“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.