A Lady On Watches, What Makes Vick Tick!

Greetings watchfam! Today we talk to a REAL watch and luxury journalist, Victoria Townsend. Vicky, for her friends, has built up an impressive portfolio of interviews and articles over the years on the subject of luxury: mainly HH and jewellery.  She has interviewed some of the legends in the haute horologerie business, from Nicolas George Hayek (founder of the Swatch Group) and Kurt Klaus to François-Paul Journe and Laurent Ferrier, but also Jean-Claude Biver, Maximilien Büsser, Wilhelm Schmid, Jean-Christophe Babin, and many, many more. Born in Canada, she has worked around the world but has settled in France and now lives “la vie Parisienne”. Let’s find out what makes her tick!

Vicky, we’ve chatted a lot lately and I kind of feel I’ve known you forever! Before becoming specialized in luxury journalism you’ve had many other professional experiences around the globe (most notably in the middle east). Would you briefly like to share some of them with us and tell us how you ended up in the horological and luxury niche?

Hello Gigi!  Thank you!  I have the same feeling about you!  And am flattered by your interest in me.  So let’s go!

From a short stay in Paris, where I wanted to live after literature studies in Canada, I moved to Monaco where I had the opportunity to work in a shipping company!  I loved living there, but my job was a bit boring as a personal assistant.  When I was given the offer to move to Bahrain to work in an advertising agency, I jumped on it!  In fact, I had two jobs – the ad agency during the day, and 3 nights a week  editing and reading the English news on Bahrain TV.  It was in Bahrain that I received an Omega De Ville manual-wind watch, very simple, but my first mechanical watch. Three years later, I moved to the Jordan office of the ad agency and stayed for one year.  I really enjoyed every second I spent in both countries and around the Gulf but dreamed of moving to Paris.  Which I did.

Once in Paris, I contacted the media I had worked with in the Gulf, and became a correspondent for some of them, and notably a well-respected Lebanese pan-Arab business magazine.  They asked me to start covering the watch shows for them, first in Basel, and eventually with invitations to the then SIHH. That was 15 years ago! Since then I must have interviewed almost every CEO and some of the designers of all the brands.  While I was mostly concerned with market and marketing situations, I discovered, during my many Manufacture visits, that I had a lot to learn about the technical side, that I found fascinating.

James Porter and Son

I  have since developed into writing for other regions, on-line and print.  I think I have learned more in these past few years, and notably thanks to the Instagram accounts I follow, than ever before.  They have opened me up to vintage, to some quartz models, and to more accessible brands.

 

François-Paul Journe is one of my “horological heroes”. I know that you’ve met him and interviewed him on multiple occasions. Since the saying goes: “you should never meet your heroes”, would I actually want to meet FPJ? From what I’ve heard he’s an “eccentric” man to say the least (a lot people who’ve met him say he’s a bit “difficult”!. I’m sure that once you get under his skin he’s a charming fellow.

I have met him, and interviewed him 3 times, so not really “multiple”.  But on one occasion had the great pleasure to spend the major part of a press group dinner beside him.  I was lucky, everybody did not speak French, and Monsieur Journe likes to speak in French!  And so much the better, even though my mother tongue is English, I love speaking in French, especially with François-Paul Journe!! ; )

He knew I was not trying to trick him, trap him in anything, or pretend I knew as much about watches as he did.  So I think he was at ease, and I heard many off-the-record statements that still make me smile, whether about watchmaking, watchmakers, watch brands, or different cultures, both admiring and not : ) For me, it was pure magic!

I wish I had known then as much about his life and fabulous creations as I do now; I’ve sometimes thought he was kind to me because, as the French say “we do not shoot at the ambulance” 😊  He has always been courteous, patient, and when available, offers his full concentration. And I love his wickedly funny and targeted sense of humour.

It’s a known fact there aren’t that many women journalists or enthusiasts in this field, not so much in jewellery as in horology. In your experience, has being part of near-exclusive men’s only club hindered or positively impacted on your journalistic activity?

It may come as a surprise to know that when I was with the Middle East press, there were as many female as male journalists!  I never even considered the question, until I started moving towards writing for the US and Europe, and particularly France.  There are indeed few women watch journalists here, compared to the numerous male journalists that include some of the darlings; ) of the PR departments composed primarily of ladies…

There are exceptions in these departments of course, strong women that I admire. And happily, over the years, I have come to know a handful of highly esteemed lady journalists who are great examples for me, from the US, Canada, the Middle East, and more recently, Romania.

