Recently – as I do fairly frequently and I’m sure to the annoyance of some many – I changed my profile picture on Facebook. The latest image is from a photo shoot I had taken part in back in 2011 when I was named one of Atlanta’s “50 Most Beautiful People” by Jezebel magazine. I was thirty-eight at the time, had just had my second child the year prior, had gotten my 5’ 9.5” self back in shape, and was probably feeling just a little arrogant. (Look, when you grow in and then push out two nine-pound babies from your body over a four-year span and can fit afterward into a dress you had since you were twenty-five, I think that earns you a pass on the cockiness scale, at least temporarily.) That attitude came across in the pictures, too, and to the delight of my tremendously talented photographer, Austin Holt, it gave him some hefty material to work with.
The shot I speak of was taken in Midtown Atlanta. In it, I’m walking toward the camera as the wind is blowing in my direction (think every video you’ve ever seen Beyoncé in) as Austin catches me mid-stride. My right eyebrow is cocked, my arms, intentionally swinging, my long, chestnut locks shining in the camera’s flash, and the smirk on my face is more evil than good. One might even say that I look sinister. I like sinister. Sinister vibes/attitudes/people make life interesting, because everything shouldn’t be all good, all the time. If this world were nothing but positive we would lose our appreciation for it. Without a little bad, there can be no good.
Once the profile picture change happened the comments followed almost immediately. “Femme Fatale” said my jewelry designer friend, Delphine Leymarie. “Fearless” replied Lisa Kim, another badass artisan, herself. But it was the verbiage used by horological “It Boy” James Thompson that stuck with me most and gave me the idea to write this piece:
He couldn’t have been more on the nose.
The sign of Aries and the label of “Alpha Female” pretty much go hand in hand. AF’s are often defined as being confident, bossy, intelligent, extroverted, and aware of their own sensuality. In a piece titled, “The Alpha Female Dilemma” written by Gabriela Cora M.D. for Psychology Today, Dr. Cora suggests that a professional AF should, “Dress down, use less makeup, or use plain colors to camouflage [her]self” since according to the article, “the more beautiful and smart a woman is, the more criticism she receives.”
The Alpha Female inside me read the above statement while doing my research on the interwebs and immediately had a thought that is likely typical of my personality type:
Yeah, to hell with that.
So this piece is for all of you Alpha Females out there who value your moments on this earth. These are my suggestions for you as to which watch fits your personality. Like your lipstick red, your men unavailable, and your lingerie where it belongs – on the floor? Then read on, sister, because no one knows how to use their time quite the way you do.
Roger Dubuis Velvet Haute Couture Passementerie
According to Merriam-Webster (which, by the way, is really fun to follow on Twitter, if you haven’t given up on Twitter yet), “Passementerie” is defined as an ornamental edging or trimming (as tassels) made of braid, cord, gimp, beading, or metallic thread. If you’re like I am, you had to look up the definition of the word “gimp” as you had only heard it used in an alternate, rather unpleasant meaning previously. Regardless, this particular timepiece by Geneva-based Roger Dubuis is one of a trilogy of watches that fall under the brand’s “Velvet Haute Couture” category. The Passementerie pays homage, it appears, to the one article of clothing that is a staple in every Alpha Female’s wardrobe: her fishnets. Yet while the sexiness of the watch’s strap will make for a great conversation piece while sipping a gin martini at the hotel bar (in your fishnets, no less), it’s the craftsmanship and inner-workings of the timepiece that make it truly worthy of ownership. The Poinçon de Genève hallmark on this watch is nothing to sneeze at, and the brand itself boasts on its website that it “devotes 40% longer production times to ensuring that all its Poinçon de Genève timepieces are worthy to bear this guarantee of exclusivity, origin, know-how, performance and durability.” I don’t know about you, but I’m a woman who really appreciates it when 40% more effort is involved in anything.
From a stats standpoint, the watch contains the automatic movement RD821, is 36mm, has a 48-hour power reserve, is set with roughly 1.76 carats in round, brilliant cut diamonds, has a warm grey dial and an 18K pink gold case. The strap is handmade with a beige satin finish and folding clasp that also contains round brilliant cuts. It’s the perfect watch for the woman who wants it all, and frankly, for the woman who deserves it all.
Bulgari Divas’ Dream in Black
When one thinks of Bulgari women’s watches one also tends to think of the famed Serpenti, however, Bulgari has more than snakes on the brain and this rose gold and diamond watch from the Divas’ Dream collection proves it. When I visualize a femme fatale or an Alpha Female, I often think of the colors black and red, which is likely why the watches I decided to highlight for this piece fall into that color scheme. I wouldn’t suggest wearing this particular watch to a board meeting, although, scratch that, because honestly, who am I to judge if you did? Yeah, wear it to your board meeting. Hell, wear it on your third date with Massimiliano Allegri as the two of you discuss Gianluigi Buffon’s goaltending statistics over a Barolo and a Federico Fellini movie. Wear it alongside your mink coat to midnight Mass when you’re home in South Philly for the Catholic holidays. Or wear it with your black silk tunic that you bought just for the occasion of celebrating your best friend’s birthday at the newest burlesque hall’s opening. Whatever you do, where it loudly, proudly, and often, for it’s a statement piece befitting a woman of your caliber.
The watch itself does have a quartz movement rather than an automatic. However, the beauty of the piece and its use of onyx and diamond accents make the quartz aspect of it forgivable. The case measures 39mm in diameter and is 18K pink gold. The small central dial is lacquered black and the strap is a beautiful patterned satin connected by an easy to remove pink gold clasp (for those nights when you don’t watch to scratch up your partner during… uh… foosball). All in all, the Divas’ Dream is an ideal accessory for the AF with flair.
