Marton Radkai

SIHH 2015 Insiders speak - Marton Radkai from Wristwatch Annual

The first major horological show of 2015, the SIHH, has just come to an end, and so did the various smaller exhibitions outside the Palexpo in Geneva. Marton Radkai, journalist and editor of the Wristwatch Annual answers questions. He talks models, personalities and brands…

By Joel Grandjean

Your most unfortunate late arrival…?

As a preamble, because honest to goodness, the flow of life was not designed by a firm of engineers…. Normally, I hang out with the American colleagues, but for reasons known only to the organizers of the show, I had the honor of sharing space with the Germans and the French/Swiss/Belgian group, certainly an interesting proposition from a cultural standpoint.... Oh, the difference a little ocean can make.  So, I had to arrange my own schedule efficiently from three different pages, and on Monday morning I had no idea that Thursday was a presentation day (last year it wasn't).  So this is what happened: I found space for one Thursday brand on Wednesday  at 2pm. I was ready. But then I found myself stuck in my chair by a very nice conversation, and when I finally looked at my watch (not the polite thing to do in conversation), I noticed that even at a canter I would never make it to the presentation in time.

Your most remarkable meeting?

Bear with me: with the communication people at Van Cleef & Arpels … because it never took place. A number of emails in 2013 and 2014 remained unanswered until I became somewhat irritated. There were unreturned phone calls as well, and unfulfilled wishes. I even tried to make an appointment with VCA via the Internet site, it got a response, but no follow-up. I have wanted to add the brand to my book for some time now (featuring in Wristwatch Annual is free of charge, it's my choice), but the people at the brand were playing hard to get… So, after some chat with the communication people at VCA, I received a promise that there would be an answer. I was happy. Until a colleague during the presentation leaned over to me and said: «They did the same thing to me

Lady Arpels Butterfly Symphony Lady Arpels Butterfly Symphony

Your best selfie?

The best one? It's the one I did with vibrating diamonds on my eyes and an ecstatic posture.  This selfie was done entirely in my head while struggling with the dizziness brought about when I was filming a Cartier featuring a really innovative way of setting diamonds…  So, here is my confession: I don't do selfies at work. Nor in private as a matter of fact.

Your best encounter?

We are often caught up in a kind of pathological electronic whirlwind, the rhinos in Ionesco's eponymous play. It's our gregarious instinct that pushes us to feel that everything has to be put on the web immediately, and you have to be the first, everything must be blogged. Personally, however, I dislike McDonalds and I dislike McInformation as well. Mathieu Ricard mentioned something about this in his book about altruism: you shouldn't confuse spontaneity with mental agitation. 

So, I found my spontaneous and serendipitous conversation with Natalia Signoroni (Draw-a-breath) about time, reflection, slowness, and the fact that there are watchmakers who prohibit express photography, and then in topics mixing philosophy and watches to be inspiring and reassuring at the same time. Seeing everything is not necessarily seeing well…. and so I missed my appointment as well…

Cartier Ballon Bleu Serti Vibrant Cartier Ballon Bleu Serti Vibrant

The most surprising brand, product, material or person?

Letting my mind's eye float back in time, I realize that the SIHH did not provide any great revelations …  I did not expect any, actually. Innovation does not always move in a straight line, but it goes sideways, often in little steps. The new skeletons by Roger Dubuis with the star motif were a pleasant surprise, a little less in your face than usual, and a little more poetic – the Excalibur with ivy, very nice – though the booth was almost scary, the "vegetal" construction looked a little like the extraterrestrials from that old 1960s movie The Day Of The Triffids.

But something else does set off a few dreams, the latest Richard Mille, specifically the pink flower that opens up to reveal a tourbillon, which then rises and falls again, a touch erotic; a very simple and well-implemented idea.

Something that struck you about the organization

This is not for public consumption…. The Salon was well done, as usual, and fewer people at each presentation was a good idea, last year it was sometimes difficult to breathe.

Richard Mille RM 19-02 Richard Mille RM 19-02

Your shortest night

21-22 January. Daytime is SIHH time, nights I translate for the next day – that's the job – plus have to prepare my Wristwatch Annual and other clients, who need everything right away. And family life is important as well.... So, I am off to bed at 11:30pm, and my inner alarm-clock goes off at 1:30am... Back to the salt mines. It's cold. In my inbox I find a text to translate, and there is more copy to be edited, reworked, and the day needs preparing, which leads straight to →

Your longest day

See above… it started at 1:30am... After work in the morning, 40 minutes worth of swimming, I think of the koi by Van Cleef & Arpels.   Then it’s the run of the hotels for the other brands. Manufacture Royale continues to establish its bona fides with a new model, a slightly more streamlined version, lots of black; At Urwerk, I am shown a softer machine, les edgy than the older ones, with a macassar-ebony  or ebony bezel, a tweed bracelet, the watch is thinner, very inviting, a little less space-ship-like.

The day ends with an aperitif with Yvan Arpa, a presentation of his wares, humorous, savage, expert, really unique, the DNA of madness, unbuttoned, pistol rounds, tobacco leaves, artwork, skulls, unlike any other skulls, guitars, pianos, and the machines running in the next room, the noise, the CNC at work, that smell of hot oli .... But I have copy to work on, so, it's back to the desk. An interminable day.

Greubel Forsey Art Piece I Greubel Forsey Art Piece I

Your favorite watch

A few loves at first sight (chez Arpa and chez Urwerk), but at the SIHH itself it's more a head thing. The Art Piece of Greubel & Forsey, a brand that has always fascinated me, the way the chess games of Kasparov, Tal, or Fischer fascinated me, esoteric, virtuosic, savage, but rigorous, and, of course, I don't understand a thing.  So there is this Art Piece, Homage to the Fluxus artist Robert Filliou. Inside the watch, there is a miniature sculpture of a hat dispensing Fillion works, made by the nanosculptor Willard Wigan. I confess to loving Fluxus, a crazy, liberated, franc, creative movement (John Cage, Hirschhiorn, Josef Beuys and Co.), permanently relaxed, the opposite to all standardization. To associate it with an art as rigorous as watchmaking represents an explosive dialectic, a very restless synthesis, as it were.

The contact you most look forward to following up on and to getting to know better

There were some…

The sentence or words that got to you!

We are in a conservative society, a controlled society, we dare not say too much… But I have had quote by the Viennese publicist Karl Kraus in my head: “Modern architecture is the creation of the superfluous based on the correct identification of a need that was not there."  It would seem that applies to design as well.

And receive each week a custom selection of articles.

Post SIHH 2015: Vincent Daveau’s insider observations

By Joel GrandjeanEditor-in-Chief
In the wake of both the first major watch event of 2015 and several exhibitions outside Palexpo-Geneva, has interviewed some fellow journalists...