Retailer Experiences

The Holiday Throwdown: Why We Should All Take a Page out of Provident Jewelry’s Book

Now that I write full time I don’t find myself in jewelry stores as often as I once did. Occasionally I will visit the shops of my friends if I’m in the cities they’re located in but unless I’ve been invited to attend an event or I’ve been hired to speak about the different topics I know about, I don’t often wander into places unless there’s a reason.

Thankfully, there were several reasons to be at Provident Jewelry in Jupiter, Florida this month.

Back during the WatchTime New York show I had a moment with MB&F’s Phil Ogle where I started picking his brain about a few different stores he works with. Provident, to me, seemed unlike many of the retailers I’d visited in the past. The company was not a family jeweler but rather a joint effort between several guys – young guys, too – and yet they seemed to have their finger on the pulse of what the southern part of Florida was shopping for. They carried big-name jewelry brands but also independent watch brands. They were catering to Baby Boomers and Generation X, yet thinking and marketing like Generation Y. And when the shit hit the fan for every aspect of the jewelry industry in 2008 and 2009, Provident seemed to be thriving and expanding; a notion nearly unheard of during the recession. So, I wanted to see for myself what this place was all about. I’m happy to say that I finally got my chance.

*********

When I received the telephone call from Nick Linca – one of the owners and well-known faces of Provident’s Jupiter, Florida location – I was sitting on a bench under a set of stairs at the infamous Watergate Hotel in Washington in between sessions at the New York Times conference on the future of the luxury industry.

“So, Barbara, Phil and I were talking, and I’d like for you to come out and visit us during our holiday events next week. We love what you do and I read your writing religiously. Plus, you’re well respected by a lot of people we know and work with, so I think it would be fun to have you here. Max will be here and the SVP of Chanel, as well as a lot of other people you’ll want to meet. We’ll fly you down and put you up. What do you think?”

I mean, how do I say no to that? I get the opportunity to visit one of the stores I’ve virtually watched grow over the years, get to spend some time around one of my favorite watchmakers in the world (#maxcrusheveryday), and get two days and nights in eighty-degree weather in December. Um, yes please!

20161207_144954

Nick and Max. They get it.

As mentioned in my piece over on WhatsOnHerWrist.com, when I arrived at the Jupiter location, I found Nick deep in conversation with the aforementioned Phil and the one-and-only Max Büsser. Lara Pansolli – Provident’s head of Marketing – showed me around the store and gave me a little background on what to expect over the next couple of days.

“Tonight will be an intimate event; only about sixty people (though it’s starting to look closer to eighty) and it will be comfortable for the customers who aren’t into large crowds. Tomorrow night, however…”

“What happens tomorrow night?”

“Oh, just you wait and see. Tomorrow night’s going to be crazy. I mean it, too.”

As I perused the showroom I found my jaw lagging behind me and scraping the floor from time to time. Not only did I notice jewelry from luxury brands Chopard, Crevoshay, Gucci, and Buddha Mama, but their timepiece selection was sublime, and for all the right reasons. Nick, himself, made clear to me that the watch part of their business was based as much on personal preferences as it was on what profits the retailer could turn because of it. They only put in watch brands that they feel a personal connection to and they must believe in the story of the brand or else it doesn’t work. This is probably why they do so well with names like MB&F and Arnold & Son watches, and why they welcomed the designs of Fiona Krüger into their world recently. But what’s just as important as the story the brand tells is the story that the store tells, which I got to know more about when I sat down for about an hour with Nick and one of his partners, Seth Berman, inside the Jupiter store’s “Dream Factory” cigar lounge.

20161207_204653Adornmentality: “This room is incredible. I mean it. I’ve never seen anything like it. Do people really smoke in here? It doesn’t even smell a little bit like cigars.”

Nick Linca: “Oh yeah, they smoke in here, all right, but it’s a negative air pressure room, so you’re not going to smell anything unless someone lights up in front of you.”

Adornmentality: “So, why would you put something like this in a jewelry store?”

Nick Linca: “Because men hate to shop, and they really hate going to jewelry stores, so while their wives or girlfriends are looking around or trying things on or making a wish list, they get to come back here and get away for a little while. They can get a drink at the bar (pointing toward the fully-stocked marble wet bar directly outside of the Dream Factory), come in here, and have a nice cigar. It’s part of the experience. It’s part of why our customers always come back; because they know they’re important to us.”

lrg_dsc02038

Nick and me in the Dream Factory

The cigar lounge’s impressiveness doesn’t stop at its walls of dark wood, massive flat-screen television (which at the time [to my glee] was looping a video of Max Büsser [sigh]), and negative air pressure ventilation, either. It also contains dozens of cedar-lined cigar lockers which are given to customers who spend $250,000 per year or more. Now, you might think to yourself, “Really? That’s all they get? A cigar box?” But no, that’s not all they get, because as mentioned above, it’s not just about the cigars, or the watches, or the bar, or the jewelry… it’s about the whole experience, and the experience that goes along with that small cedar box is really quite mammoth.

Dream Factory members (meaning those who get a key to one of those sought-after wooden cubes) get to take part in Provident Jewelry’s “First Thursday,” which means that on the first Thursday of every month, members and a guest might be part of, say, a Poker Night. Only instead of your second cousin Louis pouring Wild Turkey and Pepsi into red solo cups while Little Petey Shoepeddler tries to count cards before Johnny Knuckles beats the crap out of him, you get a fully-catered, top-shelf experience that might just include the World Series of Poker champion. Or maybe it’s Polo Night with three members of the International Polo Club, or Italian Night with Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and gorgeous Italian men and women pouring hundred-dollar bottles of Antinori Tignanello. My point is, this is part of what the “box” gets you, and you get it every… damned… month. But on top of that very cool and special member perk (as well as a few others), in my mind the most notable experience for members is the one that gives back to the community.

Every cigar lounge key holder, one night per year, can have full access to the Provident Jewelry Jupiter store – and all of its amenities – to throw an event that will raise money for the charity of their choice. Provident will supply the member with a one carat loose diamond for which they can sell raffle tickets. Each person who buys a ticket receives a diamond-looking gem. There could be 99 of those gems (CZs or diamond simulants) but only one will be an actual diamond, which Provident will verify when the winner is chosen. This, to me, above all of the marble, or fine wood, or big names, or nice scotch, was the most impressive thing about this company. They give back, and they give back big league (I threw that one in for you, Nick). They know their customers, they like their customers, and they know that success means very little unless one helps those less fortunate than oneself. They had my adoration before I ever stepped foot into their store, but now they had my complete and utter respect.

Nick also gave me a bit of the company’s backstory as well as a little of his own. Provident was originally a small store, started in West Palm Beach by a man in the diamond and jewelry biz by the name of Art Samuels. In 1999 after bringing his son, Rob, into the family business, Rob reached out to a salesman he knew by the name of Scott Diament and together they eventually bought most of Art’s final shares of the business. With more stores on the horizon (they opened a second store in Naples on Florida’s 20161208_200331west coast and a store in Jupiter which eventually became their flagship location), Scott reached out to his cousin – Seth Berman – to try to solicit him to come on board as a partner. Seth had been in Colorado finishing school and had never considered getting into the jewelry business, but after trying it out for a few months he realized how much he was meant for it, and so he came on board and attained his Graduate Gemologist degree from the G.I.A. through their long-distance education courses. Then, Nick – through connections, experience (eighteen years working for one of the most recognizable jewelry companies in the United States), a keen sense of what it takes to sell anything (forget the ketchup popsicle/white suit cliché, I’m talking dude could probably sell an $80,000 watch to a blind guy), and a little bit of luck – was hired as a salesman but was then quickly offered a partnership in the company. Add on Geoffrey Fear, who currently runs Provident’s newest location in Wellington, and you’ve got yourself the recipe for a lifelong friendly partnership and a successful business model.

All in, as of today, Provident has seven stores in south Florida: West Palm Beach, Palm Beach (Worth Avenue), two locations in Naples, Ft. Myers, Jupiter, and now Wellington. They’ve had tough times (a major robbery in 2011 nearly wiped them out) but overall they’ve come out on top. In telling me about their robbery, Nick was clear that the brands who stood by the company in those struggling times are now the brands that they’ve devoted themselves to, and many of those brands showed a strong presence at one or both of Provident’s holiday parties.

lrg_dsc02024_1

Top shelf

I headed back to the hotel to change into the first of two LBDs I’d packed for the night’s festivities. For the more subdued party I chose a dress by A.B.S. that was sheer at the waist and back accompanied by Ralph Lauren anklet heels. When I arrived back at the store it was as if an entire metamorphosis had occurred in the ninety minutes I’d been gone. There were floral arrangements the size of Fiats and a harp the size of said floral arrangements. That marble bar I spoke of earlier? It was stacked with bottles of Dom Perignon and Perfect Vodka, but for my first drink I decided to go with a subtle Japanese whisky… neat.

cymera_20161207_195541

With Olivier of Chanel

It was great to see some familiar faces like those of Eric Frank with Bell & Ross, and my friend Samir Shah with Arnold & Son and Angelus watches. But it was also pretty rad getting to meet a few other major players in the watch and jewelry industry. Folks like Olivier Stip, SVP of Chanel Fine Jewelry and Watches, as well as Markus Döttling of Döttling, which makes luxury high end safes and watch winders. On the timepiece side, representatives were there from Louis Moinet, Corum, and Emmanuel Bouchet, and Carl F. Bucherer’s North American President, Ron Stoll, was also in attendance. For me, of course, it was a joy just to get to spend some time around Maximilian Büsser on his only visit to the U.S. this year. And his presence at this event, from what I gathered, is part of the draw for Provident’s customers.

