For a year that started off with the inauguration of a p*ssy-grabbing, attention-seeking, twitter-obsessed nutjob, 2017 sure as heck turned out better than I expected from a professional standpoint. So without holding back, I’m going to reflect on all that made this year both great and less than stellar, while addressing a few things I’d like to clear up before 2018 knocks on my door.
The Ups, Chronologically
January 2017 started off brilliantly with an invite to my first ever Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva. This came as a surprise to me, as well as to many others, since at the time I had only been writing about watches for ten months total. However, my first SIHH was an experience I’ll never forget, and with an invite to attend the 2018 edition it was clear to me that the Richemont brands were largely on board with what I’m doing as a watch writer, and where I’m headed in the future.
March’s Baselworld also proved to be successful, more so when compared to the edition I attended the year before where I pretty much had to bribe the brands with gold bullion in order to get an appointment. Not only was it easier to see watch companies (who thankfully recognized my name and face this year), but it also proved to be a great year for writing gigs, with several interviews happening during the show for various well-known and well-respected publications.
April was filled with speaking engagements at the American Gem Society Conclave in Hollywood, The Women’s Jewelry Association chapter in Chicago, and the Gold Conference at the City University of New York, where my colleagues Monica Stephenson, Peggy Jo Donahue, and I discussed Federal Trade Commission guidelines for disclosure in media; a topic that should be more important within the watch journalism community than it seemingly is. (Full disclosure, people: It’s not just the law, it’s federal law.)
Then along came May and June and an eighteen-day, all-expenses paid trip to Italy to appear in ads and commercials for Celebrity Cruises; something I’ve done with my life partner since 2014. See, writing about watches isn’t my only job, which I’m going to talk a little bit more about later when I get to the “rumors” part of this post.
July was exciting, as I was nominated again for a Women’s Jewelry Association Award for Excellence in the Media category, and while the award went to a different writer, the trip to New York gave me another opportunity to be around my friends and colleagues in the jewelry and watch worlds, as well as to co-host a successful “Whiskey-ish Breakfast” with my AGS Young Titleholder crew. Love you guys! Thanks for always having my back!
August sent me to Houston for Watchonista with Hublot to hang out and golf with Olympian Patrick Reed, and September sent me to Vicenza, Italy where I would experience the grandeur that was the Vicenzaoro Boutique Show and their newest addition to the show – the Not Ordinary Watches (N.O.W.) section, whose focus was on independent watch brands at reasonable price points.
October, however, is when it really started to hit me that what I do for living goes beyond just words on a screen, and that there are women out there who look to me for advice and guidance; a fact that I will never take for granted.
In the first week of October, I was invited to speak in Seattle at a WJA Chapter Event that directly addressed women’s issues, particularly sexual harassment in the jewelry and watch industries. As a sexual assault survivor, victim of sexual harassment, and two-time author of articles about sexual harassment and discrimination in the jewelry and watch industries, it was important for me to be able to be an ear for these women who were willing to open up and share their stories not only with me, but with others who had their own stories. On the day I spoke to the group, the Harvey Weinstein story ran in the New York Times. The timing for this discussion was fitting, and poignant, and needed, and I’ve decided to go even further with these discussions once 2018 rolls around thanks to the encouragement of my friend, jewelry designer Wendy Brandes.
November brought me into the big blue sky for a couple of important reasons: first, to fly with daredevil champion pilot Mike Goulian for a story about Alpina watches for Watchonista; and second, to take a sixteen-hour flight to Dubai as a guest of Ahmed Seddiqi and Sons for the amazingly phenomenal experience that was Dubai Watch Week.
December ended in the most spectacular way possible: driving and judging the Robb Report Cars of the Year for 2018 on a trip to South Florida set up by my wonderful friends at Provident Jewelry. Oh, and I also got to hang out with and pick the brain of the one and only Maximilian Büsser for a couple of days. No big deal, though. Just Max, Me, and an MB&F Legacy Machine on my wrist.
As mentioned, it was overall a pretty damned good year in my eyes, minus a few bumps, as will be mentioned below.
The Downs, Haphazardly
While 2017 had few downs, there were certainly moments where people showed their true colors, their deeper motivations, and the fact that the almighty dollar will often be enough to quiet something that should be a movement. “Money talks/bullshit walks” could have been the mantra for the year 2017, but still, I didn’t let that fact get the best of me.
One of the downs for me is knowing that there are seemingly respected and well-known watch brands out there who use/support/pay influencers to post about their watches without fully disclosing that the influencer has been compensated, and without making sure that the influencer states – in accordance with FTC guidelines – that said influencer/blogger/instagrammer has been paid either via money or product to endorse said brand. Maybe this is me being naïve. Maybe it’s me being in the “Joe Thompson mindset.” You know… the mindset that believes that journalism can’t be bought, and that without unbiased journalism this industry (and this country) will fast wind up in the shitter. But even with it being the downer it is, I’m still doing my best to stand steadfast in my decision to write editorially, and ethically, and to do so with heart, and in my own voice.
