As an online luxury watch portal, it makes sense that most of the articles in our Chrono24 Magazine are focused on timepieces. From time to time, however, we like to take a deeper look at the industry. Behind the brands, there are amazingly talented watchmakers who come up with insane complications. You might have read about some of them in our Faces of the Watch Industry series, but there are others who also shape our beloved industry: those who report on it and those who organize watch events for the public. Roger Ruegger fits into both of these categories. As the editor-in-chief of WatchTime USA, he heads one of the largest English-language watch magazines. Together with his team, he’s also responsible for organizing WatchTime New York, America’s largest luxury watch event. It was during this year’s event that I got the chance to sit down with Roger and talk watches.
Let’s start at the beginning. How did WatchTime come about?
We took a leap of faith and started a show. We decided to come up with a large-scale event in 2015 for the first time, and it just grew and grew from there. We started with 17 brands in 2015, and now we’re at 30 and counting. In 2019, we organized events on both coasts: Los Angeles and New York. We have a lot of high-end brands here, such as A. Lange & Söhne, Blancpain, and F.P. Journe, which suits the market here. We like that Windup is taking place at the same time – we couldn’t be more different. We have a high-value audience traveling to our show. They get to see MB&F and Akrivia – that’s the stuff you don’t usually get to see in boutiques – but we also have Omega and Zenith.
That’s certainly a wide selection. In terms of visitors, what can you tell us about them? Are they typically WatchTime Magazine readers?
Yes. We have very loyal customers. We have all kinds of visitors, ranging from older gentlemen from the Upper East Side who collect Pateks to young 25-year-olds with G-Shocks and MB&Fs on their wrists. They have taste, passion, and money, which is why the event draws a lot of attention from different brand’s management.
Speaking of brands, what brands do you – someone who knows the industry well – personally enjoy?
I enjoy pretty much every watch. It doesn’t make a difference to me. I mean, I’m wearing a $200 watch right now. I personally don’t like spending more than $7k or $8k on a watch – and you know I’m into diving watches. I happen to own quite a few Seikos. I have a DOXA and have been interested in the PloProf, Marinemaster, and Tuna. I don’t usually care much about pricing. What I’ve realized is that I’m just as happy with the one I’m wearing now as I would be with a $10k watch.
What do you think about the watch scene in New York – and the US in general – as an “outsider,” someone who wasn’t born in the States but comes from the birthplace of watches, Switzerland?
First of all, I think it’s extremely important to understand that America isn’t a market. We have hubs in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Dallas, etc. New York is a fascinating market; it’s so unique. We have some of the best watch stores in the world here. Everything that others don’t understand, they know. Auction houses like Phillips and Christie’s are here, too. Generally speaking, the US is a younger and more potent market – if they go crazy, they go crazy.
Where do you see print fitting in an era where everything seems to be about digital? Fast-paced production is what many are focused on and it seems like print magazines are starting to get pushed to the background.
What we are doing is in constant flux. If you think journalism is challenging in general, try doing it in the US. We’re the last watch magazine that can be bought at newsstands. We print 40,000 copies a month and are available at JFK’s international terminal. I know a lot of our readers aren’t from the city, but are just flying through New York. In short, we are happy with where we are. There is a business model out there that only has magazines available in hotels. That is not our model. Our target audience is the reader. Meanwhile, the industry is changing, journalism is changing, and how we consume media in general is changing. In this environment, we have to stay focused, and that’s what we’re doing.