February 5, 2013
by Adi Soon
Ever wondered what it is like to work with Ariel Adams?
I certainly did, and in the last four months, I have been treated to a spectacle beyond my comprehension, leading to a vague understanding that perhaps I have stumbled into a place that I was meant to be.
Now, if you are a regular follower of aBlogtoWatch (ABTW), I will not presume to know who you are. However, I can certainly say that you are most likely a watch lover of some kind. And if you have been a follower for a reasonable amount of time, then I can say that you are most likely aware of the current industry trends, and the latest watches that have been around.
If what I have just said describes you, then let me tell you that this was the state I was in only four months ago. For more than two years prior, I had been an avid reader and follower of ABTW. I made it a point to log on to the website every day as part of my ritual, and the articles within have even prompted some satisfying watch purchases that would not have been made, had I not known about them from aBlogtoWatch.
But the question I had, and the question that continued to linger in my mind was: who was this Ariel Adams? This Ariel Adams who seemed to write articles everyday, and who seemed to have access to so many watches that I had not heard of. I had this question and it remained on my mind for a long time.
I now want to finally begin to tell you the answers to these questions after an unexpected event happened that would cause me to work with Ariel and the blog I had come to love after so long. This story might be of interest to you if you have always wondered what it is like behind the curtain of aBlogtoWatch, or maybe even industry blogging in general. My head has not stopped spinning, and I want to tell you what I saw in the last few months as an unseasoned and possibly new member of the watch industry.
A confluence of factors conspired to cause Ariel to put up a post last October asking for people who were London-based and able to cover the Salon QP. I looked at it with mild amusement and sent a reply, not really expecting anything to come out of it. I reasoned to myself, why not? Since I was living in London, and that I was able to take pictures and write with some degree of ability.
Ariel replied, despite a large number of responses that I was later told about.
I was very quickly, on the basis of my past experience, chosen to be the representative of ABTW at the Salon QP. Conversations over Skype ensued, I was issued some advice, had my press pass arranged and basically told to cover anything that I was personally interested in. What resulted was a number of video interviews and articles that I had a wonderful time in producing.
Apparently I did a good enough job at the Salon QP, as I was a month later, invited to Geneva for a series of interviews with various watch brands. I went along, armed with my camera, microphone and note-book to the ateliers and offices of watch brands like MB&F, SLYDE, F.P Journe, and Badollet.
Just today as I write these words, I have completed my first SIHH (Salon International De La Haute Horologie) in Geneva, and my first full week of working side-by-side with Ariel Adams. In the process, I have seen much and heard much, So what have I learned?
1. Running aBlogtoWatch is a full time job.
I had always assumed that a blog was something that people did as a hobby. Just write when you can or when you feel like it. aBlogtoWatch.com, as I have learned, is not a hobby. When I was introduced to the punishing schedule of watch reviews and watch meetings at SIHH. I was aghast. Ariel runs aBlogtoWatch as a full-on media and content provider. In fact I would go so far as to say that this is his life. Never have I seen anyone so devoted to making content about watches, and he is clearly someone who has begun to leverage his love and knowledge of watches for the service of watch-lovers and watch brands.
Might I add further that I do not use the word “service” lightly in that last sentence. When articles are provided for watch lovers, we read them, we enjoy them, and we learn. When Ariel meets with the brands, whether it be a small independent or a large brand, he gives them advice on how to interface with their potential customers. Believe me when I say this, as I have, in these few short months met enough watch brand owners who are either too focused on making their watches or too conservative in their marketing approaches to know and understand how new media outlets like the internet can be used to help them sell their wares.
When I’m there, listening over the shoulder of Ariel as he dispenses his views on what the watch brand should do, they listen, and they listen intently. I thought about it. It makes sense as Ariel is certainly one of the few people in the watch industry that has that kind of bird’s eye view of what everyone is doing.
2. Oftentimes, it is better to experience a watch in person.
Ariel told me something that he heard me repeating quite often, and that was, that after coming from a meeting with a particular watch brand, I would utter the words, “I thought I hated that brand until I held their watches in my hand”.
How does this apply to you as an reader of the blog? Well, do know that as wonderful as the internet is, it can never replace the experience of holding a watch in your hand and experiencing it in person. It is easy to build up a prejudice over a watch or a brand based on some comment that somebody made, or some attribute that you do not like.
My latent close-minded attitude was revealed to me after having seen many watches running in price from the low thousands to the low millions. I cannot really know what I am talking about until I experience the watch for myself. In this new-found attitude I realize that every watch comes from the creative energy of a person with something to say. The total picture cannot be adequately communicated by words and photos alone. I have a new attitude now and will only pass judgement after I have had the watch in my hand.
This diamond covered AP is a prime example. Had I judged it from afar, I would have said the usual things. It was too ostentatious, had too much bling, maybe was a little hideous as well. However, when I had it on my wrist, I could not stop smiling. Wearing this watch, albeit only for a short time, gave me an insight into why it was created. That sometimes watches are emotional states exemplified, and there is nothing wrong with that.
3. Access is key, and it is built up over time.
I don’t how accurate I am when I say this, but in the early days when aBlogtoWatch was known as aBlogtoRead, I noticed that the watches under review tended to be more affordable Over time, I noticed that the average price of the watches that came under review increased. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about those write ups that are derivations of press releases. I’m talking about the kind of reviews that are only possible when the writer has had the watch in their possession for a reasonable amount of time.