Hublot Big Bang Caviar
If there is a sport that an Alpha Female loves to take part in, it is the act of making a man – old, young, middle-aged, married, single, gay, or straight – ever so slightly uncomfortable. The AF enjoys the thrills that many men have had at the expense of women for years, which is why I selected this particular watch – largely because of its name – as one that an AF could have a really good time with: Big Bang. The watch is called “Big Bang.” I honestly feel like the rest of the description could write itself at this point. Let’s imagine the scene though, shall we? It’s late September in Miami. The woman is in her early fifties, fit with just the hint of reconstructive surgery that doesn’t show itself in proper five-star hotel bar lighting. She’s wearing a tailored suit and dress shirt unbuttoned just enough to peek at the black bra beneath. On her right wrist is a diamond bracelet; twelve carats total, a gift from her second ex-husband. On her left, a watch. A massive, bold, manly statement watch. Enter forty-something-year-old Delta airline pilot #1. He sits at the bar, two stools down from her with no one in between the pair of them. She makes big talk (because Alpha Females don’t *do* small talk) with the hipster bartender as Delta Pilot #1 watches her with mild admiration. Then, he speaks…
Pilot: “Are you drinking scotch?”
AF: “Why? You buying my next one?”
Pilot: “I would, if you’d like.”
AF: (to bartender) “I’ll have the Oban 21. Neat, please. The pilot’s buying.”
After a half-hour conversation, Delta Pilot’s much younger, taller co-pilot enters the room. He sits between the two of them uncomfortably as clearly there is a mist of sexual tension in the air. Sensing an opportunity to play the game she’s good at, the AF takes her final sip of scotch, gathers her briefcase, and bids the gentleman a pleasant evening but not before she’s beckoned back by Pilot #1…
Pilot: “I wanted to ask you, what’s that on your wrist? I couldn’t help but notice it since, well, it’s hard not to.”
AF: (Now making her way over to stand between the two men, maneuvering herself so that a part of her brushes both of their bodies.) “This? Oh, it’s my Hublot. It was a gift given to me by a former lover after our sailing trip on the Adriatic.”
Pilot: “Oh, really? What model is it?”
AF: (Looking at Pilot #1 longingly, then slowly turning toward the now blushing co-pilot before taking a long, slow breath as she sculpts the words in her mind before releasing them through her mouth.) “It’s called the ‘Big Bang.’ Isn’t that a great name?”
And with that, she exits the lounge, hips swaying, hair bouncing, and ever so softly chuckling.
This Big Bang Caviar contains 1.80 carats in round brilliant cut diamonds set into a high-polished 18K red gold bezel affixed to its 41mm case. The watch contains the HUB1112 self-winding movement with 42-hour power reserve, anti-reflective sapphire crystal, black shiny calf and rubber strap, and gold-plated dial. It’s one hell of a watch for one hell of a woman and it’s a guaranteed night starter whether it intends to be or not.
Fiona Krüger Black Skull
Another characteristic of the Alpha Female is that she senses and seeks out other driven, determined, and successful women and can often times become enamored with them. I don’t know Fiona Krüger personally, though I do hope to meet her someday soon, but what I know about her through what I feel when I look at her designs is that she dares. She dares to challenge the norm. She dares to challenge an industry dominated by men. And she dares to be herself, which means in the simplest of terms, to be different from all the rest. She’s a millennial woman, which makes her a target for the old school minds of the sometimes misogynistic watch world. She’s Scottish, which, you know, means she’s not Swiss (I can only imagine the “oh, the humanity!” looks this woman must receive), and she’s making watches that are creative, fun, and honestly, pretty g*ddamned badass. Fiona’s designs are right up the AF alley as they serve as a figurative middle finger to what some in horological society deem appropriate. The Black Skull series was made in a limited edition of twelve pieces, each crafted by hand in Switzerland. Every watch is intricately detailed, hand polished and hand painted. They are mechanical timepieces, each with a 5-day power reserve and custom black bridges. Fiona’s watches also come with a Certificate of Authenticity and 2-year warranty, proving yet again that Scottish people are really rather rad on the whole.
So, you can all thank James Thompson (who, by the way, I wrote about in an earlier piece here) for this idea. Hope you enjoyed an insider’s look into what the Alpha Female wants and is about. I’d write a piece on Omega and Beta females too, but, well, personally I wouldn’t quite know where to begin.
Until next time…
“Gold is proved by touch.” — French proverb
So let me tell you a little story about my friend, Jackie. Jackie started a company called, “My Story.” She is a self-made businesswoman, a go-getter, an avid runner, a beautiful person, and single. For years, Jackie wanted a child. She attempted – more than once – to have a baby via in vitro, but it wasn’t in the cards for her because Mother Nature had much better plans. In late 2013, Jackie adopted Julia, a gorgeous redheaded baby girl, and to celebrate this pinnacle day in her life Jackie purchased for herself a “push” present: a 1960’s vintage Rolex in 18K yellow gold.
Jackie’s purchase isn’t so uncommon, though, as women drive 70% to 80% of all consumer purchasing. And according to a 2015 article on Forbes.com, that purchasing is made through a combination of their buying power and their influence, meaning that, “even when a woman isn’t paying for something herself, she is often the influence or veto vote behind someone else’s purchase.”
Now let’s look a little more closely at gold as it pertains to Swiss watches. I, myself, own a late 1940’s Longines in white gold, and while a few of my other Swiss watches are made in alternate materials, it’s that watch that I most enjoy wearing and it’s the one that receives the most attention. Nearly a half-million gold watches are made in Switzerland annually, and while gold and other precious metals only make up 2% of the overall units sold worldwide according to the Federation of the Swiss watch industry, they make up the highest percentage of the value category at 39%, with Rolex producing more than 200,000 units alone, per year.
