Letters From The Editors: What We Loved, Hated, And Found Inspiring In 2020
The good, bad, and inspiring moments of a very unusual year.
The past 12 months was a year like none other for Team Watchonista. And although 2020 presented plenty of challenging moments, we found hope in the strength and resilience of our global team of editors. From Switzerland to the United States, our intrepid Watchonistas have been hard at work producing beautiful, engaging, and fun content for our audiences to experience.
As we sat down and reflected on this unusual year, we thought it best to put together a roundup of the moments we loved, the things we hated, and the things that inspired us in 2020.
What We Loved
Marco Gabella (Co-Founder, Executive Publisher)
As the first lockdown was quite rigorous for each of us, having the opportunity to take part in Geneva Watch Days was quite refreshing. Even if the event was small compared to typical watch fairs, all the participating brands were delighted to finally have a physical event. And visitors were very much in the same mood.
Interestingly, all participants showed their wares in hotel rooms overlooking Lake Geneva. Besides being an enchanting setting, it was also great to discover new watches with natural light. With most of the participating brands, you had the option of going outside on a balcony or terrace to fully admire how natural light showcased shapes, finishing, textures, and primarily the watchmaking quality.
Josh Shanks (Editor-in-Chief)
I'll never forget the brands and friends that called me on day one of the lockdowns, offering their support for Watchonista. It was evident that we would all have a tough road ahead, but it warmed my heart that despite the global situation, these people thought of our humble company and wanted to support us however possible. Thank you, V, F, A, C, and K!
Also, can I just mention that we sponsored a NASCAR team?! It was certainly a highlight of my year to cheer on the Watchonista x SS Greenlight Racing #08 Chevy Camaro driven by Joe Graf Jr.!
Liam O’Donnell (Senior Photographer)
The city-wide cheering at 7:00 pm in recognition of the frontline medical workers brought me a lot of joy each day.
Viviana Shanks (Social Media Manager and Editor)
The year started with a weird bang, and the entire world was shaken up. I was happy to see companies like Bulgari helping in the effort to produce PPE and hand sanitizer for front line workers. It is great to know how versatile and socially conscious the luxury industry can be.
Another thing that I particularly enjoyed was our HOMEtime Live series. Like never before, CEOs and collectors opened up to our community with a more relaxed and often more approachable feeling. It also felt great to see companies that were often shy to use social media wholly embraced it.
Rhonda Riche (Editor-at-large)
There's a quote going around (though I'm not sure who to attribute it to) that reads, "We're all in the same storm but in different boats." And this feels like an apt way to describe the current global situation.
Yet the watch community, whether in a yacht or a dinghy, still banded together to form a flotilla for good. Whether it was luxury watch brands providing crucial PPE to frontline workers or individual Instagram influencers raising awareness (and funds) to support voting drives in the US.
More selfishly, I never felt forgotten during the lockdown, thanks to the friends and colleagues who reached out through phone calls and Zoom meetups.
Sophie Furley (Editor-at-large)
Like Marco, Geneva Watch Days was the highlight of my watch year. I don't think I had noticed how much I was missing my friends in the industry until we met up in August. It was like a boost of energy to see people and try on watches physically.
It made me appreciate how important these moments are and how we need to keep the watch fairs alive.
What We Hated
My interests are plentiful enough to always have something to explore, experiment with, or create. So, for me, quarantine wasn’t too bad. But I was missing watch fairs and launch events quite a lot.
Primarily I missed the atmosphere of discovery when I am inspecting a novelty in the metal for the first time and the frenetic creativity required to produce content in the midst of a fair. But more than anything else, I missed the watch fairs and launch events because they present rare opportunities for the watchmaking diaspora to come together and exchange ideas.
I’ll never forget the feeling of March 13th: The night before, Watchonista’s US office experienced the last physical brand event of 2020, TAG Heuer’s Connected launch.
At the time, none of us knew that, so we had booked a photoshoot the following morning, and everyone was on edge because we it seemed we were heading into lockdown. While we all adapted to the “Two Weeks To Flatten The Curve” philosophy, I hated the uncertainty of not knowing what was next.
With my immediate family living on the other side of the globe, the most challenging aspect of this year has been the lack of travel and the inability to personally spend time with everyone I love from around the world.
The watchmaking community is a beautiful one. Sadly, this year, we had no moments to enjoy together and share our shared passion for watches. We learn more and more every time we meet people with different tastes and backgrounds, and the lack of those interactions made it hard to debate whether this or that watch is better than the other.
In the end, however, we know that eventually, things will get back to normal, and we will be back to meeting new people and sharing our passion together. It was a challenging year, but if it isn't hard, is it even worth it?
Humanity-wise, the suffering and chaos. Environmental disasters like the fires in Australia and the US. Racism, transphobia, and homophobia. Income disparity. Food insecurity. Political unrest. I'm not too fond of all of those things.
Watch-wise, I'm sad that I only had a short window to visit my watchmaker in between lockdowns. I have a few vintage favorites that are due for servicing.
One thing I found particularly challenging this year was hosting Instagram Live sessions. I usually don't mind being on camera, but to be honest, being live filled me with dread.
But like anything, the more I did it, the more I got used to it, and now I miss not doing them. It was a lesson-to-self to get out of my comfort zone more often.
What We Found Inspiring In 2020
During Switzerland’s lockdown, we managed to contact brands to collect watches so we could continue creating and publishing content. Many of our contacts were at home, and reopening closed manufactures for Watchonista wasn’t easy to organize.
But with the help and ingenuity of each brand, every week, we managed to travel from Lausanne to Bienne and Neuchâtel to collect watches. After 24 hours, I delivered the watches to our photographer, Pierre Vogel, who had no choice but to work alone in a studio. Having to take all these extra steps just so we could continue normal operations gave us the chance to think more thoroughly about our privilege.
Adaptation. Individuals and companies alike found new and inventive ways to continue despite the challenges. While Watchonista had our HOMEtime Live series, some of my favorite sporting series like F1 and NASCAR went virtual racing, however, it was such a relief to see physical cars on track months after lockdown. Overall, the human spirit of perseverance endured, and that's what I found most inspiring.
What I found most inspiring this year were the numerous creative ways people found to continue enjoying the little things in life, despite the restrictions we needed to place on ourselves as a society to stem the spread of COVID-19.
The most inspiring thing for me this year was probably the frontline workers' strength. They never backed down, knowing it was for the greater good. From them, we should all learn to never give up in times of great adversities because brighter days will come.
I’m cheered by the way manufacturers quickly adapted to the challenges of 2020, especially when it comes to the online experience. Numerous brands and retailers have shifted to digital and increased their e-commerce efforts. As one insider told me, the advances their company has made in the last nine months would have taken seven years in the before times.
In April, I had this mad idea to ask the Instagram community to send me pictures of their pets and watches – together – for a story I was planning to write. I was hoping for perhaps a dozen answers, and I ended up with over 250 photos. It wasn't only the photos that inspired me, however. It was also all the conversations that sprang up with watch fans from all over the world. From the gentleman who chased his cat around his apartment all day to get a picture to the journalists from competing watch media who sent me their pictures. It was something I'll never forget.