“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
This 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
When 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
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.
What can I say about the year 2016 that hasn’t already been stated? It sucked? It was the worst in many a Gen-Xers’ lifetime? It was the year all of the celebrities of my youth died? Yeah, I could probably say all of that, sure. And if you study numerology or superstitions you probably already know that if you add the numbers of the year 2016 you come up with the number “9,” which is considered both a satanic number (Satanic worshippers welcome “opposites” or “inverted numbers” and naturally the number 9, when flipped, is the number “6” making up one-third of the number of The Beast  though please don’t ask me why I know that) as well as the unluckiest number in the entire country of Japan. And for that little morsel of morbidity, you’re welcome.
Overall, I think many of us agree that 2016 was what I like to call, a shit year. BUT, I can’t deny that professionally, there were some upsides to these past 365 days, and to be fair to the companies or the people who were involved in said experiences, I’d like to highlight some of those moments below. But before I do, I would also like to give a big, wet, sloppy French kiss to those of you who supported this blog and me from the beginning through your reads, your shares, your advice, your mentoring, your introductions, your mentions, your private messages, and your feedback. Thanks for helping to push this idea up the very bearded, suited, and shirt-studded hill. And thanks for reminding me to pack the razors I needed to clear my path.
The Launch of WhatsOnHerWrist.com
After coming up with the loose idea for the blog in October of 2015, I set the wheels in motion and wrote my first official post on March 8th of this year – a mere two weeks before the start of Baselworld – and, while the website still needed some kinks ironed out (and yeah, still does… I’M ONLY ONE PERSON, YOU KNOW), I somehow managed to get the likes of HSN CEO Mindy Grossman and Emmy-Award winning actress Debra Messing to help me out. And for a blog that has no banner ads on it (or ads in general) and has only one “sponsored post” to date, I’m pretty proud to say that the average read count (not view or click count, but actual time spent) on each of my posts is well over what I ever expected, and for a blog that’s only ten months old, I’ll take it. It means I’m reaching people, and the more people I reach, the more people will be exposed to a slightly different side of the watch world. This is all part of the grand plan and I’m pretty happy with how it’s gone down thus far.
Ermagerd! Berzelwerld! Wertches and Jerlry and Dermends, ER MY! That’s right, le World du BASEL was a highlight this year because Baselworld was new to me (apparently, it’s not a highlight to some watch journos who’ve done it repeatedly, but I am not them and they are not me and we’re all probably okay with that). If you remove the four+ hour daily commute from Zurich, the fact that I didn’t bring a heavy enough coat, and the lack of food I consumed that wasn’t chocolate, champagne, or chocolate, I’d say that Baselworld, professionally, was for me a smashing success. It is where I first met many of the watch writers I luckily now call friends, and where I was able to get my hands on watches I’d only read about and daydreamed about prior. It was – as described – unlike anything I’d experienced before and I felt welcomed and wanted by the brands I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with, or, in the case of MB&F, sit under the table with. Also, nabbed me a selfie with master watchmaker Philippe DuFour, so, BONUS.
The Las Vegas Watch Shows
Had I never attended the watch shows in Las Vegas (Swiss Watch and COUTURETIME) then I’d never have written my award-winning notorious blog post on Balls. And come on, don’t we all agree that was a piece of work? (THE POST, NOT ME.) Ahhh, Sin City. Putting super high-end Swiss timepieces in the hotels of Las Vegas is like giving an Hermes Birkin bag to a Lithuanian paid escort, meaning, it really doesn’t belong there and yet somehow, it still works. It was loads of fun getting to hang out at the Chopard and Oris parties and I was grateful to have had the time to talk turkey with Tudor. Plus, I met several watch folks at Parasol Up whom I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting in Basel, and by the end of the night we were all taking our scotches with us into the cab for a ride back to nowhere. I think. As far as I can remember (and what my posts about it say), Vegas was a happiness-inducing watch industry experience.
A Visit to the Jaeger-LeCoultre Flagship boutique in Paris
While I did not write an official blog post about this visit, the truth is that I was in Paris to begin with because I was invited to attend the BIJORHCA watch and jewelry show, which I did write about in a post on the blog of my alter ego. But a few extra hotel nights under my belt allowed me the opportunity to visit Place Vendôme and to get an appointment with Jaeger-LeCoultre at their Flagship boutique. The boutique was extraordinary. The novelties on hand were ones I’d only seen on the pages of magazines. The interactive Reverso shop-in-shop allowed users (and me) to customize their own Reversos by selecting the case size, style, strap, dial color, metal choice, and more. And the historical pieces made me fall in love with the brand all over again. These things, plus the company of two wonderful women – Stephanie and Gloria –made for a visit I won’t soon forget.
