Shared joy and concerns: passion and professionalism in the watch world
Stéphane Belmont, Alon Ben-Joseph, Davide Cerrato, Christophe Chevallier, Roel van den Haak, Tony de Haas, Gijs van Hoorn, Hampus Wickerfält, Mathijs Wolzak. A list of names in alphabetical order. Names of men who work for Jaeger-LeCoultre, Ace Jewelers, Montblanc, Tudor, Amsterdam Watch Company, A. Lange & Söhne, Oris, Krons in Stockholm and the Tourbillon Boutique in the P.C. Hooftstraat in Amsterdam respectively.
What all these men have in common is an unconditional love for horology, an insatiable thirst for watch knowledge and the ability to pass on their passion for watches to others. Talking to any one of these gentlemen is a breath of fresh air every time. Their unbridled enthusiasm is energising. But an interview with these men keeps you on your toes, as well. Platitudes or unsubstantiated opinions are not tolerated. These men are specialists; walking encyclopaedias. It’s these men who ensure that watch houses can come up with new models that immediately appeal to the imagination, that the story of the manufacture is passed on, infectiously, to watch journalists, correct in every detail and with a sense of historical nuance and context, and that a customer can find out everything and more about his new purchase, enabling him to make a carefully considered choice.
Happiness is only real when shared
Why am I writing this? Two reasons. I have recently had the opportunity to talk to a number of these men in different situations and every time I noticed that I came away from the meeting full of love for watches. That joyful feeling is something I want to share. ‘Happiness is only real when shared’, is a quote from the film ‘Into the Wild’ that is particularly appropriate here. So far for the first reason.
In the watch industry there is a direct link between emotion and value. That link is invisible, vulnerable and dynamic and must be treated with the utmost care
The second reason is just as realistic, but based on concern. The progressive professionalisation of the watch sector is good for business, but not always good for the emotional aspect. As a result of the explosively expanding watch market and the conglomerates that draw in ever more brands, the groups and watch houses are now increasingly engaging professionals who previously worked in completely different sectors. Excellent people, without a doubt experts in their field. Bean counters and managers who have earned their stripes in the confectionery industry, a private bank or the pharmaceutical industry. However, the one aspect these industries are missing compared to an haute horlogerie maison is the value represented by emotion. In the watch industry there is a direct link between emotion and value. That link is invisible, vulnerable and dynamic and must be treated with the utmost care. If that emotion, the story of the maison, is no longer enthusiastically being told by enough passionate people the history that has been passed on for centuries without ever becoming boring will start to fade away. Without a story there are no watches. Without watch lovers it becomes silent in the parallel universe of the mechanical watch. Keep those fires burning!