While a harpist softly played holiday music, a professional ballerina – complete in toe shoes, tutu, and tiara – held a tray of lrg_dsc02007crystal flutes filled with fine Champagne as people mingled about wearing their finest jewels and most holiday-party appropriate attire. Outside, valets parked several cars that likely cost more than my house, but inside there was no discussion of wealth and no discussion of politics. It was an elegant affair filled with people who seemed to get one another, and who also seem to understand luxury in its truest form. It was joyous, yet subdued, and it was an honor to have been invited.

Then, of course, came Thursday night’s party. Man, what a difference a day makes.

I am not using hyperbole when I say that this was the largest number of people I have even seen piled into a jewelry store at one time, by a landslide. HUNDREDS. I mean it… there were literally hundreds of guests at this event which was held both inside the store and in the store’s lrg_dsc02101parking lot (which had been converted into a second bar and table area). Caterers were running around like hamsters on wheels. Valets were tossing keys over one another’s heads. There were blondes in black dresses and Baby Boomers in four-figure duds and everyone – EVERYONE – was laughing and eating and drinking and dancing. Wait? Did I just type, dancing? YES, YOU JUST READ THAT I TYPED THAT PEOPLE WERE DANCING. “Why were they dancing?” You say? Because Provident hired the baddest-ass DJ/Electric Violinist in all of South Florida, Timothee Lovelock, and because he pretty much single-handedly turned Provident’s back room into “da club.” It was insanity, Lara was right, and by the time the doors closed for the evening, everyone – including yours truly – was exhausted.

Nick took a small group of us out for some late night grub and one last drink on the water before we were all to go our separate ways the following morning. Samir was there, as was Gustavo with Corum, and my new buddy Matteo (#whyareyoustrokingmyarm) sat on my left. Phil Ogle showed up too, only he brought along some friends: namely, his left and right biceps (feel free to tease Phil about this, guys). We took one final breather, inhaled the last drop of Champagne, and toasted what was surely two successful and hopefully profitable holiday events.

Provident Jewelry, I applaud you. You have shown me what a jewelry store is capable of and how something as simple as a 20161208_200346positive attitude can save and even catapult your business. You gave new meaning to the word “experience” for me and I hope that retailers who read this piece will take away with them that this is what success is all about: giving the customer more than just a good product or even great service, namely, something they’ll store in their memories for many years to come.

Nick, I get you. Not in every way, but in the ways that matter. You and I understand that fun can change things; it can change mindsets, and business, and what some believe should always be the norm. I think we’ll be friends for a long time after this. Thanks so much for having me and I hope we get to do it again real soon.

To Seth, Rob, Scott, and Geoff, I wish you all much luck and success in your future. To Lara and Ashton, thank you for your hospitality and for dressing me in the finest of jewels every night.

Thanks for reading not just today but all year long, and Merry Christmas, everybody. May 2017 bring bright, shiny experiences for us all!

Standard
Uncategorized

From Nasty Women to Bad Hombres: Holiday Gifts for the Politically Passionate On Your List

Sooo, uhhhhh, yeah.

I’ll admit it; I had to rewrite some of this year’s holiday gift guide to coincide with the election outcome. I’ll admit that I expected to have an undertone in this piece that would poke fun at the experience of the 2016 electoral process as well as celebrate the smashing of that final glass ceiling. I had the jewels all picked out and the stories to go along with them, and it was fun and light and cheeky and very, very Barbara. But then, November 8th happened and the light immediately fell dark. The fun no longer seemed believable, at least, at the time. And I struggled with feeling anything other than worry, anger, and a lot of sadness.

Those emotions were real not just for me but for millions of others, and if you’re reading this and you’re having those feelings still, don’t let anyone tell you can’t or you shouldn’t. We fight for so much in this country and we love us some God-given freedom, but what many out there refuse to accept is that freedom also means that we’re free to feel, free to mourn, and free to write. And while the journalism of yore is dying off and being replaced by people like me (bloggers), and people not like me (people who *think* they’re bloggers), right now, we still have the 1st Amendment covering Freedom of the Press. So for today I’m going to use that right, as well as the right to free speech, and I’m going to pen my yearly holiday gift guide in the manner in which you’re used to it being presented – through satire. I hope it brings you some laughter, gets you thinking, and hell, maybe even offends you a little. After all, if we don’t experience these emotions, then how are we to know that we’re still alive?

***************

For Your Tan-Skinned Pharmacist, Maria

plukka-ramses-ii-18k-gold-diamond-spike-ringSure, Maria was born here in the United States to a Portuguese mother and a Peruvian father, and sure, her parents became U.S. citizens even before she was ever conceived, but that doesn’t mean Maria hasn’t experienced her fair share of difficulties pertaining to the treatment she’s gotten this election cycle (particularly by that one a**hole customer who has waited for her twice after work and who keeps asking her for a chimichanga when he picks up his monthly prescriptions of Propecia and Viagra [um, throw rocks/live in glass houses much, dude? I don’t think baldness and floppiness are the only reasons you can’t get a date, bruh]), which is why there is no better gift for the lovely Maria than something to protect herself with. Something that says, “Hey, hombre, if you come anywhere near me again I will make your face look like Marty Castillo from Miami Vice.” Something like Plukka’s 18K rose gold, sterling silver, and diamond “Ramses II” ring should do the trick. It’s spikey, yet stylish, and can also be used to flatten the tires on creepy guy’s pickup if… you know… a situation called for it.

For Your Jesus-Loving Aunt Betty

aunt-betty-links-of-londonGod bless your sweet Aunt Betty. I mean it, too. If peach cobbler, gummy bears, and a baby seal could take human form while simultaneously driving a yellow Ford Focus and singing G-rated show tunes, your Aunt Betty would be the result. Even though she voted differently than you, Aunt Betty never once called either candidate a terrible name, nor did she spread fake news or blatant lies about those running for office. She had her reasons for voting how she did and honestly, how could you be mad at her for that? I mean you could, but look at her. You can’t be mad. You just can’t. She smells like toffee. She sends you balloons on your birthday. And she’s a darn proud hand-knitted-American-flag-sweater-wearing American, which is why this Stars and Stripes covered sterling silver apple charm by Links of London will be a gift she’ll cherish forever. Can’t you just see her adding it to the empty link between Winnie the Pooh and the New Testament charm (complete with a verse from 2 Corinthians!) on her bracelet? She’ll show it off to all her friends on bingo night, even if she does refer to you as her “liberal niece, but not like a ‘Rachel Maddow’ liberal.” Bless her heart.

For Ken, Your Confused Step-Brother

Ken has serious identity issues but because you really like your step-dad, you don’t have the heart to tell him that to his face. You’ve ridden in the car with Ken when he’s gone off on rants about how we don’t need any help from the government right gp-1966-the-mapbefore he hit a pot hole and started screaming that the city needed to “fix that sh*t.” You’ve witnessed Ken wearing a “Don’t Tread On Me” t-shirt as he planted marijuana seeds in his backyard while belting out Indigo Girls’ tunes. And if all of that wasn’t enough to prove that Ken is a living, breathing, walking oxymoron, Ken goes and votes for Gary Johnson. Dafuq, Ken? I’d almost rather you penciled in “Dick Cheney’s Man-Sized Safe” as your choice of candidate. So, since Ken isn’t sure about much of anything other than he’s sure he’d rather live here than in one of those “socialist countries,” methinks something that could show Ken the world might be in order this holiday.

Back in 2014, esteemed Swiss watch manufacturer, Girard-Perregaux, introduced three limited edition watches with Cloisonné enamel dials to add to their 1966 series, one of which was named, “The Map.” For reasons obvious to Ken, he’s really going to love you for getting him this gift and won’t believe how much you spent on him this year, especially since he only got you a bottle of Dewar’s. For reasons obvious to you, it was worth the money to know that Ken will now and forever wear a watch that he doesn’t even realize contains the city of Aleppo. Feel the Bern, Kenny. Feel it for a long time, pal.

For Clover, Your Vegan Liberal Arts Major Daughter

For the record, we all know that you didn’t name your daughter, “Clover Windsong” at birth. We know that it took you almost the entirety of your pregnancy to come up with a name you felt could benefit her in her life; one that would sound strong rather than delicate. One that brought about the feelings of both grace and confidence in her as it fell from her lips when she introduced utedecker_ring_2_shapes_goldherself to her peers and/or Chris Hemsworth, who you were sure would be her husband one day. You felt that “Catherine” was indeed that name, and that it would be one she’d thank you for after hearing it over the sound system as she received her doctorate in biophysics and her masters in environmental law.

Yeeaah, no. Sorry, ma. Not the case.