One of the things I noticed as I was shadowing Ariel at the SIHH, was the fact that everyone seemed to know him. I mean, everyone from the top brass of the big brands to the PR people, to other journalists, to those on the periphery of the watch industry. It was difficult to move through the convention when we would be stopped every ten steps by someone greeting Ariel.
Now this was telling, for when Ariel described how difficult it was when he started, when he had a little known website facing up against big brands who didn’t want to speak to him, and comparing that picture to the one I personally witnessed at SIHH, a lot had to happen in between.
The reason why the readers of aBlogtoWatch are able to enjoy such a wide ranging array of articles from every corner of the watch industry is because Ariel has basically worked his ass off to gain that access.
Believe me when I say this. If I were starting a new watch blog today, I would have no idea of what to do to get the good stuff to report. I can certainly say that I would get the drivel that most other watch media gets from press releases. Access is earned, and aBlogtoWatch is all the better for it because of Ariel.
4. Content is King and quality always improves.
As a longtime aBlogtoWatch follower, I remember the early days when the pictures on the website were just horrible. I was a professional photographer, and I always had something to criticize about the photography. Then, when the videos on YouTube came out, I was horrified by the bad lighting, creases in the table cloth where the watch would be resting on, and many other issues.
Of course, those were early days and the quality has improved noticeably, as you most likely have realized.
When I first met Ariel this week, I saw him armed to the teeth with a two DSLRs, a Canon 5D Mark 3, a Canon 7D, a big bunch of L lenses (the professional ones), and a video camera with a wireless microphone system, all packed in a huge bag that would make a grown man cry by the sheer weight.
That picture that I have just painted just goes to show how things improved, all in the quest to deliver the best watch pictures and videos for our pleasure. I have certainly been humbled by the sheer professionalism that Ariel has displayed in his approach to the content gathering for this watch blog.
5. The Swiss do it best.
As a watch lover, I had never thought much about the people behind the scenes who create the watches that we lust after.
This week at SIHH, shadowing Ariel, I finally got to meet some of the people who in large and small ways, have contributed to the wonder that is the Swiss watch industry. Stand on the banks of Lake Geneva and gaze knowingly at the signboards of all the familiar Swiss watch brands adorning every single building around the lake. Meet a couple of watch-makers and watch them excitedly and with much passion, explain the wonderful features of their latest creation. Come to the annual extravagance of SIHH in Geneva or Baselworld and just marvel at what this small country has done in order to claim the title of unrivaled masters of watch-making in the world.
Every industry has its own personality, and the Swiss watch industry is no different. You can call them conservative, stuck in the past or resistant to change. However do know that there are certain things that only the Swiss do well, and despite themselves, only they seem to grasp what it takes to produce objects of both wondrous mechanical precision and stunning beauty.
Even this attitude of conservatism has its upside when you consider how lust is stoked when you as a customer are required to wait for that special piece that has to be made just so.
With large and small companies competing, there is bound to be some jealousy afoot when one brand does better than another. Yet paradoxically the companies in the industry need each other in areas where talent is shared and where parts supply is concerned. There is clearly a community spirit at work, and it seems that the Swiss companies, while wanting to outdo each other, realize that they are part of a collective that presents a certain identity to the rest of the world.
Clearly, that identity is that the best watchmakers come from Switzerland.
Having started as a watch lover with a hobbyist point of view to going to SIHH in Geneva and seeing the industry like an insider, it is without question that my world-view has changed. My tastes and perspectives have widened immeasurably, and I have found through it all, that this is an industry that I enjoy being a part of.
Coming to SIHH on the first day, I wondered who all these people who were walking around were. There was the press, contingents of dealers from around the world, as well as the brands parading in their Sunday best. I was uncomfortable, slack-jawed, and awed by the spectacle of beautiful time pieces, beautiful people, and luxurious surroundings. Getting over these sights after the first day proved easier when I realized that this show was one of the engines of the watch industry. It was here where people came to see watches, make deals and eventually bring those watches out into the world for people to buy and enjoy.
As well, I have come to appreciate and realize the importance of the watch industry media. With media outlets like aBlogtoWatch, the brands are able to showcase their latest creations to an eager public in a way that mere advertising cannot. When we, the interested audience, find out about a certain watch, we want to know why it is special, what it took for it to become special and how we can acquire it if we can. In order to do that, we have to listen to people we trust and people who are experts by virtue of their exposure to all the best the watch industry can offer.
That in a nutshell, is what I have realized, is the purpose of aBlogtoWatch.
Moving on, I am very appreciative and grateful for the opportunity that Ariel has extended to me in this very brief few months. Running a blog like aBlogtoWatch is a tremendous task that I only realized recently. The fact that it is the biggest watch blog online by monthly traffic is surely a testament to the amount of work that has been done to make it so.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, I hope that this article has given you a good insight of what it is like behind the curtain of aBlogtoWatch. For me personally, I look forward to contributing further articles and sharing any notes and observations through these articles.
I have attempted to give you as comprehensive an insight possible in aBlogtoWatch, if there is anything I have not addressed, please feel free to use the comments below to ask me your questions. Looking forward to them, and thank you for reading this article.