It seems appropriate (or required, not sure which) that I share some observations from my first BaselWorld.
Having never attended – this will not be about how different it is, or the good old days, or speculation on the future. Just random thoughts to adjudicate (or justify) if it was worth my time, and as it turned out money.
While I walked much of the space, I was really here for the independent brands and watchmakers so there won’t be anything about Rolex’s latest color combinations, the opulence of Jacobs&Co, or the newest release from Grand Seiko. My collection is very focused – living independent watchmakers I have (or will) meet with iconic pieces 40mm-44mm in size. Clear criteria designed to manage impulse and create a curated collection.
So let’s remove any suspense – yes, I ordered a new piece. And I started working with another watchmaker on a different piece that will be ordered later this year. So any false bravado on having restraint was utter bu||$h!t.
Community– I feared feeling on my own for the event. I had come alone and while I knew others that were attending, they are in “the business” and had meetings scheduled and work to do while I was clearly here to play.
But not only did my friend and his wife (AD’s for many independents) spend significant time with me, I met new friends and reconnected with others from the collector’s community. This is truly a global community from Japan, Netherlands, America, and more.
In addition, I spent time with several of the independent watchmakers who we reference by one name (first or second) – Thomas, Bart, Tim, Marco, Romain, Ludovic, Aaron, Kudoke, McGonigle. It’s the connection to the watchmakers as individuals that is part of the joy I get from my collection, and these two days were a warm embrace.
If you are looking to collect independents (or expand), a show like this does wonders for bringing stories, moments, and memories to the watches themselves.
More community– I’m not a watchmaker so seeing those with such amazing talents appreciating each other’s work was notable. There was not only no jealousy, but true admiration for each other’s work. I was asked often to see a piece I was wearing from one watchmaker and watched with a smile as another ooo’ed and aaa’ed while looking at the piece with far more informed eyes than mine.
I admire and envy in many ways the community of watchmakers. Their shared support, missions, and talents. I’m sure waters are more turbulent under the surface, but with few exceptions I felt more part of the team than an asset to be fought over.
Let’s be clear - being a collector I represent (as each of you do) resources and revenue that these watchmakers want and need to survive and grow. It is a business and a passion. It could be easy (as it is if you’ve even gone your local car mall to buy a new car) to feel that you have been tossed to the wolves. I felt just the opposite with this community – with one watchmaker recommending another based on my desires and preferences.
In the flesh -
Turns out, there is nothing like seeing the pieces in person! I know, no sh!t Sherlock.
And while some of the independents have AD’s and store fronts, there really aren’t that many places to see a 1 of 10 piece. Even less a piece unique.
So BaselWorld was where I got to lay hands on so many pieces, and then with confidence moved them up or out of the wish list. To big, to small, not as finished as expected, or so much more so with or without a loop.
And given how important the watchmaker is, meeting them in the flesh can add a layer to the joy or destroy the experience. It’s vital (for me at least) to know that I’m wearing art from an artist not just a mechanism from a builder. Liking the person becomes pretty important.
The conversations add to the piece. The stories of why and how they came up with the design, or what was happening in their lives, or which is their favorite (turns out we don’t love all our children the same). Or that there is only one movement left and it’s the piece from his broad and varied collection that he wears.
And that is how I ended up with my unexpected purchase. But as delivery is 4 months away, you’ll just have to wait to learn more.