1. Please briefly describe your childhood?
My parents divorced when I was quite young, so my single mother was my role model. She was a tennis teacher, and she put so much heart, soul, and effort into her job. She loved to work in particular with children, and it was amazing to watch her accompany these kids to adulthood as “coach.” I like to think that I put at least as much heart, soul, and effort into my job as she did hers.
My childhood was basically spent playing tennis and going to school, very little else occupied my time aside from a driving love of rock and roll music I developed as a tween.
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition?
As a teenager I dreamed of working for Rolling Stone, writing about rock music. I suppose writing about watches is just as good (laughs). But in some ways, watchmakers are my rock stars these days.
3. What is your first significant memory as a child?
My mother telling me that she and my father were divorcing.
4. Have you ever had another profession?
After a brief two years working for a company that organized trade fairs, I always worked in publishing, though the first magazines I worked with were about cars (perhaps this is where my interest in sports cars blossomed). Watches came next, and that is where I stayed once I found it.
5. What made you choose to become a watch journalist?
I have always thought that this profession chose me more than I chose it.
Before striking out on my own as a freelance journalist, I worked at a publishing house, with my job including everything really except the actual writing of the articles that were published. That was Heel-Verlag in Germany, and we brought out the magazine ArmbandUhren, which was a licensed edition of Italy’s (now defunct) Orologi da Polso and a sister magazine to iW International Watches. That job sent me to the Basel Fair for the first time in 1991, an eye-opener if there ever was one.
In 1996 I left Heel-Verlag to go freelance as I wanted to have a family, and it was at this point that we began Wristwatch Annual with Abbeville Press as a licensed edition of the already-existent ArmbandUhrenKatalog. That was a great project to take me through my early years of having a family, and by the time I had gained a large network of magazines all over the world I was ready to take them on. My business basically grew as my children grew.
In 2010 12 Faces of Time came out, a book project on independent watchmakers that I did together with photographer Ralf Baumgarten, which was published by TeNeues. A few years later I wrote Bridging Art and Mechanics: The Unabridged Story of Corum’s Golden Bridge, which was published by Watchprint in 2015. Both of these books were passion projects written to express my love of independent watchmaking.
In 2014, Ian Skellern and I started the digital publication Quill & Pad (www.quillandpad.com), also with our love of independent watchmaking as well as longform journalism in mind. The decision to do that was precipitated by the lack of good journalistic jobs on the freelance market by that time.
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
When I was eleven years old I had a paper route, and I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to deliver those papers before school. And then once every week I had to go gather the money for the papers from the people I delivered to. That was far and away the worst job I have had; mornings aren’t my best time (are they anyone’s?).
7. What was the hardest time in your career?
I think that the hardest point in my career arrived in 2008 when the financial markets took such a big hit. Ralf Baumgarten and I had just completed 12 Faces of Time and we were looking out a publisher for it. I recall being at the Frankfurt Book Fair and being told at our first appointment, “Didn’t you see the markets today? The bottom dropped out; we can’t take a chance on a coffee table book about unknown watchmakers!”
Not only would it be two more years before we found a publisher, but that moment also foreshadowed what was to come overall in (watch) journalism with the digital world forever changing the way we had done things – not all of which was positive. The answer, of course, was to take more entrepreneurial risk.
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you? What are your greatest inspirations?
My mother was definitely the strongest woman I know, becoming my greatest influence and source of inspiration. As a single mom in the 1970s she had to find a way to make enough money to keep us (there were three of us kids) above water and still find a way for us not to get lost in her exhausting work shuffle. I’m sure she achieved it by believing in what she did and by it in turn giving meaning to her life in a different way.
And she never tired of telling me that a positive attitude and hard work would get me everywhere.
9. What are you most proud of?
Aside from my amazing children Alexander and Sabrina, and then being inducted into my alma mater’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012 for tennis, in a career sense getting 12 Faces of Time published was definitely my proudest moment. I cannot even describe the perseverance that took.
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something thinking of taking a similar path as you?
I’d tell them to find a different career (laughs). No, seriously, journalism doesn’t exist in its pure form anymore. Well, not if you want to make any money at it.
So I might ask that 20 something if he or she didn’t have another career wish. And if not, then the advice I would give is to be smart, to persevere, to not worry about what anyone else is doing, to always go your own path, to have a positive attitude, and to work hard. And possibly to network as much as possible along the way. I’m pretty sure that’s the exact recipe I used to get where I’ve arrived.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
To visit all four tennis Grand Slam tournaments (so far I’ve been to Wimbledon and the French Open; the U.S. Open and the Australian Open remain).
To visit Singapore. I can’t explain this one, but it probably has to do with all the amazing people I’ve met from this country over the course of my career – most of who are connected to the watch industry in some way.
Oh, and to own a Vianney Halter Antiqua. Not sure that one will happen for me.
12. Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10 years’ time?
I think, but I do not wish, that mass production methods will continue to more deeply permeate haute horlogerie. This will also lead to the independent watchmakers remaining very important to consumers who value true luxury.
I foresee more new technologies used within mechanical movements, which will also go hand in hand with the mass production.
And I see e-tailing becoming the all-important channel for selling watches.
I also believe that the important brands will all belong to groups within the next 20 years with the exception of Rolex (which could well be considered a group by itself).