I recently had the pleasure of hearing Eric Wind – Vice President, Senior Specialist of Watches for Christie’s – teach a seminar on vintage watches at the American Gem Society Conclave in Washington D.C. When I asked Mr. Wind what the highest price ever paid for a vintage wristwatch at Christie’s was, he told me $5.7 million ($5,708,885 to be exact), back in 2010. According to Christie’s website, the watch was an 18K yellow gold signed Patek Philippe Perpetual Calendar with moon phases and a Tonneau-shaped case that was manufactured in 1943 – a year that saw few 37+mm cases made. In fact, if we take a look at the most expensive watches ever sold at auction – both wristwatches and pocket watches – seven out of the top ten had gold cases.
But numbers aren’t everything when it comes to emotion. Gold makes us feel something. It represents more than prestige, though it has diligently made its place in history as the alloy that portrays wealth, stature, and accomplishment. Gold stands for dedication. It is the trophy one most covets as an Olympic athlete. It has coated the walls and domes of some of the most visited churches and state houses in the world. It adorns the fingers of lovers, the necks of mothers, and the wrists of many, many others. Gold has throughout time held its place in history, and to quote the late German-born economist, Hanz Sennholz, “No other commodity enjoys as much universal acceptability and marketability as gold.”
Personally, the attribute I most admire in a gold watch beyond it representing wealth or worthiness is its wearability. Yellow gold, as most of us know by now, is and has been for years the go-to metal for fashion jewelry and there’s a reason for that. Yellow gold can be worn on a red carpet as easily as it can be worn to the movies. It’s versatile because it can be finished brightly to give it a more polished look, or with a satin appearance to make it more casual. It can be made in 22K so that the wearer experiences a deeply pure yellow color, or it can be alloyed with silver (15%), copper (6%), and cadmium (4%) to give it a green appearance. There are many ways karat gold can be produced and many colors it can be created in, which makes it unlike any of the other precious metals that watch cases are often crafted in.
Yet while the Swiss watch market saw in 2015 its first downturn since 2009, the introduction of the Apple watch brought wrist adornments to a new audience – the tech generation – and those watches are available in both 38mm and 42mm, in 18K yellow or rose gold. This is one more way that gold has proven itself not only versatile but also unexpendable.
As for me, I have my eye on a gold watch or two that I’d like to purchase for myself once this writing thing takes off. A recent trip to Baselworld in Basel, Switzerland introduced me to many watchmakers I had been previously unfamiliar with, so my watch wish list more than doubled by the time I took the ten-hour flight back home. And every one I found myself falling in love with was gold. A few were white gold, a couple were yellow, and one was a glorious rose gold with a dark brown leather strap and stunning mother-of-pearl dial. So many watchmakers are now adding a wider variety of women’s watches to their lines because as I had mentioned previously in this post, women are the ones with the majority of the buying power right now, and those numbers are bound to rise. Nearly 4.2 million women in the United States earned six figures or more according to the 2013 U.S. Census, and what better way for a woman to celebrate her accomplishments than with something she purchased for herself with the money she earned herself, that she can pass on eventually as an heirloom. Don’t think for a second that little Julia isn’t going to eventually get Jackie’s gold Rolex. There’s no doubt in my mind that she someday will.
Watches will likely be made in gold for many years to come. It is not a metal that has gone out of style even with price and market fluctuations, however, it is a metal that is rare now, and according to Goldman Sachs’ European Metals and Mining Analyst, Eugene King, may become even rarer in the future. So start saving your dollars and get the watch you want as soon as you can, gang, because the scarcer something gets, the more expensive it is bound to become. I don’t even want to think of living in a world where new gold watches no longer exist.
This post is brought to you in collaboration with and was sponsored by May is Gold Month, an annual celebration of all things Karat Gold. Visit MayisGoldMonth.com for weekly trends, extraordinary golden deals, and for a chance to win $1000 Karat Gold Jewelry shopping spree. Follow @MayisGoldMonth on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Or via #MIGM #MayisGoldMonth.
I play well with boys.
Let me reiterate: I grew up the youngest child and only girl in a house full of males. I played hockey, baseball, and football in my youth (and occasionally still do – just ask the Baselworld crew at the Shinola booth). I’m currently raising a soccer-and-ultimate-Frisbee-loving ten-year-old son, prefer my scotch from the Highlands (neat), was pre-accepted into the Philadelphia Police Academy at eighteen because of my skills at the firing range, have been known to hold my own in a game or two of D&D, and can name the majority of the 1986 Philadelphia Flyers starting lineup while also telling you their jersey numbers and most of their averages.
So as previously stated, don’t let the stilettos, pencil skirts, or deftly applied winged eyeliner fool you…
I play well with boys.
What this often means, however, is that I’m outnumbered in my preferred groups when it comes time to talk about things for women. Case in point: women’s watches. And while this year’s Baselworld could be considered The Year of the Woman (as I stated in a previous post) we need to be honest with ourselves and admit that women’s timepieces aren’t exactly on the lips (or fingertips) of every well-read watch journalist out there. Were there plenty of spectacular watches for *her* in Basel this year? Sure there were, and I will continue to talk about those down the road, but I thought it would be cool to also play the double standard game for a change and highlight some of the men’s watches from the show that were made nicely enough, and well enough, for a successful woman to wear. This doesn’t mean that the watches needed to have diamonds, or a floral pattern, or a brightly-colored crocodile strap. On the contrary, it means the watches needed to have personality, be beautiful on the inside (though the outside couldn’t hurt), and have, above all else, character. If my choices below were men, I’d be looking for certain qualities within them, which is how I’m choosing to describe them each in order to make this piece a little more fun.