WatchTime New York and My First New York Red Bar
Awwww, shit. I had not expected to be at the WatchTime New York show originally but found myself in the city at the same time the event was going on, so conveniently I was able to do a handful of watch-related tasks at once. RedBar was a blast, made better by the independent watch brands on hand for that Wednesday night’s get-together. I also got to hang out with my #newguard new friend, Sophy Rindler (Definition of “New Guard” according to Merriam-Webster [for those who’ve asked about the hashtag]: a group of persons united in an effort to change the status quo), as well as with the prettiest man in watches, Charris Yadigaroglou. The WatchTime show was an elegant event made event better by its glorious venue and noteworthy speakers, and the post-show burgers and beer at Shake Shack made the experience all the more memorable.
Receiving an Invitation to the SIHH
While this may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, for me, it was nothing short of Kong-sized. After having been told that the Swiss watch industry wouldn’t understand my style of writing and that there would likely be no way I’d get an invitation to this prestigious event, imagine my surprise when I’d received the email stating otherwise. It renewed my faith in the idea that people want to genuinely see things change and that when it comes down to it, all we really want is to be entertained and have a little fun. I’m greatly looking forward to that moment, just two weeks from today, when I board a Geneva-bound plane headed toward the next stage of my watch education.
A Conversation with an Icon at the Provident Holiday Throwdown
My last work-related trip of 2016 led me to a sunny South Florida beach town and through the doors of Provident Jewelry where I got to spend several moments hanging out with incredible people and picking the brain of one Maximilian Büsser. It was a fun-filled forty-eight hours that opened my eyes to the capabilities of a traditional retail jewelry and watch store, and opened my mind to what the future of the watch industry could be if it thinks long and hard enough. The trip and the experience was an ideal way to both cap off the year and blow off some steam, and I hope to get the opportunity do it again someday.
Here’s hoping your 2016 was filled with some of your own positive experiences and here’s wishing that your 2017 brings you prosperity, peace, love, good books, great laughs, safe travels, and a devoted and loyal group of friends. Thank you for reading WOHW and I hope you’ll join me on next year’s watch-related journeys.
“Welcome To My World”: A Conversation with Maximilian Büsser about the Watch Industry, Change, and the Life Lessons We Teach our Children
You may or may not recall that my brief one-time run-in with Max Büsser happened in Basel, Switzerland this past March. As I wrote in an earlier blog entry, this is how the initial meeting went down:
Heading toward the back of The Palace at Baselworld, I could see Max strolling in my direction. His swagger is unique and undeniably his and he walks as if he were eight feet tall (he is not). He saw me and smiled a very Max smile and I’m sure I turned six shades of chartreuse as a result, but when we reached one another it was if we’d been schoolmates for decades. “Finally!” I said, going in for a hug, to which he replied, “We see you later today, yes?” Then off we both went to our intended destinations, thankfully without my passing out from sheer fangirl glee.
This second encounter wasn’t quite so short-lived thanks to the kind and thoughtful partners at Provident Jewelry in South Florida. I wandered in to the Jupiter location after a two-hour flight and a hotel restaurant lunch to find an already magnificent store filled with caterers setting up tables, a granite bar being stocked with Dom Pérignon, florists delivering holiday arrangements, and staff members scurrying about like army ants. The energy was electric and yet through all of the chaos and excitement my eye was drawn to three calm figures deep in manly conversation: Nick Linca (one of the hilarious partners at Provident); Phil Ogle (MB&F’s Caribbean and North American president and owner of two fantastically buff biceps); and the man himself, Maxy Max.
