WatchTime is currently being published here in the United States as well as in India, Mexico, Middle East and Turkey (with additional sister-publications in Europe and Asia), making it the leading network of watch publications worldwide. For this year in review, we decided to reach out to our friends and colleagues Neha S. Bajpai (WatchTime India), Nitin Nair (WatchTime Middle East), Alejandro Estrada (WatchTime Mexico), Mark Bernardo and Roger Ruegger (WatchTime USA) to hear more about their personal takeaways from 2020.
What was the favorite watch story you worked on in 2020?
NB: In the Jan 2020 issue, I interviewed Francesca Cartier Brickell for her book The Cartiers and I would say it has been my most favorite story this past year. I was one of the first few people to review the book globally and working with Francesca was an absolute delight. The historical nuggets, spicy details on the lives of the rich and famous from the 19th century, and Cartier’s role in the evolution of luxury over the last century make it an enthralling read.
NN: There were a couple of stories that I really enjoyed working on – the one on the growing popularity of “Arab Dials” at the auctions was a relevant regional story and I’m glad we could produce a video to go with it. Another one that I loved researching and writing about was this one – A Very British Story: The Charles Frodsham Double Impulse Chronometer.
RR: Actually all of them. But when it comes to writing a product review, it’s definitely the story about the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms Bathyscaphe Mokarran Edition, and Marc Hayek’s dedication to the protection of our oceans (published in the July-August issue). In terms of industry-focused stories, I very much appreciated having been able to interview René Beyer about the impact of Covid-19 on retail (which I thought really put our present problems in perspective, due to his family having been in the business since 1760) for the September-October issue. Last but not least, I tremendendously enjoyed researching and writing up Seiko’s history with explorers and adventurers for the brand special that was included in the November-December issue of this year.
AE: I would name the article I wrote about Junghans Manufacture in our first issue of the year. The complete experience was absolutely enriching, and having the opportunity to look closely at the fantastic musical instruments and ancient timekeepers was unrepeatable. Everyone should take that tour.
MB: It’s hard to choose from all of the profiles and reviews I wrote in 2020, but I’d have to go with my deep dive into the Vacheron Constantin Overseas collection for the December 2020 issue. Thanks to the very helpful contributions of the brand’s Style & Heritage Director Christian Selmoni, I probably learned almost as much about that watch’s history as my readers did.
Do you have a favorite print issue?
NB: I loved the cover of our Sports Special Issue which has the TAG Heuer Carrera Sport Chronograph on the cover. The white-and-blue color scheme with a speeding race car in the backdrop captured the spirit of the Carrera to a T.
NN: WatchTime Middle East’s Spring Issue with Grand Seiko Ref. SLGH002 60th Anniversary Limited Edition on the cover. We got it out just before the UAE went into lockdown in March.
RR: From an aesthetic point of view, the Seiko Prospex “Ice Sumo” SPB179 looked looked really strong (November-December), as did the cover with the new Omega Constellation on the September-October issue. But ultimately, my favorite cover execution didn’t make it this year; we had to pull that particular story at the last minute.
AE: I would definitely choose our issue with the astonishing Tradition Quantième Rétrograde 7597 by Breguet on the cover: a beautiful openworked timepiece with a retrograde indicator at the bottom. It represented as well our “back to normality issue.” It was our slimmest edition ever, but it showed, I must say, our determination and strong position in the market.
MB: I loved the cover of the July-August issue, with the exclusive Bathyscaphe Mokarran Limited Edition that Blancpain produced in collaboration with WatchTime, mostly because I know how much time and effort went into bringing that project to fruition.
What was your favorite watch release in 2020?
NB: My favorite watch release this year has been the new Omega Speedmaster “Silver Snoopy Award” 50th anniversary edition. Though the watch didn’t come as a surprise to the industry, it wowed me with its “cool” quotient. I loved the nifty details on the caseback, which lends this Speedmaster a distinct identity as compared to the rest of the pieces from that clan.
NN: The Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic. The “sports watch with the integrated bracelet” category has many also-rans, but I thought Moser did really well with this one.
AE: Probably [also] the unexpected H. Moser & Cie Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic. Finally out of their usual category, this sportive timepiece shines with its powerful bracelet, its particular kind of tonneau case, and of course the fantastic movement that displays a simple and clean chronograph dial.
