I travel. A lot. It’s part and parcel of my career as a watch and jewelry writer and speaker, and my family and I have accepted this as our new reality. But because I travel so much, dinners at home are all the more special. I make sure our family of four sits down to a home cooked meal every night that I’m not on the road; something that – while having grown up in a rough environment – my parents made sure we did no matter the circumstances surrounding us.
Last year around Christmastime, I came across these dinner table cards called “Table Topics.” Their purpose is to get families who sit down together at mealtime to talk about different things. Some of the cards will ask questions like, “Who was the worst teacher you ever had?” Or, “What are the next three countries you’d like to visit?” In our home, each family member takes turns as to who gets to pick a card and ask the question each night, and about three months ago, my son chose a card asking each of us the following question:
“What invitation would you love to receive?”
When it was my turn to answer, I pondered whether I should go with my extreme option (an invite to attend the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle when they eventually tie the knot), or one that – while still far-fetched in my mind – seemed a bit more reachable.
“I’d like to be invited to Dubai Watch Week.”
And on October 19th of this year, thanks to Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons (and a few watch folks who believe in the work I put forth), that invitation came in the form of an email, and that once seemingly far-fetched wish became my reality.
I left my home for the airport on November 14th with what I believed were the essentials for a trip to the UAE: two large suitcases (weighing over one-hundred pounds total) carrying eighteen (18!!!!!!) pairs of high heels, five floor-length gowns, and a sixteen-page dossier on UAE laws, dress code recommendations, cultural etiquette, and acceptable behavior, created by my rarely nervous yet heartwarmingly protective husband.
“You promised me you’d read the entire thing before you left. Did you?”
“Todd, I read it all. Front to back. I promise. I didn’t pack any of my mini-dresses or midriffs and I’ll watch my language. You have my word.”
To give you a little context, my better half sends me off on overseas trips about as regularly as he gets a haircut these days, and never has he blinked an eye when it comes to my safety, but he and I have not yet visited the Middle East, or Dubai, or even Asia together for that matter, and since he knows I’m from Philly and that I occasionally (full disclosure: regularly) like a good four-letter word alongside my single-malt scotch, he feared I might get myself in trouble for, well, basically just being myself.
“Babe, I’ll behave. These are watch people, remember. I’d worry more if I were heading to a jewelry convention there.”
Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons did the most wonderful job of hosting the journalists who were invited to attend this year’s fair. I was flown to Dallas in order to catch the direct flight from Dallas to Dubai via business class on Emirates Airlines. Once landed, a chauffeur-driven Emirates car picked me up from Dubai International Airport to take me to the Ritz Carlton at the DIFC – The Dubai International Finance Center – where I would enjoy a six-night stay. The fair was a five-minute walk (eight minutes in five-inch heels) from the hotel, which was located in The Gate Village. The daily brisk stroll made for a perfect way to burn off a few of that morning’s breakfast calories before a day of sitting down in classes, sessions, or seminars.
The important thing for everyone to realize about this fair is that three years ago, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons founded Dubai Watch Week with the purpose of providing an intimate environment for collectors, brands, watchmakers, and members of the press to interact with one another and share the knowledge bestowed upon them throughout their personal watch journeys. This is not a money-maker for the company. They are not an exhibition group that was formed with the sole purpose of creating and managing trade shows. This is a multi-generational family business that started in the 1940’s with a single watch shop in Dubai’s Souk Bur, which has grown into a Swiss watch conglomerate that now operates close to two dozen watch boutiques. Dubai Watch Week is – in a way – a form of giving back to the community of watch collectors and enthusiasts who have been patrons of their business, while also allowing the watchmakers and brand representatives to speak directly to those most interested, usually through some form of education. The concept is both brilliant and refreshing, and I realized those facts before ever having stepped foot in the country.
November 16th was a day set aside for opening ceremonies and press previews, while the days of the 17th through the 20th were meticulously planned out, with the program being curated with an extreme amount of thought and care. Attendees were treated to watchmaking master classes taught by the likes of David Candaux, Vanessa Cellier, Adriano Toninelli, Issa Sulaiman, Antoine Preziuso, Florian Preziuso, and the legendary Kurt Klaus. Tiago Aires Sergio was on hand to teach engraving master classes and Jiyoun Han-Parrat with the Vanessa Lecci Atelier taught miniature painting as well as enameling master classes.
Regarding the layout of the fair itself, there were eleven numbered “halls” set up around the DIFC gate that included two watch halls (titled “Classic & Contemporary 1 & 2), the FHH exhibition, the GPHG exhibition, the Master Classes center, the Creative Hub (where brands often held their press conferences), the Horology Forum (where the seminars and panels took place), the Auction & Evaluation Room, the Virtual Reality exhibit, Citizen Kafe (an eatery), and Lounge 1010 (also, an eatery).
Two of the things that stood out for me personally at the fair were firstly, the presence of watch women in both physical form and as topics during the forums, and secondly, the presence of children and the importance placed on getting children involved and interested in horology at an early age; especially if we’re to raise the next generation of watchmakers. A few of my close friends know that I’m currently working on watch projects that directly relate to these points (which will be revealed at Baselworld), so to see this happening in a place like Dubai brought sheer joy to my heart.
I could spend the next one thousand words of this article rolling off the highlights of Dubai Watch Week or what I learned or took away from it all (because believe me, I learned and took away so much), but it’s getting pretty lengthy as it is, so I’ll simply mention some of my favorite personal moments below:
- Visiting Max’s M.A.D. Gallery in the city in which he and his family live (and meeting his wife and daughter, finally!).
- Watching Alexander Friedman and Suzanne Wong go toe-to-toe on women’s issues during a Horology Forum panel while still maintaining their friendship.
- Intermission shots even when there wasn’t an intermission.
- CHARRIS. ‘Nuff said.
- Getting to use two of the five floor-length gowns I packed.
