When you are an established watch journalist working for respected publications, you get several invitations for press trips during the year. The brands certainly know how to make them tempting, often serving more champagne than water in breathtaking areas of the world with accommodations that rarely rate below five stars.
It sounds like heaven on earth, but I refuse quite a few as they do not always serve a distinct purpose. I got into the watch industry because I am driven by a deep passion and fascination for watchmaking. Press trips, for me, are only really worthwhile when they give me a better understanding of specific topics and inspire content for at least a handful of stories.
One of my favorite types of trip to be invited on is to see the manufactures. So much so that I usually also make a few of them on my own accord (and on my own dime). Traveling to the manufactures is where our beloved watches come to life.
In general, there are a few things that nearly all manufactures have in common. With the exception of fine technical details, things like casing watches, setting hands, and even making parts in a CNC machine are pretty similar in all these places. It is the exceptions that ultimately make visiting them so worthwhile.
Just last week I ran into a great example as I enjoyed a fascinating presentation at the manufacture of Hublot about how they developed colored ceramics. Similarly, the production of the Atmos clocks can only be seen in person at the Jaeger-LeCoultre manufacture.
This is interesting information for me to write articles about, but it also contributes to bettering my understanding of watchmaking overall. This greatly helps my personal development as a watch journalist, as all these bits of information have a tendency to become useful in one way or another in the future.
As it is unfortunately impossible for the vast majority of watch collectors and enthusiasts to visit a manufacture, I also feel that we as journalists are the ambassadors of the craftsmen and women. We have the privilege to tell the stories of how they develop and create our favorite watches, and that is a five-star experience all by itself.