter in Chicago, and the Gold Conference at the City University of New York, where my colleagues Monica Stephenson, Peggy Jo Donahue, and I discussed Federal Trade Commission guidelines for disclosure in media; a topic that should be more important within the watch journalism community than it seemingly is. (Full disclosure, people: It’s not just the law, it’s federal law.)

photo by David Stubbs
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Then along came May and June and an eighteen-day, all-expenses paid trip to Italy to appear in ads and commercials for Celebrity Cruises; something I’ve done with my life partner since 2014. See, writing about watches isn’t my only job, which I’m going to talk a little bit more about later when I get to the “rumors” part of this post.

July was exciting, as I was nominated again for a Women’s Jewelry Association Award for Excellence in the Media category, and while the award went to a different writer, the trip to New York gave me another opportunity to be around my friends and colleagues in the jewelry and watch worlds, as well as to co-host a successful “Whiskey-ish Breakfast” with my AGS Young Titleholder crew. Love you guys! Thanks for always having my back!

August sent me to Houston for Watchonista with Hublot to hang out and golf with Olympian Patrick Reed, and September sent me to Vicenza, Italy where I would experience the grandeur that was the Vicenzaoro Boutique Show and their newest addition to the show – the Not Ordinary Watches (N.O.W.) section, whose focus was on independent watch brands at reasonable price points.

October, however, is when it really started to hit me that what I do for living goes beyond just words on a screen, and that there are women out there who look to me for advice and guidance; a fact that I will never take for granted.

In the first week of October, I was invited to speak in Seattle at a WJA Chapter Event that directly addressed women’s issues, particularly sexual harassment in the jewelry and watch industries. As a sexual assault survivor, victim of sexual harassment, and two-time author of articles about sexual harassment and discrimination in the jewelry and watch industries, it was important for me to be able to be an ear for these women who were willing to open up and share their stories not only with me, but with others who had their own stories. On the day I spoke to the group, the Harvey Weinstein story ran in the New York Times. The timing for this discussion was fitting, and poignant, and needed, and I’ve decided to go even further with these discussions once 2018 rolls around thanks to the encouragement of my friend, jewelry designer Wendy Brandes.

Session 1 Driving day, photo courtesy of Robb Report.

November brought me into the big blue sky for a couple of important reasons: first, to fly with daredevil champion pilot Mike Goulian for a story about Alpina watches for Watchonista; and second, to take a sixteen-hour flight to Dubai as a guest of Ahmed Seddiqi and Sons for the amazingly phenomenal experience that was Dubai Watch Week.

December ended in the most spectacular way possible: driving and judging the Robb Report Cars of the Year for 2018 on a trip to South Florida set up by my wonderful friends at Provident Jewelry. Oh, and I also got to hang out with and pick the brain of the one and only Maximilian Büsser for a couple of days. No big deal, though. Just Max, Me, and an MB&F Legacy Machine on my wrist.

As mentioned, it was overall a pretty damned good year in my eyes, minus a few bumps, as will be mentioned below.

The Downs, Haphazardly

While 2017 had few downs, there were certainly moments where people showed their true colors, their deeper motivations, and the fact that the almighty dollar will often be enough to quiet something that should be a movement. “Money talks/bullshit walks” could have been the mantra for the year 2017, but still, I didn’t let that fact get the best of me.

One of the downs for me is knowing that there are seemingly respected and well-known watch brands out there who use/support/pay influencers to post about their watches without fully disclosing that the influencer has been compensated, and without making sure that the influencer states – in accordance with FTC guidelines – that said influencer/blogger/instagrammer has been paid either via money or product to endorse said brand. Maybe this is me being naïve. Maybe it’s me being in the “Joe Thompson mindset.” You know… the mindset that believes that journalism can’t be bought, and that without unbiased journalism this industry (and this country) will fast wind up in the shitter. But even with it being the downer it is, I’m still doing my best to stand steadfast in my decision to write editorially, and ethically, and to do so with heart, and in my own voice.

Another down for me was noticing just how often brand press releases are merely regurgitated then posted to what many believe to be legitimate news websites in order to be passed off unknowingly to the reader as “journalism.” Although, I guess it’s a down that allows me to stand out from the “copy/paste” crowd. So, I guess that could also be an up, yeah? An up for me, but a down for the act of having an original thought. Ah well.