It has taken since March for me not to practically pass out when in Max’s presence, but thankfully I am able to state with all sincerity that my fangirl fainting days are behind me… mostly. Max is indeed a mortal; one who has had the rare bad hair moment and may occasionally wear a wrinkled shirt, but this is also part of the reason why people are so drawn to Max. He has been described by many in both the press and the watch industry in a single word. Words like “genius,” “brilliant,” “madman,” and “anomaly,” and while I, myself have likely used those same terms in passing to describe him, there is one word in the lexicon of my existence that sums up Max Büsser better than any adjective some fashion magazine editor could conjure:
Max, to me, is the most approachable man in the watch world. He has never balked at any of my questions (whether via email, in person, or otherwise) and has not once made me feel like what I am doing isn’t just as important as what he is (which honestly is a trait some folks in the business should try learning). Max is interested in people. He is interested in stories. He is interested in what he doesn’t know and he is neither too proud nor too afraid to admit that he doesn’t know it.
I remember having a conversation with James Thompson early on when I first started focusing on watches and his telling me about his primary encounter with Max. “Black Badger,” as James is known, is the artist who collaborated with MB&F on the HMX Black Badger “Performance Art” edition. In an email, James told me about his first ever meeting with Max, which happened at Salon QP in London in 2013.
“I wasn’t campaigning for a job or anything; I really just wanted to meet him and tell him how much I liked his stuff!” James said. “But, we had a really nice, genuine chat. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything more than that, but when he emailed me a few weeks later and we started bouncing around ideas… I mean, seriously? That’s like Sinatra asking you what you thought of his new tune.”
But James isn’t the only one who has had that type of experience. Shortly after posting my review of the new HMX Black Badger and sharing my personal tale about MB&F at Baselworld, I was contacted by Charris Yadigaroglou (or as Max reminded me this week, the man I refer to as the “prettiest man in watches”), who is Chief Communications Officer at MB&F. To make a long story short (too late!), keep an eye out for the next issue of MB&F’s Parallel Worlds, as you might recognize the author of one of the articles.
After a quick tour of the Provident Jupiter store, its brands, its Dream Factory cigar lounge (more about that in an upcoming post over on Adornmentality.com), and its bar, I finally had Max Büsser to myself, which I smartly took advantage of as I knew the moment wouldn’t last forever.
Me: “You know, this is the first time we’ve really had the chance to talk. Basel was a two-minute blip on a screen and all of our other conversations have been via email or social media, so I want to take this opportunity to really tell you what it is that I’m doing.”
Me: “This isn’t just about women, this blog. I mean, clearly I am trying to reach a customer that is largely under marketed to and vastly overlooked in the watch industry.”
Me: “But I don’t write it just for women. I know that collectors aren’t reading what I write; they’re reading Hodinkee, and Analog Shift, and A Blog to Watch, and I get that. That’s not the reader I’m trying to reach. I want the new buyer. I want the person who doesn’t normally read blogs, or read anything for that matter. I want the guy or the girl who maybe owns a watch that was given to them and nothing more. I want the novices and the newbies. I want the retailers. I want those who were like I was; the green people. And I want them turned on to watches in the same way that I was… by reading something that stuck with them. Something that was fun and funny and interesting and I don’t want them to even realize that they’re learning something in the process. I want to entertain a new breed of watch enthusiast because the industry takes itself way too seriously. It’s not fun enough, and this next generation – the millennials and hell, these generation Z kids – they don’t give a shit about celebrity endorsements. They want a story. They want to laugh. They want something with meaning and they want it to be unfiltered and honest. Mostly though, they want it to be fun. That’s what I’m trying to bring to watches. Unfiltered fun.”
Max: “Welcome to my world.”
The conversation consisted of our opinions regarding certain genres, entities, and conglomerates (off the record) but eventually delved into our childhoods and the types of parents we currently are and wish to continue to be.
Max: “My father worked a lot. I didn’t see him during the day. I was an only child and had to entertain myself. This is probably why I am who I am today.”
Me: “I feel the same way. We only allow our kids thirty minutes per day (except weekends) on technology in any form, which they are allowed to choose. Could be fifteen minutes of television and fifteen on the computer or all thirty on a tablet. They get the choice, but no more than that.”
Max: “My wife and I do something similar. But how do you feel about peer pressure? Do you think they’ll be taunted by the kids who are always on technology?”
Me: “We look at it like this: they’re going to be inundated with technology for the rest of their lives.”
Max: “That’s true. I know. You… you’re always on social media. You post so much. You’re always in my feed.”
Me: “Yes, but part of my job is getting my name out there. You know that you can unfollow me, right?”
Max: “No! It’s great! You make me laugh. Sometimes I send your stuff to my wife and I say ‘you have to read this’… not many people make me laugh. You do.”