Clover voted for Jill Stein for President. So rather than get into how silently disgusted you are in that little morsel or how depressed you are over her legal name change, choice of boyfriend, CHOICE OF SCHOOL, CHOICE OF CAREER PATH, CHOICE OF CAT BREED, HAIR COLOR, PIERCING LOCATIONS, AND MANY, MANY OTHER THINGS, you know that these are likely just things that kids go through, right? I mean, you were young once, weren’t you? And tongue tattoos are all the rage right now. But just because you haven’t voiced your disappointment in Dandelion – sorry, sorry – I mean, in “Clover” (I get my weeds mixed up), doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel your disappointment, so how about you pick up something you know she’ll love this season.

This Ute Decker Double Ring made with sand-textured, fair trade, ethically sourced 18K yellow gold would make for a very thoughtful gift for your girl, but if you really want to watch Clover turn Crimson, have it engraved with “To: Catherine, Love: Ma” on the inside, and when she reads that out loud on the first morning of Hanukkah, turn to her and say, “gotcha!”

For Your Recently Converted Cousin Lisa

You remember Lisa, Right? Lisa… the cousin who apparently converted to Buddhism on November 9th when she began tenderly calling for the country to come together, get along with one another, accept the election results, and unite under one flag, because, you know, we all should love our country as much as we love our freedom to vote. THAT Lisa. Oh! Wait, you haven’t met that Lisa yet, have you? Oh, RIIIIIIIIGHT! You only remember the “old” Lisa who as recently as November 7th had a Facebook profile picture depicting a dreadlocked Senator Clinton as a character in the television series, “Orange Is the New Black,” and a tara-buddha-mama2cover photo stating simply, “GUNS ARE FUN” written in red, white, and blood. But silly you, that was the Lisa of yesterminute! Today’s Lisa carries her 38 Master semi-automatic Smith & Wesson (5” barrel) in a gentler and kinder fashion. She’s now spending her days trying to calm the liberal’s “aggressively” peaceful protests and “violently” civil telephone calls to their local elected officials. She’s even meditating every morning to the soothing sounds of Dr. Ben Carson’s voice reciting the poems of Francis Scott Key. Mmmmmm… dreamy. And with her newfound interest in a peaceful transition of power (a term, by the way, which she referred to merely weeks ago as a p***y-filled transition of power), she might want to start taking this Buddhist thing to the next level, which is where you and Grandma Nora come in.

See, what Lisa doesn’t know is that Granny made you executor of her Last Will and Testament. And now that Granny sees just how much Lisa is benefitting from her suddenly Buddhist mentality, the two of you decided that instead of giving Lisa Granny’s beach house in Tybee Island, Grandma Nora would sell the house, split a large portion of the proceeds up into donations for the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, and Planned Parenthood, and then with what was left, purchase the MOST gorgeous diamond and emerald “Tara” necklace by Miami-based luxury jewelry designer, Buddha Mama as something Lisa would treasure forever and wear during those moments of clarity that have unexpectedly found their way into her heart – and Facebook newsfeed.

For Tom, Your Republican Business Partner

Well, what can anybody say to Tom other than his guy won, and your gal lost, right? Tom exercised his right to vote and he did so secretly, which you’ll admit, probably pisses you off a little. Tom never told you how he was voting. He never put a bumper sticker on his car, never brought up Megyn Kelly at the water cooler, and never once trashed Hillary. Tom’s vote came as an utter shock shinola-ramblerto you and the only reason you even know which way he voted was because when you stumbled into the office at 1:00 in the afternoon on the day after the election, still a little drunk and wearing yesterday’s socks (and probably underwear if you were even wearing any), Tom looked fresh as a daisy and offered to get you a cup of coffee. That… that was when you knew.

“Et tu, Tom?” said you.

“I felt like we needed a change.” said Tom.

And with that punch in the gut you realized why the results of this election came as such a surprise to you: because Tom and you genuinely like one another. You went to college together, and while the khaki pants, conservative haircut, and Range Rover hinted to Tom’s political preference, you never wanted to ask, because it never really mattered. You’re an atheist and Tom’s a Christian. Did that ever matter in business? No. Did it ever matter when you were out partying or seeing a live band? No. And so that was the kicker. You were appalled by the actions of some of those Trump supporters but never in a million years thought Tom could be one of them because he wasn’t loud, he wasn’t rural, and he wasn’t angry, at least, on the outside. And so now it becomes a little clearer. Not all Trump supporters are bad. And not all Hillary supporters are bad. You all – we all – had to make a decision to vote one way or the other, and so with that in mind, the Christmas gift I recommend getting for Tom is the Shinola Rambler Tachymeter with red bezel and black nylon strap, because if you’re going to be a sarcastic son-of-a-b*tch this holiday season, there’s no better place to interject a 1940’s colloquialism than right here, right now, with your good ol’ buddy Tom. #ifyouknowyouknow

And finally…

For Your Grandma Nora

She’s been your champion since you could remember. Even when your mom would tell you to “sit like a lady” and not play in the dirt, Grandma Nora would let you do the complete opposite. She was the first person to give you a cigarette when you were fifteen only to tell you immediately after you nearly choked to death that you should never smoke again (and you didn’t). She’d let you hang out an hour later than you were supposed to when you spent those occasional weekends at her Upper East Side apartment.

She taught you how to make a proper martini, how to appropriately apply winged eyeliner, and what to say to a man to make him feel like he was the only man who ever existed. She could handle her men, that Granny of yours. She’d been married thrice and heaven knows how many hearts she broke before, during, and after those ceremonies. She fought for women’s rights when it was unheard of to do so, she burned bras on the boardwalk during the Miss America pageant, and she marched in protest more times than she could remember. But her one wish – the wish she had since her sorority days – was to see a woman become President before she ventured on into her next exciting life.

Close, Grandma Nora. How very close you came to being granted the only wish you ever truly had.

And while her wish may not come to fruition now, Granny still has most of her memory, most of her health, and most of her bad habits, which is why there is no better gift for you to give to her this Christmas than a “NASTY” necklace by jewelry designer, feminist, and proud New Yorker, Wendy Brandes. Not only does Granny deserve to be called, “nasty,” but her feeble ass might just run out and get a tattoo to match. DO NOT DARE HER.

That’s it for this year’s gift guide, y’all. Thanks for reading and I hope there was enough here to offend everyone. OH I KID! NO, YOU SHUT UP!

I welcome any and all comments below but do ask that you keep a respectful tone.

Happy Holidays, and God bless us, EVERYONE!

Standard
#jewelrypeople

The Luxury of (a good) Time: What One Woman Did with her New York Minute

“Time/He’s waiting in the wings/He speaks of senseless things/His script is you and me boys”

Time by David Bowie

The aircraft was eerily quiet on this trip in from Atlanta. No babies babbling. No toddlers whining. No tourists yapping. The peace I was feeling as I stared out over the Brooklyn Bridge before raising my eyes upward to catch a seconds-long glimpse of the Empire State was greatly needed and grandly appreciated. The silence beckoned me into my own conscience; a place I had been avoiding over the last day or two. Yet once there, and settled in, I heard them – all of them – the voices of the darkened past reminding the voices of the brightly lit future to tell the voices of the confused, frightened, and insecure present that all was going to be okay. That things would be fine and that they had nothing to fear. And as the conversations dwindled, the aircraft shook, the rubber burned, and the wing flaps raised.

Wheels down, New York City. Wheels down, deep thoughts. There are people to see and places to be, and heaven knows I don’t have much time.

“I look at my watch it say 9:25/and I think ‘Oh God I’m still alive’/We should be on by now/We should be on by now/La la la la la la la la”

*********

Day One

(texting)

Friend: “How goes the drive?”

Me: “Cinco minutos.”

Friend: “Okay, heading down.”

Me: “Bring a gun with you. (Pause.) Never mind. I’ll just go ahead and have that heart attack.”

Friend: “No, wait, I want to have one with you.”

If you’ve ever taken an Uber in Manhattan and the drive lasts longer than forty minutes, you can sympathize with the above textversation, I’m sure.

I hadn’t seen this particular person in, well, what felt like EVER, so I was happy that they agreed to a mid-workday scotch with me before I had to head off into the social sunset of GEM Awards weekend. We hit a local bar near their place of work and settled our asses onto the two corner barstools. The building seemed old and the space had that good veteran pub feel to it; lots of wood, tile floors, and several bottles of brown-hued alcohol. I opted for an Oban 14, neat, because I promised my friend Dave Bindra I’d have an Oban 18, but frankly I just couldn’t afford to. Sorry Dave. Everyone has to settle for something other than what they really want once in a while. C’est la vie, amigo. C’est. La. Vie.

The conversation and company left me with a warm, comfortable feeling about how the rest of the trip was going to go. Or maybe it was the Oban. Could have been, but that’s cool, too, because the bottom line is, scotch is great. And once my (hiccup) drinking partner left to head back to the office I stuck around for a quick pinot noir with my new best friend, Millennial Bartender.

MB: “So why do you know so much about sports?”

Me: “Brothers. And, lots of Trivial Pursuit growing up. And I met my husband on a game show.”

