Monday, June 27, 2005
A Basel memory
Of all the photos my colleague and I took on our Baselworld junket in March-April, this is the one that means the most to me. On the left is your blogging Jabberwock (this is about the only photo from that trip in which I’m not glowering at the camera) and on the right is Stephen Urquhart, president, Omega, one of the many watch company heads I asked the same tedious questions to over and over and over again.
What makes this photo special is that tiny wisp of a watch in Mr Urquhart’s hand (barely visible here, click the photo for a larger view). It’s a 52-year-old Omega gold watch that belongs to my grandmother; it was gifted to her in 1953 when she and my grandfather (then a Brigadier) visited Switzerland for a diplomatic mission, and it was apparently the smallest wristwatch in the world at the time. Now I’m usually disinclined to do these things but sentiment won out this one time and I not only carried it with me for luck but also produced it after my interview with Omega Bossman was over. I was a bit embarrassed about the whole thing (the photo would never had been taken had it not been for my colleague’s over-enthusiasm – the one time on the trip I was grateful for it) but Mr Urquhart’s reaction made it all worthwhile. He had been cool and distant throughout our interview but his demeanor changed completely when I showed him the thing and related its provenance – he started gesticulating wildly, studied the watch through a magnifying glass, rushed out and called in some of his staff to show it to them, asked me if there was anything the company could do to fix the glass (which was slightly chipped).
This was one of the highlights of the trip; despite the general antipathy I developed towards all watches and watch-companies, I was quite taken by how childlike the CEO became when shown a fragment of his company’s history. Guess that will happen when you’ve spent practically your entire life obsessed with something: the man has worked with Omega for 30-odd years himself and lives and breathes watches.
Best of all, my grandmother was over the moon when I showed her the photograph of one of her most treasured possessions; apart from everything else it brought back memories of her own trip more than five decades ago.