And lastly, one of the downs brought to my attention was the pressure put on some of those in the watch community whom I have good relationships with by members of the Old Guard, with regard to said relationships. You know the Old Guard… every industry has them. They’re the group of folks who came before you, who feel that simply because they’ve been doing the job longer they’re better at it than you are, or know more than you do, or that they are entitled to opportunities and press trips and event invitations before you (heaven forbid they actually try to mentor you. Oh, heavens no! Why would they do THAT??) The Old Guard is sort of like the Mafia; not *really* all that relevant anymore, and yet people still fear them out of some sort of tradition and ritual. And this “down” wasn’t so much that it was a down for me, but rather a down for those in the industry who’ve had to be subjected to the drama and nonsense that the Old Guard bestowed upon them, because of their own insecurities. It’s sad really. Sad, and a little bit evil. But… the poor Old Guard never quite met the likes of me. The Old Guard has clearly never been to Philly.

And now…

The Rumors

Ah, the rumors. Yes, the rumors have certainly added to 2017 in an interesting and yet disheartening sort of way. The rumors have ranged all the way from writers claiming I’m trying to steal their jobs to those who’re saying I’m trying to screw my way into the watch industry. It’s so fun being me these days. So much fun having to look someone in the face and wonder whether or not they think I’m a legitimate writer or a vamp who’s trying to sleep her way into… um… well… into what exactly? I mean, if there’s an industry anyone would try to sleep their way into, would it really be watches? Have you seen watch people? No offense guys, but, beards really aren’t my thing. So let’s talk truths now.

The Truths

Here’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth… unadulterated, uncensored, and unbiased. And if you can’t handle strong language, or a strong opinion, then I suggest you close your browser now.

Truth: I am a twenty-two-year veteran of the jewelry industry. Just over two years ago, when I decided to write about watches, it was because the only watch articles I found even vaguely interesting by writers based in the United States were ones written by men. Nothing made me laugh. Plenty made me think, but not in an emotional way. Everything was stoic, and exact. Things were written mechanically and largely for collectors or experts. Not much was written for the novice, let alone the female novice, and so I set forth to change that. I write for me and people like me. I write for buyers like me. I write for retailers who know me, who think like I do, and who trust my opinion. I write to entertain my reader, and to engage them through the story. I don’t write for the brands; I write for those who buy the brands. I write in my own voice, with my own words, and with my own thoughts. For those spreading the rumors, you should put down your drink, take your head out of your ass, and try that for a change.

Truth: I am a mother to two kids, ages seven and eleven; one girl, and one boy. To think that anyone who knows that fact would willingly try to destroy my reputation through untruths and deceit angers me to a level I’m not comfortable with. To think that my daughter still lives in a world where her worth will be determined by what people will believe about her sex life is astounding to me, and I’m embarrassed for those who would take part in such behavior. It’s shameful and disgusting, and karma is a bitch.

Truth: I have had my fair share of sex in my life, not that it’s anyone’s business, because let’s face it, how many men do you know in the watch or the jewelry industry who’ve f*cked or hit on everything with a pulse? Plenty, though I’ll refrain from naming any of them. But because they’re men, no one says a peep. No one blinks. Women are held to some ridiculous standard when it comes to the amount of sex they have or who they’ve had it with or when – and largely that standard is held up by other women. My husband is well aware of my sexual history (after all, he’s edited this here piece) and has neither judged me nor taken issue with it. And his is the only opinion that matters to me at the end of the day.

Truth: Don’t worry about what I’m doing. Worry about why you’re worried about what I’m doing. If you’re so petty as to tell blatant lies about someone whom you see as a threat, then you seriously need a f**king hobby. As for me, I’ll be over here raising my two bright, creative, and well-adjusted kids, cooking like an Iron Chef, modelling part-time for an internationally-known company that sends me all over the world (and pays me a shit-ton), speaking to and mentoring women who are trying to find their way in this industry, and writing about watches in an original, fun, and unique way that has gotten me noticed like you’ve never been noticed IN YOUR LIFE. So, at the end of the day, do yourself a favor and remember these tasty little morsels the next time you want to open your mouth about me:

I will outwrite you.

I will outsmart you.

I will out-dress you.

I will out-etiquette you.

And I will do so with a soufflé in one hand and a paycheck in the other, all while looking good in a pair of skinny jeans and high-heeled boots.

For all the brands, PR folks, journalists, retailers, and industry people who’ve helped make this year special for me, I thank you, and appreciate you, and I value our relationship. Let’s make the new year the most important, most ethical, and most successful yet.