MB: “I don’t believe it. That’s not true. Picture, or it isn’t true.”

Me: (scrolling through phone) (scrolling) (now scrolling through Instagram) “Ah, here’s one. See?”

MB: (Looking, in disbelief) “I don’t even know what to say right now. Are you serious?”

Me: “Yup. He’s hot, too. And we made pretty redheaded babies. Oh, and I just got this email an hour ago from Royal Caribbean (showing him email) asking if he and I want to star in their South American cruise ads next month.”

MB: (Looking at me, disgustingly) “You see now… you’re the reason why people hate us white people.”

It’s *so* going to be an awesome day.

“Goddamn, you’re looking old/You’ll freeze and catch a cold/’Cause you’ve left your coat behind/Take your time”

After the painfully long Uber back to my heartbreakingly dismal Marriott Courtyard, I freshened up, packed a purse with NYC essentials (metro card, mints, ID, mace, extra socks) and quickly headed back out to a meetup of jewelry industry women put together by the great connector herself, Liz Kantner.

We arrived at Winnie’s on west 38th one by one. Some of the industry’s most talented designers, marketing directors, and editors had assembled to shoot the shit in a relaxed environment, as we knew that there would be no possibility of in-depth conversation at either the GEM Awards or the 24K gala. I was thrilled to see Cleo of Jane Taylor Jewelry (whom I owe like fifty apologies to – she knows why), Malak of Zaiken, Rebecca of Communique LA, Marla Aaron, Delphine Leymarie, Jennifer Heebner, and Michelle Graff. Thankfully, I would also see three of these women at the following morning’s whiskey breakfast, because my liver and I have a love/hate relationship.

The clock struck eight which meant it was time for all of my organs and me to leave for my 8:30 p.m. dinner plans down in the East Village. The weather in New York oddly was warmer than it was in Atlanta, so I put the back window down and stared, blurrily (because I’m too vain to wear my glasses) at the sporadic lights beaming from Stuyvesant Town. I felt… alone. Probably the most alone I had felt in a while. The week had presented me with some not-so-unexpected life turns, and this was the first real moment I had to think about what I was going to do.

I looked up at the big, old, brick towers before me. They reminded me so much of my home. Home, meaning Philly… where as a child I survived the unspeakable; where as a young adult female I made it through the unimaginable. But in my loneliness I concluded that I was as tall as these towers, and as hard as their exterior; that I wore my age as well as they, and that I was in no way ready to be torn down. There was life in me – beautiful life – just as Stuyvesant contains beautiful lives within its walls. I smiled at the lights as I thought of the artists and writers who call the towers home, and I grinned even more widely when I thought of the artist and writer living inside of me. My loneliness turned to rejuvenation which in turn became determination, and for the rest of my ride I thought about how nice it was going to be to have dinner with one of my oldest and most loyal jewelry friends.

The ceiling of Pylos is covered in terracotta pots. The restaurant is small, dark, and cozy, and it’s as legitimately Greek as any place I’ve ever eaten. To be there with one of my closest confidants and biggest supporters was uplifting. We ate wonderful fish and shared a 2008 Megas Oenos Skouras before heading off to our individual temporary housing for the night. I mean, I had a big morning planned, so there was no way I was going to stay out late getting drunk if I had to get up early in the morning to get drunk. Which is the perfect segue into…

Day Two

snapseed-03Who knew whiskey at breakfast would be so popular? I mean, seriously?! It was a hit! Props to *THE* Ben Smithee for recommending Pershing Square as the place we’d be able to get a scotch on the rocks at 9:30 a.m. All in, we were a group of ten, and what a group of ten we were. Still recovering from a stint at the Boom Boom Room the night before were the aforementioned Smithee, accompanied by his partner at LUXE Intelligence and fellow Aries badass, Dallas Selsey. Seated on my immediate right was the infamous Rick Bannerot (YAY, RICK! WE FINALLY MEET!). And going around the table we had our three gals from the previous evening – Rebecca “can I get a DD up in heyaa?” Moskal; Delphine “WAIT. Let me take a ‘Delphie’” Leymarie; and Marla “I follow the rules and look good doing it” Aaron. There was my friend Jackie Cohen of Timeless/My Story; my wonderfully wonderful Peggy Jo Donahue; and last but not least, (because you can’t have a scotch at breakfast unless you have an official Scottish person at your table) the recently hitched Maeve Gillis of MaeVona. Ho. Leeeee. Shit, y’all. This was one killer whiskey (or whisky – for Maeve the Scot) drinkin’ crowd. And these folks ordered properly, too. The bourbon, scotch, and Irish whiskey flowed as freely as my swear word usage on this here blog.

Somehow I wound up at the male end of the table. (What exactly makes a table have a male end and a female end? Is one end pointy and stubborn and the other concave and naggy?) I’m not really surprised about it because my life is one big Boy Scout outing these days. But once the brown liquid consumption began, things started getting a little… shall we say… politically incorrect?

“I’m amazed that we wound up with two straight guys with this group of women.”

“You mean three.”

“Oh. Crap. Sorry.”

———-

“So this girl says to me, ‘You’re a really sexy Asian.’”

“Hmm. Funny. I don’t usually like Asians but…”

“Wow, that’s a really racist thing to say.”

“NO!!! NO, YOU DIDN’T LET ME FINISH!!! I MEANT FROM A LOOKS STANDPOINT, THEY’RE NOT USUALLY MY TYPE, BUT I WAS GOING TO SAY…”

“I mean, seriously? You actually just said you didn’t like Asians. I’m going to tweet that.”

“NO! Please don’t. I was going to end my statement with ‘BUT YEAH, DUDE, YOU’RE A PRETTY SEXY ASIAN.”

“You’re dead, woman. No going back. You realize that, right?”

“Yup. My career is over.”

———–

“Did you know he’s part of that pedophile program thing?”

“WILL YOU STOP SAYING IT’S FOR PEDOPHILES! IT’S CALLED BIG BROTHERS/BIG SISTERS. I’M A BIG BROTHER, YOU DOPE!”

“Whatever.” 

While I wished desperately that “Whiskey Breakfast” could have lasted forever (and props to Josh with Kretchmer for showing up at the tail end), I had “Beer Lunch” to get ready for and needed to find some ice to put on the part of my liver that I had cut out with a coffee spoon so that I could spare it from being tainted. Goodness knows I’d need it by the evening.

Off I went in my chariot of yellow and black to the same bar I met Michael Schechter at just three-hundred-and-sixty-five days earlier. I walked in to find our table the same, our server the same, and my dread the same. Man, I hate beer. I haaaaaaaate beer. But I write this off as my yearly charitable donation and I suck it up for the good of our friendship. Plus, keep in mind that last year’s beer lunch coined the term, “layer of penis,” so who knows what goodness would come out of this year’s, right? 

Mikey was late because he has no respect for his elders but that’s okay; I’ve learned to accept him for who he is, which is also why I wasn’t surprised about his excitement at their newest beer on draft called, “More Cowbell.”

“I can only drink a Hefeweizen.”

“You should go for a porter.”

“Nah. Can’t. Too chewy.”

“What about an IPA?”

“I don’t do hops.”

“You’re the worst.”

“Thank you. The hatred is mutual.”

For as masculine as I can be at times, there are moments when I look at myself and think, “Christ, Barbara… stop being so goddamned prissy.” I mean, here I was trying tastes of different beers so that I could make sure I had something that wouldn’t offend my palate the way Gwen Stefani’s voice offends people who are able to carry a tune. And for what? One beer? Once per year? Grow a pair, woman! Toughen up and drink a brew! And why are you ordering the salmon, for God’s sake? Get a burger! And pick up that blood! (Anyone?)

I couldn’t make it through half of my drink, which naturally made my lunch companion shake his head in both disgust and silent glory.

At the end of the meal, I’m sorry to say that no anatomy layers were mentioned, nor was a phrase coined for the year, nor did I ever get that burger. But I’m really looking forward to next year’s, Michael. And thanks again for lunch; always a blast, especially when you pay.

I headed back to the hotel knowing that I needed a good solid three hours to get ready. Yes, that’s what I need. I have a lot of hair, require a plethora of makeup, and use a buttload of “equipment” to get myself into those gowns, and all of those things demand time. Sensing a theme, here? Congratulations. You have a pulse. Now let’s get down to the main reason I made this trip in the first place…

GEM AWARDS 2016

I remember the 2015 GEM Awards as clearly as I remember my middle name. The images of Monica and me getting naked dressed in our hotel room, and of the camaraderie of #PowerTable48 are still wonderfully loud and vivid and in my brain. I was sad to hear that The Daz wouldn’t be making the trip this year but I was determined to make my fellow Vegas Gems and her proud by leaving an impression. That impression started in a small vintage clothier in Atlanta, which is where I found my gown.

snapseed-01Recently I joked on Instagram that I own about thirteen floor-length gowns that I really can’t wear again because I don them around the same damned people in the jewelry industry. This dress was a definite one-time-only wear, and that’s okay, because it served its purpose. It was part Daisy Buchanan, part Alexis Carrington, and part Katniss Everdeen with a touch of Maleficent thrown in for good measure. And thanks to that SEXY ASIAN, Ben Smithee, I had the perfect earrings and ring to match, courtesy of designer Katerina Maxine, and the kind folks at LUXE Intelligence. My shoes and bag were sequins as well, and my makeup smoky and sparkly with a pale lip to contrast the dark eyes. As a last minute decision I went with a tightly pulled back knot for my hair which allowed my jewels to take center stage, because let’s face it, this is the GEM Awards, after all.

