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.
It is no secret to watch collectors or enthusiasts that Christie’s will hold its Rare Watches and Nautilus Part IV auction this Tuesday, December 6th, at Rockefeller Center in New York City. And while vintage/auction quality watches aren’t really my thing (yet… but they’re getting there), my friend Eric Wind (who also happens to be the Vice President, Senior Specialist at Christie’s watch department) and I thought we’d have a little fun while introducing you to Eric’s top five watch picks to gift the woman in your life this holiday season. As an added bonus, however, I’m going to follow each of Eric’s picks by adding my own comments about the watch and why you should bid on it. You know… for the layman in the room. This way you can choose whether you’d like the “historically accurate and horologically savvy” description or the “what’s that thingy next to the ticky tock part?” description. ‘cause… you know… life is about options.
So without further hesitation, here are Eric’s and my take on the best watches for women from this Tuesday’s New York auction.
“This Rolex has an ornate and intricate diamond-set bracelet in a design we have not previously seen. It is set with approximately 95 single-cut diamonds weighing 0.75-0.95 carats total, and 12 rectangular cut diamonds weighing approximately 1.75-2.00 carats total. Given all the intense craftsmanship and the rarity of the watch, it is remarkable that it has an estimate of only $8,000 to $12,000. (P.S. If you are looking for a similar watch, but with more diamonds, this one is set with approximately 135 marquise, circular and baguette-cut diamonds, weighing approximately 23.00-26.00 carats overall.)”
“Marilyn Monroe was onto something when she stated that diamonds were a girl’s best friend. And while this watch DID NOT belong to Marilyn Monroe, the woman was able to get three pretty bright and fairly famous guys to put a ring on it, so clearly Norma Jean knew a thing or two about a thing or two. If I were to get hitched for the third time in my life, this is definitely the watch I’d want to be married in, because in my mind, nothing says ‘my childbearing days are over and it’s all about me now’ quite like a vintage diamond and white gold Rolex.”
“This Cartier watch dates to circa 1940 and comes in the original red leather box. The chunky gold bracelet design of this watch makes it looks like it could be from the 1980s or even today. It really is jewelry more than a watch and the simple but bold design makes it seem like something that could be worn with just about any outfit as opposed to some ladies watches (like the Rolex reference 9366 above) that appear more suited for formal evening events.”
“Reason number one to bid on this watch: gold prices have been steadily rising and are expected to soar with the impending administration coming into power. Um, have you seen how solid the gold is on this thing? It’s practically a door knocker on the Sultan of Brunei’s guest house! Buy low/sell high, people! Oh, and uh, the timepiece part of it is pretty good too, I guess. Yeah, it’s totally gift-worthy. I’ll admit it.”
“Along the lines of the previous Cartier, this piece seems more jewelry than watch and has a design suited for frequent wear. The bracelet is large, but incredibly light. Despite its being yellow gold, it hardly weighs anything, which is a shock when first picking it up to examine it. The fine craftsmanship of this watch is amazing and it clearly was the result of a huge number of hours making it.”
“The new Wonder Woman movie will be out in theaters next year. Buy this watch along with the other one we just talked about and give them BOTH to your lady friend right before date night, that way she can wear one on each arm while I live out my childhood fantasies of deflecting bullets with my wrists and flying my invisible jet and marrying Aquaman. I mean… she… while she lives out her childhood fantasies of deflecting bullets and … you know… so on.”
“Hey look! Is that Elvis?!”
“I know of a few guys who have purchased ‘Paul Newmans’ for their wives or girlfriends and it is an amazing look. Ellen DeGeneres has a tremendous affinity for vintage Daytonas, as well. This one comes from the original owner and includes the original box and papers, which vintage watch collectors love to have. Whether on a bracelet or a strap, seeing one of these on a lady is always a jaw-dropping sight for a vintage Rolex fan.”
“This is the smartest purchase you’ll ever make for your woman for two reasons: if she hates it, she’ll likely throw it at you and if you’re quick enough to catch it, well hey! You got a new watch! And, it’s a Paul Newman Daytona! Or, if she loves it and wears it out so much that she meets and impresses some super charming and debonair watch collector whom she leaves you for, you get it back anyway as long as you put it in the prenuptial agreement. BONUS.”
“The reference 1518 is the first perpetual calendar chronograph ever made in a series. The 1518 placed Patek Philippe at the forefront of complicated wristwatch production and they maintain that position today. Although it was designed for a man, I am aware of at least one woman who wears a reference 1518 on occasion. To say it looks wonderful on her would be an extreme understatement!”
“Wait Eric, HOW MUCH??? Dayyyyyyyyyyum. Okay, all I can say is, any man who is willing to spend $300,000 on a watch for me is pretty much guaranteed to die happy, and that’s as vague as I’m going to keep that description out of respect for Christie’s, but feel free to use your imagination.”
The link to the full catalog is here for those interested in dying with a smile on their faces. Thanks to Eric Wind for his contribution to this piece and happy bidding, everyone!
“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.