- Learning how to properly pronounce Kristian Haagen’s name while simultaneously letting him know that his socks didn’t match. Again.
- Frequenting cigar bars alongside watch-wearing Italians, Arabs, Turks, the Swiss, and the French, and thinking that the whole world should be this happy.
- Breakfasts with my Watchonista squad.
- Finally picking up the badge with my name on it after using a blank one for the first three days of the fair. (D’oh!)
- Listening to Kurt Klaus make the most sensible statements out of everyone during the millennial forum
- Meeting a few of my journalist colleagues for the first time after having been connected on social media for quite a while (special shouts out to Robert-Jan and Jason).
- “Watch your step.”
- The ink-infused moments in the corner of the VC cocktail party with Christian, Kristian, and Marc André.
- Interviewing everyone I was able to for my “Classic or Contemporary” post on Watchonista.
- Hanging with Carlos Torres (because that will always make my list for any fair, anywhere).
- Getting a media badge for François-Paul only to have him attach it to his head.
- Did I mention Charris?
A very special thank you to Melika, Jihane, Shruti, Wasen, Hind, and everyone at Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons who made my first visit to Dubai and Dubai Watch Week one I’ll never forget. I know that the fair won’t be held again until 2020, but I implore you, never let the energy of this magnificent event fade away. It is needed. It is wanted. It is unlike anything else in the world. And you all should be very, very proud of your hard work.
(Images provided by Dubai Watch Week.)
There once was a girl named Flores Delores whose hair was as red as merlot.
Flores Delores had a mother named Doris who loved to read works by Thoreau.
Her father, Fitzmorris (who sang in the chorus), had a funny obsession with time.
But Flores Delores (her sign being Taurus) despised being second in line.
Whenever Fitzmorris would speak to dear Flores, her eyes would roll back in her head.
“Father, don’t bore us with tales of your Oris. Your watch talk; it fills me with dread.”
“But Flores, this isn’t just any old Oris,” Fitzmorris did state to his child.
“This is the new DATE Oris Chronoris!” Quipped Fitz, who then suddenly smiled.
Flores Delores was annoyed by this Oris and wanted it gone from her life.
Her father’s fixation with his newest Chronoris had even frustrated his wife.
“Mother, this Oris makes father ignore us. The watch must immediately go.
He used to adore us but now his Chronoris receives all the love he can show.”
“Child, he’d implore us to not touch his Chronoris. I suggest that you show some respect.
His feelings are porous; just talk to Fitzmorris, as that is what he would expect.”
But Flores Delores knew the Chronoris needed to soon disappear.
So, she called her friend Boris and her other friend Horace to help her get rid of the gear.
Boris and Horace and Flores had waited ‘til Fitz was asleep in his chair.
They then snuck in the door and crept over the floor before noticing his wrist was bare.
The three whispered in chorus, “Where’s the Oris Chronoris?” before Flores had noticed the book.
There ‘twas positioned on Thoreau’s 2nd edition, making Flores say, “There it is! Look!”
Horace then swiped the new Oris Chronoris and the three of them ran toward outside.
“What now?” questioned Boris, who was looking at Flores, “That’s what you’ll need to decide.”
Young Flores was thinking as her eyes stared blinking and decided right there on the spot.
“Let’s bury it quickly before old Mr. Hickley sees that in school, we are not.”
So, Horace and Boris dug a hole near some laurus but made sure the watch went unhurt.
“Good riddance” said Flores to the Oris Chronoris which was now buried deep in the dirt.
Later, Fitzmorris (now missing his Oris) asked Flores if she’d seen it around.
“No, father” lied Flores knowing full well his Oris was three feet below in the ground.
“That’s so sad” said Fitzmorris as he thought of his Oris and shook his head slowly in vain.
“But father, don’t fear, for I am right here. This isn’t a loss, but a gain.”
“Sweet Flores Delores, you are quite the Taurus; stubborn, and strong like a bull.
For my dear, ‘twas that watch that allowed me to catch the moments I could, but in full.”
“When you had taken ill, I could give you your pill; the Chronoris reminded me to.
When your birthday was near, it was that watch, my dear, that helped me to celebrate you.”
“At night while you’re sleeping I’m often found weeping because time is the thing I can’t stop.
I’m reminded routinely and almost obscenely that one day, you won’t have your pop.”
“So, you see, my dear Flores, it wasn’t the Oris that took me away from your heart.
It is time that is fleeting, though death we are cheating, as long as we’re nary apart.”
“No watch could replace your beautiful face, and no timepiece could make me forget,
that you are reason the Earth changes seasons and on that I’d easily bet.”
That’s when Flores Delores had thought of the Oris that was ticking away below ground.
“Father, I hid it. I wanted to rid it; to have it no longer around.”
So, Flores Delores and her father Fitzmorris walked to the woods in the dark.
Then Flores Delores dug up the Chronoris and handed it back without mark.
Her eyes filled with tears, she seemed old for her years as she shamefully lowered her head.
“Daughter,” said Fitz as her chin he did lift, “it is time that I tucked you in bed.”
Under the cover as her father did hover, young Flores Delores had gone.
Head to her pillow, while the wind whipped the willow, she asked if he’d sing her a song.
“It is late, you are weary, the night skies are quite dreary, so a song, my dear Flores, must wait.
When you wake, on the dime, I will give you my time; as that is the gift you find great.”
“From now on, without question, I will set this possession to remind me each hour to say,
That the love for my Flores far surpasses my Oris, and that love grows with each passing day.”
“Now, here is your Teddy. Lights out, so be ready, and remember this quick little rhyme:
My daughter, my sweet, close your eyes, get some sleep, and tomorrow, let’s do all to stop time.”
*This piece is dedicated to a good friend and dear neighbor, Denis Gainty, who left us suddenly this week at the young age of 46. Denis, we will miss your presence in our lives. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that it certainly was not your time.