Peace out, 2017. Nothin’ but love for ya. It’s been a thin slice of heaven, truth be told.

 

A Whole New World: Dubai Watch Week is the Horological Experience We Never Knew We Needed Until Now

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I travel. A lot. It’s part and parcel of my career as a watch and jewelry writer and speaker, and my family and I have accepted this as our new reality. But because I travel so much, dinners at home are all the more special. I make sure our family of four sits down to a home cooked meal every night that I’m not on the road; something that – while having grown up in a rough environment – my parents made sure we did no matter the circumstances surrounding us.

Last year around Christmastime, I came across these dinner table cards called “Table Topics.” Their purpose is to get families who sit down together at mealtime to talk about different things. Some of the cards will ask questions like, “Who was the worst teacher you ever had?” Or, “What are the next three countries you’d like to visit?” In our home, each family member takes turns as to who gets to pick a card and ask the question each night, and about three months ago, my son chose a card asking each of us the following question:

“What invitation would you love to receive?”

When it was my turn to answer, I pondered whether I should go with my extreme option (an invite to attend the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle when they eventually tie the knot), or one that – while still far-fetched in my mind – seemed a bit more reachable.

“I’d like to be invited to Dubai Watch Week.”

And on October 19th of this year, thanks to Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons (and a few watch folks who believe in the work I put forth), that invitation came in the form of an email, and that once seemingly far-fetched wish became my reality.

****************

I left my home for the airport on November 14th with what I believed were the essentials for a trip to the UAE: two large suitcases (weighing over one-hundred pounds total) carrying eighteen (18!!!!!!) pairs of high heels, five floor-length gowns, and a sixteen-page dossier on UAE laws, dress code recommendations, cultural etiquette, and acceptable behavior, created by my rarely nervous yet heartwarmingly protective husband.

“You promised me you’d read the entire thing before you left. Did you?”

“Todd, I read it all. Front to back. I promise. I didn’t pack any of my mini-dresses or midriffs and I’ll watch my language. You have my word.”

At the opening gala

To give you a little context, my better half sends me off on overseas trips about as regularly as he gets a haircut these days, and never has he blinked an eye when it comes to my safety, but he and I have not yet visited the Middle East, or Dubai, or even Asia together for that matter, and since he knows I’m from Philly and that I occasionally (full disclosure: regularly) like a good four-letter word alongside my single-malt scotch, he feared I might get myself in trouble for, well, basically just being myself.

“Babe, I’ll behave. These are watch people, remember. I’d worry more if I were heading to a jewelry convention there.”

“Fair point.”

Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons did the most wonderful job of hosting the journalists who were invited to attend this year’s fair. I was flown to Dallas in order to catch the direct flight from Dallas to Dubai via business class on Emirates Airlines. Once landed, a chauffeur-driven Emirates car picked me up from Dubai International Airport to take me to the Ritz Carlton at the DIFC – The Dubai International Finance Center – where I would enjoy a six-night stay. The fair was a five-minute walk (eight minutes in five-inch heels) from the hotel, which was located in The Gate Village. The daily brisk stroll made for a perfect way to burn off a few of that morning’s breakfast calories before a day of sitting down in classes, sessions, or seminars.

The important thing for everyone to realize about this fair is that three years ago, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons founded Dubai Watch Week with the purpose of providing an intimate environment for collectors, brands, watchmakers, and members of the press to interact with one another and share the knowledge bestowed upon them throughout their personal watch journeys. This is not a money-maker for the company. They are not an exhibition group that was formed with the sole purpose of creating and managing trade shows. This is a multi-generational family business that started in the 1940’s with a single watch shop in Dubai’s Souk Bur, which has grown into a Swiss watch conglomerate that now operates close to two dozen watch boutiques. Dubai Watch Week is – in a way – a form of giving back to the community of watch collectors and enthusiasts who have been patrons of their business, while also allowing the watchmakers and brand representatives to speak directly to those most interested, usually through some form of education. The concept is both brilliant and refreshing, and I realized those facts before ever having stepped foot in the country.

CANIM!

November 16th was a day set aside for opening ceremonies and press previews, while the days of the 17th through the 20th were meticulously planned out, with the program being curated with an extreme amount of thought and care. Attendees were treated to watchmaking master classes taught by the likes of David Candaux, Vanessa Cellier, Adriano Toninelli, Issa Sulaiman, Antoine Preziuso, Florian Preziuso, and the legendary Kurt Klaus. Tiago Aires Sergio was on hand to teach engraving master classes and Jiyoun Han-Parrat with the Vanessa Lecci Atelier taught miniature painting as well as enameling master classes.