First up, the Angelus U20 Ultra Skeleton Tourbillon.
If transparency is yo thang, then this is the watch for you. I regrettably didn’t have a ton of time to spend with this piece or the other Angelus watches I got to see but what little I did have was filled with amazement and awe. If I were speaking of this watch like I were speaking to my best friend about, say, a man I recently went on a first date with, I’d describe it this way:
“Well, let’s just say he had nothing to hide. I mean, he was meticulously on time, incredibly interesting, well-built, and he left everything out in the open. I liked these things about him. I wouldn’t call him overly ostentatious, but believe me, he definitely had an attention-getting quality. And no, we didn’t have enough time to get to *know one another better,* nosey.”
In order to give the U20 its unique “floating movement” appearance, the bridges have been made in skeletonized blue titanium for increased transparency, with the components being satin-finished and hand-polished. To give the wearer more visibility into the case (thus greatly increasing the three-dimensional effect) a sapphire crystal dome is used in lieu of a bezel, allowing the movement to be viewed from the side as well. The case is made of carbon fiber and uses titanium lugs, but even without the aesthetical description, the Ultra Skeleton Tourbillon stands on its own as one of the coolest dudes watches seen at Baselworld this year, in my opinion.
Next, if you’re a woman who is into complex humans or objects (men, watches, etc.) the Fabergé Visionnaire DTZ should be right up your alley. One of the most original pieces I laid eyes on in Basel, the hours and minutes of the watch’s local time zone are represented via peripheral hands that rotate around a raised, centrally placed dome. However, its coolness factor has only just begun, as the Visionnaire DTZ also exhibits a second, remote time zone which can be seen through an aperture – amplified by a magnifying element – located in the dome’s center. That second time zone can only be seen, however, when looking at the watch straight on, which adds to its appeal and gives it sort of a quirky feel (something I’m really learning to love about Fabergé). Upon inspecting the watch at our meeting, my colleague Craig Danforth looked at me with glee in his eyes and said, “Do you think [super well-known watch journalist] has seen this yet?!”
Now I’m going to break down some of the watch’s additional characteristics by giving you a definition for each as if I were describing to my mother a guy I was seeing.
- 43mm diameter = “He’s got broad shoulders, Mom, but he’s not overly muscular.”
- DLC-treated Titanium and 18K white gold case = “Yes, he comes from a well-adjusted family. Both sides.”
- AGH 6924 Caliber self-winding movement = “Well, he’s known around his office as the ‘self-starter.’”
- Black alligator strap = “Did I mention how good he looks in leather? He looks really good in leather.”
- German silver hands with TC1 luminescent coating = “Oh, and he has the NICEST hands.”
- Slim bezel = “He keeps himself very fit, yes. He’s mindful of his calories, for sure.”
- Water resistant to 30M = “He’s *so* into snorkeling.”
- 50-hour power reserve = “Um… that’s really not something I feel comfortable discussing with you.”
ANYWAAAAAAAAAY… let’s move on to the third watch in this piece, the Manero Flyback by Carl F. Bucherer.
Now THIS is a watch worthy of wrapping itself around a woman’s wrist if I’ve ever seen one. I practically squealed when I got my hands on it so I’m pretty happy to get to talk about it on the blog. I’d consider this the “Romantic” of the group for more than one appropriate reason.
There is a wearable sleekness to the watches in the Manero series that makes them different than the other CFB collections. They’re suit watches, yet jeans watches; they’re your dress watch and your casual watch and likely no one would question their appearance on your wrist either way. This year’s Flyback Chronograph was pretty popular amongst both the retailers I spoke with as well as some of my fellow writers. The watch features the caliber CFB 1970 automatic movement which is controlled by a gearwheel while also providing a flyback function, allowing multiple time intervals to be measured in quick succession. But for me, as superficial as it will sound, the true beauty of the piece is in its face. The rose gold version was what I got to toy around with at my appointment in Basel and the contrast of the silver dial against the blush-hued, irregular tetrahedron-shaped raised indexes (thank you, tenth grade geometry class. [#nailedit]) gave me that “love at first sight” feeling that I hadn’t felt since, well, probably meeting my tenth grade geometry teacher. If this watch were a man sitting in my favorite coffee shop he’d likely be wearing a tan corduroy blazer over his perfectly fitted lightweight sweater and impeccably worn dark-toned jeans. And if it were a man, I’d likely make eye contact with him and hold that gaze until he looked away. I would then walk over to him and tell him that I found him incredibly attractive before turning and strutting toward the door. Then, naturally, I’d get my foot caught in someone’s computer bag strap while simultaneously dropping my skinny chai latte because that’s always what happens to me when I try to be sexy which is why I usually stick with humor.
And last but not least, we come to a watch specifically designed for the U.S. market by Laurent Ferrier, The Galet Traveller US Enamel Dial.
Many of you reading this may think to yourself, “I don’t understand. I live in the U.S. and this watch is made for the U.S. market, so why did they use two ‘l’s to spell the word, ‘traveler?’ (And many others of you reading this may think, “What did I eat for lunch yesterday?” because you’re not very good at spelling or foreign languages and you didn’t catch that there was a difference.) But the answer to the former of those questions is this: Laurent Ferrier has instead chosen to focus on the U.S. market in the literal sense by creating a new enameled dial that, according to the brand, “gives the entire North American continent pride of place.”
