: Friends in the (Watch) World
Text & Photos & Photos Nicholas Biebuyck

As the days have passed since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, and a situation has unfolded that would have been impossible to imagine such a short time ago, it has made me realise that the undertone that has been present for quite some time now, that we are all social creatures, is even more clear when viewed through this new, imposed, lens.

There has been no shortage of digital ink spilt regarding the matter of obscure passions bringing people together as a community. In the watch world there are (were) regularly collectors gatherings taking place internationally in nearly every major city, and for those who cannot travel, Instagram, WhatsApp groups, and forums have provided solace when you feel that you might be a little bit mad for dedicating so much time and energy to something that can be perceived as inconsequential.

It is clear these distractions and incidental, often digital, relationships are important for our daily lives, a “third room” for the mind as it were. Away from home and work, they are a pursuit to call our own, offering a bit of grounding to big challenges that we face, as well as providing some much needed human interaction with individuals who are often very different to us.

It is with all of this in mind, that I realised what would be missed most now that the fairs have been cancelled, is not the plethora of new releases with the associated stream of updates on social media and relevant websites, it was seeing everyone. It wasn’t just listening to the CEOs on their respective palatial stands at Palexpo or Messeplatz, nor the interactions with communications representatives that allow a brand strategy to suddenly make sense. Neither was it handling the new hot commodity references from the grandest of maisons with the handlers we’ve grown to know, or the perfectly pleasant entertainment that might be provided by the brands, and our elegant chaperones for such functions.

It was the magical chance encounters with long-time friends while walking the halls, who are most likely seen only once a year, at these pilgrimages to the homeland of modern watchmaking. The late night dinners with real enthusiasts that resulted in grand unified strategies on how to “fix” the industry (the meaning varied on the audience). The introductions to new faces, who were previously an abstract Instagram handle, but became  fast friends.

To the great industry personalities that have shaped it, the watchmakers who craft it, the suppliers that provide the ingredients for it, the retailers who present it in their windows throughout the world, the scholarly collectors who acquire it, the savvy dealers that broker the it, and the fellow members of the media who help to communicate it, it’s unfortunate that we won’t get to share in all of this in 2020, but we can all look forward to the worst of this passing in due course, even if it means a heavily revised schedule in the future.

And even if we cannot physically interact in the short term, we are lucky to live in an age with a robust selection of options for convening virtually;: perhaps one of the few positives that have come out of this entire situation is an improved relationship with social media, and more involved interactions digitally when we have to schedule calls and block dedicated time to our conversations. Ultimately, we are fortunate that the “it” that has brought so many wonderful people together also happens to be a beautiful object we can wear on our wrists, while also offering an excellent distraction from the news cycle.