Friends with shared interests love to argue. Best F1 driver, best red wine, best TV series – all are dinner/bar/coffee shop debates that enrich our free time with our mates. Leaving aside the more treacherous themes of politics, religion and sex and concentrating instead on topics that generate as much heat but less rancour, awards and “best of” lists are the ones that wind me up the most.
At this stage in life, I no longer feel the need to defend Casablanca as the greatest film of all time, nor the Beatles as the greatest group ever. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who disagrees with me must be benighted in some way, suffering either the misfortune of ignorance (lack of experience, age, exposure to the above or poor education), underdeveloped tastes or the biological curse of stupidity, about which nothing can be done. My days of proselytising are over, but even more so when confronted with a committee, public voting or other form of selection beyond my power. Which brings us to watch awards.
Naturally, one must show solidarity and support the choices for any honours one’s own organisation elects to bestow upon individuals and timepieces – in my case, this magazine’s highly-coveted awards. I nominate and I vote. I accept the results of this democracy. Were I still of a combative mien, I would save my spleen for the egregious corrupt industry awards that are so politically motivated as to beggar belief. Our awards are chosen by editors and staff who are not on the take, nor pressured into voting a certain way.
That said, there is no gritting of teeth from me when the watch industry decides to honour a timepiece which I might think is a risible piece of crap, or an individual whose achievements are hardly of note in the greater scheme of things. I get it. I’m a grown-up. But I write this out of empathy with those who might find some choices puzzling, like film buffs after the Oscars when Titanic beat L.A. Confidential for Best Picture. “Shit happens.” But unlike stripping the drugged Russian athletes of their Olympic medals in a belated attempt to set the record straight, film fans a few decades hence will think that Forrest Gump is superior to Pulp Fiction.
That extreme example, however, shows how difficult is the process facing judges when we nominate, eliminate and elect the recipients of awards. Even with the methodology of multiple categories to spread the recognition, the number of eligible contenders in each is overwhelming: the watch industry has been so prolific these past two decades that the number of annual releases is in the low thousands. Any one of you could easily name a dozen chronographs, let alone tourbillons released this year alone. So, how to choose?
Far more important is: What do awards mean? Why even bother? While winning an Oscar might put more bums on seats, sending audiences to films they might have missed or ignored, that inducement is only to buy a ticket for a tenner. But does anyone buy a £30,000 watch because it won an award? The same question is asked of brand ambassadors, and the answers are always the same: “Yes… and no.”
Every time I ask a brand that is paying huge sums to some Hollywood A-lister, F1 driver or soccer star, if they can actually attribute watch sales to the brand’s association with said celebrity, they invariably admit that no sane person actually believes that A-lister “X” is wearing that particular watch for any reason other than the £x-million annual fee they’re paying him or her to wear it.
“But,” they then tell me, “the fact that we can then get his/her image on a magazine cover or splayed across ads brings attention to the brand.” And that is the real reason, rather than attributable unit sales. So, too, do awards – whether legit or politically motivated – increase awareness of the winner. In a world as overcrowded with watches from which to choose in every category, for most brands, that’s enough.
There are, of course, brands for whom awards might actually be irrelevant, as in: they don’t need the kudos. Categorically, Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Omega and a handful of others are so strong, so established, so admired that bestowing honours upon them is a bit like saying Petrus had another good year. All, however, have the good grace to show their gratitude as does Meryl Streep upon receiving yet another Oscar nomination.
What’s different about our awards is not just the calibre of the panel – seasoned watch authorities – because you can find similar expertise from the usual suspects in other award programmes. Rather, our voters receive no inducements, no pressure to vote one way or another. The Revolution awards are chosen strictly on merit.
If our awards lead you to discover a watch or brand you might never have considered, or to learn of an individual who has contributed mightily to an industry we love, then the awards have achieved all that we ask of them: to champion excellence, in a field overloaded with it.