My appointment with Jessica Gasser, Laurent Ferrier’s head of Marketing and Communication, went extraordinarily well, partly because she was incredibly kind and patient with me and partly because the CEO of Laurent Ferrier, Vanessa Monestal, took part in our meeting. Here we were, just three girls hanging out and talking nail polish tourbillons, the Kardashians the Besançon Observatory, and Jimmy Choos Assegai-shaped hour and minute hands. I learned as much in that meeting as I think I learned in total for the entire trip and I was OBSESSED with the fact that Vanessa is at this wonderful company’s helm.
To round out my manly descriptions of the watches in this post, if I had to categorize the Galet Traveller US Enamel Dial, I’d say it would be my “Nerd Crush.” It has a self-winding Calibre LF230.01 chronometer, off-centered micro-rotor with pawl-fitted unidirectional winding, is equipped with a “silent bloc” shock-absorbing system, front and back domed sapphire crystals, has an 80-hour power reserve, “teardrop” hour markers, and Champlevé enameled dial depicting the Earth with North America in the center. The watch (and the company) is smart; it knows a thing or two about science, a thing or two about history, and a thing or two about design. It may not be for everyone, and I’m sure it’s certainly not for every woman, but for me, it was the Mary Poppins of timepieces… practically perfect in every way.
That concludes my little “double-standard” experiment with some of the men’s watches I had the pleasure of seeing at Baselworld. Hope you’ll stick around. I’m only just getting started.
The Lovechild of Art and Smart: The HMX Black Badger Brightens the MB&F Booth (and This Watch Writer’s Day)
Ever get a Facebook friend request from someone so popular, so well-loved, and so seemingly untouchable that you think to yourself, “there must be some mistake”? Well that’s what happened to me when I saw a notification stating that *the* Maximilian Büsser wanted to connect.
I had read all that I could read about Max and his “friends” up to the moment that the notification bar lit up. I had known of his connection with Jaeger LeCoultre, and Harry Winston, as well as his involvement in the Opus series, and with independent watchmakers. I skimmed pages of articles on his MB&F projects, and read about his ten-piece limited edition partnership with Hodinkee last year that produced the LM101 in stainless steel. I watched videos of his interviews, and flipped articles for future reading, but never did I think he’d be someone I’d call a friend.
That is, at least, until last week.
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.
When the time came for my scheduled meeting with Max’s Chief Communications Officer, the tremendously kind Charris Yadigaroglou, I decided to show up a few minutes early to take some photos of the booth and of course, of Max’s “machines.” That was when Jason Heaton walked in.
“DUDE! What are you doing here?” Which as I think about it now, was a rather stupid question to ask one of the most recognizable watch journalists in Baselworld. But before Jason and I got to talking, this super-animated bearded guy walks in, turns to Jason and exclaims rather vibrantly, “ADVENTUREMAN! I was hoping I was going to get to meet you!”
“Beardguy,” I soon came to realize, was none other than James Thompson, the composite specialist and industrial designer responsible for this year’s MB&F “Performance Art” limited edition watch series, the HMX Black Badger, so it made all the sense in the world that he would be in Max’s booth. He got to talking to Jason about stuff I’m still learning about but since I have a decades-long background in the jewelry industry, my eyes, while he spoke, were fixated on his rings.
Me: “Hey man, can I see that ring?”
JT: “Yeah” (handing it to me) “Go for it.”
Me: (Now turning the piece and inspecting it because that’s kind of what I do.) “Hmmm. What’s the inlay made of?”
JT: “Ahhh, see? Now, that’s the secret.”
What I quickly learned, however, was that this was the exact “secret” that led to James’ and Max’s partnership. James uses alternative materials such as DuPont™ Corian®, brightly colored lume, surfboard resin, and carbon fiber. He also mentioned something about digging through the trash to get hold of a certain substance to experiment with, which is right around the time that Charris walked into the lounge and saved me from my own curiosity.
“Performance Art. Are you familiar?” Mr. Yadigaroglou said to me, and while I was familiar (both with the MB&F version as well as the “what my friends did for extra credit in college” version), I wanted to make sure I had all of my information correct, so I beckoned my host to explain. In a nutshell, MB&F “Performance Art” pieces are limited edition works (either watch or machine) that are made in collaboration with various jewelry houses, designers, artists, and manufacturers who happen to tickle Max’s and his team’s fancy. This year’s version was no different.
James Thompson (aka – “Beardguy” – aka – Black Badger) first met Max back in 2013 at London’s SalonQP exhibition. Says JT of the meeting, “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. Clearly he had better and more important things to be doing, but we had a really nice, genuine chat. To be honest I wasn’t expecting anything more of it than that, but then he emailed me a few weeks later and we started bouncing around ideas… I mean seriously? That’s like Sinatra asking what you thought of his new tune.”
The two eventually got together at the MAD Gallery in Geneva and started putting things in motion. The result (or, “lovechild” for the sake of this post) is an intricate timepiece that doubles as something that could entertain your Scout troop or chess club for hours. Made in Grade 5 titanium and stainless steel with either blue, green, or purple high-efficiency luminescent details (known as “rocker covers”), the HMX Black
Badger is, according to the MB&F website, “eye-catching by day, (but) it’s when the sun goes down that they really come out to party.”
The pieces are limited to eighteen in each of the three colors, with every one being a technological symphony of components (forty-four making up the case, two hundred and twenty-three making up the three-dimensional horological Engine). The watch has a forty-two-hour power reserve, and its functions include bi-directional jumping hours and trailing minutes, displayed by dual reflective sapphire crystal prisms with integrated magnifying lenses.