Regarding the layout of the fair itself, there were eleven numbered “halls” set up around the DIFC gate that included two watch halls (titled “Classic & Contemporary 1 & 2), the FHH exhibition, the GPHG exhibition, the Master Classes center, the Creative Hub (where brands often held their press conferences), the Horology Forum (where the seminars and panels took place), the Auction & Evaluation Room, the Virtual Reality exhibit, Citizen Kafe (an eatery), and Lounge 1010 (also, an eatery).

The “Watch Etiquette” Panel

Two of the things that stood out for me personally at the fair were firstly, the presence of watch women in both physical form and as topics during the forums, and secondly, the presence of children and the importance placed on getting children involved and interested in horology at an early age; especially if we’re to raise the next generation of watchmakers. A few of my close friends know that I’m currently working on watch projects that directly relate to these points (which will be revealed at Baselworld), so to see this happening in a place like Dubai brought sheer joy to my heart.

I could spend the next one thousand words of this article rolling off the highlights of Dubai Watch Week or what I learned or took away from it all (because believe me, I learned and took away so much), but it’s getting pretty lengthy as it is, so I’ll simply mention some of my favorite personal moments below:

  • Visiting Max’s M.A.D. Gallery in the city in which he and his family live (and meeting his wife and daughter, finally!).
  • Watching Alexander Friedman and Suzanne Wong go toe-to-toe on women’s issues during a Horology Forum panel while still maintaining their friendship.
  • Intermission shots even when there wasn’t an intermission.
  • CHARRIS. ‘Nuff said.
  • Getting to use two of the five floor-length gowns I packed.
  • Learning how to properly pronounce Kristian Haagen’s name while simultaneously letting him know that his socks didn’t match. Again.
  • Frequenting cigar bars alongside watch-wearing Italians, Arabs, Turks, the Swiss, and the French, and thinking that the whole world should be this happy.
  • Breakfasts with my Watchonista squad.
  • Finally picking up the badge with my name on it after using a blank one for the first three days of the fair. (D’oh!)
  • Listening to Kurt Klaus make the most sensible statements out of everyone during the millennial forum
  • Meeting a few of my journalist colleagues for the first time after having been connected on social media for quite a while (special shouts out to Robert-Jan and Jason).
  • “Watch your step.”
  • The ink-infused moments in the corner of the VC cocktail party with Christian, Kristian, and Marc André.
  • Interviewing everyone I was able to for my “Classic or Contemporary” post on Watchonista.
  • Hanging with Carlos Torres (because that will always make my list for any fair, anywhere).
  • Getting a media badge for François-Paul only to have him attach it to his head.
  • Did I mention Charris?

A very special thank you to Melika, Jihane, Shruti, Wasen, Hind, and everyone at Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons who made my first visit to Dubai and Dubai Watch Week one I’ll never forget. I know that the fair won’t be held again until 2020, but I implore you, never let the energy of this magnificent event fade away. It is needed. It is wanted. It is unlike anything else in the world. And you all should be very, very proud of your hard work.

Two of the most respectable, distinguished men the watch industry has ever known.

 

Kurt Klaus schooling the audience while Suzanne Wong looks on

 

Listening intently as Christian Selmoni of Vacheron Constantin talk about platinum’s characteristics

 

This image was included simply to prove that it happened.

 

(Images provided by Dubai Watch Week.)

Flores Delores and the Oris Chronoris: A Story of Love, Fear, Possession, and Time

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There once was a girl named Flores Delores whose hair was as red as merlot.

Flores Delores had a mother named Doris who loved to read works by Thoreau.

 

Her father, Fitzmorris (who sang in the chorus), had a funny obsession with time.

But Flores Delores (her sign being Taurus) despised being second in line.

 

Whenever Fitzmorris would speak to dear Flores, her eyes would roll back in her head.

“Father, don’t bore us with tales of your Oris. Your watch talk; it fills me with dread.”

 

“But Flores, this isn’t just any old Oris,” Fitzmorris did state to his child.

“This is the new DATE Oris Chronoris!” Quipped Fitz, who then suddenly smiled.

 

Flores Delores was annoyed by this Oris and wanted it gone from her life.