Like it or not, one cannot dispute the fact that we as a country continue to make history through our willingness to adapt, our desire to make change, and the tolerance and acceptance once thought to be impossible. We are no longer just the sons and daughters of our forefathers because let’s face it, complacency isn’t what has ever made this country great. We have taken their ideas of freedom and prosperity and over long and hard-fought decades (not to mention a Civil War), added our own humane idea of equality. Equality for all races, all religious backgrounds, all sexual preferences, and yes, even all genders.
This summer we collectively watched – as a nation – one more historical milestone be reached. For the first time in the two-hundred-and-forty-year history of this extraordinary patch of Earth we call “home,” a woman was named by a major political party as their nominee for President of the United States, and I believe I speak for many women in this country when I say now with all puns intended…
It’s. About. TIME.
Over the last few years, the American history lover as well as the watch lover in me has on occasion researched which presidents wore what watches. The most famous watch (or rather, infamous) likely being the adoringly inscribed gold Rolex Day-Date supposedly given to Jack Kennedy by Marilyn Monroe on his 45th birthday, shortly after her sultry rendition of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” (which, as legend goes, he quickly gave to an aide with instructions to “get rid of it”… ah, gotta love men.) Abe Lincoln used a Waltham William Ellery pocket watch, FDR wore a Tiffany & Co. wristwatch containing a movement by Movado (though it was not his only watch), Reagan wore a stainless steel Rolex Datejust, and our current president wears a Jorg Gray gifted to him on his birthday by his Secret Service team. The list of pocket watch-carrying and wristwatch-wearing presidents goes back to our first – George Washington – and can be found on most highly respected watch blogs like the piece written here on WatchTime.com. But with the times a-changin’ both in horology and politics, I’ve been thinking a lot about which types, brands, and styles of watches a female president would wear, how often she would wear them, and of course, when those watches would be appropriate. Here is what I came up with should the history books, once again, need an update and maybe some new drapes.
Inauguration Day (January 20th, 2017)
A watch worn on Election Day becomes a historic watch for any president, but for the first female President of the United States, the timepiece would have to have an even deeper meaning. On this, I contacted a friend who I know to be a bit of a watch historian and we went back and forth about watches that might potentially work from both a significance angle as well as from a style standpoint. Two watches that stood out were the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso owned by Amelia Earhart that was engraved with the itinerary of her first flight (to New York [where Clinton was a Senator] from Mexico [where there will now be no wall built]), as well as the yellow gold Omega wristwatch worn by President John F. Kennedy (a fellow Democrat) at his inauguration. Both watches signify change and greatness. Both graced the wrists of rule breakers and risk-takers, but yet it is the associated histories of each of those pieces that I was having trouble with as my choice for this possible president. If Hillary Rodham Clinton is to take the oath of office, then her watch will need to be something that represents her history alone, so with that in mind, I chose a 1928 white gold “Piping Rock” wristwatch by then-American made watch company, Hamilton.
Why? Well, first, the watch was made in Lancaster, Pennsylvania at the time of its production. Pennsylvania was a crucial swing state that went blue (hypothetically) for this election so selecting this watch is a nod to PA voters. Also, in 1947 – the year Hillary Clinton was born – Hamilton Watch Company produced a nifty twenty-minute video called, “What Makes a Fine Watch Fine?” which shows (several times throughout the video) American women not just working in the watch factory but also holding more highly-paid positions such as inspectors. The name of this watch, Piping Rock, was an homage to a resort built in New York state in 1911 (also the same year California gave women the right to vote) and the watch itself was released in 1928, which was the same year that the Representation of the People Act was passed in the United Kingdom, giving British women electoral equality with men.
Now, let’s break it down a little more by connecting the name “Hamilton.”
The company was incorporated in 1892 (the same year Olympia Brown founded the Federal Suffrage Association) in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. While it would be fitting for this blog post that the name come from Founding Father, first Secretary of the Treasury, and star of his own award-winning musical (which, by the way, raised millions for Hillary Clinton’s campaign this year), Alexander Hamilton, the company was actually named for a lawyer by the name of Andrew Hamilton (no relation) who once owned the piece of property in Lancaster, Pennsylvania that the Hamilton watch factory was built upon. Since I’m having fun researching connections, however, I’ll add a couple more fun facts just to come full circle: Andrew Hamilton was Attorney General for the colony of Pennsylvania from 1717 until 1724, which is when he travelled to London to formally oversee the will of Pennsylvania founder William Penn. For his legal work, Hamilton was awarded land in Philadelphia by Penn’s family which, when combined with additional land he purchased, became a 153-acre estate known as Bush Hill (oh, the irony). BUSH AND HILL, PEOPLE! But wait! There’s more! Years later, Bush Hill became a temporary home for the vice president of the United States (who happened to be John Adams at the time) when the federal capital was moved to Philadelphia during George Washington’s presidency. And one last association between this watch and its potential inauguration day wearer: the year before the Piping Rock model was produced, Hamilton Watch Company purchased the Illinois Watch Company (keep in mind that Hillary’s home state is Illinois), which was co-founded in 1870 by a man also by the name of John Adams. I can’t make this stuff up, gang. All signs point to this being the perfect watch to wind up in her presidential library one day.