Me: “Well, that makes me feel good, thanks. But on that topic, see what I mean? My whole world is technology-ridden. They’re kids, and they only get one shot at that. I love seeing my kids make up games or draw or ride their bikes.”
Max: “I know. I love to play with my child. I love when they ask me to play. Our parents didn’t do that with us. That wasn’t their generation. We go outside as much as we can. I really love it and can’t wait to get back home to do it again.”
And throughout the rest of my time with Max Büsser, whether I was speaking directly to him or not, I could feel his inner child come out to play in the Florida sun. When he proudly showed off his award-winning reverse-engineered perpetual calendar – the Legacy Machine Perpetual – I imagined a spritely young Max showing his friends a creation he made of sticks, rubber bands, and plastic spoons and explaining to them how it worked. When a customer approached him to ask about Astrograph – the writing tool collaboration between MB&F and Maison Caran d’Ache – I watched Max’s face light up as he spun the tiny magnetic astronaut and explained how, as a kid, he loved switchblade knives. And there was a moment while all of this was going on when I realized that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and that despite the doubters, it was where I was going to stay.
I get why people get Maximilian Büsser. I get why stores like Provident want to be a part of the MB&F story. I relate to this man who was once a child who then turned into the man who still embraces that child, and I feel deeply connected to his story and his outlook and can relate to his reasons for being who he is. MB&F was one of the first brands I researched thoroughly when I began writing about watches. I don’t quite know why or how that came to be at the beginning, honestly. Maybe it was because Max seemed so debonair and so charming to those of us who watched his interviews via YouTube. He was a celebrity of sorts, I guess. At least, to an outsider. At least, back then.
But today, he’s less of a celebrity. Today he’s just my friend. My friend, Max Büsser. You know Max… he’s the guy who makes watches fun. He’s the handsome guy. The guy with the good hair and the great smile. You know who he is… the guy with all the “friends”…
…and man, oh man, I’m so grateful he’s that guy.
“Who has touched and who has dabbled/here in the city of shows/Openings, closings, bad repartee/everybody knows”
– Lou Reed
It seems that my trips to New York are quarterly now, and each time I go it’s a mix of crowded whiskey breakfasts, quaint martini lunches, splendid Bordeaux dinners, and late night sake and red meat with a 6’5” Englishman huddled over a fire pit in the middle of our table. But hey, this is New York, where once, in my twenties, I watched while the phrase, “expect the unexpected” was tattooed on a transgender woman’s left breast in the East Village. Nothing surprises me here, which is the beauty of the city. For every high-end boutique there is a closet-sized souvenir shop; for each subway performer there struts a supermodel-in-waiting. New York represents the curious child, horny middle-ager teenager, and determined (but often broke) adult in all of us, and the city was as glorious and strung out as ever on my four-day fall visit.
I spent a large part of Wednesday afternoon visiting with my friends at The Promotion Factory and getting up close and personal with some of the watch brands they work with, particularly Alpina, Frederique Constant, and Bulova. Their Flatiron District office space sat high above the asphalt surfaces of the streets below, allowing for a concrete jungle-style backdrop as I stepped out on their patio. That worked out well when taking images of watches like the Alpina Startimer Camouflage Pilot Big Date Chronograph which, while too large for the likes of my wrist, was quite comfortable against my skin. Look, I’m a big fan of gender-neutral watches; I like it when a watch doesn’t add a label that says “this is a woman’s” or “this is a man’s” but let’s get real here, there are some watches that are just so manly they practically have chest hair, and the Startimer Pilot Big Date – at 44mm in diameter – is one of them. If this thing had a voice it would probably sound like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; that’s how much horological testosterone it has. But just because it’s a big, burly dude of a watch doesn’t mean it’s stup… er, stupendously complicated. It houses an AL-372 high precision Swiss quartz chronograph movement, is water resistant up to 10 ATM, and shows the date in a place easy enough to see without the use of one of those dreadfully annoying magnifying windows. I liked it, and I think a guy like The Rock would like it, too. Now… if only the world were filled with more men like Dwayne Johnson.