My partners in glamour as we entered the gates were the lovely Jennifer Heebner, who was dripping in Tara pearls and opera length gloves; the stunning Michelle Peranteau, who was gorgeous in a full-length black gown and diamond Baume et Mercier watch; and the exquisite Bernadette Mack, who wore a variety of jewels by Alex Soldier and Rina Limor.

This year’s awards were the first to officially focus on watches, nominating Cartier, Piaget, and Roger Dubuis in the category of Watch Design. Cartier took the prize with its North American President and CEO, Mercedes Abramo, accepting. The Media Excellence category showcased the talents of Rachel Garrahan, Kyle Anderson, and Rob Bates, with ROBYYYYYYYYYYY BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATES taking the award despite Kyle’s awesome hair and Instagram following. (By the way, Rob, if you’re reading this… I called it.) And the Jewelry Design Award went to Temple St. Clair (which was presented by Stephen Webster who is seriously in the wrong business. The man is a comedic genius and needs to get his own reality T.V. show. THIS IS NOT A LIE. He’d make millions) who was nominated alongside Sevan Bicakci and Chopard’s Caroline Scheufele.

But the man of the hour (pun totally intended) was WatchTime Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Joe Thompson, who received his Lifetime Achievement Award to a glorious standing ovation. A highlight for me was when I introduced myself to Joe and said “So many people I respect and emulate have spoken so highly of you.” To which he replied, “And I have heard many, many wonderful things about you.”

Clearly he thought I was Hayley Henning.

snapseed-04And speaking of Hayley Henning, let’s give a huge round of applause to the South African red carpet hostess with the mostesss, shall we? That Hayley. Is she not glamour incarnate? My favorite part was when she interviewed her boyfriend as if they were strangers. Freaking adorbs, both of them. Oh, and yet again, MAJOR props to the incomparable Amanda Gizzi and the entire Jewelers of America team as well as Promo House for putting together another spectacular program. Well done, my friend. Well done indeed.

It was fantastic seeing so many familiar faces. Our table (#PowerTable41… we moved UP!) comprised Bern Mack, Peggy Jo Donahue and her bib, Hannah Connorton (a personal fave), Sexy Ben Smithee and his date, Magen Pastor, then came DUCKFACE MISTRESS Wendy Brandes (who dazzled yet again in red velvet), my longtime industry buddy Jay Mednikow, Marla Aaron and her swoon-worthy glasses and Dries Van Noten dress, and, of course, yours truly in all my Dynasty glory.

I was also able to finally meet, face-to-face, the Zeus and Hera of horological journalism, Jack Forster and Roberta Naas, while also sharing hellos with the likes of Marion Fasel and Maria Canale – two of my #50womenofjewelry. But there was one moment for me that happened, that I had not expected and that I won’t soon forget, and that was during a conversation with the AGS’ Ruth Batson. We were discussing Conclave, the present, as well as the immediate future, and when the topic of my blog came up, she looked me in the eyes and said, “What you write is good… keep on writing, because people are reading. People are listening. We are all listening.” And a wave of emotion came over me (and is again as I type the words right now) as I fought back tears so as not to destroy an hour’s worth of makeup application. Thank you, Ms. Batson. I promise you, and whoever is listening… I’m not going to stop.

After a few final pictures on the step and repeat with my Shelby Ruth, the party started to dissipate, and for the second year in a row, our crew headed over to Whiskey Blue where we found our fellow pretzel sisters in the form of Brandee Dallow, Des Hanson, Fran Pennella, Shelly Schulz, Kristie Nicolosi, and many, many others. Since Bern and I had agreed to run three miles through Central park the following morning, I slipped out at about 12:30 a.m. and grabbed a cab back to my hotel.

It was truly an evening worth attending, and I look forward to doing it again next year, deity willing.

“Breaking up is hard, but keeping dark is hateful/I had so many dreams/I had so many breakthroughs/But you, my love, were kind/ but love has left you dreamless”

Day Three 

(Text received at 5:08 a.m.)

Her: “I cannot make it running.”

“The door to dreams was closed/Your park was real dreamless”

I took my time getting up since I knew I had a day to myself, which is a rare gift whenever I travel anywhere. I decided some weeks back that I wanted to visit The Met and take in their European clock and watch exhibit called, “The Luxury of Time.” It had been twenty-two years since I stepped foot inside of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, the last time I had been there it was with one of my best friends from high school and we got kicked out because we found one of the works in the modern art section particularly… well… “stupid” would probably be the kindest word I could use. I KNOW. I KNOW. IT’S ALL ART and art, by definition, isn’t stupid. But bloody hell, this thing was nothing more than a massive piece of canvas painted one shade of blue. I swear on all that is holy, it was one big blue rectangle. In fact, I think the name of it was actually “blue painting” or something of the like. I sh*t you not, people. This is why I struggle with understanding modern art. You know that thing sold to some dimwit for like eight-million dollars, too, don’t you? Well my friend and I were laughing uncontrollably as we thought of joke after joke about how ridiculous some of the pieces were which naturally meant that eventually we were asked to leave. I remember picking up a crushed Coke bottle near a garbage can close by and saying to my friend, “I just made this. It’s art. I should bring it back to the Met. I’ll make billions.” Oh how we laughed and laughed and laughed…

… then I grew up and realized it was probably not cool to say that I had been kicked out of The Met, which is likely the main reason why it took twenty-two years to get back.

God I hope they don’t recognize me.

snapseed-05Thankfully the art on display in the exhibit I went to see was actually something I understood – or at the very least, have been trying to understand over the last eight months or so – watches.

I won’t go into complete detail here as I intend on writing an entire piece about the exhibit on my new female-friendly watch blog called WhatsOnHerWrist.com (coming soon to a browser near you!) but I will say that it was well worth the price of admission as was the cost of the book I purchased to accompany it. If you’re in the city or plan on being so in the near future, I recommend checking it out, but you have to go soon, because it’s over on March 27th.

So… that leads me to the final leg of this trip, which we will officially dub, “The 10K Club Gathering.”

There was a crew of us who didn’t officially have seats (yet) for the 24K Club’s annual dinner and gala at the Waldorf Astoria, but we had been invited to several of the pre-parties being held in some of the suites up on the 4th floor, so we donned our gowns and tuxes, threw on our jewels and watches, and gathered at Bull & Bear to do our socializing and networking. I had invited along watch journalist Syl Tang, who writes for The Futurist and The Financial Times, because I was leaving the next day for home and had yet to meet her in person. Joining us were Smithee, Moskal, O’Connor, Cleo, Kendra, Barry with Jade Trau, Magen, Aly, and… wait for it… THAT KID FROM RITANI!! In fact, I believe it was he who came up with name for our little “island of misfit toys” group of nomads, which wound up being our running joke for the evening. Should we be the 10K Club? Or the 24 Carrot Club? Or the 42K Club? Needless to say every option turned into a hashtag.

snapseed-02I wore a gold Ralph Lauren Evening dress with a gorgeous golden South Sea pearl necklace and matching earrings by Eli Jewels, on loan to me from Mednikow Jewelers. To say the piece was a statement necklace would almost be an understatement. It was a stunning adornment combining the natural wonder of South Sea pearls with the craftsmanship of talented jewelers and topped off with several carats in bright white diamonds. I felt glorious in it, which is what I was supposed to feel in something of that caliber, and I was sad to have to give it back at the end of the night.

The evening went as perfectly as I could have asked for, and while several people texted me to say that there were no-shows at their table and that I should come up and join them, I decided I liked hanging with our crew, and opted for my spot at the bar instead. Although, I did head up to catch a song or two from Aretha Franklin when beckoned enough times by 24K members. (Oh and hey, just want to send a quick shout out to John Carter and Mary Moses-Kinney for the lovely meal picture they sent me. You guys are rad.)

Before the night was over I did some dancing, some Periscoping, and a little more Prosecco consuming. It was somewhat bittersweet there at the end for a variety of reasons, with the main reason being that New York represents so much in my life; good, bad, and otherwise.

As I watched the mist trickle down from the back seat of my cab, I recalled the many moments that I had just written about here. I recalled them, thought fondly of them, sighed deeply about them, and smiled. And that – that one act alone –is what will keep me coming back year after year after year.

New York, I love you. And I thank you for all that you are and all that you remain to be to me.

“Perhaps you’re smiling now/Smiling through this darkness/But all I had to give was the guilt for dreaming”

“We should be on by now [x5]/La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la [repeat]”

“Yeah, time!”

