Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Man Who Corrupted Watch Town - Part One

Author's note - this is a work of fiction that is heavily inspired by, and modeled after Mark Twain's story The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg and adapted to the modern world of watch making and watch media.   I felt that Mark Twain was a great basis as he had once dabbled (albeit unsuccessfully) in the watch business - as covered by Stephen J. Mexal in Smithsonian Magazine.  And further for me personally as it has been theorized that Mr. Twain's original work (The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg) which this little horological farce is somewhat based on, might in fact be based on Mr. Twain's experiences in my hometown, Oberlin, Ohio when he lectured/gave a reading at Oberlin College.   This is intended as farce, based and adapted from Mr. Twain's original work and not based on any individuals living or dead.  

It was, in all honesty, only a few weeks ago when the stranger walked down Main Street and through the gold burnished doors of #itmustbetrue.  At first blush, to look at him, resplendent in his Saville Row suit, and bespoke custom shoes, he looked no different than most of the higher flying members of Watch Town society, perhaps a brand owner, or newly recruited CEO.  Watch Town was home to the most talented, most creative, and most skilled horological artisans in the WORLD.  This was known far and wide, because as fortune would have it, Watch Town was populated by the most tenacious, well-informed and forthright journalists who (if their advertising revenues were anything to go by) were renowned by one and all for their fair and honest coverage... of the denizens of Watch Town.  Watch Town's reputation was beyond repute, and had remained so for some two generations, and the populous took great pride in their regular (and to be honest, guaranteed) selection in the annual award giving event that recognized the best and the brightest of the Watch World - the "Whoopies".  Of this singular distinction, they were the proudest of all.  And while some of the not so-well-to-do inhabitants of Watch Town had yet to experience the joy and unbridled fame and renown that came with being awarded the  trophy, they felt confident that this was merely a formality, and it was only a matter of time until they too were recognized.  For they had followed the code of behavior set forth by the founders of Watch Town not unlike that of an organized religion.  They were, indeed, true believers and defenders of the faith. 
Now it is also important to note, there were neighboring communities to Watch Town.  And while the denizens of these burgs did try their hands at making watches, none could truly be called timepieces.  These were, to be fair, clearly lesser communities, populated by lesser people.  At least, that was what the denizens of Watch Town believed in unwavering fervor.  It had happened only twice in the preceding twenty years that an outsider had usurped the coveted Whoopie, and the press corps of Watch Town made sure that their displeasure and disagreement was known far and wide.  

And so it was that the stranger made his way to the offices of the public relations firm #itmustbetrue, one Friday afternoon in late spring and presented himself at the reception desk.  A well coiffed young woman was stationed at the desk, scrolling through her instagram feed, glancing over at the stranger who had stationed himself at the reception desk.  When she felt that she had ignored him for a sufficient amount of time, she sighed heavily, pushed her glasses up and scowled at him - 
"Can I help you?"
The tone was more of a statement than a question. The stranger focused his gaze directly at her eyes as he placed a package on the reception counter.  The receptionist looked at it with all the enthusiasm of a new father examining the loaded diaper of his first born while he's on baby duty.  
"What's this?"  
Again, more of a statement than a question as she stared down at the package, which was square, and wrapped in a brightly colored scarf (not Herm├Ęs or Chanel, she mentally noted, but quite elegant) and elegantly knotted at the top.

"I apologize, where are my manners?"  He slipped his hand into his suit jacket and produced a card.  The stamp gold leaf informed that he was, in fact, the newly appointed Grand Commissioner for the "Whooptie-Do" award.  Curious, his title, and an email address were the only two items on it.  He went on to explain that the "Whooptie-Do" was the culmination of several years of work to create an award that would recognize the absolute, bar none, best of the absolute best.  The winning watchmaker who won the Whooptie-do would be ensured eternal fame and fortune, no doubt that an investor from some mineral rich republic would be ready to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the winning brand.  Most importantly, the Whooptie-Do was different than any other award out there, because no watch maker could nominate themselves, all nominations would have to come from the press, ensuring that this would be the most honest, sincere, unbiased award possible!

"So, Mr. Grand Commissioner, what is in the box?"

The stranger smiled at her, placing his well-manicured hand on the silken rainbow knot that secured the package.  