Another down for me was noticing just how often brand press releases are merely regurgitated then posted to what many believe to be legitimate news websites in order to be passed off unknowingly to the reader as “journalism.” Although, I guess it’s a down that allows me to stand out from the “copy/paste” crowd. So, I guess that could also be an up, yeah? An up for me, but a down for the act of having an original thought. Ah well.
And lastly, one of the downs brought to my attention was the pressure put on some of those in the watch community whom I have good relationships with by members of the Old Guard, with regard to said relationships. You know the Old Guard… every industry has them. They’re the group of folks who came before you, who feel that simply because they’ve been doing the job longer they’re better at it than you are, or know more than you do, or that they are entitled to opportunities and press trips and event invitations before you (heaven forbid they actually try to mentor you. Oh, heavens no! Why would they do THAT??) The Old Guard is sort of like the Mafia; not *really* all that relevant anymore, and yet people still fear them out of some sort of tradition and ritual. And this “down” wasn’t so much that it was a down for me, but rather a down for those in the industry who’ve had to be subjected to the drama and nonsense that the Old Guard bestowed upon them, because of their own insecurities. It’s sad really. Sad, and a little bit evil. But… the poor Old Guard never quite met the likes of me. The Old Guard has clearly never been to Philly.
Ah, the rumors. Yes, the rumors have certainly added to 2017 in an interesting and yet disheartening sort of way. The rumors have ranged all the way from writers claiming I’m trying to steal their jobs to those who’re saying I’m trying to screw my way into the watch industry. It’s so fun being me these days. So much fun having to look someone in the face and wonder whether or not they think I’m a legitimate writer or a vamp who’s trying to sleep her way into… um… well… into what exactly? I mean, if there’s an industry anyone would try to sleep their way into, would it really be watches? Have you seen watch people? No offense guys, but, beards really aren’t my thing. So let’s talk truths now.
Here’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth… unadulterated, uncensored, and unbiased. And if you can’t handle strong language, or a strong opinion, then I suggest you close your browser now.
Truth: I am a twenty-two-year veteran of the jewelry industry. Just over two years ago, when I decided to write about watches, it was because the only watch articles I found even vaguely interesting by writers based in the United States were ones written by men. Nothing made me laugh. Plenty made me think, but not in an emotional way. Everything was stoic, and exact. Things were written mechanically and largely for collectors or experts. Not much was written for the novice, let alone the female novice, and so I set forth to change that. I write for me and people like me. I write for buyers like me. I write for retailers who know me, who think like I do, and who trust my opinion. I write to entertain my reader, and to engage them through the story. I don’t write for the brands; I write for those who buy the brands. I write in my own voice, with my own words, and with my own thoughts. For those spreading the rumors, you should put down your drink, take your head out of your ass, and try that for a change.
Truth: I am a mother to two kids, ages seven and eleven; one girl, and one boy. To think that anyone who knows that fact would willingly try to destroy my reputation through untruths and deceit angers me to a level I’m not comfortable with. To think that my daughter still lives in a world where her worth will be determined by what people will believe about her sex life is astounding to me, and I’m embarrassed for those who would take part in such behavior. It’s shameful and disgusting, and karma is a bitch.
Truth: I have had my fair share of sex in my life, not that it’s anyone’s business, because let’s face it, how many men do you know in the watch or the jewelry industry who’ve f*cked or hit on everything with a pulse? Plenty, though I’ll refrain from naming any of them. But because they’re men, no one says a peep. No one blinks. Women are held to some ridiculous standard when it comes to the amount of sex they have or who they’ve had it with or when – and largely that standard is held up by other women. My husband is well aware of my sexual history (after all, he’s edited this here piece) and has neither judged me nor taken issue with it. And his is the only opinion that matters to me at the end of the day.
Truth: Don’t worry about what I’m doing. Worry about why you’re worried about what I’m doing. If you’re so petty as to tell blatant lies about someone whom you see as a threat, then you seriously need a f**king hobby. As for me, I’ll be over here raising my two bright, creative, and well-adjusted kids, cooking like an Iron Chef, modelling part-time for an internationally-known company that sends me all over the world (and pays me a shit-ton), speaking to and mentoring women who are trying to find their way in this industry, and writing about watches in an original, fun, and unique way that has gotten me noticed like you’ve never been noticed IN YOUR LIFE. So, at the end of the day, do yourself a favor and remember these tasty little morsels the next time you want to open your mouth about me:
I will outwrite you.
I will outsmart you.
I will out-dress you.
I will out-etiquette you.
And I will do so with a soufflé in one hand and a paycheck in the other, all while looking good in a pair of skinny jeans and high-heeled boots.
For all the brands, PR folks, journalists, retailers, and industry people who’ve helped make this year special for me, I thank you, and appreciate you, and I value our relationship. Let’s make the new year the most important, most ethical, and most successful yet.
Peace out, 2017. Nothin’ but love for ya. It’s been a thin slice of heaven, truth be told.
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.