Nathalie Marielloni, is the Vice Curator of International watchmaking museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds Switzerland (MIH), her career has taken her to from the Patek Museum in Geneva, to London to work for Sotheby's and back to Switzerland to MIH, one of the most important watch museums in the world.
1. Describe briefly your childhood.
In one word freedom! I am born in La Chaux-de-Fonds in the mid 80's and lived in a small village 20 minutes from there all my childhood. I remember being very free, enjoying nature and riding my horse.
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition?
You could almost say that I am a horological creation. My parents have a company related to this industry and my family is involved with watchmaking for a few generations. I started to earn my first pocket money helping my dad in his workshop so I guess watchmaking runs in my blood. But I was always drawn to fine arts. My late grandfather was a collector and I think he passed on his passion to me. He was someone who was eager for beauty and who was looking for it everywhere... in art as well as in watches.
3. What is your first significant memory as a child?
My parents took my brother and I to Ravenna in Italy; I remember visiting churches and being absolutely mesmerized by the beautiful mosaics. It was like an epiphany.
4. Have you ever had another profession?
Not really. I have decided to dedicate my (professional) life to horology at a very young age. I got extremely lucky that my first real job was at the Patek Philippe Museum where I was able to complete my diploma thesis. They hired me on a temporary contract and that's when I knew I was in the right place. Arnaud Tellier, curator of the museum at the time, was very open to sharing his great knowledge. I was then hired by Estelle Fallet for the jewelry, enameling and horological collections of the Geneva Art and History Museum.
Around the same time, I had the opportunity to go to London and did a postgraduate program at the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) where I became a fully trained gemologist. I loved my life in London so much that I found a job as a cataloguer for Sotheby's in the watch department. I grew inside the company and also trained to be an auctioneer. I absolutely adored it!
5. What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
My path in general, accepting the position of vice-curator at the International watchmaking museum (MIH) was a huge thing for me. Before, I was an independent advisor for private collectors. I was very free and enjoyed it a lot. Taking this position at the museum and following Jean-Michel Piguet's footprints who held this position for almost 40 years, is filled with tremendously exciting new responsibilities.
I decided to go in that direction firstly because I was sure that I would continue to learn new things every single day.
Secondly because of the people I knew I would be working with... I value each of my colleagues very much and it is a delight to work with such driven and passionate individuals!
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
"Good experiences become good memories, bad experiences become good lessons". I have learned from all my jobs, of course, some situations are sometimes difficult, but learning how to overcome them is my greatest gift.
7. What’s been the hardest moment in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?
Perhaps when I left London; I had such a good life and carrier there that for many reasons, leaving a place that I considered my home was difficult at that time. I think I overcame it by finally taking the time… I experienced the benefits of meditation and understood that taking care of yourself is not a weakness.
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you?
My dad. He is the example of the perfect boss and entrepreneur; he had managed his company very well and he's loved by all of his employees. He never put aside his family and always had time for us no matter what.
Estelle Fallet, curator in chief of the Art and History museum of Geneva, is someone I look upon too; she is the perfect example of class, kindness and knowledge.
9. What are you most proud of?
I am proud to be have a role to play for the society, I am proud to promote cultural and horological heritage through this wonderful institution that is the MIH.
On a more personal level, I am also proud to have been recognized by my peers in the UK and was awarded the title of Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers; following the successful sale of the George Daniels collection where I was first recognized as a horological specialist in 2012.
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something someone thinking of taking a similar path as you?
If you're driven by the same passion, just do it, it's wonderful! Be curious; don't be afraid to ask questions to people who know better than you. Read, and teach yourself. Visit museums, go to auction houses. Do everything to the best of your abilities and don’t be afraid. Trust that life will always guide you where you're supposed to be.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
At the beginning of my 30's, I still consider to be at the start of my carrier. But What I would like to continue to do is discovering and helping young talented people. I will be forever grateful to the people who gave me their trust and believed in me, so it is my aim to do the same.
The second thing is to do with a few exhibitions what we have in mind for the museum…
The third thing is to own one of my husband's horological creations.
12.Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10 years time.
I don't have a crystal ball. But I think the new generation of collectors is very reasonable and cautious. Young collectors have access to knowledge and want to be educated. The museum certainly has a key role to play. The vintage market is strengthening and I think that independent watchmakers can also make a difference. Who would have thought in the 1950s that someone would invent a steel sports watch? Gerald Genta did so in 1972 with the Royal Oak, and revolutionized the concept of luxury watches. Independent watchmakers still have this power and can revolutionize the market at any time.
I may be playing devil's advocate, but no one needs a minute repeating watch. No one needs art, no one needs to wear an Alexander McQueen creation…
However, I sincerely believe that it is the culture and the need for intellectual or emotional stimulation that mankind needs. So I think there will always be recognition for an industry that focuses on heritage, crafts and culture.
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