In my mind, Potential President Clinton (I may refer to her as “PPC” from here on in, so, take note) would have purchased the watch for herself at some point, maybe from an online auction or from a private dealer. She’d wear it on her left wrist underneath her wool coat, which will be the same hand she places on the bible (assumably), while raising her right to take her oath of office as the first female president of these United States.
Inauguration Night & Inaugural Balls (January 20th, 2017)
Hillary Clinton knows that she’s no Michelle Obama when it comes to fashion, nor does she try to be. But it is my hope that if she does win the election, she will be comfortable selecting a gown for her Inaugural Balls that she won’t be scrutinized in (highly doubtful), or criticized in (ain’t happenin’), or, at the very least, one that will reflect the type of leader she might be. In other words: all business. If I were she, I’d go with a basic black number simply because color choices are the easiest thing for society to pick apart, so why not go with black at that point? I mean, technically every U.S. President before her has, right? This is her “tuxedo” so to speak, so black with a dash of white in the form of loaner diamonds could speak volumes. I’m thinking something classic with three-quarter sleeves accented with a muted design like a lace applique on the bodice would be the perfect style of gown to go with that stunning Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Secret watch in white gold and diamonds that she borrowed from longtime Washington, D.C. jeweler, Tiny Jewel Box. Will she get roasted for not wearing an American-made watch? Probably, but at this point what won’t she get roasted for? This is a watch that was born to be worn to events such as these and being that she would now be president of the United States, staying on schedule will be of the utmost importance. The rhodium-plated floral appliques on the mother-of-pearl dial would not only match the gown’s bodice, but her daughter Chelsea gave birth this past June to Hillary’s grandson, Aiden, and June’s birthstone is pearl, making Chelsea a “mother of pearl”… okay, that connection might be a stretch, but I’m on a roll here. Don’t kill my vibe.
First Speech Given to the Joint Sessions of Congress (February, 2017)
There will likely be no State of the Union address shortly after the next president is inaugurated, simply because newly elected presidents in recent decades have opted out of official SotU’s, instead addressing a joint session of Congress during their first few months in office. Giving a speech to a body that large, that powerful, and that important to what she’ll be able to accomplish in her presidency won’t come easily, nor do I believe she will take it lightly. As mentioned previously, PPC (aka HRC) is pretty much all business and the House chamber is no place to be flashy, but just because the president doesn’t want to look “showy” doesn’t mean she has to go for something as inexpensive as a Boccia, (à la Angela Merkel) or a Timex (à la Dubya). I’m thinking the Longines Agassiz 23mm in 18K yellow gold will do the trick as it’s the quintessential “I’ve got bills to sign and pantsuits to wear” women’s watch. Time only and with a quartz movement, the Agassiz is also water resistant up to 100 meters just in case Hill wants to go for a dip in the White House North Lawn fountain immediately following the Congressional brouhaha.
First G-20 Summit Meeting, Hamburg, Germany (July, 2017)
When one and a bunch of one’s allies (oh, and Russia) get together to discuss initiatives aimed at international coordination of economic policy, it’s not exactly like a meet-and-greet prior to the 2017 season premiere of SNL. If one is planning on being in a room with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the entirety of the EU, one is probably going to want to make some sort of an impression, especially while in the country of one’s fellow female badass, Angela Merkel. My suggestion for PPC here would be to go with a watch that is made where the Summit itself is taking place…. that’s right folks, we’re talking a Montblanc. The “Bohème Day & Night” in stainless steel contains the MB 24.10 caliber movement in a 34mm case as well as a guilloché dial with black floral Arabic and diamond numerals. It’s reasonably priced enough not to make the French look at her like she’s the next Marie Antoinette, however, still made nicely enough to make Putin want to (wo)manhunt her for it while perched atop a soon-to-be-mating Karabakh horse.
First State Dinner at the White House (August, 2017)
The United States, dating back to when Herbert Hoover was President (as that is the earliest Presidential State Dinner listed on Wikipedia), has not had an official State Dinner in modern times with the country of Switzerland. Why that is, I have no idea (though I will refrain from my usual jokes about the Swiss being Swiss here because, you know, #watchevents), but since this entire blog post is based on a hypothetical presidency, I figured I may as well close it out with a hypothetical State Dinner of my choosing, and because of that, I decided to choose Switzerland.
The formal invitation, printed on the finest card stock, will be sent out to President Johann Schneider-Ammann and will read, “We’re having a great party in your honor. It’s going to be great. We’re going to make it so Swiss it’ll make your clocks spin. There’s going to be Schnitzel, too. There’s going to be so much Schnitzel, your watch hands are going to spin. You’re going to get tired of eating Schnitzel there’s going to be so much Schnitzel. And it’ll be the best Schnitzel, too, because my chefs at the Trump Towers make the best Schnitzel in the world. And everyone’ll get a Trump watch as a door prize. This is going to be the best Switzerland party in my honor, ever. RSVP to my wife, Melania, by the 15th. I don’t know or even care what ‘RSVP’ means but many people tell me it’s Swiss.”
Oh. Wait. Wrong election winner. Sorry.