(Snaps out of it)
(Takes cold shower)
Following the manliness that was Alpina, I’ll admit that it was nice to temporarily get into the womanliness of many of Frederique Constant’s watches, particularly their Heart Beat Automatic (which I borrowed for a few days while in town. Thanks, PromoFact!). In the same way that the Alpina Startimer Chrono is undeniably masculine, the Frederique Constant Heart Beat is practically wearing high heels and pearls, it’s so feminine. And in neutral colors like nude and gray, there aren’t many items in my fall wardrobe that the Heart Beat wouldn’t match. The 34mm case fit my wrist beautifully and the diamond bezel – while clearly giving the piece a dressier appearance – was subtle enough that it wasn’t blinding the flabbergasted family of four across from me on the subway who were first-time visitors in from the great state of Arkansas (bless their hearts!).
After my visit and a limoncello-infused lunch it was time to head off into the sunset that was Wednesday night, which included watching my Korean-born temporary roommate eat ramen for the first time. Good times. And they wouldn’t end there.
“It was a party night, everybody was breaking/the highs were screaming and the bass was shaking”
– Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
With a plethora of press, brands, and collectors in town for the WatchTime New York show, there were several watch-related events going on around the city in the days prior. On Tuesday night, watch enthusiast group RedBar joined forces with Seiko for an event that included Grand Seikos, Astrons, Marinemasters, a master watchmaker, and most likely the music of Grandmaster Flash or Jam Master Jay (may he rest in peace). On the same night somewhere in the West Village (Same night, you say? SAME NIGHT, I SAY.), Hodinkee gathered with what they referred to as a “dedicated group of watch collectors and the team from Zenith watches” to launch the twenty-five piece limited edition Zenith El Primero Original watch for Hodinkee, which apparently sold out before John Mayer had the chance to see if Jean-Claude Bivers’s body truly was a wonderland. (Now that’s FAST!) But it was what was going down on Thursday night that had me borderline giddy:
My first ever New York RedBar.
This wasn’t just any RedBar event, either. The independents were in town, see, which meant we were going to be hanging out with timepieces (oh, and people) from Moritz Grossman, MB&F, Romain Gauthier, Andersen Geneve, and Clerc.
I was accompanied by my sometimes babysitter/sometimes bodyguard/sometimes wingman, Jason (aka, TKFFR for those who read my other blog) because I didn’t want to walk all by myself into a room filled with dudes.
Yeah, that’s a straight up lie. Sorry. I couldn’t even last until the next paragraph. Couldn’t keep it going.
Fact is, the big guy wants to learn more about watches and I knew that this was the place where he’d find people patient enough and enthusiastic enough to get him started without making him feel like his being a novice was a bad thing. And I was right. I introduced Jason to a couple of RedBar members when we were in Vegas this summer and he took those relationships a step further, so he was welcomed with as many open arms as I was, which made for a really great night.
For me, the experience was important because I live by the rule that life isn’t a spectator sport. On top of the fact that I would get to spend some one-on-one time with these awesome independent brands, I knew I’d also finally get to meet the likes of Instagram notables such as Chris (@Farlius), Rob (@SpanishRob), Sophy (@redbarmiami), and James (@AnalogShift), after witnessing what they do from the distance that is known as social media. And that was exciting to me, though frankly it’s all exciting to me still. Hey, I’m an excitable person who isn’t easily jaded, what can I say?
The room was packed, as I suspect it usually is, and watches of all flavors were being passed from hand to wrist and from iPhone to another iPhone (because I’m pretty much the only holdout on the planet who still uses a Samsung). It was all I expected it would be, which gave me the warm and fuzzies. The scotch probably helped with those emotions but still, I was feeling pretty darn scotchy. I mean happy. And before I could slur the words, “closing ceremonies,” somebody was strapping the new MB&F HM8 red gold and titanium Can-Am on my wrist, and
that’s when the sh*t hit a different level, entirely.
Thanks to Adam, Kathleen, Atom, Josh, Justin, and the many other group members who showed us a great time. Merci to Charris for being so freakin’ pretty (because seriously, it is unfair for one human being to be so pretty) and for walking me through the correct pronunciation of his name in four different languages. It was the perfect segue into the rest of the week’s events.
“Oh, the way she feels about me has changed/thanks for playing, try again”
– John Mayer
After a two-wine, Lower Manhattan lunch at the restaurant Delicatessen with my #SexyAsian buddy, I prepared myself for the evening’s impending shenanigans with a disco nap. Once awake, I squeaked into the LBD I packed and hopped the subway to Gotham Hall to partake in an evening filled with gin martinis, Italian suits, Swiss personas, and expensive watches.
