On January 8, WatchTime Editor-in-Chief Joe Thompson was recognized for his career-long contributions to the watch and jewelry industry, receiving the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award at the Jewelers of America’s (JA) GEM Awards ceremony at New York’s Cipriani 42nd Street.
Thompson, who began his watch journalism career in 1977 at JCK Magazine, and served as editor-in-chief of Modern Jeweler and founding editor of American Time before joining WatchTime in 2000, is the first journalist or member of the media to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award in the 14-year history of the GEM Awards, which are regarded as the Oscars of the fine jewelry industry.
The gala evening featured a cocktail hour and dinner (including red carpet entrances), attended by award nominees and other luminaries of the watch and jewelry business, and concluded with the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Thompson was introduced by longtime friend and colleague Efraim Grinberg, Chairman and CEO of Movado Group, Inc. (and son of Movado Group founder Gedalio “Gerry” Grinberg, recipient of the first JA GEM Award for Lifetime Achievement).
In his brief acceptance speech, Thompson was characteristically gracious and humble. “People in my line of work normally do not expect to get a wonderful honor like this,” he said. “These [awards] go to the people we cover, not the scribblers who cover them. For journalists, the focus should be on the story, not the storyteller. That’s why headlines are big and bylines are small. And that’s the way it should be. So for JA to give me this recognition, and this moment, is an act so gracious for which I am just so grateful.”
Thompson also thanked his wife and longtime partner, WatchTime Executive Editor Norma Buchanan, telling a story about an encounter with a reader who, in his words, had figured out his “scam.” “Many years ago, Mr. Mike Kaplan of [jewelry packaging and display company] Rocket Redbox… noticed that on every magazine where I was the number one editor, the number two editor was Norma Buchanan,” he related. “And Mike knew that Norma Buchanan was a superb writer and a superb reporter. He also knew that she was my wife. We’re a team for 29 years now. So at one point for Mike, it all clicked. And he started to tell the watch gang that whenever they saw a story by Joe Thompson, it was really the work of Norma Buchanan. Well, I neither confirmed nor denied that theory.”
The room rose for a standing ovation at Thompson’s affectionate closing remarks: “To Norma Buchanan, all I can say is, thank you, Darling. Without you, there is no me. This is for you, too. We thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.”