Letter from the Editor: 2020 in reviewAndrew McUtchen
There’s a quote I haven’t been able to get out of my head this year. It’s “Never waste a good crisis”. I’m not sure what it was intended to mean, or who said it in the first place. But I am sure as hell of one thing. We have not wasted 2020.
And by “we”, I mean the team at Time+Tide. And I mean “we” the watch industry, that have fought to survive; to find ways forward when every path seemed blocked, and also to do more good for the world than in any other year. These are the “better angels”, to pinch a phrase from the US President-elect Joe Biden, that I refer to throughout this column.
But let’s not be cavalier. At many times, the last 12-months has felt like a tightrope walk above intensifying flames. Which begs the first question – which of 2020’s multiple crises might we have wasted?
The first crisis was in January
When those figurative flames were very real, very hot, and responsible for torching great tracts of Australian flora, fauna and dreams. Countless houses, properties, businesses, and, yes, animals, were destroyed. At its peak, I flew to Sydney for an event. The flight path followed a seemingly endless fire front, an iridescent line of orange – bright as a welder’s flame – with green on one side, black on the other. My family were safe in Melbourne, but I felt guilty to be leaving my country behind while it burned.
The better angels: We asked some brands and media friends if they would support an auction with watches and coverage. Practically everybody was all-in. The Watch & Act! World Watch Auction in aid of the Australian bushfires was launched and raised almost $250,000 for the cause. We’ve never been more proud to be part of this industry.
The second one was COVID-19
This became several crises rolled into one and is still far from over. Starting in January, its early impacts were felt in the watch world through a domino fall of cancelled fairs. Then it hit closer to home. People we knew contracted the virus. The fear factor increased, and still it rages.
The better angels: Revolution staged a COVID-auction, Bulgari converted their perfume-making manufacturing lines in order to supply Italian hospitals with hand sanitiser, brands big and micro raised money for their local intensive care units.
The third crisis was the race riots
Which were triggered by the public killing of an unarmed black man by the name of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The resulting Black Lives Matter movement swept the globe, and the luxury watch industry stood up – or perhaps more accurately, took a knee – to be counted among those in protest.
The better angels: More brands than I could list posted a black square on Instagram to join the chorus of dissent. Personalities within the industry dispensed with curated notions of their personal brand to speak their minds.
Robert Kennedy said: “Each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, [they] send forth a tiny ripple of hope, and…those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls.” When the Swiss watch industry showed they cared about Australia, when it rallied behind communities and countries riven by COVID-19, when it united to call out racism, they created waves.
And what these waves dismantled, in a surging sweep was the notion that the Swiss watch industry is indubitably, terminally neutral. Because, like Desmond Tutu says, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Thank you, more than ever, for supporting Time+Tide in 2020, a year none of us will ever forget.
Now that 2021 has started, and dusk is closing in on the first day of the year, let’s get it.
This editorial appears in NOW Magazine, Edition Three, which you can pick up here.