I had the opportunity on June 26th to attend the “Independent Together Watch Brand Summit,” hosted by Chase Fancher of Oak and Oscar. The summit was hosted via Zoom, with all panelists (and many attendees) appearing via webcam. The presenters were a microbrand who’s who panel, comprised of owners of some of the hottest brands on the market today.
So… what the heck is a watch brand summit, anyway? In a world where the dangers of COVID-19 are made clearer by the day, the modalities for brands to connect with the public are limited. WindUp San Francisco (scheduled for this last January), and Windup Chicago (scheduled for this Summer), were both cancelled due to ongoing restrictions and concerns of COVID proliferation. Similarly, countless RedBar events and get togethers have been cancelled, and we have no reason to believe those events are going to return (at least on a regular basis) this year.
I think Chase’s vision here was to give a cohort of owners an opportunity to connect with the public, while keeping everyone safely contained in their homes and offices. And, for the most part, it did just that. For those that don’t regularly have the ability to interact with the brains behind the logo, this event was a unique and incredible opportunity to hear from the people who are designing and making the decisions behind the watches that we may (or may not) be looking to add to our collection.
Unfortunately, there are some major limitations to the platform, at least when considered as a replacement for a watch fair like Wind Up. The time limitations of a lunch chat, and the communicative inflexibility of a single conversation don’t replicate the organic, human, aspects of being in the same giant room with 100 (or 5000) other enthusiasts and owners.
While Independent Together might be an effective way to replace a panel discussion at a watch fair, that panel discussion would not be the primary reason anyone attends the watch fair. Seeing Lauren and Lorenzo Ortega speak for 3 or 4 minutes about the decisions they make about while designing their (beautiful) watches, simply does not replicate sitting down with them over a drink (trust me on this). For normal people who don’t spend two hours, almost every week, getting to know brand owners, replacing the opportunity to actually interact is simply not in the cards via this medium.
While this was clearly not an attempt to replace a traditional watch-fair, it did feel like there was a bit of fair-buzz in the environment. And while it fell short of my, perhaps unfair, optimism about the possibilities of this type of forum, it was fun. I hope this first socially-distanced watch summit, gave the organizers some ideas to make the next one even better. If nothing else, it gave me an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of interaction with the community we do have, notwithstanding our present inability to capitalize on that community. I applaud Chase and the other owners who made this happen, and I would look forward to doing it again.