An event as extravagant as a State Dinner calls for adornments as extravagant as an event like a State Dinner, which is why – as an homage to Switzerland – I’m suggesting Potential President Clinton wear a watch that is made in the horological mecca that is Geneva. In this case, something from Chopard will do. The L’Heure du Diamant Oval Vertical in 18K white gold is as elegant as it gets without looking overly frilly or delicate. After all, no president wants to come off as a lover of doilies and macramé, although I often wondered about that Chester A. Arthur. As the great Robert De Niro would say… “I’ve heard things.”
Only time will tell (see what I did there?) whether or not we get to watch that sky-high and final glass ceiling get shattered, and with months left to go and twenty-four-hour news networks left to be turned off in a violent rage watched, anything can happen, which also means anyone – ANYONE – could wind up being president.
In the meantime, thank you for reading. God bless our troops. And God bless ‘merica.
Punk Rock, Morning Scotch, and All the Balls a Writer Can Handle: Watch Week in Vegas Part 2 – Quality Time at Clockwork and Swiss Watch
“To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.” – Patti Smith, punk rock poet laureate
What is freedom to you? Seriously, I’m asking you. Or rather, I am suggesting for the sake of this piece that you ask yourself that question. When you hear the word “freedom,” what’s the first thing you think of? Is it our country? A sense of nationalism? Divorce? Leaving your job? Travel? Not paying your taxes? A night out without the kids? Going commando? Paragliding? What makes you free in your own mind? How would you make yourself free if you could?
For me, freedom means the ability to write how I’d like without penalty. It means working for myself, and expressing myself through the voice that separates me from the pack. Freedom, by all accounts, means that I’m uninhibited; that I can strip a story to its bare bones and tell it as it happened without the fear of being fired, fined, or frankly, f**ked. That is my freedom; being unattached. It is what gives me the wings to fly as far as I’m able or as near as I wish, but what also allows me to chirp whenever I feel the need, and as loudly as I deem fit.
And at that end of the day, that, quite honestly, is very much punk rock.
In between my volunteer work at the Women’s Jewelry Association station that was set up right outside the entrance to the JCK show, I was able to make appointments with some of the watch brands at Swiss Watch as well as at the other two watch sections of JCK: Clockwork, and LUXURY Watch. The Swiss Watch show has long provided a place where notable brands such as Longines, Carl F. Bucherer, Tissot, Frederique Constant, and Perrelet are able to comfortably show their wares to retailers far away from the batsh*t craziness that is the show floor. Getting up to the suites at Swiss Watch is no small feat, however, for the entrance is heavily guarded and requires not only an appointment, but also a phone call confirming said appointment, a show badge, photo ID, proof of residency, blood type, mother’s maiden name, voter registration card, life insurance policy, first-born male child, frequent flyer number, AARP membership card, and a handwritten letter of permission from your parents. But once they get those things you pretty much have free rein. Clearly, I’m using satire here but the truth is that with all of the nuttiness going on in this country, you probably don’t want your entire inventory of Swiss timepieces set up in the middle of some one-sided booth with a sign that says “honor system” beneath it.
My favorite meeting in the suites had to be with Ball Watch Company for a couple of solid yet also slightly disturbing reasons. For one, the company is called, “Ball”… um, have you met me, people? Hell, have you read me? You can’t throw a watch brand by the name of “Ball” my way and expect that I’m just going to let that slide. Every one of my comedic idols would shun me if I were to not mention how exciting it was to see all of the Balls spread out on the table during my appointment, or the fact that the tan ones had a really good weight to them. (I mean it, folks, those were some hefty Balls. I’m thinking of getting a couple of my own.) And while it’s no secret that I’m desperately trying to make coffee spew from your nose as you read this, the reality is that I have been a longtime lover of Balls. In fact, back in May of 2014, I wrote a piece on my jewelry blog about the watch brands I was looking forward to seeing at Swiss Watch, and Ball Watch Company was first on my list. Here’s a passage from that post about the Balls I was anxious to get my hands on:
Models of interest:
- DeepQUEST: (Because the title reminds me of my trip to Cancun in the 90’s for spring break. IT HAS TO DO WITH SNORKELING, YOU PERVS.) 43mm diameter, titanium single-block case, automatic helium release valve.
- Big Boy: (Um, what man doesn’t want a watch by this name?) 46mm diameter, anti-reflective convex sapphire crystal, stainless steel, screwed-in crown.
- Roman: (The name of my son. Or rather, the thing that happened nine months after I experienced *DeepQUEST* with *Big Boy.*) 41mm diameter, automatic caliber, crocodile strap with stainless buckle, shock resistant to 5,000G’s.
So as you can see, I’ve been researching Balls for years. I can’t even begin to describe to you how many hours in my adult life I’ve spent on the internet looking at pictures of Balls, so to have them here, in Las Vegas, right in front of my face and in all of their glistening glory, brought me immeasurable joy.
I was greeted with a scotch and a smile by a young, handsome man when I walked into the hotel suite (or as I like to call it – flashbacks of my twenties [and occasional forties]) whom I recognized to be Wes Burke, marketing and communications director at Ball Watch USA. If you have yet to meet Wes then you’re not as happy in your life as you could be. This ray of sunshine sprinkled with the sweat of Christmas elves will make you fall in love with anything he’s pushing, so prepare yourself if he approaches you, especially if he’s providing booze before noon. Good booze before noon. And lots of it.
