Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Following Up With NOMOS

A while back I posted an op-ed piece on NOMOS declaring a position to stand against xenophobic, right wing political ideologies and to endeavor to create a safe and secure working environment for their staff where informed, rational discussion can take place.  For those of you joining our regularly scheduled programming late, here is a link to that -

I found it interesting that the majority of the watch media had not picked it up, and still haven't.  I suppose that is a separate conversation for another day.  

I have received some feedback that in some ways surprised me - people who questioned why I cared about this, what my "agenda" was, etc.  On a side note, I got the same sort of "smug" retort from a well-known watch journalist who posted a fairly racist, and derogatory cartoon, responding "Well, I don't think it's racist".  That's as well may be, but... sometimes you gotta' call bullshit.  And for me, this is one of those times.  I am confident that this guy's vague understanding of racial diversity & disparity will be malleable enough to ensure he can still enjoy the next press junket, complete with all the trimmings without any discomfort ; )

But enough about me, let's get back to the topic at hand, which is NOMOS and how they are moving forward with their day to day while they work internally to promote equality and understanding in their company.  Judith Borowski, the creative director at NOMOS Glashütte was kind enough to answer some of my questions, and you can find that below.  

In addition, at the very end of this brief interview, you will find the text from an open letter from NOMOS which could be thought of as a "statement of principles".

Tempus Fugit - 
We are clearly living in strange times.  While I personally have had a policy of speaking honestly about political, racial and social issues, Tempus Fugit is an independent outlet, and not dependent upon advertising money.  NOMOS does not necessarily have the same flexibility as it is a business dependent upon customers (retail and independent) journalists and influencers to support the brand.  What has the reaction to your efforts been from these various segments?

Judith Borowski -
The reaction from customers and the media to our public stance has been mixed in Germany, but overwhelmingly positive abroad. NOMOS Glashütte is not an organization on the left or the right of the political spectrum, but we do want to promote values that are important to us. After all, we sell watches to customers around the world and we want to promote a culture within NOMOS Glashütte that is tolerant and open-minded. As an independent company, we are not part of any larger corporation—and therefore free to make our own decisions when it comes to these types of issues.

TF -
Here in the US we are also experiencing a sharp uptick in right-wing groups, and regrettably a clear shift in terms of a blurred line between acceptable discourse and outright hate speech.  Companies that have picked a side have received a fair bit of abuse from the opposing side, losing business (and in some instances gaining new customers as well).  Have you seen a shift in your business one way or the other?

JB -
NOMOS Glashütte is a company that has enjoyed strong growth in recent years. For that reason, it is hard to say whether our public stance has had a negative impact on sales; perhaps we could have grown even further—but that is purely speculation. Of course, our position on political developments in Saxony has not been welcomed by everyone. We may have made some enemies, but we have also received a great deal of support. 

TF -
Obviously a company is headed by directors, but it is made up of all of its employees.  How have the staff at NOMOS reacted to the clear message that has been put forward by the management?

JB -
We want to offer support to our employees by giving them the tools and information they need to counteract right-wing polemics. It is our way of stopping politics and public sentiment in Saxony from moving further towards the right, and response from our employees has been very positive. That said, we are not a political party or political institution; we are, first and foremost, a watch manufacturer.

TF - 
How did NOMOS get acquainted with Courage's program?  How has the response been?

JB -
It took us a while to find the right partner to hold our workshops. The Courage association offers political education seminars, and since spring of this year we have been collaborating with them to offer one-day training sessions for our employees. The whole thing started as a pilot project, which means that our feedback has helped shape the content and format of the workshop. The trainers from Courage present strategies for fact-checking arguments that are commonly used by advocates of AfD (Alternative for Germany) and the right-wing movement Pegida, as well as debate training to give participants the skills to challenge right-wing views. This training can also be used to identify extremist ideas, counteract racist views, and to engage in political discussions with friends and family. The feedback so far has been overwhelmingly positive, and there has been a great deal of interest among our employees in attending these voluntary workshops—spaces are currently booked out until March 2019.

TF -
In many ways we are living in a very challenging moment in time, but in many ways this seems to be creating a lot of new opportunities for business leaders to be more socially involved.  Do you feel that this might be an opportunity for NOMOS to be seen as a definitively positive corporate citizen?

JB -
It is not easy to take a public stance on hot-button issues—and in any case, we are a business, not a political organization. We see it more as our civic responsibility; we do not want to just stand by and watch these developments as they unfold. We feel morally obligated to make our voice heard with the public statement: “Stop! This is where we draw the line.” We cannot say whether this decision makes us a positive example for others—but we can say that many other business leaders in Saxony are interested in offering similar workshops, and that when we speak to them, they say the impulse for their interest came from press coverage of our work.

TF -
If there is any lesson to be learned through all of this, what would it be?

JB -
We want to show that Saxony is a German state with a diverse range of voices—and that at NOMOS Glashütte, democracy is something that we truly value. After all, in 1989 there were pro-democracy demonstrations here. Without those demonstrations, without the Fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent democratic regime, NOMOS Glashütte could not have been founded. That is why we feel that some problems cannot be restricted to the political sphere, and that we all need to share responsibility so that we as a society are not doomed to repeat our mistakes.

                                                                  Glashütte, December 2018
Open Letter from NOMOS Management on the Situation in Saxony - and the Principles of NOMOS Glashütte
(adapted and updated from the German original published in September 2018)

As the year draws to a close, we would like to inform our friends abroad about an issue we have faced in recent months that has attracted attention—and criticism—in Germany. We manufacture our mechanical timepieces in Glashütte, in the state of Saxony in eastern Germany. Our workshops are not far from Chemnitz, which was the site of far- right protests and open attacks on refugees that erupted in late August of this year.

As an independent manufacturer, it is not our job to set a political agenda. But our values do not permit us to step aside and watch the process of radicalization that has gained a foothold in our region and our home. We condemn all forms of hate and violence—in no uncertain terms. We believe in our democracy and we are ready to defend its principles both in word and deed.

Given these events and guided by our principles, we decided to offer workshops to our employees, the first of which was held on October 23, 2018. In these day-long “Open Saxony” workshops, external experts from the “Courage” organization discuss forms of discrimination, provide factual information on immigration, and role-play scenarios for confronting people with opinions that differ from their own—in whatever form.

Dealing with extremists can be unsettling, we want to arm our employees with information so that—if they wish—they feel at least well-prepared to speak up (or out) and make a difference. Some people in our country have accused NOMOS Glashütte of political indoctrination that harks back to the Stasi era. Nothing could be further from the truth. All of our workshops are completely voluntary and in no way supervised by management. Our primary goal is to give our employee tools to evaluate facts and engage in open, meaningful, and respectful debate.

We believe it is our common duty to defend the democracy which our fellow citizens in Saxony (and elsewhere) fought so hard to achieve in 1989. Without the German reunification, without freedom and democracy, Glashütte would not be the same town that we know and love, nor would it be possible to manufacture our fine mechanical watches as we do here today.

Furthermore, we stand in solidarity with our employees—our colleagues—whom many on the far right do not accept for any number of reasons. We say no matter what your skin color, your sexual orientation, your age, or your religious affiliation may be, you are all welcome here.

NOMOS Glashütte is neither to the right or left of the political spectrum; but we do stand for democracy, a global mindset, and tolerance. Racism and intolerance have no place in our company.

NOMOS Management

Roland Schwertner    Uwe Ahrendt    Judith Borowski

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