The WatchTime New York event was held on the night of October 14th and from 11 – 5 on October 15th. Friday night’s cocktail party was a highly anticipated shindig that allowed both the media and collectors to mingle with the over twenty internationally renowned watch brands exhibiting at the venue. My speaking cohort, temporary roommate, and good friend Ben Smithee of The Smithee Group accompanied me to Friday’s party which – speaking for myself – was visually one of the loveliest cocktail parties I’d been to in a while.
Gotham Hall is located in a building that was built in 1924; the former headquarters of the Greenwich Savings Bank, which operated from 1833 until 1981. The old main banking room is now the Grand Ballroom and is often used for corporate events, wedding receptions, and clearly, watch collector get-togethers. The steel-reinforced limestone and sandstone building was designed by bank architects York and Sawyer in Classical Revival style and has Corinthian columns located on three sides of the building’s exterior. It is – at first glance – awe-inspiring, but was made even more extraordinary by the timepieces gracing its space.
I have a lot to learn still about horology and the watch industry in general, but what I know up to this point and after many years of being in the company of various watch brands is that I indeed have my favorites, and that those favorites will likely be around for a long time. Having just come off a trip to Paris where I was able to visit the flagship store of Jaeger-LeCoultre, I was excited to visit with JLC at WatchTime so that I could share my experience with their U.S. Marketing Director, Cécile Tinchant. And as I approached their booth, what I saw was nothing short of thrilling: sitting behind the desk, tools in hand, was their watchmaker on duty, and for the second time in seven weeks, that Jaeger-LeCoultre watchmaker that I was about to meet was a woman.
Remember that the whole reason I started this blog in the first place was to give more women in the watch world their due. They’re out there. They exist. And if you look hard enough, do your research, or get yourself to the right place at the right time, you’ll find them, and when you do, they should be recognized, celebrated, and thanked. Women can often be their own worst enemies, which unfortunately I learned firsthand this year. For as many women out there in this industry who are helpful there are also the ones who desperately want to see you fail; especially if you’re the newbie, and especially if they think you’re trying to hone in on their territory. But my entire experience with Jaeger-Lecoultre at the Place Vendome location in Paris and at their booth in the middle of Gotham Hall – from start to finish – was filled with positive, enlightening, and goal-oriented women, which only made me love the brand more, and I truly did not think that would have ever been possible.
The event housed popular brands such as Seiko, Vacheron Constantin, Omega, and A. Lange & Söhne. Affordable everyday brands like Bell & Ross, Corum, and Tutima were also showing. And, specialty independent brands like RGM, Speake-Marin, Urban Jürgensen, and the always popular MB&F had proper billing and great floor spots as well. The room was oval in shape which gave no brand a “lead” location (think Knights of the Round Table, only replace swords with pivot broaches and shields with sapphire crystals), and made it easy to find your appointments even after that third or fifth Johnny Walker (but who’s counting? [EVERYONE. BECAUSE YOU’RE AT A WATCH SHOW. DUH.]).
I immediately found myself drawn to the Jaquet Droz watches since I never had the chance to see them this year at Baselworld. I also found myself spending a fair amount of time at Harry Winston, largely because they were one of the few brands showing who put their women’s watches front and center. MB&F had their newest HM8 Can-Am in both colors on display at their booth, and it was great to be able to bring my friend Ben over to see the new Grand Seiko watches after recently having a conversation about how different today’s Seiko is compared to the Seikos of our fathers. There were many other highlights of the show that include panels, speeches, and book signings, but at nearly
2,100 words, I think it’s probably time to close out this entry, although not before I mention the fact that a slew of us left WatchTime New York and decided to take over the Shake Shack on the adjacent corner of Broadway for burgers, beers, and a #shackpile never quite seen before.
Best. After party. Evah.
Many thanks to Ana Martins and team for their kindness (and for retrieving the dress coat I left behind!) as well as to the entire WatchTime staff, including the truly wonderful Joe Thompson who let me pick his brain for a solid five minutes. I also want to thank Roberta Naas for signing a copy of her book Jewels of Time for me, which, if you don’t already own it, would make a tremendous addition to your watch book collection.
It was one hell of a time, New York. Can’t wait to do it again. And the sooner, the better, ‘cause lawd knows I can’t quit you.
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.