Her father’s fixation with his newest Chronoris had even frustrated his wife.

 

“Mother, this Oris makes father ignore us. The watch must immediately go.

He used to adore us but now his Chronoris receives all the love he can show.”

 

“Child, he’d implore us to not touch his Chronoris. I suggest that you show some respect.

His feelings are porous; just talk to Fitzmorris, as that is what he would expect.”

 

But Flores Delores knew the Chronoris needed to soon disappear.

So, she called her friend Boris and her other friend Horace to help her get rid of the gear.

 

Boris and Horace and Flores had waited ‘til Fitz was asleep in his chair.

They then snuck in the door and crept over the floor before noticing his wrist was bare.

 

The three whispered in chorus, “Where’s the Oris Chronoris?” before Flores had noticed the book.

There ‘twas positioned on Thoreau’s 2nd edition, making Flores say, “There it is! Look!”

 

Horace then swiped the new Oris Chronoris and the three of them ran toward outside.

“What now?” questioned Boris, who was looking at Flores, “That’s what you’ll need to decide.”

 

Young Flores was thinking as her eyes stared blinking and decided right there on the spot.

“Let’s bury it quickly before old Mr. Hickley sees that in school, we are not.”

 

So, Horace and Boris dug a hole near some laurus but made sure the watch went unhurt.

“Good riddance” said Flores to the Oris Chronoris which was now buried deep in the dirt.

 

Later, Fitzmorris (now missing his Oris) asked Flores if she’d seen it around.

“No, father” lied Flores knowing full well his Oris was three feet below in the ground.

 

“That’s so sad” said Fitzmorris as he thought of his Oris and shook his head slowly in vain.

“But father, don’t fear, for I am right here. This isn’t a loss, but a gain.”

 

“Sweet Flores Delores, you are quite the Taurus; stubborn, and strong like a bull.

For my dear, ‘twas that watch that allowed me to catch the moments I could, but in full.”

 

“When you had taken ill, I could give you your pill; the Chronoris reminded me to.

When your birthday was near, it was that watch, my dear, that helped me to celebrate you.”

 

“At night while you’re sleeping I’m often found weeping because time is the thing I can’t stop.

I’m reminded routinely and almost obscenely that one day, you won’t have your pop.”

 

“So, you see, my dear Flores, it wasn’t the Oris that took me away from your heart.

It is time that is fleeting, though death we are cheating, as long as we’re nary apart.”

 

“No watch could replace your beautiful face, and no timepiece could make me forget,

that you are reason the Earth changes seasons and on that I’d easily bet.”

 

That’s when Flores Delores had thought of the Oris that was ticking away below ground.

“Father, I hid it. I wanted to rid it; to have it no longer around.”

 

So, Flores Delores and her father Fitzmorris walked to the woods in the dark.

Then Flores Delores dug up the Chronoris and handed it back without mark.

 

Her eyes filled with tears, she seemed old for her years as she shamefully lowered her head.

“Daughter,” said Fitz as her chin he did lift, “it is time that I tucked you in bed.”

 

Under the cover as her father did hover, young Flores Delores had gone.

Head to her pillow, while the wind whipped the willow, she asked if he’d sing her a song.

 

“It is late, you are weary, the night skies are quite dreary, so a song, my dear Flores, must wait.

When you wake, on the dime, I will give you my time; as that is the gift you find great.”

 

“From now on, without question, I will set this possession to remind me each hour to say,

That the love for my Flores far surpasses my Oris, and that love grows with each passing day.”

 

“Now, here is your Teddy. Lights out, so be ready, and remember this quick little rhyme:

My daughter, my sweet, close your eyes, get some sleep, and tomorrow, let’s do all to stop time.”

 

 

*This piece is dedicated to a good friend and dear neighbor, Denis Gainty, who left us suddenly this week at the young age of 46. Denis, we will miss your presence in our lives. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that it certainly was not your time.

Pack It Up, Pack It In: The Ten Essentials This Female Watch Writer Is Taking to Basel

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After reading a recent article on the Watchuseek website titled, “7 Must-Have Items This Watchuseek Editor Packs for Baselworld” I realized just how few of these pieces were written for or by someone like me (you know, someone with girlie parts and built-in baby feeders), even though there are a shit-ton of us womenfolk who attend Baselworld, largely at our own expense. That’s when I decided it was time to speak up and throw down as it pertains to how just how much more crap we gals need to take to Switzerland in comparison with you guys. I probably could have included twenty more items but I don’t get paid for this blog so why in the hell would I, amiright ladies? Anyway, here are the ten things you’ll find in my suitcase once you move that dead body clothes steamer out of the way.