Standard
Uncategorized

From Lovers to Your Landlord: Holiday Gifts For Every Man in Your Life

You knew it was coming. You knew I would never let the year come to a close without my infamous holiday gift guide (you all remember “From Mom to the Mistress,” right?), only this year I decided I’d throw the guys a bone, BP style. Meaning, I’m going to help out you ladies (and gay men [Hi Adam!]) by giving you some suggestions as to which jewelry-related items you can buy for the men in your life. Only I’m going to do it in the most inappropriate way possible and make coffee come out of your nose in the process. De nada. So grab yourselves a Talisker, gals, pull up the leather Duresta, and slip on your partner’s Lorenzini dress shirt, ‘cause we’re going to have us a little fun today.

FOR YOUR DAD:

If your pops did what he was supposed to do when you were growing up – meaning he worked hard, loved harder, and put your family and you before anything or anyone else – then that makes one of us. But just because my father deserves a flaming bag of buffalo poop hand delivered to him by the ghost of Benito Mussolini wearing nothing more than a chainmail thong and spiked dog collar doesn’t mean that your dad isn’t rad. And you know what rad dads would look even radder wearing? A cool watch. Nothing crazily complicated, mind you, because let’s face it, isn’t your dad the guy who never fully figured out the VCR and doesn’t he still try to expand your pictures on Instagram no matter how many times you tell him he can’t? Yeah. Complicated isn’t going to cut it, but “American Made” will.

lovers1The Rambler GMT by Detroit-based watch company, Shinola, was the first dedicated travel watch introduced by the company in time for BaselWorld earlier this year. Its features include a Detroit-built Argonite 515.24H movement, 24-hour hand and turning top ring bezel, 44-millimeter stainless steel case, screw-down crown, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and of course, the Shinola handcrafted leather strap. The watch is available in four different dial/strap combos but the natural with dark royal blue dial screams your dad’s name (in a positive way, unlike how it was in my house growing up), don’tcha think?

FOR YOUR BROTHER EARL:

Admit it… your friends probably liked Earl when you were growing up more than they liked you, and while that pissed you off when you were sixteen and he was twelve, now that you’re older and wiser and once you figured out that there was no way to get him adopted by that Bulgarian family without your parents knowing, you gave in to his charming ways and actually became his friend. Earl’s a cool guy, too. How many people can say their brother is a slide-guitar-playing fly-fisherman who teaches English to Ethiopian kids during the day and works as a pastry chef at a James Beard-nominated restaurant at night? (Come to think of it, maybe it is time to start disliking Earl again. Eph this overachieving a-hole.) (J/k.) In fact, Earl’s so cool you should give him a gift designed by the King of Jewelry Cool, himself… Hot Reed. I mean TODD Reed. Sorry. Sorry ‘bout that. Freudian slip.

lovers7I’m thinking brotherman could rock this badass belt buckle the next time he plays an impromptu gig with his old college roommate, Jesus Christ Jared Leto. The buckle contains over thirteen carats of cabochon blue sapphires burnished into a patina-finished sterling silver oval, accented with a .10 carat raw diamond. Earl will be so thrilled you didn’t get him *another* Ed Hardy shirt that he might even let you hang with him backstage the next time Queens of the Stone Age comes to town.

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Yeah, right. Keep dreamin’, sister.

FOR YOUR MOM’S JEWISH LIVE-IN BOYFRIEND:

Look, you and I both know that his toenails are disgusting but the guy’s been in your life for almost six years now, he’s mostly nice to you, and truth be told, he makes your mom happy, so why not just bite the bullet and spend a little on him, huh? You don’t have to go crazy but the man gets up and goes to his law office every day, and while his suits still come from the Men’s Wearhouse (you just cringed, didn’t you? I mean, doesn’t he know how much money he makes??) he could use a little help in the style department.

lovers6These “Guilty/Not Guilty” cufflinks by London design house, Benson & Clegg, are the ideal lawyer gift for Hanukkah. They’re stainless, so he won’t have to worry about losing something costly, and they’re inexpensive enough that you can still afford to buy him gifts for those seven other crazy nights. Just please remember that the bacon-flavored rugelach didn’t go over as well as you had hoped last year, m’kay?

FOR YOUR FAVORITE EMPLOYEE

You are not mistaken. This means exactly what it says. If you read last year’s gift guide (and by “if” I mean “since you obviously”) you may recall that I made a point to talk about what gift to get your female boss, but since this post is geared toward telling women what to get for men, the #bossbase I referenced previously means YOU, sweet cheeks. Now you just have to figure out who your favorite worker bee is, and no pulling the *diplomatic mom* bullshit by saying “I love them all equally,” either.

lovers2Whoever you choose as your bestest, you won’t go wrong with a fancy schmancy pen as your gift choice. Since your three employees are all comic book geeks (which is one of the things you like about them) they’d likely go *KAPOW* over one of Montegrappa’s limited edition DC Comics pens released in February. I’m thinking The Riddler will do since you sometimes look at their work and wonder what the f*ck they were thinking when they handed it in. But make sure you give him the gift when no one else is watching. You don’t want one of the other two hacking into your computer for revenge and finding those NSFW images you took on your business trip to Louisville BECAUSE YOU KNOW THEY WILL. 

FOR YOUR LOVER(S)

When it comes to this term, the women of today are the men of yesterday, so if you’re a man and you’re reading this, I suggest you take notes.

Back when I was writing EveofForty, I penned (keyed) a piece about the term, “lover.” It was titled, “It Ain’t Just For Meat and Pizza Anymore” and it went on to explain my feelings about the word and the stigma I felt was attached to it. Your lover could be your husband, or a sex partner, or a boyfriend, or an affair – of the heart, mind, or otherwise. Maybe your lover is a friend with benefits. Maybe he is the man you married. Maybe you have more than one lover, and that’s cool, too, because in a society that judges people (mainly women) based on what has been considered the norm, I find it refreshing that more are realizing that sex, love, dating, and marriage doesn’t have to be as black and white as the much-outdated book of life states it should. So, having made clear my thoughts on the word, lets now discuss what this special person (or people) deserves for the holidays, shall we?

lovers4Marco Dal Maso should always be associated with desire, in my mind. Maybe it’s the Italian swagger. Maybe it’s his head of hair (clearly I have a thing for curly and grey… don’t go there) or maybe it’s the fact that his pieces – which he creates under the brand, Marco Ta Moko – are made with such intense passion that you can feel the sensuality by just looking at them (anyone else in here hot all of a sudden?). For this reason alone, his lapel pins are my choice of gift for your lover, particularly his Toki Red Tiger Eye pin crafted in 18K black gold and containing 0.72 carats of red fire sapphire surrounding a carved red tiger eye center stone. Have more than one lover? Marco has more than one pin, but I suggest you always go with something red. You know what they say about the color red, don’t you?

FOR YOUR LANDLORD

Don’t be angry with me. The only reason I included this jerk was because I needed a catchy title for the post so now I’m kind of stuck and have to run with having him in it, but don’t worry, it’s all going to work out. Trust me.

lovers3You LOOOOOVE it when he shows up unannounced at your apartment, don’t you? Isn’t it awesome when he stinks your place to the high heavens because his clothes smell like he washed them in a solution of tobacco, salami, and Drakkar Noir? Yeah, he’s pretty terrible, which is why I’m thrilled to hear that you’re moving in two months. But before you do, give him something to remember you by, like these “Screw U” earrings by my friend and fierce jewelry designer, Wendy Brandes. Nothing says, “get the hell out of my life” like a pair of insulting yet manly earrings, which – because he’s stupid on top of being an idiot – he’ll probably be complimented by, thinking that he’ll be offending others when he wears them. Little does he know, he offends others by the mere sight of him, but maybe you just roll with it and let him believe what he will. He’ll be a blip on your screen soon enough, my dear. An overweight, underheight, greasy screen blip soon enough.

FOR YOUR HUSBAND

Did I just hear you roll your eyes? Okay, I PROMISE not to get all lovey-dovey on this one. I’ll spare you considering a plethora of you read my recent Letter to The Editor piece. You all know how I feel about my husband already, so let’s talk about how you feel about yours.

Is he pretty rad? Does he make you feel wanted? Does he remind you, frequently, how lucky he is to have you in his life? Does he show you in ways that go beyond words? That’s the key. Words can be empty as many of us know, but actions – they’re the telltale. Does he love you with his actions? If you checked the “all of the above box” then good on ya, woman, and I hope you’ve been saving your pennies, because showing him you appreciate him is about to get pricey.

lovers5This Bremont limited edition Wright Flyer in 18K Rose Gold (BCW/01) features some of the original muslin material used to cover the 1903 Wright Flyer aircraft flown at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The 33.4mm automatic contains twenty-five jewels, has a double reverser bi-directional winding mechanism to achieve 28,800bph, a 50+ hour power reserve, a Nivarox CT balance spring and Nivaflex 1 mainspring. If none of what I just wrote means anything to you, just know that it’s a frigging beautiful and well-made watch that your significant other is going to go apeshit over. He’ll research the important stuff if he wants to. You’ve done your part. That’s all that matters.

That about ends it for this year’s gift guide, loves. Hope you enjoyed the read and hope you come back again and again.

Happy ChristmaKuhWanzaaStivus!

Standard
Uncategorized

Girl Time: Desperately Seeking Women in the Watch World

It was my first time in Switzerland. We had taken a day trip over to the country from Lago di Como, which was the beginning leg of our sixteen-day stint across Northern Italy.