I mentioned to Wes that what I really wanted him to show me were his women’s Balls. These Balls are smaller in size but that didn’t make them any less glorious. While several of the Balls appealed to me, I found two in particular that really piqued my interest. First was the ladies Trainmaster Moon Phase with mother of pearl dial (though, by rights, I expressed to Wes that Ball should change the name to the Ladies TrainMISTRESS Moon Phase because there is a big market for dominatrix watch collectors [or so I’ve heard] and Ball could corner that market without the use of whips or Shibari. Don’t ask me why I know that term. Seriously. Just… just don’t.) I particularly liked the black leather strap on the Trainmistress Trainmaster because… well… you know what they say… once you go black leather strap…
The other Ball that I found interesting simply because it didn’t look like any of the Balls I had seen in my life was the Ladies Conductor Transcendent Diamond. Rather than being round, this Ball had almost a cushion shape to it, which appealed to me, aesthetically, because I like it when designs (and people, and ideas, and body parts, and blogs) go against the norm. The one I tried on had a mother of pearl face, white leather strap, and stainless steel diamond bezel which made it eye catching enough for the watch buyers out there who like it when their Balls get attention.
It was a fun-filled meeting where I learned many things about Balls that I had not known prior. And all kidding aside, the watches themselves are very much legit. They’re hitting a price point that is sought out right now, especially with sales numbers declining for Swiss Watches across the board. And they’re doing it by not taking themselves so seriously. This is key, people. I said the same thing in the article I recently wrote for InDesign.Jewelry: fun is where it’s at, and if you can’t have some fun with Balls in your life, then you probably can’t have fun with anything.
The other experience I want to talk about in this post is the unexpected one I had with Jack Mason watches. For starters, they had the coolest, raddest, and most phallic-looking booth in all of Vegas: an Airstream trailer (seriously, don’t those things look like Bullets?). I didn’t have a pre-scheduled meeting set with Jack Mason, but on my way back from the Red Bar Crew Mixer event being held in the Clockwork lounge (which by the way, was where I FINALLY got to meet social media pal and watch writer Ed Estlow, along with Faisel Nayani, Kevin Mantell, Paul Erhardt, and some bearded dude named Adam), I swung by the Airstream to at least take a peek. Thankfully I ran into Taisia Fredrickson who handles Jack Mason’s brand and digital content, and she invited me inside so that I could have a closer look.
Let me point out the first thing that grabbed me about this brand and that likely may never let me go: the genre of music playing inside the trailer was Punk. Effing. Rock. Taisia informed me that they carefully select the music and try their best to keep it a diverse mix but also representative of the brand, and any watch brand that has punk rock playing in their booth is a watch brand I want to get to know.
Taisia explained to me that the Jack Mason watches were all designed in Dallas, Texas and the company is headquartered there, but as to not run into any Shinola-like trouble (my term, not hers) she was clear that the parts were made and assembled elsewhere. The movements are Japanese, the leather straps are made in Italy, and the watches are assembled in China. You know what, I’m all about disclosure, and I respect that Taisia was up front right off the bat so that there was no confusion and so that I didn’t immediately think that the watches were U.S. made. So, now that the details on the manufacturing have been stated, I want to talk a little bit about the look of the watch and why I think they’d be a great starter watch for someone who may not have the funds to go for something like a Tudor, or even the stash to buy a price point watch like a Hamilton.
Their watches are separated into two different series types: Nautical and Aviation, the latter allowing them to offer pilot-type watches and chronographs with stainless steel cases for under three-hundred bucks. And from an American design standpoint, they truly took care to make these watches look a LOT more expensive than they are, down to the subtle red, white, and blue markings on the watch’s second-hand. They are clear that these watches are accessories and not necessarily heirlooms, but also that they’re nice accessories and that they’re proud of how the pieces are designed.
I’m looking forward to the launch of their women’s line this October and will absolutely be buying one for myself because honestly, I really just like how they look. I’d drop a couple of hundred dollars on a pair of shoes without blinking an eye so why wouldn’t I on a chronograph that’s as appealing as anything else I might wear, right? Fun, people. Fun is king. If you didn’t believe that statement to be true you wouldn’t be reading my blog in the first place.
That’s all the time we have for today, but stay tuned for the third and final installment in my coverage of the watch events in Las Vegas as I get into what goes down when the lights go up. Until then, be careful not to break your, or anyone else’s Balls.
Roulette, Cuvette, Black Jack, Black Bay, Craps, Straps, and Multiple Hands: Watch Week in Vegas Part 1 – COUTUREtime
“The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling.” – Ambrose Bierce, American editorialist/journalist/satirist.
I was inexplicably confused.
On the one hand, I had several of my retailer friends warning me that I couldn’t do what I felt I wanted to because I’d be pigeonholed. “You realize you can’t write your watch blog in the same voice you use to write your jewelry blog, right? I mean, these are the Swiss we’re talking about. You don’t want to piss them off, and they’re not going to understand you.”
The warning made sense. For one, the watch industry is known for being conservative with few exceptions. “They’re right,” I thought. “I can’t write as colorfully as I’d like. I’m going to have to tone it down.”
