Although I have worked in the watch industry for years, this year marked my first trip to Watches and Wonders. When I was a vintage dealer, I simply had no business at the fair, and I had to skip it in my first years at Fratello due to personal circumstances. This means I went into it with quite a bit of experience but also with a newbie mindset to the event itself.

When our shop manager Laurits asked how events like this influence us Fratello writers, I felt I might be the right one to pick up the gauntlet and try to answer that question.

The influence of seeing the watches in real life

The first reason why attending events like Watches and Wonders is crucial for us is so that we can handle all the new watches. Although many online-only enthusiasts believe otherwise, watches are extremely poorly represented by pictures and specs alone. To form a proper image of a watch, you need to have it in hand and on the wrist.

I found my first Watches and Wonders particularly enriching in this sense. Handling the many new watches in quick succession allows us to get a much clearer view of broader developments. We notice similarities and differences that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Similarly, we find some brands overperforming and others underperforming.

Another positive influence is that of colleagues from other media. We can speak to fellow writers from other titles, which pulls us out of our bubble. When sharing an office, it’s not uncommon for writers to converge somewhat in their tastes and preferences. Speaking to someone from the other side of the globe with the same job is refreshing and broadens our perspective.

Watches and Wonders influence

The influence of meeting the people behind the brands

From a distance, big watch brands seem like cold, distant, massive corporations. But, just like any big corporation, they are made up of people. Events like Watches and Wonders provide us with the opportunity to meet some of those people. Crucially, this gives us a sense of what the company culture is like. This, in turn, provides us with a context in which to view the watches.

We often get a chance to talk to the decision-makers behind the watches. They get to see our authentic initial responses to their work, and we get to discuss the products openly. This is where it gets particularly interesting. Ignoring the odd outlier, most of these people are highly skilled and experienced. If, for example, I hear a designer explain the concept behind a watch that I strongly dislike, I can usually follow the rationale. While Fratello readers might want me to roast that watch mercilessly, I will likely feel less harshly about it. Some may interpret this as being under the influence of the brand. To me, it is a crucial part of my job. As Fratello writers, we have a different responsibility than the average forum commenter, for instance.

Events like Watches and Wonders enable us to be a little bit closer to the action. I think this should be valued for what it’s worth, with its pros and cons. We may be a little more nuanced and less harsh on the brands. As long as everybody is aware of that, the result is a valuable addition to the discourse.

Rolex booth watches & wonders 2022

The influence of the ideal context

Of course, brands present the watches in the ideal context. In this sense, a fair is the professional equivalent of a brand boutique. The entire space is designed to seduce us and to put the products in the best light possible. This is nothing new and in no way unique to the watch world. As a former consultant in subconscious consumer behavior, this fascinates me deeply. And no, you don’t become insensitive to it if you know the techniques.

There is, however, such a thing as professional resistance to the seduction. Trust me, after the umpteenth brand presentation, we can look straight through the marketing fluff, the sound effects, and the emotional stories fabricated around the new watches. The fact that every brand does the same things in this sense also cancels it out to some extent. We know we will be presented with attractive ambassadors and promises of the most alluring lifestyles. After a few hours, it all becomes background noise.

Watches and Wonders influence

Keeping an independent voice

As you see, there is a fine balance in place. On the one hand, events like this are the richest source of insight, inspiration, and information for writers like me and my Fratello colleagues. On the other hand, we know that such events are designed to woo us.

Rolex influence

To me, the key thing is to keep an independent voice. Fratello is a great place to work in this sense because we are all encouraged to express our honest opinions. That is why you see contrasting opinions on the site. The Rolex presentation this year, for instance, made no sense to me, so I wrote an article about it. Fratello founder RJ completely disagreed with me and expressed so in the comments. If you ask me, this is exactly how it should be.