Saturday, June 26, 2021

Still Searching For Severin

I was reminded by a reader that yesterday, June 25, marked 13 years since Severin Wunderman passed away and left a gap in the watch industry that has yet to be filled (though many have tried). As mentioned frequently here before, I never got the chance to meet Mr. Wunderman, as I was still on the other side of the booth working for DOXA in the US when I learned of his passing. I reached out to my boss and asked if we should send a condolence message, and he freaked out and said "No, and never contact anyone in other brands!" Needless to say he was, and continues to be, a wee bit paranoid ; )

I sent a card anyway.

In the years since I left DOXA, I joined first the Fifth, then the Fourth Estate getting to meet many luminaries in Watch Town, and began to consult behind the scenes with brands both mighty and modest. And what I found fascinating was the number of people I encountered who had worked for Severin Wunderman during his Gucci and later Corum days, a group of men and women who still sometimes refer to themselves as "Severin's Children". 
I remember asking one friend who referred to himself as one of "Severin's Children"- 
"You're Severin Wunderman's son?" (I was a little green back then and easily impressed).

"No, but he was the person who really launched my career in the watch business".

I've met more people with similar stories than I've had hot meals in a given December. And I have borrowed some of the strategies that these folks have shared with me, and pay them forward to brands that I consult with, and have put them to work with my little project, the Oberlin Watch Company.

What continues to fascinate me, these many years later, is really how simple Mr. Wunderman's formulas were. But that's a topic for another day. Today I want to share a story that one of "Severin's Children" shared with me last December -

"It was back in 1997 when I was decorating the booth windows of our Baselworld stand. The windows had a big iconic GUCCI-G inside with one high heel shoe in the middle of this big G. We only displayed one watch in the entire window! It was around 10pm that I was flirting with an employee of our neighboring booth from Bucherer (not yet Carl F. Bucherer at that time). Her name was Beatrice. That's when she told me that I was a bit mean to let this "old" decorator work so late, and she told me that I should be ashamed of myself. Severin was wearing this four /five day beard and wasn‘t dressed in one of his suits, with the type of class that only he or Cary Grant had! There is no way that she could believe that this creative, fine, small, thin man and "great decorator" getting the booth ready was the boss of GUCCI timepieces! Then I told her that this old decorator was Severin. I asked her to try to imagine that Mr. Bucherer would be there decorating the booth with her right now, or Mr. Hayek Sr. was decorating the OMEGA booth. She didn‘t believe me at first and so I called Severin over and introduced him to Beatrice, who as it happened was probably the one of the most successful people at selling GUCCI timepieces in the Bucherer flagship store in Lucerne. And he immediately started to flirt with her in his own elegant way and invited us all for dinner. But remember; it was already after 10pm and this was 1997 in Switzerland. Usually restaurants at this time even in Basel closed their kitchens at 9:30/10:00pm, at that time especially one day before the official opening of the show. So he asked me to call Jeoffrey. Only insiders know that this was the preferred Indian restaurant of Severin in Basel which was run by the famous Jeoffrey, a wonderful gentlemen from Malaysia. And of course we not only got our table, but had dinner long after midnight. The next day Severin walked into the hall and to our booth in a suit with a class and elegance with his beautiful butterfly brooch, cigar at the ready. Yes, at that time cigars we‘re still allowed inside the holy halls of Basel... and then we started the the press presentation of the G-300 club, as well as a group of "only" 300 selected jewelers worldwide who were allowed to order and sell the G-Watch in gold! The press conference was such a huge success that so many journalists and attendees attended to our conference that they nearly had to cue up all the way to the Bucherer booth, where Beatrice was standing and waving over to Severin, who greeted her with a wonderful and beautiful smile that only he could have. We all miss this wonderful smile. I only recently saw it again in the face and eyes of his grandson. The spirit of Severin will always live on in all of us. And of course the G-300 collection was also sold by Bucherer in Lucerne. And guess which point of sale sold most of them in the whole world, and more specifically I mean which salesperson? Yes, that would be Beatrice! And that was part of the magic he had, Severin made all of us feel like part of his wonderful family!"

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