But at the end of the day what I will take away from my experience with Max, James, Charris, and the HMX Black Badger is this: I don’t remember laughing as hard as I did for the rest of the week in Baselworld, and I truly mean that. I can’t even recall what exactly it was we were talking about; all I know is that the three of us were in that darkened room using flashlights and cell phone lighting to try to get a picture of all of the watches glowing together, giggling like fools. I felt as if I were camping out with my friends from high school and trying to light a cigarette without my parents catching me. It is this feeling – this innocence of adolescence, and this joy of journeys past – that is the cornerstone of what I believe “Max Büsser and Friends” is all about.
Friends. Freunde. Copains. Amici. Vänner. No matter how any one of us at that meeting could say it or which language we could say it in, I feel we all were in agreement that “friends” is the core word in this entire project, and I thank Max, and his team, for accepting me as one of theirs.
Despite what the Manstream Media (I have waited for ages to use that term) might be saying, let it be known that Baselworld 2016 was most certainly The Year of the Woman. And why not? Statistics posted by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH, as of February 2016, state: “Swiss watch exports remained on a negative trend for the eighth consecutive month, recording a total value of 1.7 billion francs. This represents a decline of 3.3% compared to 2015, which was greatly influenced by developments on the Hong Kong market.” And while that’s borderline frightening news for the Swiss watch industry it’s also a wake-up call for them to go after a market that’s been largely untapped until now – the female self-purchaser.
According to this nifty infographic created by Marketing Zeus for Business Insider, 85% of purchases are made by women. They also state that two thirds of consumer wealth in America (the Swiss watch industry’s second largest market) will belong to women in the next decade. Oh, and get this: 50% of the products usually marketed to men are purchased by women, largely because a staggering 91% of women believe that advertisers don’t understand them. Walking through the main floor of Baselworld’s Hall 1 you would have seen that while women were the minority of the showgoers (but the majority of the deep neckline wearers and booth greeters), many in attendance were donning men’s watches. “Why?” you ask? Or you really didn’t but I’ll act like you did to make this point? Well, largely, as the infographic states, it’s because those watches were the only ones marketed to one gender. But the times, my friends, they thankfully are a changin’.
I chose not to set any appointments with brands at Baselworld that weren’t listed on the show’s website as also selling ladies’ watches. Each person I set a time with listened to my three-minute explanation of who I was, what this blog was going to be about, and what I’d be looking to see in terms of product in said meeting. To say that an overwhelming majority of PR people, marketing directors, and production assistants were relieved to hear that a watch blog was going to center on women would be an understatement. “It’s about time. There is not a lot of press for women’s watches” said Xavier Mettaz, Director of Production at luxury jewelry and timepiece house, Jacob & Co. Aurélie Picaud, manager of Fabergé Timepieces, stated, “This is so exciting that you’re doing this. It is really needed.” And the enthusiasm about the idea didn’t end there, with brand managers scurrying to show me what they had just released in terms of new digs for ladies, and with many of those digs containing mechanical movements (both automatic and manual).
One of my favorite moments of the trip came during my sit-down with Maurice Lacroix’s Product/R&D Director, David Sanchez. “Barbara, right now, 80% of the watches we produce are men’s and 20% are women’s. Do you know that 55% of Swiss watches sold are women’s watches? It’s not the greater profit or higher price point I’m talking, just volume. So for 2017, we’re looking to change it to 60% men’s and 40% women’s. And then, who knows, maybe someday it is split evenly.” David then proceeded to show me a brand new ladies mechanical (don’t rub your eyes, indeed I used the word “MECHANICAL”) square wheel watch from the Maurice Lacroix “Masterpiece” collection and my heart jumped into my throat.
At 43mm, the case was somewhat larger than what I would normally prefer, but the deep red hand-stitched crocodile strap, mother-of-pearl face, diamond SS bezel, and hand-wound in-house ML 156 movement pulled me in. The watch’s functions include a 45-hour power reserve, with the small seconds by square wheel (at 6 o’clock) and the power reserve hand at 3 o’clock. The piece also comes with a domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, thirty-four jewels, square-shaped and clover-shaped wheels highlighted by a circular opening on the movement bridge itself, and decorated with a sandblasted background. It won me over, as did the company, which I had not realized is not part of a larger watch group until my talk with David.
Another pleasant surprise for me at Baselworld was the overall vibe I got from Oris watches. On top of their U.S. team being pretty much all-around awesome and fun, they take their watches – and their new women’s watches – pretty darn seriously. I was lucky enough to work with V.J. Geronimo – their North American CEO – during my appointment, which was no less than an hour long. We talked a lot about what’s going on in the market, the fact that women are buying more for themselves, and how case sizes are slowly going to start showing up on the smaller side again, which is when he showed me the new Oris diamond Artelier automatic for women. The grey guilloche dial with diamond accents was visually comforting against the very feminine wine-colored strap. As an April baby, I’m a sucker for a diamond bezel, especially when the stones are set as perfectly as they were here, but it was the small case – 28.5mm to be exact – which set this watch apart from most others I had seen. An automatic movement for a woman is still a rarity in Basel, but finding a SMALL ladies watch with said movement is practically nonexistent. Want to know the thing that really sold me, though? Their head designer is female. Game, set, match, Oris. You win, and you win big.
Directly following my appointment with MB&F (more about that experience in a follow-up post. And yes, I managed to maintain my composure), designer and collaborator James Thompson graciously introduced me to Atom and Kathleen of RedBar fame. Upon giving them a two-minute synopsis of what I was looking for in the way of mechanical women’s watches to cover, they simultaneously asked me if I had been by to see Bremont yet, then proceeded to walk me over themselves and introduced me to Mike Pearson. (As a quick aside, I want to send a deeply felt message of thanks to everyone willing to help this Basel newbie out. Y’all are a rad group of folks. Thanks again.)
