Tuesday, November 7, 2023

When Reality Doesn't Quite Match Our Expectations

The not huge, but not insignificant scandal (lets be honest) that has caused the cancelation / postponement of ONLY Watch until (at least) next year is at this point hardly news. But what is still proving interesting - at least to this guy, is the utter lack of self awareness shown by the ONLY WATCH organization. Now, I am in no way casting aspersions on Mr. Pettavino's original intentions when he launched ONLY WATCH. Nor am I presuming that he has been anything but above board with his stewardship of ONLY WATCH. I even spoke of him and his mission in glowing terms when the Naldis and I presented him with the Writing Wrongs award at BaselWorld in 2015. With all of that said, I do question the unwillingness of Mr. Pettavino and ONLY WATCH to give any substantive answers to questions that have been put forward. Why this story is embarrassing to cover, is that this is information that the shining luminaries of Watch Town's Fourth and Fifth Estates have had access to for years, and some have even offered up theories fueled by invigorating amounts of alcohol in the lounges of Basel and Geneva. But in truth, these same "truth tellers" would never dream of biting one of the well-manicured hands that feeds them. And this is why it is even more embarrassing to put the words watch and journalist together to describe what passes as honest and unbiased coverage of the good and great that control the means of production of Watch Town. The person responsible for doing the heavy lifting for some of my allegedly more erudite colleagues is none other than a watch collector, who goes by the nom de montre Santa Laura. It is equally embarrassing to include the words watch and journalist in the same sentence when reading some of the tut-tuts put forth from some of those who feel that we should avoid any criticism of the brands or organizations that offer us elegant trips, fabulous meals, and four star accommodations. Thank you, Santa Laura, for having the intestinal fortitude to call that out. I would be less than forthright if I did not admit to having enjoyed two of these wonderful press junkets myself in 2015 and 2018 respectively. And I would also be less than forthright if I didn't disclose that I have had two trips revoked by brands because I was, apparently,not always as "supportive" as I could (read should) be.

If we who write about watches are being honest about ONLY WATCH writ large? It started as a noble idea. And it is a testimony to Mr. Pettavino's passion, devotion to his late son, and his unwavering persistence that he convinced so many brands to participate and developed it into one of the biggest events on the calendar, all while raising an impressive amount for research. But the cynical side of me feels that what it has devolved into these past three editions is a marketing event for the brands who participate by donating unique pieces for auction. It goes without saying that charity does not exactly start at home for many of the participating brands. In all honesty (and I speak from experience) many would refuse to support a local orphanage, or even cancer research in general. And yet en masse they all, to a brand, offer up one-of-a-kind pieces for auction to benefit research for a disease that touches a fairly small percentage of the population. And by no means does that make it any less worthy, but it underscores the reality that for many of the brands, whether they will allow themselves to admit it or not, ONLY WATCH is in their estimation a marketing vehicle, and it also might help explain why Audemars Piguet was ready, willing, and able to quit the field with no further explanation offered.

So what comes next? This is hard to say. I am hopeful that in the coming 10 months there will be clear and meaningful updates about the fiscal status of ONLY WATCH, that all doubts will be erased and that it will continue on as an important fund raiser for a worthy cause. But in fairness to anyone who may have questions, I would ask that those who occupy the loftier heights of Watch Town's Fourth and Fifth Estates not simply dismiss any attempt at investigative reporting out of hand. It is a disservice to ONLY WATCH, to the brands who participate in the event, to your colleagues, and most importantly? To the readers who come to you for honest, unbiased opinion. 

And I guess that's at least a few more press trips I won't be going on ; )

Enjoy your watches!

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