But then, I got to Baselworld, where I met, in person, many of the watch journalists and editors I’d been following for quite some time. There, the tone and tune was dramatically different. “If you write your watch blog the way you write your jewelry blog, you’re going to KILL IT. Nobody is writing the way you write. It’s refreshing. And it’s needed.”
Like I said… mind meldingly confused.
Yet as I continued to pen (key) piece after piece here I found that my work and my storytelling was finding its own natural path. The very first posts come off a little more reserved but the last was playful, daring, and borderline controversial. The story is as important to me – speaking from the writer’s side – as the product discussed or the brands highlighted. The story is what makes the reader remember what it was they read. We often hear the word “stickiness” when we’re talking about content. What sticks? What makes thing stick? How do you make something sticky? You make something stick by being memorable; by not regurgitating canned text and copying and pasting press releases. You make it sticky by experiencing the moments in which you write; by breathing emotion into the words you print on pages or publish on the interwebs. Posting something daily and calling it blogging doesn’t make you a writer; it makes you a content creator. To be a writer you must live what you share. To be a writer you have to believe in that which you express, paid post or not. To be a writer you must see the world, your life, and your business through the eyes of a writer. Every mishap is a story. Every joke is a line. Every dinner, a side note. And every city, an adventure.
For the last couple of years on the blog of my alter ego (Adornmentality.com) I have written a multi-part series called, “Tales From the Strip” which covers the back stories of Las Vegas Jewelry Week. Every year these are my most-read blog posts as they delve deeply into what really goes down during those long, hard, but fun seven or more days. Yes, I discuss brands, and product, and designers, but what I mostly talk about is real life. That’s the stickiness of Vegas. Vegas is both as real and as fake as life can be. Body parts? Fake. Money lost? Real. Adoration? Fake. Swollen feet? Real. And because of the success of those posts I decided I wanted to do something similar here on the watch blog. Maybe I won’t get into the story of my near wardrobe malfunction at my Montblanc appointment. And maybe I won’t talk about the creepy watch-sector guy who hit on everything that had a set of eyeballs (and honestly that’s not entirely true because I saw him talking to that blonde woman with the eye patch). But then again, maybe I will. I don’t know for sure as I haven’t written it yet. I‘ll see where my memory takes me, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.
Just be careful. The seats might be a wee bit sticky.
I had one full day plus two hours the next day to cover the brands exhibiting at COUTUREtime at the Wynn. I strategically made my appointments well over a month in advance to ensure that I’d be on the lists of the companies I didn’t get the chance to see at Baselworld. Brands such as Tudor, Hermès, TAG Heuer and Chopard. For the most part these people didn’t know me from Adam (not Craniotes, as everyone knows him and I doubt anyone would ever confuse us. [My beard is nicer]). Or at least, that’s what I thought, however, a few actually had heard about the blog, which was a pretty rad ego boost to the chagrin of those who have to live with me.
My first appointment of the day was with Montblanc, which translates to my first middle-aged hot flash of the day as I walked in to see a life-sized poster of Hugh Jackman standing before me. This is no Wolverine Hugh, either (not that I don’t love pork chop sideburns, leather pants, and claws, but that’s for another blog entirely). This is Oscar-hosting Hugh. “The Fountain” Hugh. “Oscar & Leopold” Hugh. The Hugh you want to take home to meet your mother only to get into a fight with your mother because she drilled a peep hole in the guest bedroom where Hugh was staying. Hugh, alone, is influential enough to make me buy that ladies’ Boheme ExoTourbillon Stop-Second in rose gold even on a writer’s salary. I mean, do I really need this second kidney? Or this second lung? Pfffft. Lungs are for punks. Weaklings, even. But tourbillons, well, those are for stylish people.
All kidding aside (momentarily), the crew at Montblanc was wonderful and incredibly patient, even as I had a wardrobe near-mishap trying to take a picture under a table to get proper lighting. Many thanks to Florent-Aymeric Dubiez, VP of Marketing at Montblanc, as well as Training Director, Jonathan Berke, for making my first experience with the brand one to reflect upon happily. I am enamored by what the brand is doing and at the price points that they’re doing it. Keep up the stunning work and don’t you ever stop showing me pictures of Hugh. I will hunt you down like Wolverine would if you do.
I then headed over to see a watch company that holds a very special place in my heart: Baume et Mercier. Not only did one of my closest friends work for the company for years, but the Hampton was the first official Swiss watch I ever owned. Back in 2002, shortly after 9/11, I left the watch I owned in a bin going through airport security. Thankfully, because the human race and the TSA are so honest, they honestly told me, “You’re never going to see that watch again. Honestly.” With the money I had saved working a part time job slinging Cosmopolitans and Mojitos at a Philadelphia nightclub, I went out and bought myself a Baume et Mercier Hampton avec bracelet. The watch is still a part of my collection (when am I allowed to call what I own an actual “collection”? Anyone?) And I even took it with me to Vegas to show the Baume et Mercier folks.
I worked with Sandrine Donguy, B et M’s Marketing and Communication Director, who showed me the new Petite Promesse watches and their video campaign. I was thrilled to see that the brand was putting a focus on not just women’s watches, but on young women’s watches – and that they were going after women of the Gen Y set. Only a handful of watch brands are reaching this market so it was refreshing to see firsthand how the campaign was being run. While there I was also able to check out the Shelby Cobra limited edition watch and had a little fun playing around in the car itself. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This picture is worth just four: hell to the yes.