After reading a recent article on the Watchuseek website titled, “7 Must-Have Items This Watchuseek Editor Packs for Baselworld” I realized just how few of these pieces were written for or by someone like me (you know, someone with girlie parts and built-in baby feeders), even though there are a shit-ton of us womenfolk who attend Baselworld, largely at our own expense. That’s when I decided it was time to speak up and throw down as it pertains to how just how much more crap we gals need to take to Switzerland in comparison with you guys. I probably could have included twenty more items but I don’t get paid for this blog so why in the hell would I, amiright ladies? Anyway, here are the ten things you’ll find in my suitcase once you move that dead body clothes steamer out of the way.
High Heels (an entire suitcase full)
While some of my female colleagues (and haters) might bark, scoff, roll their eyes, or harrumph at this “essential,” it has been proven time and time again that the taller you are, the more money you make. Most recently, a 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal showed that “High BMI and short stature, as estimated by genetics, are casually related to lower socioeconomic status”, and while high heels aren’t genetically applied (but rather, vainly worn), they most definitely help a person appear larger in life than they are. At 5’9.5” in stocking feet, it’s clear to say that I’m pretty tall as it is even without the heels, but there will be nothing more satisfying to me this week than standing at the Hublot booth during their press conference and being able to clearly see Martin Gore of Depeche Mode as I look over the tops of the many male heads (and beards. And glasses.) in front of me.
ERMAGERD! YOU MEAN GIRLS USE THESE, TOO? Damn right we f*cking use these, and we didn’t pick ours up from Marshall’s, either. But the one I’m taking with me this year holds a very special meaning. I just so happen live in one of the best suburbs in the United States as named by several prominent news publications: Decatur, GA. What makes Decatur so great? Well, for one thing, it’s chill AF. It also happens to be home to many of the doctors and educators at Emory University, Agnes Scott College, the CDC, and more. It has the best public school system in the state of Georgia and holds one of the country’s largest book fairs. It’s a blue city that’s smart, creative, and artistic, despite the fact that it’s surrounded by the original characters of Deliverance. Clearly I’m being hyperbolic but the reality is, Decatur is awesome, and part of what makes it so cool is a jewelry store by the name of Worthmore.
Worthmore has two locations – Decatur, and also Midtown – and they have never followed the crowd when it comes to what a traditional jewelry store is supposed to look and act like. Their staff is fun and friendly, and they do their research as it pertains to the jewelry they carry and the watches they offer. This week as I stopped into get a battery on an old Seiko changed, Harris and Leslie welcomed me with open arms and gifted me with a gorgeous leather watch roll created by local designer, Jenae Roseen. I took it home and quickly filled it with the watches I’d be taking with me. Thanks, y’all!
Take it from a woman who can’t run a Power Point presentation during a seminar without accidentally throwing the clicker across the room and smashing it to bits: a backup phone is necessary. But besides the fact that I will likely somehow shatter the screen on my primary mobile phone (and have in the past because FML), a backup phone is a good way to take and store video for post-show social media without having to use the storage space on your everyday device – that is, if you’re a poor freelance writer like I am who can’t afford to hire an entire team of Swiss guys to follow me around and shoot video… of watches, pervs.
Sixty Swiss Francs
BECAUSE YOU WON’T GET A LOCKER IF YOU DON’T HAVE CASH. THIS, I KNOW.
Framed Picture of You and Your Watch Crush
You know you have a watch crush and you know you have that one picture ever taken of the two of you that you secretly stuff in your carry on (you wouldn’t dare dream of putting it in a checked bag for fear of being caught) so that the first thing you do when you arrive in your shitty Air BnB magnificent hotel room is place it on the cardboard box next to the cot night stand. (((Cough))) (((Charris))) (((Cough)))
Printed Copy of Your Appointment Schedule
I don’t care how reliable you believe technology to be, nothing will ever take the place of a good old-fashioned, color-coded, printed excel spreadsheet just in case that primary phone we talked about above (including the calendar app you use) happens to get thrown into the Rhine during a particularly raucous departure from Les Trois Rois that may or may not involve a bagpiper, fake blood, and/or your friend Sophy.
This is the Swiss we’re talking about, and if you don’t know, the Swiss kiss three times, so those lips are going to be put to more use than they were during the summer of your tenth grade year when you first started playing, “Spin the Bottle” and Jimmy McMaster figured out how to get it to land on you every. G*d. Damned. Time. I personally wear Yves Saint Laurent’s lip stain but the L’oreal versions work pretty well, too.
Phone chargers, portable chargers, camera chargers, the San Diego Chargers, TAKE THEM ALL, PEOPLE, ‘cause you’re gonna need ‘em.
A Single Hermes Scarf
You could be wearing a suit you found in the back of your storage unit that you purchased from a thrift store when a Bush was president (pick one… doesn’t matter which) and you’ll still look like a million francs as long as you’re adorned in something Hermes. I always go with a scarf because it can double as a pocket square or triple as a hair tie, plus the folks in the Hermes booth told me how much they appreciate the free advertising. Maybe. They said it in French so it was either that or they asked me for directions to the nearest Starbucks.
Your Ability to Not Take Yourself So Seriously
Look, we all get that watches are serious business, okay? We get it. They’re expensive, they take time – sometimes years – to develop and manufacture properly, and they’ll last you and your offspring generations if you service and take care of them in the appropriate way, but just because something fits the above standards doesn’t mean that it can’t be fun, too. And just because someone is Swiss doesn’t mean they can’t laugh. I know. I’ve seen it happen at least once or twice. So remember to allow yourself moments of lightheartedness as you dress in your Europeanesque best and walk miles per day through the grandeur that is Baselworld, because any world that can’t also be poked fun at isn’t a world any of us should want to be a part of.
I remember the pain like it was yesterday.