I knew my then-boyfriend wasn’t a “watch guy” but he agreed to go with me into what I remember to be a nineteenth-century clock and watch shop. It was old, and dark, and so goddamned cool. It smelled of wood and mold, having been on the shoreline of Lake Lugano for deity knows just how long.

We walked around as several suspicious Swiss eyes followed us. Ah, the Swiss. I believe that the term, “meh,” was likely coined somewhere in that country. So neutral. So indifferent. But so, SO, serious about their timepieces.

And then, it happened to him. I had no doubt it would. I had been working in the watch and jewelry industry for about five years at that point and I remember the first time it happened to me.

(Cue flashback filter a la 1980’s television sitcom)

“That’s a Vacheron Constantin” she said.

“I’m sorry, it’s a whattie-what-whattateen?” I replied.

“A VASH-ER-OHN CON-STAN-TEEN” she giggled. “My lord, woman. I need to get you around rich people more often.”

I was a lower-middle-class Italian gal from South Philly. Vagabond Florentines weren’t exactly in my repertoire. But I was working for LAGOS at the time and had gotten in tight with the watch buyer at Govberg Jewelers in Philadelphia. And if there was one place you bought your high-end watches from if you lived in or anywhere around Philly, it was Govberg.

This was not a woman’s watch I was looking at. It appeared to be about 38mm in diameter. Maybe it was smaller, but I didn’t have my gauge on me. It was heavy, and beautiful, and man, it felt expensive.

“Girl, I’m telling you, you need to learn more about watches. It’s an entirely different world than what you’re used to in jewelry.”

(Cue flashforward filter a la 1980’s television sitcom)

“My lord, what is it?” he whispered to me.

“It’s a watch,” I assholishly replied.

(Now rolling his eyes.) “I know it’s a watch, but what kind of watch? I don’t recognize the model.” he said.

“It’s a Jaeger-Le….”

Watch Women

#WOMW – What’s On My Wrist, or rather, has been on it in the past.

THAT is a Jaeger-LeCoultre” remarked Swissy McSnootiestein, descending from his very chocolate-colored, meticulously made wooden throne. “Are you familiar with Jaeger-LeCoultre?” he said, very much not to me, but rather directly to the handsome man standing on my left.

The Aries inside of me couldn’t help its vehement self.

“He isn’t, but I am, a little,” I stated. “I know that the company was started in the 1830’s as ‘LeCoultre & Cie’ and that at some point in the 1930’s the company was renamed after the Jaeger guy – a French Naval officer I believe – joined forces with them and they created the world’s thinnest movement. I know that there was a big connection to Cartier for a while, too, but there was a period of about fifty years where they didn’t go by the complete name… until the eighties, maybe? Am I right?”

Swissy held my stare for about five seconds. Not impressed, (sky is blue/Pope is Catholic/yada yada) he turned back to Todd and proceeded to school him on the importance of this particular timepiece.

Sir, this is a very special watch. You should try it on. It is a magnificent piece: the Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic in Rose Gold, 18K. Now, it is water resistant to fifty meters, and it is a little over 41mm in diameter which would be a perfect size for you since you’re such a tall man and I am a small, poor excuse for a human being who is incredibly meeker than you. (Okay, he didn’t really say that last line but in my mind he did.) It has a sapphire crystal, and the strap is made of crocodile. It’s a fine timepiece. You may not find this in your American watch shops.”

Todd looked at him and nodded in approval, and even though he and I had only been dating a brief while at the time, I knew that what he actually heard Swissy say was this: “Mr. American man, this watch is expensive. It sells for more than the down payment on the house that you will eventually buy with that overly-confident woman to your right. Let me repeat: it’s really, REALLY expensive. It costs more than your car, your wardrobe, and all of your electronics, combined. You are not worthy of this watch. I don’t even know why I’m showing it to you. I think I’m only letting you see it because I want for you to feel like less of a man. That will make me happy since you’re much younger and more attractive than I am. Yes. That’s right. Look at this watch that you will never afford. And believe me, if I were French, I’d have sex with your girlfriend, too. But since I am Swiss, I really don’t care to. I don’t care about much, actually. Did I mention I am Swiss?”

“Sure. I’d love to try it on” Todd said.

I knew where he was going with this.

One of the things that attracted my (eventual) husband and me to one another is that we’re damned good under pressure, both of us. If put on the spot, especially by someone in the service industry, all we need to do is give one another “the look”… It’s sort of a “do you want this one or shall I take it?” look, and on this day, we both decided we’d go in together.

“I like it, I’m just not sure I like how the strap feels.”

“Which do you think you like better? This one or the Vacheron we saw up the road? Or maybe even that Audemars?!”

“Oh, I loved that Vacheron. I mean, that was absolute perfection and fit my wrist exquisitely. But I don’t want you spending that much on me. This one seems like it is fairly less expensive.”

I could see Swissy turning the background color of his national flag, but before he could jump in I said, “Don’t be silly, babe. I can tell you don’t love it. Come on, let’s go get the other one. (Turning to Swiss Mister) “Thank you ever so much for your time. Maybe we’ll stop in when we’re back next year before heading to Monaco.” And off we went to buy our imaginary Vacheron with our imaginary tens of thousands of dollars.

What I took away from that experience was, a) Never date the Swiss and, b) No matter how much I showed I knew about watches, it was still my male partner whom the male salesperson kept in his sights. And now, more than twelve years after that initial run-in, I’ve decided to delve into the question many before me have pondered but few have publicly asked:

Why is the watch world still mostly a man’s world?

Let’s start by factually backing up the statement that the watch industry is largely a sausage fest (or in the case of the Napolean complex guys, a Vienna sausage fest) with a look at the average watch consumer: the buyer, collector, and wearer. What do the majority of the aforementioned have in common other than their love of timepieces? Well, for one, they likely have money to spend.

Women of Watches

The four watch women in my #fiftywomenofjewelry InstaSeries.

A 2014 report by Lisa Keister at Duke University’s Department of Sociology showed that just under 98% of the country’s top 1% of earners were male. Women only make up 11% of Fortune 500 CFO’s, and we all know about that magic 79% wage gap number, now, don’t we? Yet while women have for years been accused of being shopaholics (and rightfully so) the tide is shifting when it comes to luxury items. In 2013, for the first time in China, their male population outspent the females when it came to buying luxury goods, spending 52% more than women spent on watches, according to an article posted on MarketingtoChina.com. And if numbers and facts make your head hurt (I’ll refrain from inserting Donald Trump jokes here, but I know you know what I mean) you needn’t look much further than any middle-aged-man-with-a-love-for-mechanical-things’ Instagram feed to see how many dudes really cherish them some wrist clocks. (Raise your hand if you love colloquialism!)

Let’s experiment a little, shall we? Let’s head on over to the ‘gram, right now, together. Click your search icon, and key in, “#WOMW.” Now, GO.

At the time I wrote this paragraph, 372,084 Instagram posts popped up with that hashtag. I had to scroll through sixty-nine posts of watches on the wrists of men before I got to the @ferniezap (Fernanda Zapata) image of her wrist wearing a Martenero New York watch to accompany her uber-cute black-and-white fall sweater. That averages out to under a 1.5% ratio in case you were wondering. And in making the previous statement I made about Fernanda’s clothing, I’m also posing an additional sub-question: are women just more interested in things other than timepieces?

I write mostly about jewelry, and people in the jewelry industry. For the record, this is only the second post I’ve written solely about watches and the watch industry since I started this blog in August of 2013. But it isn’t because I didn’t care about watches or didn’t want to talk about watches. I frequent the popular watch blogs, follow all of the major watch websites, and stalk read most of the famous/infamous watch editors. But even amongst them, female faces are few. Roberta Naas – the founder/editor-in-chief of ATimelyPerspective.com – was the first female watch editor in the U.S. market, and is still largely the only female face I see in pictures that include groups of watch editors scaling glaciers in Greenland, dogsledding across Alaska, paragliding while blindfolded, or jumping off of sixty-foot cliffs on behalf of Breguet, Bremont, and others. But, WHY? It can’t be because women don’t like adventure. I, for one, love adventure. When Gandalf went looking for Bilbo, he was originally looking for Barbara Palumbo (if you say it really quickly it sounds a lot like “Bilbo,” trust me. But you have to say it, like, super-fast, while drinking scotch.) So why are there not more Robertas out there? Or more Hyla Bauers? Or even Cara Barretts? And what about the prominent positions within the major watch companies? See many women in those? Off of the top of my head I can recall Mercedes Abramo of Cartier North America, Aletta Stas-Bax of Frédérique Constant, and Stacie Orloff of Bell & Ross, but how many more exist? Out of the eighteen North American brand presidents at Richemont, seventeen of them are men. One woman. Una. That’s it. Again, though… why?

WJA AFE

With Michelle Peranteau of Baume et Mercier, nominee at the 2015 WJA Awards for Excellence in the watch category. Photo by Bart Gorin.