After leaving B et M, I went to visit with a brand I have been anxious to see ever since being introduced to Ana Martins – Bovet. Dear, sweet Bovet. If you were a man and I were a single women I’d follow you everywhere until such time the restraining order took effect. I think I love you and I don’t just say that to every watch brand; I usually save it for brands containing vowels. Your style is not for the weak at heart, nor is it for the bleak of wallet, but man, I’m obsessed with you, particularly with your “Shooting Star” timepiece in rose gold. I mean, jumping hour with retrograde minutes, 5-day tourbillon, hemispheric worldwide time function with selectable time zones, hemispheric moon phase, and oh, so much more? STAAAHP!! This is not a WATCH! This belongs in a NASA bunker! I feel like I need a degree to own this thing, it’s just that intricate. Nevertheless, I was enormously taken with it and with many of the other pieces in your collection (including Duane’s bespoke watch hand-painted with a picture of his puppies). A. Dorbs.
This was my first experience getting to visit brands in the villas. While I’m not new to writing, my past Jewelry Weeks in Vegas meant working for someone else, so to be there as an independent meant that I had more time to see those I had not been privy to in the past. The feeling of having only the “journalist” label was sweet, and riding the villa elevators knowing I would soon be sitting down with those I had only studied from afar up to this point was humbling.
I stepped off at floor two and headed down the brightly-hued but dimly lit hallway toward villa 208. I was alone but could see a group of four men conversing in my path about twenty or so feet in front of me. As I got closer, however, I started recognizing most of their faces: Will, Frank, and Anna Wintour Ben (only if you read the NYT piece will you get that reference). The Hodinkee gang, less a few talented and favored exceptions, were quietly chatting as I walked past.
I will be the first person to admit that I’m a Hodinkee fangirl. I get the Hodinkee Daily delivered to more than one email address. I learned all I care to know about the history of spring bars, the legend of why Geneva stripes were invented, and what makes a ridiculous 18th-century mechanical pooping bird from France so special thanks to the esteemed Jack Forster. I know the difference between their Value Proposition, Hands On, and Reference Points categories. And any time some dude (or chick) from some other blog has tried dissing the site while in my presence, I’ve come to their defense as if I owned stock in the company (full disclosure: I do not own stock in the company). So here was my chance to introduce myself to those who’ve made loving the watch world a little easier for me. I’m not shy. I’m not easily intimidated. I was taller than all of them. And honestly, I had nothing to lose.
“There’s a whole bunch of Hodinkeeness going on right here!”
Great opening line, idiot. Well f**king done. Could I have been more cheesy? I think not. I think not.
Thankfully they spared me (at least to my face) the feeling of embarrassment by allowing me to introduce myself and my blog while shaking each of their hands. Ben gave me an “Ah…” nod when I mentioned that I write WhatsOnHerWrist, which left me a little unsettled, frankly. Was it, “Ah, I’ve heard of you”? Or was it, “Ah, I really don’t care”? Or maybe it was, “AH! You’re the one they’ve warned us about.” I’m guessing the third, but that’s cool, because as I got to the fourth person in the group, whose face I didn’t recognize, I upped my a**hole game by stating, “I’m sorry, I really have no idea who you are” to which he replied, “Rob.”
My scotches-from-the-night-before-soaked brain was suddenly a flurry of activity. Rob. Rob. Why does that name sound familiar? Does Hodinkee have a Rob on their staff? No. Plus this guy doesn’t have a beard so I doubt they’d hire him. Hmm. Ah well. I’ll figure it out eventually.
And I did, about three feet into my walking away and realizing that this Rob was the Rob I was supposed to be meeting with as he was the Rob from Hermès. Mother. Bleeper.
Four letter words were all I could conjure internally as I now had to make a 180-degree turn and walk back, past the Hodincrew, past good ol’ Rob, and sheepishly into the Hermès suite.
I. Could. Have. DIED.
Thankfully, I was greeted pleasantly by Senior Sales Manager Andrea Galella, who offered me something to drink. I wanted to order a glass of champagne with a side of cyanide but settled for a sparkling water as to not add “drunken lush” to my already unquestionable “dipsh*t” status.
Andrea started to show me some of the new Cape Cod series watches when Rob joined our conversation. I apologized for not knowing who he was and eventually settled into work mode. Rob was serious, and a little dry, but knowledgeable, and at one point asked me what the name of my watch blog was. As Andrea and I discussed styles and as I showed her the Hermes timepiece I was currently wearing, I could see Rob on his phone, shoulders shaking, and giggling under his breath. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on until I realized what he was reading…
“Wait. Wait a minute. Andrea, you’ve got to hear this,” Rob said, now full-on laughing, before he proceeded to read aloud the first few paragraphs of my last blog post. He then looked up at me and said, “You’re pretty funny,” which is when I knew that Rob and I were going to get along just fine. Actually, likely better than fine.
