What is the ‘Baselworld Schnitzel Dinner’, and why does it matter?Andrew McUtchen
The first rule about Schnitzel Dinner is that you don’t ask to be invited to Schnitzel Dinner. You be nice to Frank from Monochrome. You wait by the inbox. You hope like hell you’re going to be in ‘the 45’.
The first part was the problem for us at Time+Tide. The Dutchies are just so fun to banter with. Over the years, wisecracking with these fellas – Brice and Frank in particular – in the press lounge has become a precious break from the intensity. Anyway, after a year on the bench (2014), we made the cut and we’ve been at every dinner since.
But wait, what is this Schnitzel Dinner, and why did it matter to watchmaking at large? You may have noticed an article go up over the weekend on Monochrome mourning its passing. You may have also quickly flicked past a couple of stories we posted on our Insta showing a table of people clowning around with chip fangs and Aussie accents. It was the same thing: the dinner that happened for a small group of just 45 invitees – mostly media and independent watchmakers – at a cosy wood-panelled pub each year at the mid-point of Baselworld, on the Saturday night. It was started by Frank from Monochrome in 2010 in totally organic fashion, with a handful of indie watchmakers, as well as Ben from Hodinkee, and Ariel from A Blog to Watch.
The reason for the flurry of news about this dinner is that it was scheduled to be on the weekend just gone, and with everything cancelled, lots of people were sad to be missing it. Why is it so sorely missed? What made it such a great and important night? I can’t speak for the other guys, but I have my reasons:
1. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, YOU COULD FINALLY STOP PRETEND-SMILING
Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Lenny gets cosmetic surgery and has his face fixed in a frozen smile? That is the expression you must fix on your face when you walk through the Basel turnstiles and it must be there as you walk out. The endless courtesies required in press appointments is draining. The chance to let your shoulders drop, your face loosen, and un-knot the tie was just so welcome.
2. Real food
You don’t eat much at Basel. And when you do, it’s shavings of Jean-Claude Biver’s cheese, or a flake or two of prosciutto; delicious but not substantial, and never anything like a square meal. To see a plate stacked with meat in fried breadcrumbs and chips, towered over by a huge beer. It could bring a tear to the eye.
3. Pass the salt, genius watchmaker
Indie watchmakers of your wildest dreams – Voutilainen, Büsser, Sarpaneva, Grönefeld – they’re suddenly your tablemates. And, thanks to a totally random seating protocol, you can end up bumping elbows with anyone. There was never a sense of hierarchy or airs and graces at the Schnitzel Dinner. It was a safe space from all that nonsense. People are friendly. The mood is fun.
I met Erika from Erika’s Originals for the first time last year, as well as her husband Marco Thier, surely the world’s most passionate and knowledgeable DOXA collector. After a few pints, with Dutch courage sufficiently roused, I raised the idea that Erika should create our club strap. The mind boggles at how many other business deals and collaborations must have been hatched at these worn wooden tables. I also chatted to Marco about DOXA: should we consider bringing the brand into Australia? His feedback: YES. This, of course, has transpired and we’ve never looked back.
5. A ‘sexpile’ to die for
A sexpile is a large group of watches on a table. And there ain’t nothing like the Schnitzel Dinner sexpile. I’m personally not a huge fan of the practice. I don’t want to scratch my babies, even in the name of community. But you had to get over yourself at the Schnitzel Dinner and get amongst it. Because if Büsser is tossing in his latest creation, you can part with your watch for a few minutes.
So, lastly, let me just say that whatever becomes of world watch fairs, we know that we’ll be in Geneva at some point, and a quick Google has revealed a couple of options. May the Schnitzel Show roll on!