My parents took me on a rare weekend trip to the Chesapeake Bay area. I was about eight years old and didn’t yet know how to swim, but liked walking along the beach with my legs in the water up to about my knee. My folks did their very best to teach me the art of being nervous; they weren’t what you’d call, a “daring” bunch. Still aren’t, really. They won’t get on an airplane. Won’t go out for sushi. To them I’m somewhat of a mystery, or at the very least, an anomaly. But on this late summer day along the Mid-Virginia coast, they were fine with my exploring the sunset sea and all the beauty that accompanied it.
Until, of course, they heard the scream.
My mother wasn’t exactly the most athletic person I’d ever known, but as I sat in the wet sand of the outgoing tide, holding my now bright purplish-red shin, I saw her headed toward me like she was Flo-Jo circa 1988. I was wailing in pain and it was the first time as a child I remember having an in-depth conversation with my psyche:
8-year-old Me: “WAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!! WHAT THE HELL???!!! OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO DIE!!! SHARK!!! I’VE BEEN BITTEN BY A SHARK! OR A WHALE!”
8-year-old Psyche: “Could you be a little more dramatic, please? I hear Little House on the Prairie is holding auditions nearby. And most whales don’t bite, moron.”
8YO Me: “And with this, your struggle with empathy begins. HELLO!?! Have you seen my LEG? They’re going to have to amputate it! Not a doubt in my mind. I am not even nine and I’m going to be legless. OH MY GOD THEY’RE GOING TO CALL ME LEGOLAS AT SCHOOL. I knew we were too young to start reading The Hobbit.”
8YO Psyche: “Okay, okay, back it up a minute, sister. First of all, before we get into what actually happened to you, let me just say… well done on the use of your vocabulary words! I mean, empathy and amputate in the same breath? Good job, kid. You might just be a writer someday. Your teacher must be very proud.”
8YO Me: “Hey, thanks. Yeah, Dad made me write a few pages in the dictionary as punishment for forgetting to make my bed again. Good to know it’s sinking in.”
8YO Psyche: “He’s creative with the punishments, I’ll give him that. So, back to what exactly happened… you were stung by a jellyfish, dipsh*t. Not a shark. Or a whale. Or a turtle. Or a crab. Or an oyster. It was a jellyfish. You’ll survive, I promise.”
And while that may have been the last time I would listen to my psyche for decades, it was right; I did survive, and without amputation, but my childhood fear of the jellyfish’s sting stayed with me the rest of my life…
… that is, until now.
If there’s one thing the watch world continuously awaits, it’s whatever Maximilian Büsser and his friends think of next. Speaking for myself, I feel my pulse quicken whenever an email comes through from Charris Yadigaroglou – MB&F’s Chief Communications Officer – and not just because everything about him is cool (including his font choice. How is that even possible?). An email from Charris means that something new, quirky, abstract, or extraordinary is either coming from MB&F or has already arrived, so when the teaser message came through about the release of the MB&F HM7 at the upcoming SIHH, I prepped my camera and held my breath, which was a good thing, because the company decided to take us all for a swim.
Press presentation videos can sometimes be – to put it politely – drab. Throw in a darkened, uncomfortably warm room and some jet lag and one might find oneself struggling to stay awake through them. But as I looked around at my American colleagues while they watched the beginning of the HM7 movie, I could plainly see that there was nary a sleeper in sight, in spite of Charris’s newfound raspy voice, thanks to a severe sore throat likely caused by (but not limited to) recycled expedition hall air conditioning.
The movie took us through the stages of MB&F’s story – of Max’s story – and put us all in touch with our inner curious and youthful selves. It started out by reminding us of our obsession with outer space through the creation of the HM2, HM3, and HM6 Horological Machines. It then carried us on the wings of an airplane through the skies of imagination via the HM4. Once landed, however, it threw us into the passenger seats of the HM5, HM8, and HMX models and drove us fast and far to the shores of our childhood – and in my case, to that beach on the Chesapeake Bay – so that we could strap on our tanks and dive deep into a realm not yet explored in the microcosm of highly mechanical timekeeping; the water.
The HM7 Aquapod (as it is so appropriately named) draws its design inspiration from the jellyfish, and symmetry is key when comparing the timepiece to its sea creature muse. The Aquapod is equipped with radially symmetric rings displaying the hours and minutes as a nod to the jellyfish’s brain, which is made up of an evenly spaced circle of neurons (MB&F had to develop extra-large ceramic ball bearings to support the watch’s spherical hour and minute displays). The watch’s sapphire crystal “bell” houses a flying tourbillon which regulates the power generated by the tentacle-like automatic winding rotor, transforming it into its time display. That prominent flying tourbillon makes for a beautiful visualization by day, however the three panels of AGT Ultra Lume (originally seen in the HMX Black Badger) around the inside of the movement give the watch its jellyfish-like bluish glow at night. But it’s what the rotor’s tentacles are made of and how they are made that adds another level of complexity to this already extravagant yet whimsical wrist machine. Each rotor is crafted from a solid block of Grade 5 titanium which – as any metalsmith knows – is extremely difficult both to work with and to polish evenly and properly, but it’s that same characteristic that adds to the timepiece’s nearly light-as-a-sea-cucumber feel.
The Aquapod’s “floating” curved bezel is created with laser-etched ceramic filled with metalized titanium at the numerals and markers. The watch – which IS NOT a dive watch – is water resistant to 50 meters, has a 72-hour power reserve, two crowns, and an automatic winding movement conceived and developed in-house by MB&F. The engine comprises 303 total components and 35 jewels, and its strap is made in aircraft-grade Fluorocarbon FKM 70 Shore A elastomer with a buckle that matches the material of the case. The HM7 is being issued in 18K rose gold in a limited edition 66 pieces, or in Grade 5 titanium in a limited edition of 33 pieces, and before we had left the press conference there were already two pieces sold.