RR: Surprisingly, I think 2020 turned out to be a much stronger year than I had anticipated after public life in Switzerland essentially shut down on March 17. Grand Seiko, Seiko Prospex, and LVMH (especially Zenith) in particular, both before and after the lockdown, had some incredible releases throughout the year. The two novelties I perhaps enjoyed most, mostly for their approach to incorporating a creative idea, where the Type 20 Blueprint from Zenith and the Omega Speedmaster Silver Snoopy Award“ 50th Anniversary.
MB: In a surprisingly strong year for new watch releases, I’d have to go with the Breguet Classique Double Tourbillon 5345 Quai de l’Horloge. I am still so thoroughly blown away by both its aesthetics and its mechanics, and by the fact that Breguet opted for classical materials like steel and gold for the crucial parts of this super-complex movement rather than modern silicon.
What did you miss most in 2020?
NB: Traveling. Experiencing watches in the metal and the usual buzz around new releases.
NN: Work-related travel. I never thought I would miss the overheated halls of Palexpo or the overpriced ramen at Baselworld.
AE: People, and touching. Because measuring time doesn’t have any sense without people, and motion.
RR: Having a regular meeting with the team in our New York office. Spending my Saturday on Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue and checking out the brand boutiques.
MB: Too many to list. Basically everything that I’d become accustomed to over the past decade-plus covering this industry, from trade shows to boutique events to meeting face to face with brand representatives and fellow journalists. It’s an international business but also a very close-knit one, so maintaining relationships this year was difficult but vital.
What was the biggest surprise for you in 2020?
NB: The speed and ease with which the Swiss watch industry adapted itself to the new normal with digital exhibitions and e-commerce.
NN: How online sales took off – both in retail and at the auctions.
AE: The way we all had to fit into a digitalized environment. The acceleration of change. The great lesson that everyone in this industry — jewelers, distributors, brands, clients, and the press itself — needs each other in order to survive and reactivate the great and biggest clockwork.
RR: I honestly didn’t expect that I would actually be able to attend Geneva Watch Week in August (that was around the same time Switzerland just started to get hit by the second wave) and enjoy four days of handling new watches and reconnect in real-life with some members of the industry.
MB: Quite simply, the overall resilience of the watch industry in an environment of unprecedented challenges. Many brands went full steam ahead in launching important products, celebrating anniversaries, and developing and building partnerships, when it seemed just as likely back in March that they would simply postpone everything to 2021. The repositioning of Watches & Wonders to a virtual event seemed to set the tone for other brands to embrace those platforms as well, and our own WatchTime Live event showed that consumers are still eager to connect with brands and influencers, even if it’s remotely for the time being.
What are you expecting from the industry for 2021?
NB: I would love to see some real innovation in terms of products, which is not to take away from what brands like Bulgari have done in 2020 but I would like to be surprised by the rest. And hopefully we won’t be inundated with any more “vintage-inspired” watches in 2021.
NN: More interesting value propositions, please. God knows the industry (and watch enthusiasts) could do with them.
AE: As usual, creativity, in all terrains. But at the same time good taste and
clever products. Customers are demanding sober designs, well-measured and well-thought-out products. In general, a return to the basic principles of watchmaking.
RR: I think the industry needs to find a way to reconnect with the consumers. This includes availability and distribution, offering and communication.
MB: Certainly, like many, I’m hoping that 2021 brings more in-person interaction for the extended watch community. At the same time, I’m expecting that many of the brands who discovered direct online selling this year will continue to embrace it next year.
Did you get a watch in 2020?
NB: I didn’t buy a new watch this year but I have my eyes on the Reverso One Red Wine. Hopefully, it will make it to my wrist in 2021.
AE: I got the Chapter 1.2 from BA1110D, with its beautiful blue dial and its two synchronized escapements at six and eighth o’clock. The complete concept behind the brand is really intrepid, and it shows how the watchmaking industry as a whole has built a large network of codependency that’s hard to break.
NN: The Flik Flak Hodinkee Edition for my 6-year-old girl. She learned to read the time on a clock this Spring.
RR: I did get a Rado Captain Cook with green dial in January, after having swapped a very rare NOS version from my personal collection for it (which we all agreed was in much better hands in the brand’s museum than in a safe deposit box).
MB: Unfortunately the watch I was most excited to wear this year was one I had to give back: the Omega Seamaster Diver 300M 007 Edition that I was thrilled to review for the [upcoming] Jan-Feb 2021 issue.