Bremont is loved by many a watch blogger out there, so I was quite familiar with their place in the watch world, as well as the uber cool things they do with their advertising. But to see the excitement on their faces as they handed me their new ladies Solo 32-LC (the “LC” an abbreviation for “Lettice Curtis;” a successful female pilot in World War II and the first woman to qualify to fly a four-engine bomber), made me, in turn, be just as excited about it, and I had barely looked at it! But once I had it in my hands, I could see why everyone felt the way they did. From a technical perspective, the watch contains a modified calibre BE-10AE automatic chronometer, Glucydur balance, Anachron balance spring, Nivaflex 1 mainspring, 18 jewels, and a 40-hour power reserve. It’s a 32mm stainless steel case, has a white metal dial, and really pretty blue steel hands. It has an anti-reflective, scratch resistant domed sapphire crystal, and is water resistant up to 100 meters, but if you’re not a tech geek, it’s just a damned fine watch for a woman who likes a side of history with her time telling.
The last watch I’m going to include in this post is one by luxury brand, Fabergé, but before I get into the details of the timepiece, I first would like to talk about how wonderful my experience was with them.
This Baselworld, as if you hadn’t already figured out, was my first. I am not new to jewelry or even watches, but I am new to having my own watch publication, and so I came to the realization that this year, for me, it was either Basel or bust. Fabergé was one of the first brands to confirm my appointment for the show, and they did so with willingness as well as with kindness. While many of the bigger brands didn’t have time slots available or did not respond to my appointment requests at all, Faberge treated me as if I had been the most seasoned of watch journalists, and that feeling carried over into our appointment. My dear friend Craig Danforth accompanied me as he – a veteran of the watch industry and collector, of sorts – wanted to see the new pieces as much as I, so we arrived at the booth a few minutes early to settle in and discuss what we hoped to accomplish. We were greeted with smiles, and Champagne, and breakfast treats. They let us walk around and allowed me to take pictures of their astounding Fabergé “Four Seasons Objets d’art collection” bejeweled eggs. And when it came time for Aurélie Picard to show us the goods, it was her positive demeanor and genuine attention that stuck with me long after the appointment was over. So, having made clear how much of a fan I am, I’m happy to now highlight one of my favorite watches in all of Baselworld: The Fabergé “Lady Libertine II”.
As many of you know, the merger between Fabergé and gemstone miner and distributor, Gemfields, happened in early 2013, and this past November, the Faberge “Lady Compliquée Peacock” timepiece won the prestigious Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève – or, GPHG – award (think, the Oscars for watches) in the “Ladies Hi-Mechanical” category. When I asked Aurélie about Faberge’s position on quartz watches, her response was simple: “Every new watch starting now will be mechanical. No quartz movements from here forward.”
(And the female watch enthusiast crowd goes wild.)
The Lady Libertine II is 18K white gold, 36mm in diameter and is set with responsibly sourced diamonds as well as Gemfields’ emeralds mined from the Kagem mine in Zambia. It contains an AGH 6911 caliber movement with a 50-hour power reserve from a single barrel and Agenhor’s unique “AgenPIT” regulation system offering a simplified approach to balance wheel adjustment. But while mechanically it goes toe-to-toe with movements we’re used to seeing in men’s watches, aesthetically there were not many in Basel that could hold a candle to its beauty.
That ends my first report on Baselworld 2016 but I promise you there will be several more to come.
Don’t watch the clock, though… they’ll come… in time.
“Why… why watches?”
My father wore drugstore watches. He’d buy a watch at the local Rite Aid that had a leather-like strap and take it home, only to immediately replace it with a Speidel band. He never wore a watch of value, or even a watch of substance, regardless of its price tag. He wore cheap, gold-plated watches that never lasted more than a few months and hung in plastic cases from metal rods on rotating counter displays. Then he’d throw them away and start the process all over again and probably still does it to this day.
But… my father always wore a watch.
I started working in the watch and jewelry industry in 1996 and vowed that year that I wouldn’t let the men I cared for go through their lives wearing drugstore watches. In 1999, as a wedding gift to my first husband, I presented him with a Baume et Mercier Hampton – which he in turn also bought for me when we celebrated our first anniversary. In 2005, when my eldest brother turned forty, I flew home to Philadelphia and surprised him with a Movado Chronograph in stainless steel. And so far, the man I’m married to now is the proud owner of three very not-drugstore watches, all of which I’ve given to him on important days in our marriage. But while these stories tell you a little about my background as well as my experience with watches in general, they don’t quite tell you why I’m starting this blog.
This, however, will:
Shortly after the 2015 GEM Awards I found myself reading some of the watch blogs that I had only brushed over a few times prior. I started to become more and more interested in watches not just as adornments, but as future heirlooms and frankly, machines. My job back then put me in a different jewelry store in a different city week after week, and during those visits or trunk shows or events I’d find myself gazing at the product, taking pictures of the displays, and if I was lucky, getting to ask questions about the watches. I remember so vividly listening to Burt Wilkinson at Blakeman’s Fine Jewelry in Arkansas as he single-handedly schooled me for twenty-five minutes on the watch brand, Tudor. And I recall picking poor Ben Simon’s brain about Ulysse Nardin, Nomos, and IWC – just three of the names carried in his store, Windsor Jewelers. I listened intently as Mark Hendricks of Lee Michaels in Baton Rouge explained Patek Philippe’s fascinating diamond setting process to me, and I smiled widely as Mike Shields with Moretti’s let me try on his store’s various Rolexes. But the more I saw, and learned, and asked, the more I realized I was alone. Where were the women to teach me about watches? And who were the women who wanted to learn more?