To say that I, once again, was amazed by a horological creation conceptualized by Maximilian Büsser is like saying that I was going to have three glasses a glass of Champagne with my carpaccio every day during the SIHH lunch. In other words, YA THINK?? But then to see Max’s concept designed by the wonderfully talented Eric Giroud, and brought to life by a team of his extraordinary “friends” is something I don’t think I’ll ever tire of as long as I find myself writing about watches. And to know that Max – just like I – had been stung by a jellyfish while on family holiday many, many years ago makes me give one of those “of course he was” chuckles, for it takes someone with a mind like Max Büsser to turn that potentially horrifying childhood experience into a positive and creative one, (whereas I, in turn, simply avoided going into the ocean pretty much ever again).
So thank you, my dear Max Büsser, and thank you to your friends. Thanks for making me have to recount a terrifying memory and face my fears so that I could appreciate the natural joys of sea life again. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go diving anytime soon, mind you, but it does mean that I might just take a trip to the aquarium more often now. And maybe I’ll find myself hanging around the jellyfish tank. Who knows… it might just be good for my soul to spend a little extra time there.
“One bottled water, please.”
“Oui, Madam. With gas or without?”
“With, s’il vous plaît.”
My first experience with the European carbonation situation was on a trip to Italy and Switzerland in 2003. In American eateries, tap water is largely served with meals and no one questions or thinks twice about it. In finer restaurants, the server may very well try to upsell you the twenty-dollar table bottle of San Pellegrino so that you’ll feel fancier while simultaneously becoming poorer, but overall, the U.S. likes their still/flat/tap water just fine, thank you very much. However, it took sitting at a café in Lugano for me to realize that other parts of the world do it differently. That is where, on a sunny April afternoon just two days after my thirtieth birthday, I was first offered the option of either aqua gassata (carbonated) or aqua naturale (non-carbonated) water, and that is when I truly understood how much Europeans – and particularly the Swiss – value food, drink, outward appearance, and tradition so much more than we Yanks. Even now, nearly fourteen years later, as I peregrinate to cities like Geneva, Switzerland and to events such as the Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie (where timepieces are clearly focal), that evaluation becomes clearer – flawless even – not unlike many of the diamonds used in the extraordinary watches those same cities put forth to the world.
Carbon was an element mentioned in a few of the press presentations being held at this year’s SIHH. NTPT Carbon is a signature feature in a couple of Richard Mille’s collections (both for men and now women) and Roger Dubuis introduced their Excalibur Spider Carbon watch, which received high accolades from both press and collectors alike. But it was the watches made with the natural, concentrated form of pure carbon that I found myself most enamored with; ones decorated with that metastable allotrope of carbon in which atoms are arranged while in the Earth (or, more recently, a lab) in the form of cubic crystals. In other words: diamonds. I was, after all, born an April baby.
The value of diamonds can be traced back to centuries before Christ when talks of trading the gem in India were scribed in the Arthashastra of Kautilya, and mentions of Golconda serving as a trading center for the gemstone were written in 3rd century descriptions (according to Wiki, that is). Diamonds today are still the number one choice for engagement rings worldwide, largely due to the belief that they symbolize strength, transparency, wealth, and eternity. And it has been said that the first modern form of wristwatch created (by Patek Philippe in 1868 for the Countess Koscowicz of Hungary) was an ornate diamond-accented piece originally intended to be a form of decorative jewelry. Now while this little history lesson may do nothing but make you double-check the website URL to confirm you didn’t click on a link for your local PBS station, it is meant to be a prologue to the three exemplary diamond timepieces for women that were introduced to me in Geneva, and that I’m about to describe to you below.
Panthère de Cartier
This year’s SIHH saw a relaunch of Cartier’s famed Panthère collection watches (originally launched in 1983) and my inner Alexis Carrington Colby went reaching for a crystal flute filled with Veuve Clicquot, for several celebratory reasons. First (and most important), because Cartier made very clear that they would be putting a lot of emphasis on women’s watches in 2017, which, if you’re a woman like I who has been vocal about how some of the brands are missing an opportunity to market to the female self-purchaser, makes you feel like the watch world has been listening to the chatter. Second, because the Panthère de Cartier is an iconic watch that spans eras as well as genres and because you don’t have to take out a second mortgage on your home in order to buy one for yourself (the small version [sans diamonds] in stainless steel retails for $4,000 USD). And finally, because Cartier is offering the medium version of the watch in 18K white gold, embellished almost entirely with round brilliant cut diamonds and black enamel “spots.” Trust me when I tell you that this model is not just feline… it is fabulous, fun, and downright feminine.
The bracelet of the Panthère – the feature that originally attributed to the watch’s name – still moves and flows with the same slinky ease and elegance as it did when first introduced in the eighties. And as of this June, the series will be released not just in the diamond and enamel version pictured here, but also in yellow gold, white gold, two-tone, and stainless steel, with diamonds or without, in both small and medium sizes. If you want my advice though, go with a diamond version when it comes time to make your selection. The ghost of Cally Harper Ewing will be sorely disappointed if you don’t.
Emerald Cadenas Watch by Van Cleef & Arpels
When I stepped foot into the main hall at my first ever SIHH I knew I would leave the event a changed writer, but what I wasn’t expecting when I entered the booth at Van Cleef & Arpels was to leave that press conference a changed person. With twenty-one years in the fine jewelry industry under my belt I’m proud to say that I’m still not jaded; the craftsmanship, creativity, and soul that goes into making an extraordinary piece (be it jewel, watch, or otherwise) still moves me from within and can – at times – bring me to the brink of tears. As I sat under an augmented reality sky with virtual butterflies fluttering above my head, I watched a movie about the making of the Automate Fée Ondine; Van Cleef & Arpels’ first Extraordinary Object. The project – a collaboration between the Maison, automaton maker François Junod, and numerous craftsmen – depicts a fairy perched upon a lily pad who awakens from her sleep as the petals of the adjacent flower open to greet her. The animation of the various elements of the mechanism (which oh, by the way, also tells time) were fluid in movement and the characters in the form of the fairy and the nature surrounding her were realistically portrayed, even though they were made up of metals, gears, precious gemstones, and enamel. It was unlike any time-telling creation I’d ever set my eyes on, and I knew that if the Maison put this much care into a clock that their watches would be no less remarkable.
