Monday, November 11, 2013

A Few Words About the Joy of Failure with Vincent Calabrese

The author (read shameless fan) getting an autograph

So yesterday:
Up at 5:00 am for Skype calls with 2 different clients in Switzerland, write blog post, feed the cat, get cleaned up, off to the U for a 9:00 AM start.

1:10 - car fueled-up, on the road
2 hours and 40 minutes later, arrive at Chong Hing to meet with
Florence Delorme of Corum and one of my all time favorite watch makers - Vincent Calabrese.  And it dawned on me during the 3 + hour return trip home how lucky I felt to be delayed with so much time in the car to reflect....   but I'm getting ahead of myself.

When I first started working for DOXA it was in many ways a bit of a dream come true.  Every day working with watches - getting paid to talk about my hobby!  But of course that is what we think it is going to be like when reading all of the glitzy & glossy magazines.  The watch industry had to be this amazing place were everyone looked great, made a lot of money and was endlessly interesting.

Two of the greatest lessons that I learned during my time at DOXA and since then are  that:

A.  As much as the magazines and forums would have you believe, the watch world is like every professional "world" - as much as you'd like it to be, it is NOT always a meritocracy.  And that is true at every level of the industry.

B.  For better or worse, it often comes down to money.  Money can (and sadly does) apparently forgive a great many sins.  And some of the most talented people are often left out in the cold, in the "other" spaces.  This was how I often felt working for a smaller brand.  You struggle, fight and endlessly campaign for publicity and market share.  And the frustration of seeing some truly indifferent folks make pots of money while doing very little could sour you pretty quickly.

So what happens when you are passionate?  When you want to do more than just "punch the clock"?  What happens when  you are already a bit of an outsider?  People more concerned about your nationality and paper qualifications than with your actual abilities?  Pretty easy to consider that unlucky.  Pretty easy to consider your life's work a failure.

But then again, not everyone is Vincent Calabrese.

Many other, better writers have covered him, but what you may not know or understand is that the Golden Bridge is (at least according to Mr. Calabrese) a child born of several fortunate failures.

Failure #1 - Vincent Calabrese leaves school somewhat prematurely, forced to find work.  Fortunate result #1 - Vincent Calabrese gets an apprenticeship to learn watch repair.  Buys tools, starts work.

Failure #2 - Original apprentice returns, Vincent Calabrese is forced to go out on his own.
Fortunate result #2 - He starts repairing watches around town.

Failure #3 - No "formal" training.  Fortunate result #3 - without a teacher to tell him how to do something, or that something is not possible.  So he must learn to do everything himself, and never works in fear of the impossible.

Failure # 4 - Goes to Switzerland to avoid military conscription.  Fortunate result #4 - moves in with an uncle who then introduces him to Tissot.

Failure #5 - After several spells at different brands has had enough.  Fortunate result #5 - works at a small store, making creative customizations for customers.  And it is here that the Golden Bridge is born.

Failure #6 - No money.  Fortunate result #6 - must learn to do everything himself!

Failure #7 - Needs to find financial backing for the Golden Bridge and hits the street to "sell" his baby. Patek and others say thanks, but no thanks.  Fortunate result #7 - Corum says yes!

Now granted, this has been a very long journey starting in the early 70s and in some ways only coming full circle now, but to see the hard work and dedication finally and truly rewarded with Corum's new focus on the Golden Bridge is the real reason why I like to write about people in the industry.

So well done Vincent Calabrese and Corum - and may all of your failures be fortunate ones!

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