Insiders speak at an après-Baselworld. Marton Radkai - journalist
Journalist (horology), translator and senior editor of Wristwatch Annual, Marton Radkai answers our questions on Baselworld 2014. He tells us everything on models, personalities, brands and so on.
Your most unfortunate late arrival
Actually none. Sure, a few changes needed maneuvering, but the key to success at Baselworld is organizing your schedule, period. I mix spontaneous meetings with the appointments with the major brands, who tend to operate in military style. Some visits were even limited to a an almost absurdly rapid look at the watches in the display cases outside.
Your most astonishing appointment?
A few meetings with "brand new" people... like the duManège watches made by Julien Fleury, the only watchmaker to inscribe "La Chaux-de-Fonds" on his dials. Astonishing, because this young man looks as if he just left high school a few days ago … But he still has a great deal of energy. He is an idealist, very awake, and also of remarkable maturity. He outsources to local suppliers and has produced his first watch, sportive, elegant, with a complex case, the movement is by Technotime… In short, an excellent start, courageous, and worth supporting. It's available by subscription and can be had by those means at 50%.
And there is Paul and Patrik Mürner and Alexandre Chiovetta.... They revived the Union Horlogère Genève-Bienne and if you want vintage, that's vintage! Very well done stuff. The history of the brand is quite astonishing, by the way: when it broke up around World War Two, it spawned Dugena (Germany) and Alpina (!). And the Mürners, well, besides having drunk the water from Bienne all their lives, they don't really have a watchmaking past, but they apparently have a lot of vision and good sense, and the lucky star of the beginner.
Your most remarkable meeting
Oh…. I am really not a fan of bling, dead animals, gadgets to decorate people without imagination, nor of cars for that matter. So I am always fascinated by objects that are simply well-made and harmonious but that also fit the bill for the concepts of the right balance between surprise and harmony that Montesquieu describes in his essay on taste. And the harvest this year continues to be very rich….Many brands that keep producing those surprises within the framework of their own esthetic policies. Let me just mention brands such as Perrelet, Milus and Eberhard in this context.
Your biggest surprise
Konstantin Chaykin, perhaps? He is a man with outstanding ideas. This year it’s an hour glass that counts off the minutes… Last year he had a film running of the Muybridge horse… There he is… A genius, his appearance is almost shy, but those timepieces are genuinely extraordinary. I was already drawn to his Lunokhod a while ago, because of the exquisitely crafted 3D moon in the middle off the dial. And then there is another fellow from the east, this time Ukraine. Valerii Daneyvich with his watches of wood … only the spring is of metal. This meticulous work doesn't produce especially precise timepieces of course, the execution is outstanding, and that what really matters here. And little delight at the end of my stay… an encounter with the Valbray Oculus, a clever play with a shutter that hides the chronograph.
Something that struck you about the organization
We the journalists – or rather the "philo-horological content producers," we really do have a nice, wide open space now… with two little clouds: a lack of lockers to stash the stuff from the fair, notably those two huge books that waste a lot of kerosene for nothing. I chatted with a few colleagues, three-quarters of them won't even open the books.
The other problem is a lack of space to sit down and do something other than stare at our computers. The bar area fills up very quickly, the ret is too spacious. Maybe the fair organizers could one day ask journalists rather than architects what the journalists could use? So here is a little constructive contribution: put the bar over where the Swiss media space was, and separate somehow the food from the work area.
Your shortest night
The last one… I got up at 3:15 a.m. Because of work, of course. As a pure freelancer I do have other clients to take care of, and other areas as well… It's not always easy to get up early, but already as a teenager I did power naps, and as a radio guy with an early show.
Your longest day
The first Thursday. The German paper Welt am Sonntag was announcing its "Watch of the Year" and it was a great opportunity to meet colleagues and find out what German readers of this medium go for. But the day had started really early as well…
Your favorite watch
Ouch … that is a really tough question. Let me say this: I saw Nomos, and what I see I really like. Not for me personally (though as an avid swimmer I'd love to test that Ahoi), but it's the whole of the brand. The communication is outstanding as well, in perfect harmony with the product. It's quite rare in this business. There are other brands, naturally, but I would rather keep them a secret at this point. The articles have been written, and today there is too much poaching going on.
The contact you most look forward to following up on and to getting to know better
I continue to follow the work of Itay Noy, a designer from Israel. The man is thinker, a social philosopher, his watches always establish a rapport with the wearer, they are like touchstones, those special objects that make us reflect on topics like religion and faith, our origins, our relationship with communication our birthplace, and so forth.
The other person I am following is Yvan Arpa – we share a Hungarian background, that is like being Freemasons of sorts. He has the gift of iconoclasm, as such he is a sort of anti-Calvinist, if you will, who wildly or frantically uses decorative elements to give us food for thought about very common themes, themes that could involve a radical change in our own lives, like bullets, the wings of a butterfly (life, death, and systems), or the great big electronic garbage can that we have made of our environment and our spiritual and professional lives, in short, themes that are not discussed much by the powers that be. Which is all a bit reminiscent of Versailles of the 1780s.
There are many other greats I continue to follow, of course, I am a fan of Thomas Prescher, and over in the Ramada I saw some old and new friends, who, like the alchemists of old, single-mindedly try to decipher some inexistent code to illumination… But let me just mention Peter Speake-Marin, who moved from the Palace last year to Hall 1 this year. A dyed-in-the-wool watchmaker of refreshing creativity. What a grand idea he had to create the "Cabinet des mystères"! It's a sort of undefinable grab-bag collection that allows him to skirt his new "brand" status with all that implies, beginning with a straightjacket on crazy ideas.
And thanks to Yvan Arpa, I also met Fabien Lamarche, founder of Julien Coudray 1518. The entire world of horological crafts can be found in these timepieces, which are carved out of solid blocks of gold or platinum.
But as I said, there are others…
The sentence or words that got to you?
There's a word I can't stand … Congratulations to all the communication wizards for introducing it, like avian flu. It's the word "code," or even worse, the term "DNA", and everyone seems to be using these words, like bad perfume. And that, just as the horrifying, bowdlerized "tradition and innovation" was slinking off to the Great Dung Heap of History … Here's the point, guys and gals: in communication, you do have to let the horses go, like that they will stop looking for hay in the neighboring stall. And for Heaven's sake, try to synchronize the communication with the product. Don't start building up some huge philosophical superstructure atop a fairly ordinary product. The resulting lack of authenticity confuses the message and breaks the tension. And while I am at it, avoid trying to sell product to journalists. They are not – and should not act like – consumers.