The Cadenas watch was introduced by Van Cleef & Arpels in 1935 as a way for a woman to wear a timepiece in public without being considered inappropriate (I mean, can you even IMAGINE??). “Cadenas” means “lock” in French and the collection has been a permanent fixture in the company’s watch line since its inception. For 2017, however, the Maison added to the Cadenas collection by introducing two new versions: one in pink gold with rubies; and a stunning white gold piece (pictured here) set with brilliant cut diamonds and perfectly matched, vivid green Princess cut emeralds. This was easily one of my favorite diamond watches of the 2017 SIHH and one I’m quickly adding to my ever-growing, “what I’m buying when the kids go off to college” wish list.
Diamond Outrage by Audemars Piguet
If the Panthère de Cartier brought you back to a time when shoulder pads were queen and you wore your nicest silk blouse to fight your mortal enemies in a pool, then this next watch will have you longing for the days of slam dancing, broken-in Doc Martens, and Tuesday nights at CBGB.
The Diamond Outrage by Audemars Piguet is the third and final installment in the brand’s Haute Joaillerie Diamond cuff watch trilogy for women, and in this writer’s opinion, AP saved its fiercest for last. Embellished in 9,923 “snow set” round brilliant cut diamonds totaling just over 50 carats, and 354 invisible set baguette diamonds totaling roughly 15.85 carats, the watch is a stunning example of jewelry craftsmanship and intricate gemstone setting techniques. Described during the press conference as being an “explosion of stalactites on the wrist,” the watch very well could double as a form of defense should the wearer find herself in a situation where the mosh pit is getting just a little too out of control. And while the Outrage may not tickle every watch wearer’s fancy, there is no denying the looks of amazement on the faces of those I saw feast their eyes on the watch in person. It was awesome, in the truest sense of the word, and I doubt there is anything else like it in the world.
There is no shortage of tag lines, clichés, and marketing mantras to describe a diamond’s importance as it pertains to luxury, and in my humble opinion, not every watch – more specifically, not every ladies’ watch – needs to be decorated with diamonds in order to make it more appealing to a female audience. But for the three watches above, diamonds – very simply – work. And when something works, there’s no reason to meddle with it.
Thanks so much for reading and more coverage to come soon from the 2017 SIHH in Geneva.
What can I say about the year 2016 that hasn’t already been stated? It sucked? It was the worst in many a Gen-Xers’ lifetime? It was the year all of the celebrities of my youth died? Yeah, I could probably say all of that, sure. And if you study numerology or superstitions you probably already know that if you add the numbers of the year 2016 you come up with the number “9,” which is considered both a satanic number (Satanic worshippers welcome “opposites” or “inverted numbers” and naturally the number 9, when flipped, is the number “6” making up one-third of the number of The Beast  though please don’t ask me why I know that) as well as the unluckiest number in the entire country of Japan. And for that little morsel of morbidity, you’re welcome.
Overall, I think many of us agree that 2016 was what I like to call, a shit year. BUT, I can’t deny that professionally, there were some upsides to these past 365 days, and to be fair to the companies or the people who were involved in said experiences, I’d like to highlight some of those moments below. But before I do, I would also like to give a big, wet, sloppy French kiss to those of you who supported this blog and me from the beginning through your reads, your shares, your advice, your mentoring, your introductions, your mentions, your private messages, and your feedback. Thanks for helping to push this idea up the very bearded, suited, and shirt-studded hill. And thanks for reminding me to pack the razors I needed to clear my path.
The Launch of WhatsOnHerWrist.com
After coming up with the loose idea for the blog in October of 2015, I set the wheels in motion and wrote my first official post on March 8th of this year – a mere two weeks before the start of Baselworld – and, while the website still needed some kinks ironed out (and yeah, still does… I’M ONLY ONE PERSON, YOU KNOW), I somehow managed to get the likes of HSN CEO Mindy Grossman and Emmy-Award winning actress Debra Messing to help me out. And for a blog that has no banner ads on it (or ads in general) and has only one “sponsored post” to date, I’m pretty proud to say that the average read count (not view or click count, but actual time spent) on each of my posts is well over what I ever expected, and for a blog that’s only ten months old, I’ll take it. It means I’m reaching people, and the more people I reach, the more people will be exposed to a slightly different side of the watch world. This is all part of the grand plan and I’m pretty happy with how it’s gone down thus far.
Ermagerd! Berzelwerld! Wertches and Jerlry and Dermends, ER MY! That’s right, le World du BASEL was a highlight this year because Baselworld was new to me (apparently, it’s not a highlight to some watch journos who’ve done it repeatedly, but I am not them and they are not me and we’re all probably okay with that). If you remove the four+ hour daily commute from Zurich, the fact that I didn’t bring a heavy enough coat, and the lack of food I consumed that wasn’t chocolate, champagne, or chocolate, I’d say that Baselworld, professionally, was for me a smashing success. It is where I first met many of the watch writers I luckily now call friends, and where I was able to get my hands on watches I’d only read about and daydreamed about prior. It was – as described – unlike anything I’d experienced before and I felt welcomed and wanted by the brands I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with, or, in the case of MB&F, sit under the table with. Also, nabbed me a selfie with master watchmaker Philippe DuFour, so, BONUS.