My 3 o’clock appointment was with TAG Heuer’s Marketing VP, Francoise Bezzola, who graciously showed me around and gave me the rundown on what was newly released in time for the COUTURE show. And I finally got the chance to play around with the TAG Heuer CONNECTED watch, which if I’m being honest, is the only smart watch available on the market right now that I’d even consider buying. I was also fortunate enough to meet the man himself – Jean-Claude Biver – later that same evening after the COUTURE opening party, sponsored by TAG Heuer. Mr. Biver was warm and kind and has since stayed in contact with me, to my amazement. It’s easy to see why he is thought so highly of.
Following TAG Heuer, I traipsed down to visit some of the darlingest watch folks I know – the crew at ORIS. How anyone could not like ORIS is beyond me, and I’m not just saying that because their name is super fun to say. The watches are wearable, affordable, and smartly designed. The staff is fun, accommodating, and inclusive. And they throw some pretty rad parties which they invite me to, so, you know… bonus. When I first sat down with them at Baselworld I spent a lot of time focusing on their women’s watches (which are designed by a woman) but it wasn’t until this trip that I was able to get my hands on and spend some time with their Divers Sixty Five watch, which greatly appealed to me in the blue dial and with the blue NATO strap. At 42mm it’s a bit too large for my wrist but that likely won’t stop me from eventually getting it for my significant other. Unless, of course, he starts some sh*t in which case I’ll buy him a fake Breitling from some New York street vendor in the East Village and call it a day.
The next company to visit on my COUTUREtime journey was Graham watches, which not only makes some cool, off-the-beaten-path-type timepieces, but knows how to market them properly, thanks largely to PR woman extraordinaire, Lisa Delane. While sipping an espresso (which was probably the last thing I needed considering I have hyperactivity issues as it is… no surprises there), I was introduced to a really special watch which debuted in 2015 called the Navy SEAL Chronofighter. Graham has partnered with the Navy SEAL Foundation – the first time the organization had ever partnered with a watch or any luxury brand to create a commercially saleable product – and is donating a portion of each of the sales of the limited edition watch (500 total pieces were made) to that foundation. You see now, when I hear of partnerships like these, it makes me proud to be in the business I’m in. Well done, Graham. Keep striving to do things a little differently, a little more meaningfully, and with a little bit of edge. That’s the thing that will set you apart. Oh, and I absolutely loved meeting a Swiss guy with a sense of humor (private joke, y’all. I’m kidding. You had to be there.)
My last appointment of the day but not the last at COUTUREtime was with Chopard, a firm I had been greatly looking forward to sitting down with. And while their prior appointment ran a little long and I needed to leave early as I had to get ready for the Diamond Empowerment Fund’s “Diamonds Do Good” Awards, we still managed to get in some quality time (pun alert) to talk Happy Diamonds (#AreYouHappyDiamonds), new releases, and seriously well-made diamond watches for women. Thankfully, I knew I would be back in the Chopard villa the following Saturday at their private event, which proved to be quite enjoyable, and not just because of the abundance of Perrier-Jouet and Macallan (more on that and other events in the next post).
And this brings us to my last appointment at the Wynn which I went back for the following afternoon: Tudor.
I can’t really remember a watch brand in recent history that has caught on quite the way Tudor has. The brand has earned the respect of not only the most well-read watch journalists, but also of bloggers, instagrammers, and many other forms of social media curators. This is not your poor man’s Rolex, let me be clear. Tudor has built its own wagon, paved its own path, and found its own way to a home of high demand and great success, and after seeing the product first hand, it was easy to see why.
My appointment was with Gabriela Anastasio who was an absolute joy to work with and had such a beautiful presence. She showed me the two pieces I’d been wanting to see since their release at Baselworld: the Black Bay Dark, and the Black Bay Bronze, both of which were equally appealing to me for different reasons. And as a woman who doesn’t always want her watches to have diamonds, white straps, or a pink dial, it was refreshing to see watches like the Heritage Black Bay 36 up close; a timepiece clearly made to be unisex.
All in all, from an outsider’s point of view, COUTUREtime seemed to be a smashing success. For me, as a first-time, full-time editorialist/journalist/satirist, I could not have asked for a better experience. Thank you, Gannon Brousseau, for curating this event and gathering in the U.S. some of the top watch brands in the world. And thanks to those brands for agreeing to meet with me, for taking time with me, and for making me feel welcome. I’m looking forward to whatever is next, be it Salon QP, SIHH, or Baselworld 2017. Wherever it is, I promise to make it fun on my end.
And stay tuned for part 2 of Watch Week, which will cover the watch shows at JCK as well as some of the nighttime shenanigans, coming very soon.
Editor’s Note: I just wanted to take the time here to send a shout out to four great guys who have been overwhelmingly supportive in these last three-plus months of this blog’s life: Eric Wind, Carlos Torres, Joe Thompson, and Jason Heaton. Without your guidance, advice, feedback, and help, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to put myself out there. Thanks to all of you for being in my corner, for teaching me the proper way to pronounce Jaeger-LeCoultre, for introducing me to women and men whom you felt I needed to know, and for pushing me to share the voice that makes me who I am. I owe each of you a glass of the nicest scotch I can find. And you’ll get it, because I believe in keeping promises.