"This, dear madame, is a singularly superlative chronometric creation that somehow found its way to our office, but without a name or contact.  The dial has no name, but a symbol or trademark - but alas one we could not recognize.  Our assumption is that it is a new brand, or perhaps a special creation from an established brand.  But what my colleagues and I agreed on unanimously?  We agreed that this magnificent timepiece could only have been created in the rarified atmosphere of Watch Town."

The receptionist excused herself, and returned with the Commercial Director of #itmustbetrue himself, Mr. I. Deux Grasp.

"And what does that have to do with us here at #itmustbetrue?" asked Mr. Grasp.

The stranger smiled again.

"Well, after reviewing all of the previous entries for the Whooptie-do, my colleagues and I agreed that whoever created this watch is the winner this year, hands down.  But we have no way of identifying the creator."

"So no winner this year?"  

The stranger shook his head.
"We also feel quite certain that the creator of this watch will know who they are, and come forward.  The problems is..."


"Oh, these damn silly rules!  You see, ironically enough, we know which watch is the winner, and identifying the creator of the winning watch shouldn't be so difficult, but we sort of painted ourselves into a corner with our rules."

"The rules?"

"Yes, the rules.  They are fairly, shall we say, loose?  But there is one that is rather inflexible.  The winner must be nominated by the press.  It's really just a formality at this point as we already know the winning watch, but rules are rules..."

The commercial director felt a strange, rather pleasant tingling growing in his stomach, and he did his best to suppress the smile that was creeping across his face.  Could it be, that in his first year in charge of #itmustbetrue that he, I. Deux Grasp would snare the retainer to become the primary PR firm for the Woopti-Doos?  He made a mental note to try on his tuxedo when he got home to make sure it still fit.

"Mr. ....  I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name."

The stranger smiled once more.
"I didn't pitch it.  You see, at the Whoopti-Doos we insist on the utmost discretion and secrecy.  Does the Michelin reviewer identify herself when visiting a Parisian restaurant?  Of course not!  Our sole guiding principle is to be fair, and unbiased.  Therefore, we must also remain anonymous."

Mr. Grasp could contain himself no longer -
"May I propose a solution?"

The stranger nodded enthusiastically.

"May I suggest that you retain #itmustbetrue as the official PR agency of the Whoopti-Doo award?  We could then send out a release to the press, and to every brand and watch maker in Watch Town.  The release would announce the pending awarding of the Whoopti-Doo, and also share the need for the winning brand to be nominated by the press?  We would also mention that the winning watch had already been selected as it had been delivered to the Whoopti-Doo offices, but as it had not included a name or the nominating watch journalist it cannot be awarded until a journalist puts forward the nomination?"

The stranger frowned.   
"Well, we have not retained a PR firm yet as we fear it might be seen to influence the press."

I. Deux Grasp let the smile he'd been stifling spread fully across his face.  The fish was nearly in the boat...
"Dear sir, fear not.  Once again I have a solution!  May I propose that in addition to becoming the official press agent of the Whoopti-Doo award, that #itmustbetrue become an official sponsoring partner?  There would, of course, be no question of a fee.  We would be acting for the betterment of the watch making community!  By partnering with us as an official commercial partner, there could absolutely no question of impropriety!"

The stranger beamed with delighted surprise.
"I'm speechless, and honored that such a famous and reputable firm such as #itmustbetrue would be willing to partner with us!"

Mr. Grasp waved away the gushing thanks of the stranger -
"Well we all have to help each other in this small, wonderful world of watches, don't we?  We all work together!  And may I suggest that we hold the presentation of the Whoopti-Doo award here in Watch Town in two weeks' time?  #itmustbetrue will arrange for a grand banquet, orchestra and gala to make this year's Whoopti-Doo something that Watch Town will never forget!"

It was agreed that #itmustbetrue would handle all of the promotion and logistics, and make sure that the whole of Watch Town were in attendance in two weeks' time.  The stranger would return on the second Friday of the month for the gala and award presentation.  As I. Deux Grasp saw the stranger to the door, he could not help from letting his mind race.  Not only would the future retainer as the official firm representing the world famous Whoopti-Doo award be his, but #itmustbetrue could count on every single brand nominated to turn to them for representation!   

Yes, #itmustbetrue would be handling this first award season pro bono, but compared to the flood of business they would pull in, it was a tiny investment to make.  

Christmas had come early for Grasp and #itmustbetrue!

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