The Las Vegas Watch Shows
Had I never attended the watch shows in Las Vegas (Swiss Watch and COUTURETIME) then I’d never have written my award-winning notorious blog post on Balls. And come on, don’t we all agree that was a piece of work? (THE POST, NOT ME.) Ahhh, Sin City. Putting super high-end Swiss timepieces in the hotels of Las Vegas is like giving an Hermes Birkin bag to a Lithuanian paid escort, meaning, it really doesn’t belong there and yet somehow, it still works. It was loads of fun getting to hang out at the Chopard and Oris parties and I was grateful to have had the time to talk turkey with Tudor. Plus, I met several watch folks at Parasol Up whom I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting in Basel, and by the end of the night we were all taking our scotches with us into the cab for a ride back to nowhere. I think. As far as I can remember (and what my posts about it say), Vegas was a happiness-inducing watch industry experience.
A Visit to the Jaeger-LeCoultre Flagship boutique in Paris
While I did not write an official blog post about this visit, the truth is that I was in Paris to begin with because I was invited to attend the BIJORHCA watch and jewelry show, which I did write about in a post on the blog of my alter ego. But a few extra hotel nights under my belt allowed me the opportunity to visit Place Vendôme and to get an appointment with Jaeger-LeCoultre at their Flagship boutique. The boutique was extraordinary. The novelties on hand were ones I’d only seen on the pages of magazines. The interactive Reverso shop-in-shop allowed users (and me) to customize their own Reversos by selecting the case size, style, strap, dial color, metal choice, and more. And the historical pieces made me fall in love with the brand all over again. These things, plus the company of two wonderful women – Stephanie and Gloria –made for a visit I won’t soon forget.
WatchTime New York and My First New York Red Bar
Awwww, shit. I had not expected to be at the WatchTime New York show originally but found myself in the city at the same time the event was going on, so conveniently I was able to do a handful of watch-related tasks at once. RedBar was a blast, made better by the independent watch brands on hand for that Wednesday night’s get-together. I also got to hang out with my #newguard new friend, Sophy Rindler (Definition of “New Guard” according to Merriam-Webster [for those who’ve asked about the hashtag]: a group of persons united in an effort to change the status quo), as well as with the prettiest man in watches, Charris Yadigaroglou. The WatchTime show was an elegant event made event better by its glorious venue and noteworthy speakers, and the post-show burgers and beer at Shake Shack made the experience all the more memorable.
Receiving an Invitation to the SIHH
While this may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, for me, it was nothing short of Kong-sized. After having been told that the Swiss watch industry wouldn’t understand my style of writing and that there would likely be no way I’d get an invitation to this prestigious event, imagine my surprise when I’d received the email stating otherwise. It renewed my faith in the idea that people want to genuinely see things change and that when it comes down to it, all we really want is to be entertained and have a little fun. I’m greatly looking forward to that moment, just two weeks from today, when I board a Geneva-bound plane headed toward the next stage of my watch education.
A Conversation with an Icon at the Provident Holiday Throwdown
My last work-related trip of 2016 led me to a sunny South Florida beach town and through the doors of Provident Jewelry where I got to spend several moments hanging out with incredible people and picking the brain of one Maximilian Büsser. It was a fun-filled forty-eight hours that opened my eyes to the capabilities of a traditional retail jewelry and watch store, and opened my mind to what the future of the watch industry could be if it thinks long and hard enough. The trip and the experience was an ideal way to both cap off the year and blow off some steam, and I hope to get the opportunity do it again someday.
Here’s hoping your 2016 was filled with some of your own positive experiences and here’s wishing that your 2017 brings you prosperity, peace, love, good books, great laughs, safe travels, and a devoted and loyal group of friends. Thank you for reading WOHW and I hope you’ll join me on next year’s watch-related journeys.
“Welcome To My World”: A Conversation with Maximilian Büsser about the Watch Industry, Change, and the Life Lessons We Teach our Children
You may or may not recall that my brief one-time run-in with Max Büsser happened in Basel, Switzerland this past March. As I wrote in an earlier blog entry, this is how the initial meeting went down:
Heading toward the back of The Palace at Baselworld, I could see Max strolling in my direction. His swagger is unique and undeniably his and he walks as if he were eight feet tall (he is not). He saw me and smiled a very Max smile and I’m sure I turned six shades of chartreuse as a result, but when we reached one another it was if we’d been schoolmates for decades. “Finally!” I said, going in for a hug, to which he replied, “We see you later today, yes?” Then off we both went to our intended destinations, thankfully without my passing out from sheer fangirl glee.
This second encounter wasn’t quite so short-lived thanks to the kind and thoughtful partners at Provident Jewelry in South Florida. I wandered in to the Jupiter location after a two-hour flight and a hotel restaurant lunch to find an already magnificent store filled with caterers setting up tables, a granite bar being stocked with Dom Pérignon, florists delivering holiday arrangements, and staff members scurrying about like army ants. The energy was electric and yet through all of the chaos and excitement my eye was drawn to three calm figures deep in manly conversation: Nick Linca (one of the hilarious partners at Provident); Phil Ogle (MB&F’s Caribbean and North American president and owner of two fantastically buff biceps); and the man himself, Maxy Max.
It has taken since March for me not to practically pass out when in Max’s presence, but thankfully I am able to state with all sincerity that my fangirl fainting days are behind me… mostly. Max is indeed a mortal; one who has had the rare bad hair moment and may occasionally wear a wrinkled shirt, but this is also part of the reason why people are so drawn to Max. He has been described by many in both the press and the watch industry in a single word. Words like “genius,” “brilliant,” “madman,” and “anomaly,” and while I, myself have likely used those same terms in passing to describe him, there is one word in the lexicon of my existence that sums up Max Büsser better than any adjective some fashion magazine editor could conjure:
Max, to me, is the most approachable man in the watch world. He has never balked at any of my questions (whether via email, in person, or otherwise) and has not once made me feel like what I am doing isn’t just as important as what he is (which honestly is a trait some folks in the business should try learning). Max is interested in people. He is interested in stories. He is interested in what he doesn’t know and he is neither too proud nor too afraid to admit that he doesn’t know it.