High Heels (an entire suitcase full)

While some of my female colleagues (and haters) might bark, scoff, roll their eyes, or harrumph at this “essential,” it has been proven time and time again that the taller you are, the more money you make. Most recently, a 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal showed that “High BMI and short stature, as estimated by genetics, are casually related to lower socioeconomic status”, and while high heels aren’t genetically applied (but rather, vainly worn), they most definitely help a person appear larger in life than they are. At 5’9.5” in stocking feet, it’s clear to say that I’m pretty tall as it is even without the heels, but there will be nothing more satisfying to me this week than standing at the Hublot booth during their press conference and being able to clearly see Martin Gore of Depeche Mode as I look over the tops of the many male heads (and beards. And glasses.) in front of me.

Watch Roll

ERMAGERD! YOU MEAN GIRLS USE THESE, TOO? Damn right we f*cking use these, and we didn’t pick ours up from Marshall’s, either. But the one I’m taking with me this year holds a very special meaning. I just so happen live in one of the best suburbs in the United States as named by several prominent news publications: Decatur, GA. What makes Decatur so great? Well, for one thing, it’s chill AF. It also happens to be home to many of the doctors and educators at Emory University, Agnes Scott College, the CDC, and more. It has the best public school system in the state of Georgia and holds one of the country’s largest book fairs. It’s a blue city that’s smart, creative, and artistic, despite the fact that it’s surrounded by the original characters of Deliverance. Clearly I’m being hyperbolic but the reality is, Decatur is awesome, and part of what makes it so cool is a jewelry store by the name of Worthmore.

Worthmore has two locations – Decatur, and also Midtown – and they have never followed the crowd when it comes to what a traditional jewelry store is supposed to look and act like. Their staff is fun and friendly, and they do their research as it pertains to the jewelry they carry and the watches they offer. This week as I stopped into get a battery on an old Seiko changed, Harris and Leslie welcomed me with open arms and gifted me with a gorgeous leather watch roll created by local designer, Jenae Roseen. I took it home and quickly filled it with the watches I’d be taking with me. Thanks, y’all!

Backup Phone

Take it from a woman who can’t run a Power Point presentation during a seminar without accidentally throwing the clicker across the room and smashing it to bits: a backup phone is necessary. But besides the fact that I will likely somehow shatter the screen on my primary mobile phone (and have in the past because FML), a backup phone is a good way to take and store video for post-show social media without having to use the storage space on your everyday device – that is, if you’re a poor freelance writer like I am who can’t afford to hire an entire team of Swiss guys to follow me around and shoot video… of watches, pervs.

Sixty Swiss Francs

BECAUSE YOU WON’T GET A LOCKER IF YOU DON’T HAVE CASH. THIS, I KNOW.

Framed Picture of You and Your Watch Crush

You know you have a watch crush and you know you have that one picture ever taken of the two of you that you secretly stuff in your carry on (you wouldn’t dare dream of putting it in a checked bag for fear of being caught) so that the first thing you do when you arrive in your shitty Air BnB magnificent hotel room is place it on the cardboard box next to the cot night stand. (((Cough))) (((Charris))) (((Cough)))

Printed Copy of Your Appointment Schedule

I don’t care how reliable you believe technology to be, nothing will ever take the place of a good old-fashioned, color-coded, printed excel spreadsheet just in case that primary phone we talked about above (including the calendar app you use) happens to get thrown into the Rhine during a particularly raucous departure from Les Trois Rois that may or may not involve a bagpiper, fake blood, and/or your friend Sophy.

Long-wearing Lipstick

This is the Swiss we’re talking about, and if you don’t know, the Swiss kiss three times, so those lips are going to be put to more use than they were during the summer of your tenth grade year when you first started playing, “Spin the Bottle” and Jimmy McMaster figured out how to get it to land on you every. G*d. Damned. Time. I personally wear Yves Saint Laurent’s lip stain but the L’oreal versions work pretty well, too.

Chargers

Phone chargers, portable chargers, camera chargers, the San Diego Chargers, TAKE THEM ALL, PEOPLE, ‘cause you’re gonna need ‘em.