Men are more frequently considered for press trips that involve typical “male” sports (yes, I know, sounds archaic), but happily, for Manufacture visits, watch presentations and interviews the door is relatively open to both.

Laurent Ferrier, his approach to watchmaking is quite different from FPJ’s so I imagine he’s quite a different type of human being. From a purely personal standpoint what’s he like to interview? He has that adorable “Santa Claus” look about him which is so endearing. Is he a Hawk (like FPJ) or a dove?

Santa Claus?!! Ha!  If only!!

“Dear Santa, I have been such a good girl.  Please bring me a Galet opalin micro-rotor : )”

Imagine the surface of the Galet watch or the curve of The Bridge One. They are so perfectly rounded, caressable, smoooooooth!  in the image of their creator who is so serious and concentrated, with a constant tone and even voice, no word raised – yes rounded,  attentive, an occasional smile that might become a laugh after several meetings… Does that make him a Dove?

Inside, ideas and creativity abound, like the innovative watch movements that have one objective; to make them as user friendly as possible by optimizing energy.

And don’t forget that this smooth attentive watchmaker came in 3rd in the Le Mans 24 Hours driving a Porsche 935T in 1979.   He has total control of the design and assembly and impeccable finishing of every single component of the inside and outside of each watch.  So a Hawk?

With his 40 years of experience at Patek Philippe before creating the watches he “really wanted to wear” and knowing exactly where to go to get the best of everything, I would rather say he is a Wise Owl.

I adore your Instagram account. It’s so full of eye candy, mostly incredible watches, but also other stuff. You are one of the few Instagrammers I know that always writes a caption longer than 5 words!  Doesn’t it irritate you that most people couldn’t be bothered to read them? (Author’s note: I read them ALL!)

Ha!  First of all, thank you!  I think??   I know it would be better if I wrote all my stuff on a blog where it belongs, but have not developed one.  Some people have the art of Instagram and are able to show and say it all in 5 words.  I do not have that talent and hate the idea of throwing an image out there and then leaving it up to the reader (or non-reader in this case 😉) to figure out why it’s there.  And so I explain.  Thankfully, I know that some readers actually read the information in my posts, at least that’s what some of them say 😊. And for those who don’t want to read it, I just hope they at least enjoy my pictures!  So no, it does not irritate me at all 😊

Being a watch enthusiast, Instagrammer, writer and YouTuber (sort of) myself, I have had the opportunity to handle and photograph many watches, most of them priced well above my pay grade. From what I’ve seen you have access to the absolute best timepieces that money can buy. What does it feel like handling all these wonderful gadgets and then having to give them back.

For the most part, I honestly am happy to discover new watches and learn about them, try them on, sometimes wear them for a while, and admire them.  And as you know, seeing the teams at work in Manufactures, visiting specialized craftspeople, and meeting with creators and company directors is also important to me.

I moved many times when I was younger.  Among continents, countries, and within cities.  One learns to accumulate little.  Personal objects that I did have, mostly jewellery, were stolen in my apartment about 12 years ago.  I did not have a collectors’ mentality, and the robbery probably removed any desire to move in that direction.

However, if money and security were no object, and I had to choose something, anything from F.P Journe, Laurent Ferrier, and A. Lange & Söhne would be fine ; )

Is there a “grail watch” you’ve targeted in the sense a watch that you’d love to present but have not yet had the opportunity to?

I would choose two Japanese independent watchmakers: Masahiro Kikuno and Hajime Asaoka with any of their extremely rare timepieces.  My huge mistake! they have both been at Baselworld in previous years as members of the AHCI (Académie Horlogère des Créateurs) and I did not go to see them.

Do you have any special watch related plans for the future that you’d like to share with our readers?

At the time of replying to this, the Geneva and Basel 2020 watch shows have been cancelled due to the Covid 19 virus.  Lockdown is a reality in most countries.  New watches are being presented via on-line press kits. Major Manufactures have temporarily closed.

Any plans that were in the pipeline are put on hold for the time being.

I wish good health to us all, and best wishes for a steady world recovery of our physical and financial states.

Thank you for your time Vicky, I hope we have the chance to chat again soon.

Victoria Townsend is a freelance journalist based in Paris who  has published articles in: Al Iktissad Wal Aamal; Arabian Watches & Jewellery; MOJEH Dubai, GMT Magazine Middle East; GMT Lady Middle East;  https://journal.hautehorlogerie.org;   www.hautetime.com; International Watch Revue; Lifetime Magazine; https://lifetimemagazine.co; @lifetime_magazine (IG)

 Check out her Instagram account @victoriainparis,  it really deserves a follow.