The answer could partially be this: watches are machines, and machines require engineers, and well, there’s a huge gender gap there, too. According to Joanne McGrath Cohoon, an associate professor in the Department of Science, Technology, and Society at the University of Virginia, only about 18-20% of engineering students were women as of 2012. And while that figure is up drastically from the early 1980’s when fewer than 6% of engineering students were women, this fact could also shed some light as to why there are far fewer women than men who are interested in watches and watch careers.

The cold, hard truth is that the gender disparity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) jobs is widely known and has been researched, greatly. There are many who claim that a lack of female engineering role models is largely to blame for more women not pursuing careers in that field, but in that respect the same could be said for the science (or is it, art?) of horology. Although, hell, why not change it up from a retailer level, too? Ever walk into a brick and mortar store that sold both fine jewelry as well as fine timepieces? If the answer is no, then here’s another experiment for you… do so, and first ask to speak to their David Yurman specialist. Once you’re finished speaking with HER, ask to see their Rolex specialist, then tell me how the conversation went with HIM. It’s not an exact science, but you get what I’m saying, here. The industry could and should do more to allow women the opportunities that their male counterparts have had for years. And to not wag fingers at men only, more women should insist that they are interested in something substantial in terms of inner workings and complications rather than being content with having to be the staff member who shows the customer how pretty a sterling silver piece looks from the outside once it’s completed.

I would love to say that having more women in the watch field is a work in progress, even if I don’t see that work happening on a day-to-day basis. But, I’m also not at the watch shows, nor do I attend Basel, nor do I jump out of airplanes with the crew from Breitling. Not that I wouldn’t, mind you (pssst… Breitling… call me.) But I will say this: it would be nice, if the next time I do a series on the Fifty Women of Jewelry (ask around), I could have more than four female faces in the group who are from the watch circuit.

And maybe… just maybe… many years down the road when someone else writes a piece on industry women, they will ask why there aren’t more watch writers like me.

Just sayin’. You never, never know.

Standard
Trade Show Shenanigans

Jewelry Week in Sin City: Who You Should See, Part 1 – SWISS WATCH

For those of you who only recognize the word “Basel” as the misspelling of an herb that goes wonderfully between a slice of beefsteak tomato and fresh mozzarella, there is, thankfully, a show called “Swiss Watch.” I like to refer to it as the Poor Man’s BaselWorld, where you find yourself potentially running into celebrities such as Orlando Bloom, only, because it’s Vegas, he’s wearing swim trunks and a tall blond instead of a three-piece Armani suit. Either way, it still counts as a good excuse to take a #stalkie, and either way, you’re still going to enjoy yourself if watches are, you know… your thing. So here’s who I recommend seeing if you’re sober lucky enough to make it up to the suites.

BALL WATCH COMPANY

ball watch trainmaster roman

“Roman” by Ball Watch Company

Let’s face it, not a whole lot of rad things have come out of Cleveland, Ohio ((ducks)). I mean, yeah, Michael Symon is a master chef (some might even say… an “iron” one), and Halle Berry was born in Cleveland (which is pretty much awesomer than the next ten people I might mention being born there put together) but in terms of coolness, Cleveland is about as hip as a Tri-Lamb frat party in 1984.

Ball Watch Company was founded by Ohio watchmaker Webster Clay Ball after an engineer’s stopped watch had caused an 1891 collision between Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway trains in Kipton, Ohio, killing both engineers and several postal workers. Webb C. Ball is credited as the first jeweler to use time signals from the U.S. Naval Observatory shortly after Standard Time was adopted in America. The company was sold by the Ball family in the 1990’s and is now headquartered in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, but their reputation as being one of United States’ leading watch companies remains flawless.

Models of interest:

  • DeepQUEST: (because the title reminds me of my trip to Cancun in the 90’s for spring break. IT HAS TO DO WITH SNORKELING, YOU PERVS.) 43mm diameter, titanium single-block case, automatic helium release valve.
  • Big Boy: (um, what man doesn’t want a watch by this name?) 46mm diameter, anti-reflective convex sapphire crystal, stainless steel, screwed-in crown.
  • Roman: (the name of my son. Or rather, the thing that happened nine months after I experienced *DeepQUEST* with *Big Boy*.) 41mm diameter, automatic caliber, crocodile strap with stainless buckle, shock resistant to 5,000G’s.

CHARRIOL

charriol st. tropez

“St. Tropez” by Charriol

I remember 1983 like it was yesterday because of the wonderful and historical events of that year: “The A Team” premiered on NBC, Margaret Thatcher visited the Falkland Islands (awwwwkwaaaard), Hulk Hogan pinned The Iron Sheik to win the WWF title (and pandas around the world erupted in celebration… oh, wait), and French entrepreneur Philippe Charriol established Charriol – a global brand of prestigious timepieces – in Geneva, Switzerland. Yes, at ten years old, those are all things I remember for that year. I swears. For serious.

In any case, Charriol has established itself as a force to be reckoned with among the affordable Swiss watch brands that exist today. When they contacted me for an appointment to come see the line and their newest COLVMBVSTM  Cintre Convexe  collection, I was more than happy to oblige, since, I dig the name “Colvmbvs,” and honestly, even the name Columbus, because *that* Columbus was from Italy and because his *day* is a national holiday which means I get a paid day off. But even more importantly, I love the fact that Charriol is still a family-run, independent watch company, with husband, wife, daughter, and son all playing pivitol roles in the development, design, and branding of the product. I can’t wait to see what the new collection looks like, but here are some of my “must-see” picks from their existing timepieces.

Models of interest:

  • Parisii for Women: (We do so much in this life because of personal experiences, right? Don’t we choose our politicians, cities to live in, and lifestyles that way? Why not our timepieces, too? I love Paris, diamonds, and the women in my life. No further explanation needed.) 28mm diameter, mother-of-pearl dial, twelve round brilliant-cut diamonds.
  • St. Tropez: (Charriol calls this design… “delightfully feminine.”) 30mm diameter, steel cable, and a cool chain bracelet attached to the watch, giving off more of a legitimate bracelet look.
WATCHCaramellissima swatch

“Caramellissima” by Swatch

SWATCH

If you’re in your forties, you know and I know that Swatch likely brings you back to fond memories of your childhood, except for that time those two girls beat you up on the bus over that fluorescent pink, limited edition Swatch guard you had covering your “Pink Betty” watch. Okay, maybe that didn’t happen to you, but it happened to me, and you get the point. Swatches were are fun, and bright, and hip, and fashionable, and affordable, and cool, and easy to wear. I’m proud to say that I still own the two that I purchased while in Switzerland for my birthday in 2003. I frankly covet this brand of watches and canNOT wait to put my eyes on what fun things they’ll be showing in Las Vegas this week.

Models of interest:

  • Caramellissima: (From the “Pastry Chefs” spring/summer 2014 collection.) This watch is an exact replica of those multi-colored candy bracelets we used to get from the tiny corner store next to elementary school on our way home. If this thing doesn’t put you in your “happy place” then you’re a cold-hearted snake and Paula Abdul will be very upset with you. I want one of these so. Freaking. Badly.
  • Olaf Hajek Limited Edition Set: (Set includes “Flowerhead” and Nature Man” watches. I mean, how do you not buy a watch designed by a guy named Olaf after all of the popularity of the Disney film, “Frozen?”) German-born painter, illustrator, and graphic designer Olaf Hajek collaborated with Swatch on these vibrant, floral-patterned watches for a Summer 2014 collection.
  • Sistem Red: (Released for Christmas 2013, the Sistem 52 collection is 100% Swiss made.) 3Hz self-winding mechanical movement, hermetically sealed, 90-hour power reserve, silicone strap. Oh, and radness. 
WATCHraymond weil freelancer wih rose

“Freelancer” by Raymond Weil

RAYMOND WEIL

Thanks to our recent ten-year wedding anniversary, the name Raymond Weil will now go down in the history of my life as the first true Swiss watch brand I purchased for my husband. If anyone from Raymond Weil is reading this, know that he is absolutely enamored with his new Freelancer. I mean, he seriously loves it. Like, I found it under his pillow. Twice. And he just stares at it for hours. It’s kind of creepy, actually. Anywaaaaay, founded in 1976, this Geneva-based brand is still family-run, with Elie Bernheim now overseeing everything that his grandfather – *the* Raymond Weil – created.

Models of interest

  • Tango: (Of course I would be interested in seeing a watch named after the sexiest dance invented in the history of the world, and if you’ve never watched the movie “Tango Lesson,” I’m not sure I even want to know you.) 40mm diameter, sapphire crystal, water resistant to 100 meters, stainless steel bracelet and strap.
  • Maestro: (Because the word will always remind me of that Seinfeld episode.) 39.5mm diameter, stainless steel case with rose gold plating, 38-hour power reserve, water resistant to 50 meters.
  • Freelancer: (Duh.) 42mm diameter, 46-hour power reserve, beautiful silver dial accented by rose hands and indexes, mechanical chronograph with automatic winding.

And there you have it! My first in a whatever-I-have-time-to-write-part series about the upcoming shows in sunny Sin City! I hope you enjoyed this preview of what you will see and should see at the Swiss Watch show and I invite you to read what’s coming up next before you solidify your schedule.

Until next time. TIME. Get it?!?

Standard