A Single Hermes Scarf

You could be wearing a suit you found in the back of your storage unit that you purchased from a thrift store when a Bush was president (pick one… doesn’t matter which) and you’ll still look like a million francs as long as you’re adorned in something Hermes. I always go with a scarf because it can double as a pocket square or triple as a hair tie, plus the folks in the Hermes booth told me how much they appreciate the free advertising. Maybe. They said it in French so it was either that or they asked me for directions to the nearest Starbucks.

Your Ability to Not Take Yourself So Seriously

Look, we all get that watches are serious business, okay? We get it. They’re expensive, they take time – sometimes years – to develop and manufacture properly, and they’ll last you and your offspring generations if you service and take care of them in the appropriate way, but just because something fits the above standards doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun, too. And just because someone is Swiss doesn’t mean they can’t laugh. I know. I’ve seen it happen at least once or twice. So remember to allow yourself moments of lightheartedness as you dress in your Europeanesque best and walk miles per day through the grandeur that is Baselworld, because any world that can’t also be poked fun at isn’t a world any of us should want to be a part of.

Carbon-Aided: Three Diamond Watches that Dropped Jaws in Geneva

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“One bottled water, please.”

“Oui, Madam. With gas or without?”

“With, s’il vous plaît.”

My first experience with the European carbonation situation was on a trip to Italy and Switzerland in 2003. In American eateries, tap water is largely served with meals and no one questions or thinks twice about it. In finer restaurants, the server may very well try to upsell you the twenty-dollar table bottle of San Pellegrino so that you’ll feel fancier while simultaneously becoming poorer, but overall, the U.S. likes their still/flat/tap water just fine, thank you very much. However, it took sitting at a café in Lugano for me to realize that other parts of the world do it differently. That is where, on a sunny April afternoon just two days after my thirtieth birthday, I was first offered the option of either aqua gassata (carbonated) or aqua naturale (non-carbonated) water, and that is when I truly understood how much Europeans – and particularly the Swiss – value food, drink, outward appearance, and tradition so much more than we Yanks. Even now, nearly fourteen years later, as I peregrinate to cities like Geneva, Switzerland and to events such as the Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie (where timepieces are clearly focal), that evaluation becomes clearer – flawless even – not unlike many of the diamonds used in the extraordinary watches those same cities put forth to the world.

Carbon was an element mentioned in a few of the press presentations being held at this year’s SIHH. NTPT Carbon is a signature feature in a couple of Richard Mille’s collections (both for men and now women) and Roger Dubuis introduced their Excalibur Spider Carbon watch, which received high accolades from both press and collectors alike. But it was the watches made with the natural, concentrated form of pure carbon that I found myself most enamored with; ones decorated with that metastable allotrope of carbon in which atoms are arranged while in the Earth (or, more recently, a lab) in the form of cubic crystals. In other words: diamonds. I was, after all, born an April baby.

The value of diamonds can be traced back to centuries before Christ when talks of trading the gem in India were scribed in the Arthashastra of Kautilya, and mentions of Golconda serving as a trading center for the gemstone were written in 3rd century descriptions (according to Wiki, that is). Diamonds today are still the number one choice for engagement rings worldwide, largely due to the belief that they symbolize strength, transparency, wealth, and eternity. And it has been said that the first modern form of wristwatch created (by Patek Philippe in 1868 for the Countess Koscowicz of Hungary) was an ornate diamond-accented piece originally intended to be a form of decorative jewelry. Now while this little history lesson may do nothing but make you double-check the website URL to confirm you didn’t click on a link for your local PBS station, it is meant to be a prologue to the three exemplary diamond timepieces for women that were introduced to me in Geneva, and that I’m about to describe to you below.

Panthère de Cartier

carbonaided-12b_panthere_de_cartier_hpi01096This year’s SIHH saw a relaunch of Cartier’s famed Panthère collection watches (originally launched in 1983) and my inner Alexis Carrington Colby went reaching for a crystal flute filled with Veuve Clicquot, for several celebratory reasons. First (and most important), because Cartier made very clear that they would be putting a lot of emphasis on women’s watches in 2017, which, if you’re a woman like I who has been vocal about how some of the brands are missing an opportunity to market to the female self-purchaser, makes you feel like the watch world has been listening to the chatter. Second, because the Panthère de Cartier is an iconic watch that spans eras as well as genres and because you don’t have to take out a second mortgage on your home in order to buy one for yourself (the small version [sans diamonds] in stainless steel retails for $4,000 USD). And finally, because Cartier is offering the medium version of the watch in 18K white gold, embellished almost entirely with round brilliant cut diamonds and black enamel “spots.” Trust me when I tell you that this model is not just feline… it is fabulous, fun, and downright feminine.