I remember having a conversation with James Thompson early on when I first started focusing on watches and his telling me about his primary encounter with Max. “Black Badger,” as James is known, is the artist who collaborated with MB&F on the HMX Black Badger “Performance Art” edition. In an email, James told me about his first ever meeting with Max, which happened at Salon QP in London in 2013.
“I wasn’t campaigning for a job or anything; I really just wanted to meet him and tell him how much I liked his stuff!” James said. “But, we had a really nice, genuine chat. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything more than that, but when he emailed me a few weeks later and we started bouncing around ideas… I mean, seriously? That’s like Sinatra asking you what you thought of his new tune.”
But James isn’t the only one who has had that type of experience. Shortly after posting my review of the new HMX Black Badger and sharing my personal tale about MB&F at Baselworld, I was contacted by Charris Yadigaroglou (or as Max reminded me this week, the man I refer to as the “prettiest man in watches”), who is Chief Communications Officer at MB&F. To make a long story short (too late!), keep an eye out for the next issue of MB&F’s Parallel Worlds, as you might recognize the author of one of the articles.
After a quick tour of the Provident Jupiter store, its brands, its Dream Factory cigar lounge (more about that in an upcoming post over on Adornmentality.com), and its bar, I finally had Max Büsser to myself, which I smartly took advantage of as I knew the moment wouldn’t last forever.
Me: “You know, this is the first time we’ve really had the chance to talk. Basel was a two-minute blip on a screen and all of our other conversations have been via email or social media, so I want to take this opportunity to really tell you what it is that I’m doing.”
Me: “This isn’t just about women, this blog. I mean, clearly I am trying to reach a customer that is largely under marketed to and vastly overlooked in the watch industry.”
Me: “But I don’t write it just for women. I know that collectors aren’t reading what I write; they’re reading Hodinkee, and Analog Shift, and A Blog to Watch, and I get that. That’s not the reader I’m trying to reach. I want the new buyer. I want the person who doesn’t normally read blogs, or read anything for that matter. I want the guy or the girl who maybe owns a watch that was given to them and nothing more. I want the novices and the newbies. I want the retailers. I want those who were like I was; the green people. And I want them turned on to watches in the same way that I was… by reading something that stuck with them. Something that was fun and funny and interesting and I don’t want them to even realize that they’re learning something in the process. I want to entertain a new breed of watch enthusiast because the industry takes itself way too seriously. It’s not fun enough, and this next generation – the millennials and hell, these generation Z kids – they don’t give a shit about celebrity endorsements. They want a story. They want to laugh. They want something with meaning and they want it to be unfiltered and honest. Mostly though, they want it to be fun. That’s what I’m trying to bring to watches. Unfiltered fun.”
Max: “Welcome to my world.”
The conversation consisted of our opinions regarding certain genres, entities, and conglomerates (off the record) but eventually delved into our childhoods and the types of parents we currently are and wish to continue to be.
Max: “My father worked a lot. I didn’t see him during the day. I was an only child and had to entertain myself. This is probably why I am who I am today.”
Me: “I feel the same way. We only allow our kids thirty minutes per day (except weekends) on technology in any form, which they are allowed to choose. Could be fifteen minutes of television and fifteen on the computer or all thirty on a tablet. They get the choice, but no more than that.”
Max: “My wife and I do something similar. But how do you feel about peer pressure? Do you think they’ll be taunted by the kids who are always on technology?”
Me: “We look at it like this: they’re going to be inundated with technology for the rest of their lives.”
Max: “That’s true. I know. You… you’re always on social media. You post so much. You’re always in my feed.”
Me: “Yes, but part of my job is getting my name out there. You know that you can unfollow me, right?”
Max: “No! It’s great! You make me laugh. Sometimes I send your stuff to my wife and I say ‘you have to read this’… not many people make me laugh. You do.”
Me: “Well, that makes me feel good, thanks. But on that topic, see what I mean? My whole world is technology-ridden. They’re kids, and they only get one shot at that. I love seeing my kids make up games or draw or ride their bikes.”
Max: “I know. I love to play with my child. I love when they ask me to play. Our parents didn’t do that with us. That wasn’t their generation. We go outside as much as we can. I really love it and can’t wait to get back home to do it again.”
And throughout the rest of my time with Max Büsser, whether I was speaking directly to him or not, I could feel his inner child come out to play in the Florida sun. When he proudly showed off his award-winning reverse-engineered perpetual calendar – the Legacy Machine Perpetual – I imagined a spritely young Max showing his friends a creation he made of sticks, rubber bands, and plastic spoons and explaining to them how it worked. When a customer approached him to ask about Astrograph – the writing tool collaboration between MB&F and Maison Caran d’Ache – I watched Max’s face light up as he spun the tiny magnetic astronaut and explained how, as a kid, he loved switchblade knives. And there was a moment while all of this was going on when I realized that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and that despite the doubters, it was where I was going to stay.
I get why people get Maximilian Büsser. I get why stores like Provident want to be a part of the MB&F story. I relate to this man who was once a child who then turned into the man who still embraces that child, and I feel deeply connected to his story and his outlook and can relate to his reasons for being who he is. MB&F was one of the first brands I researched thoroughly when I began writing about watches. I don’t quite know why or how that came to be at the beginning, honestly. Maybe it was because Max seemed so debonair and so charming to those of us who watched his interviews via YouTube. He was a celebrity of sorts, I guess. At least, to an outsider. At least, back then.
But today, he’s less of a celebrity. Today he’s just my friend. My friend, Max Büsser. You know Max… he’s the guy who makes watches fun. He’s the handsome guy. The guy with the good hair and the great smile. You know who he is… the guy with all the “friends”…
…and man, oh man, I’m so grateful he’s that guy.