1. Describe briefly your childhood.
I grew up in New Jersey and had a relatively normal, happy childhood. We spent a few weeks every summer at the beach, and that is where my love of the sun, the beach and nature emanate from. My mom was an artist and from her I get my appreciation for color, beauty and art.
2. As a child did you have any driving ambition?
For a fleeting moment or two, I wanted to be an FBI agent, but for as long as I can remember – I wanted to be a writer. By the time I was in seventh grade, I was writing short stories and introspective poetry.
3. What is your first significant memory as a child?
While I have early memories of climbing trees, playing in tree forts in the woods, and getting my first dog (at the age of 2), the most significant memory of my youth– or the childhood event that had the most significant impact on me -- was the death of my father, who lost his battle with cancer when I was just nine years old. I grew up fast after that – becoming more responsible and aware of life and death at a very young age.
4. Have you ever had another profession?
Ha. Yes. For a very short time – 18 months or so – I was a flight attendant for People Express airlines, which was bought by Continental Airlines (that’s when I left). People Express had a system of cross-utilization that was revolutionary at the time. Everyone did three jobs: flight attendant, ground ops and a specialty. After becoming FAA certified as a flight attendant, and being trained in reservations and tower ops (yes, I worked in the tower with the air traffic controllers), I took a role in the company’s marketing and public relations department, which was my main reason for joining the company. For 18 months, I worked on marketing campaigns, created efficiency studies and more. It was a very interesting time, but in the end, I didn’t enjoy the flight and ops work. So it was time to leave.
5. What made you decide to go in the direction you are currently in?
With a Master of Arts Degree in newspaper journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, I knew after doing PR/marketing work at People Express that I was a real newshound, that I wanted to write articles and report on news. I got a job at a leading trade magazine in New York, National Jeweller, and that was the start of my foray into watches and jewellery. I stayed there six years and it was a wonderful proving ground for me. I learned so much and grew so much while there. It was at that company that I became the first female watch journalist in America, forging the way in an all-male industry. It was a struggle to get that title, but it shaped my determination and fuelled my passion for writing.
6. What’s the worst job you’ve had to do?
I’ve been working since I was 12, first babysitting, then at a Dairy Queen, then as a receptionist for an optician, and on and on. I loved all of those jobs because it was all about learning, growing, making friends. I have great memories of all of it.
7. What’s been the hardest moment(s) in your life so far, and how did you overcome it?
The diagnosis of my son with Type 1 diabetes when he was just 13 years old and the death of my mom. When my son was diagnosed, I was in shock. I wondered how this could have happened; I blamed myself even though I understood it was an auto-immune disease. I didn’t know how we would get through it – our lives were turned upside down and many of my son’s dreams were thwarted forever. I got through that only with the help of one of my best friends, Norman Miller (whose mother had Type 1 and who lived through it all his life). Norman has been a constant in my life since I joined National Jeweler in the early 1980’s. In fact, he is the reason I write about watches (but that’s another long story). His calm, his assistance throughout that first year was invaluable to us.
As to the death of my mom -- the most important person in my life -- nine years ago, I went down a rabbit hole. I lost myself to a fugue state. It was only one day – six or nine months later -- when my son came home from school and found me crying at the kitchen table and cried with me, that I knew I needed to get on with my life and my family.
8. Who has had the strongest influence on you?
My mother for sure has had the greatest impact on shaping me. When my father died, she didn’t have time to move on with her life. She had three girls to raise. She had an amazing work ethic, which she bestowed on me. She was the most stoic person. She taught me to be proud, to be smart, to be honest and to be me. She encouraged me – always saying I could be anything in the world I wanted to be. She was there for me constantly and for my family. I am certain that I would not be who I am today without her guidance and amazing strength.
9. What are you most proud of?
Although I’ve written half a dozen books on watches, I am most proud of my children. As a mother, they are my life. It is that simple. All of the things we do in the business world are a means to an end, a career that pays the bills and that we love while we are doing the job. But the children – even grown and on their own – they are what give life meaning and I have amazing, self-confident, smart and compassionate children. I couldn’t be luckier.
10. What advice would you give to a 20 something someone thinking of taking a similar path as you?
Follow your dream. If you want it, you can do it. Don’t write for free; don’t write for peanuts. Don’t write what you don’t believe in.
11. Name three things on your bucket list.
Take another family vacation for several weeks with all of my children no matter where they live.
Visit the last two continents I have not yet been to (Antarctica, Australia)
Publish a few more books – but not about watches. :-)
12. Where do you think the industry is going to be in 10 years time?
It will be different for sure, but it will still be here. Over the past 35 years writing about watches and jewellery and being a part of this industry, I have witnessed so many ups and downs, so many drastic changes in consumer habits, buying habits, brands going in and out business, economic and political upheaval. Still the luxury watch and jewellery industry remains a staple. In 10 years it will be much more digital, of course, and there will be much more buying/selling of pre-owned watches, but even that category will change. Certified pre-owned will come into play; brands will be trying harder to control the grey market. I also believe there will be more consolidation of brands into groups.
To learn more about Roberta Naas www.atimelyperspective.com