The bracelet of the Panthère – the feature that originally attributed to the watch’s name – still moves and flows with the same slinky ease and elegance as it did when first introduced in the eighties. And as of this June, the series will be released not just in the diamond and enamel version pictured here, but also in yellow gold, white gold, two-tone, and stainless steel, with diamonds or without, in both small and medium sizes. If you want my advice though, go with a diamond version when it comes time to make your selection. The ghost of Cally Harper Ewing will be sorely disappointed if you don’t.

Emerald Cadenas Watch by Van Cleef & Arpels

vancleefarpelssihh2017-bijouxheure-cadenasemeraudes-packshot-01-hd-3When I stepped foot into the main hall at my first ever SIHH I knew I would leave the event a changed writer, but what I wasn’t expecting when I entered the booth at Van Cleef & Arpels was to leave that press conference a changed person. With twenty-one years in the fine jewelry industry under my belt I’m proud to say that I’m still not jaded; the craftsmanship, creativity, and soul that goes into making an extraordinary piece (be it jewel, watch, or otherwise) still moves me from within and can – at times – bring me to the brink of tears. As I sat under an augmented reality sky with virtual butterflies fluttering above my head, I watched a movie about the making of the Automate Fée Ondine; Van Cleef & Arpels’ first Extraordinary Object. The project – a collaboration between the Maison, automaton maker François Junod, and numerous craftsmen – depicts a fairy perched upon a lily pad who awakens from her sleep as the petals of the adjacent flower open to greet her. The animation of the various elements of the mechanism (which oh, by the way, also tells time) were fluid in movement and the characters in the form of the fairy and the nature surrounding her were realistically portrayed, even though they were made up of metals, gears, precious gemstones, and enamel. It was unlike any time-telling creation I’d ever set my eyes on, and I knew that if the Maison put this much care into a clock that their watches would be no less remarkable.

The Cadenas watch was introduced by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1935 as a way for a woman to wear a timepiece in public without being considered inappropriate (I mean, can you even IMAGINE??). “Cadenas” means “lock” in French and the collection has been a permanent fixture in the company’s watch line since its inception. For 2017, however, the Maison added to the Cadenas collection by introducing two new versions: one in pink gold with rubies; and a stunning white gold piece (pictured here) set with brilliant cut diamonds and perfectly matched, vivid green Princess cut emeralds. This was easily one of my favorite diamond watches of the 2017 SIHH and one I’m quickly adding to my ever-growing, “what I’m buying when the kids go off to college” wish list.

Diamond Outrage by Audemars Piguet

ap-diamond-outrage-hj_67700bc-zz-9190bc-01_sdt_2_If the Panthère de Cartier brought you back to a time when shoulder pads were queen and you wore your nicest silk blouse to fight your mortal enemies in a pool, then this next watch will have you longing for the days of slam dancing, broken-in Doc Martens, and Tuesday nights at CBGB.

The Diamond Outrage by Audemars Piguet is the third and final installment in the brand’s Haute Joaillerie Diamond cuff watch trilogy for women, and in this writer’s opinion, AP saved its fiercest for last. Embellished in 9,923 “snow set” round brilliant cut diamonds totaling just over 50 carats, and 354 invisible set baguette diamonds totaling roughly 15.85 carats, the watch is a stunning example of jewelry craftsmanship and intricate gemstone setting techniques. Described during the press conference as being an “explosion of stalactites on the wrist,” the watch very well could double as a form of defense should the wearer find herself in a situation where the mosh pit is getting just a little too out of control. And while the Outrage may not tickle every watch wearer’s fancy, there is no denying the looks of amazement on the faces of those I saw feast their eyes on the watch in person. It was awesome, in the truest sense of the word, and I doubt there is anything else like it in the world.

There is no shortage of tag lines, clichés, and marketing mantras to describe a diamond’s importance as it pertains to luxury, and in my humble opinion, not every watch – more specifically, not every ladies’ watch – needs to be decorated with diamonds in order to make it more appealing to a female audience. But for the three watches above, diamonds – very simply – work. And when something works, there’s no reason to meddle with it.

Thanks so much for reading and more coverage to come soon from the 2017 SIHH in Geneva.