As I set out in search of additional information I found that my favorite watch blogs were also largely written by men, as were most print publications (with a few talented exceptions), newspaper articles, and watch collector forums. This didn’t mean I was learning any less, mind you. On the contrary, I probably understand the difference between a perpetual calendar and an annual calendar because websites like Hodinkee exist (so, if I haven’t said it in the past, thanks, Hodinkee). But after a while, it’s kind of like having your women’s health issues debated in Congress by a bunch of old guys in suits; meaning, yeah, they may know the Constitution and every amendment like the back of their hand, but do they really know what’s right for me?
Later in 2015 I began an Instagram series highlighting Fifty Powerful Women in the Jewelry Industry, and that’s when I realized that there wasn’t a ton of information out there about women holding executive positions in the watch circuit. They hold them, don’t get me wrong – and if you’re one of the women who does hold an executive position and you’re reading this, please don’t be offended – there just isn’t a plethora of information available if you’re someone who isn’t in the watch world who needs to find out about women who are. It was tough, let me tell you, and at the end of the day (thankfully because a couple of the women were recommended to me) I did add a few, but out of fifty, there were not many, and that’s when the gears in my brain started turning.
On October 25th I wrote a piece on my jewelry blog titled, “Girl Time: Desperately Seeking Women in the Watch World” and the response the post received was extraordinary, even making one of JCK Magazine’s Top Articles for 2015 that Didn’t Appear on JCKOnline. The time, pun entirely intended, had come to take this to the next level, and by January, after much deliberation, many conversations with trusted friends, a text or twelve with fellow writers, and the support of my incredibly patient husband, I decided not only to go the route of being a full-time blogger, but to also go forward with my idea for a second blog. One that would focus on women’s watches, men’s watches from a woman’s point of view, women holding executive positions in the watch industry, and women who take their watches very seriously.
Women. Watches. Words.
That’s the tagline for this – my new blog – aptly named, What’s On Her Wrist. As you can see, “women” come first, which is why I chose today – International Women’s Day – to introduce it to the world.
It is my opinion that the jewelry and watch sectors of our industry will become more and more integrated in the near future, and with this, we’ll be seeing more female faces in varying genres within the field. Last year the Women’s Jewelry Association added a watch category to their Awards for Excellence. This year, Jewelers of America also added a watch category at the GEM Awards. As I type this, a Watches & Women advisory group is being formed ahead of Baselworld. These are all good things that signify good change, and hopefully this blog will not only play its part, but also a significant role in the continuing developments we hope to see down the road, as well as in the present.
As part of this inaugural post I reached out to six strong, powerful, successful, and well-known women with some connection to the jewelry world and asked them what was on their wrists. I’m honored to say that all six were happy not only to share what they wear, but also to share with me images of their watches.
Ruth was given this Rolex 18K Everose gold and diamond Oyster Perpetual DATEJUST by her husband as a gift this year after announcing that she would be retiring from her executive position at the AGS. When I saw her at the GEM Awards she said to me, “I have GOT to show you my new watch,” which is why she was the first person I thought to ask about appearing in this piece.
Kara purchased this vintage Bulgari Serpenti in 18K yellow gold, enamel, and diamonds for herself at an auction and wears the watch at least once per week. The watch has inspired some of the pieces in Kara’s new Diamonds Unleashed collection, which donates 100% of its net profits to the women’s empowerment initiatives, “Girls Who Code” and “She’s the First.” The diamonds used in that collection are responsibly mined by CanadaMark in the Northwest Territories, and are tracked from place of origin to polished stone.
Marie Helene wears what only Marie Helene can wear: a Hello Kitty watch! When I contacted her about this post, she said, “I have to figure out which one to choose. I go from Apple, to Cartier, Corum, Rolex and Kitty” and promised to get back me to in a couple of days with the one she chose to highlight. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I saw this picture. It brightened my day just as the woman’s words do, daily.
I remembered seeing an Instagram picture of Marion in a watch, so I reached out to her to tell her about this project and see if she’d be willing to talk about what she wears. Marion replied with, “The one and only watch I wear is my Bulgari Serpenti. To me the timepiece is a statement jewel with the added bonus of telling time. When I put it on, suddenly I feel like Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Cleopatra. It does everything a good piece of jewelry should do. It shines. It is a conversation piece. I literally think of the whole history of the design every time I put it on.” For those unaware, Marion wrote a book in 2013 on the history of Bulgari’s Serpenti collection.
My guess was that someone who had been named one of the most powerful people in business by The Financial Times and Fortune Magazine, as well as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes, wore a watch. Thankfully, I was right. Mindy Grossman was kind enough to get back to me with a picture of a stunning Piaget diamond watch bought for her by her husband, Neil, after initially telling me, “My biggest challenge will be deciding which watch to pick. I love watches and agree that a lot of focus is on men.”
I sent Debra a message yesterday letting her know about my new blog and asking her if I could use a picture I had found of her wearing what appeared to be a pretty nice watch. She replied with, “That’s a costume watch. I’d rather it be one of my personal ones.” She then included this picture of herself with her diamond Maurice Lacroix. When I thanked her for taking the time to send it she said, “I love watches. An obsession of mine. Wanting a deGrisogono with the stingray strap next!”
I hope you enjoyed what you just read. Stay with me as I travel to Baselworld next week to bring you the best in women’s watches with a little side of fun. This may prove to not be your typical watch blog, and the technical details that are found on other sites might initially take a back seat to my quirky world view, but I promise it will at least fill a void and hope that you’ll join me as I learn more on this journey.
As one of my favorite literary characters exclaimed…
“I’m going on an adventure!”