An avid collector (seriously avid) friend of mine said at one of our get-together “Carl, you’re a process guy.”
I didn’t really see myself that way, but I guess he is right.
This came about because we were discussing independent watchmakers and micro brands, and I spoke about how wonderful it is to be able to see this growth happening in a way we can be a part of it. Someone like Ming Watches who took a passion and decided to pursue it, and who we see slowly take chances with different ideas and directions. Watchmakers like Hajime Asaoka and his line with Kurono Tokyo, who added pieces with particular design and craftsmanship so more people could see what he himself sees but didn’t have to wait years for one of his custom pieces. People like Torsti Laine, who we see improve his level of finishing and workmanship as he grows and learns, and continues to learn and improve. An excellent example of how there is much to be had whether you are an early adopter or someone who waits for later more developed pieces.
This growth isn’t just seen or able to be seen with new independents or micro brands. You can see change and adjustment and vision in older, more established brands. Patek Philippe taking a stand to make people realize that their steel Nautilus line is in no way indicative of the depth, breadth, and height of their vision and ability, but doing so in a very polite and proper way. People often ask me, by the way, what would be the ultimate Patek piece, or any piece. Personally I would say something clean and simple yet hugely complicated. There is a reason why the Sterns check each and every single minute repeater before it goes out to a collector (who is generally known as someone serious). Hugely interesting to see how those that actually guide the industry manage the changes they face.
You see the process with someone like Oris, who has always had a rather independent streak and who has come into very justified prominence of late by doing just what they always have but taking chances. You see it with Seiko and Grand Seiko as they try to move into a position proper to their abilities while not going overboard. Speaking of something similar, you see it and have seen it with Panerai. The Italian brand under Mr. Bonati became a powerhouse for enthusiasts, went through a challenging time of growth as their appreciation became more widespread, and still continue to be able to please enthusiasts coming back to the fold while also creating pieces that the mainstream will appreciate. This is extremely hard to do.
I often tell people that they know more than I do, that they can quote reference numbers and specs and prices better than I can. Maybe because I have been there and seen all that, and it propelled me to look further. I love seeing the true passion behind all of this, the struggle, and the taking of chances and the growth.
This last year, as the malls opened up again, I have watched people buy 50 dollar watches in stalls with as much excitement and attention as anywhere else. I saw them look at things and try them on, I saw them smile and then walk away with something that made them happy. I saw people bringing their watches to strapsellers, whether physical stores or through online-organized meetups, and I watched as they moved their experience to another level of appreciation. This is far, far more interesting than the conversation of “How much over retail did you pay.”
There is a story I want to tell, but I am still not sure how to tell it. About all the tales I hear when I ask people about their watch. I see the light in their eyes, I hear the excitement or longing or quivering in their voice. I see smiles and I see tears. I and those I tell these stories to get goosebumps when we hear them.
Watches are about time, time is about experience and memory and what you do with it and take from it. These experiences are meant to be lived and enjoyed and learned from.
So many people still don’t understand. We don’t talk about “things.” We listen to stories, and we have the honor and responsibility to bring those stories and experiences and passions out.
And I don’t just mean we at Calibre. I mean all of us.
May you all have a wonderful year ahead of you. And thank you for the stories you have yet to share.