Episode #10: With 25 years of experience in the jewellery and watch industry, Barbara has seen it all!
In our next instalment of 15 Questions With, we hear from US-based writer, storyteller and industry veteran Barbara Palumbo. Barbara started life focusing on the jewellery industry until the natural migration to the endlessly fascinating watch world occurred. Since then she has become a staple of the watch industry providing a unique angle on how she sees horology. Barbara has had her work featured everywhere from Revolution.Watch, WatchUSeek and Time&Tide. She's also worked closely with brands such as Oris and Bulova.
Not only that but she can be regularly heard having fun on the Scottish Watches podcast. If she's not talking about watches online, she's talking about them in person, hosting and speaking at events such as Dubai Watch Week.
Barbara is a brilliant voice in the watch industry who isn't afraid to talk about watches in an honest and endearing way; something that is seldom seen in our industry.
Let’s start with something everyone is always interested in, what’s on your wrist at the time of writing this?
I’m currently wearing the Marina Hoermanseder x Rado Captain Cook collaboration which I received recently to check out. I have to say that I’m rather smitten with the piece, which comes with three different, beautiful leather straps (that are “quick change”). It’s 37mm in diameter and contains the Rado calibre R763 automatic movement which boasts an 80-hour power reserve. Plus, it’s f**king beautiful.
What was the first watch you remember that left an impact on you?
Easy… the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso. I was celebrating my thirtieth birthday back in 2003 and had just started dating a man I met on a game show (long story… for another time). We lived in different parts of the U.S. and I had planned on going to Europe for two weeks and asked if he wanted to fly out and join me. He did, and we wound up travelling to Lugano, Switzerland for a day trip and stumbled into a watch store there where I saw the most beautiful vintage Reverso. I never looked back. That was the game-changer for me.
How did you start working in and around watches?
I am a 25-year jewellery industry veteran, having worked in just about every genre from sales to manufacturing. At a certain point, around my 20th anniversary, I realised I’d learned all there was to learn about jewellery and so I became curious about how jewellery and watches intersected. This eventually led me down the path of horology and to starting my watch blog, WhatsOnHerWrist.com.
Finish the following sentences:
The best-kept secret in watches is…
If I told you, it wouldn’t be “best kept” now, would it? Kidding. I’d have to say Brew Watches, which was also founded by the nicest human being in the entire industry, Jon Ferrer.
The one watch that got away from me was…
A vintage LeCoultre Memovox. Honestly, I can’t talk about it without getting a little weepy.
If I wasn’t in watches, I’d be working in…
Men’s pants. No. Seriously. That’s not an inappropriate joke. Prior to jewellery and watches, I worked in the men’s fashion industry. I was raised by a stay-at-home father and two older brothers, so it feels very natural for me to be surrounded by guys.
What is one thing you think is missing from the watch industry today?
Genuine voices that know how to tell humorous stories involving watches. I love when I have time to write lengthy, crazy gonzo-journalism pieces. Unfortunately, they’re not usually the articles for which I’m paid, but they always get great reads and feedback when I’ve written them.
Tell us about one watch that took your breath away recently?
I was gifted a Longines for my birthday this year by a very dear friend. The watch was my first ever birth year watch, and it is a watch from the Serge Manzon collection, which is so funky and so seventies. The case is silver, too, and the strap with the original leather. It has a calibre 5601 manual winding movement and has been certified by Longines. There was so much thought put into the gift and it really did take my breath away.
What is your most prized possession in your collection?
My Reverso, which my husband gave to me three years ago for Mother’s Day. It’s a small, stainless steel watch, but damn, I love that thing.
Date or no date?
NO DATE! NEVER A DATE GET THE EPH OUTTA HERE WITH THAT DATE SH*T.
What was your most recent watch purchase?
A Hamilton Dodson for me that I purchased as new old stock on eBay at a great price. I’d never seen one before but love the Tonneau case. I also purchased a CasiOak for my son.
And the next watch you’ll be adding to your collection?
Oh, this is a tricky question (because, um, my husband might be reading). Quite possibly this Rado Captain Cook I’m wearing. But only if I behave. (Full disclosure: I never behave.)
What is something you feel passionate about in the world of watches?
The importance of women throughout watchmaking history and their roles in the industry in the future. I think anyone who knows me knows that is something I scream from the mountain tops nearly daily.
I’m sure it’s annoying to some and I catch sh*t from time to time about my “anger” when it comes to gender inequality, but I’ll never shut up about it. I have a young daughter. Who would I be if I didn’t fight for her rights to be seen as equal?
What is one piece of advice for people out there looking to make it in the world of horology and watches?
Don’t let those who see you as a threat get in the way of you accomplishing all that at which you know you’re great. (Translation: haters gonna hate.)
Tell us about something you’re working on that is really exciting?
Currently? Perfecting a vegetarian curry.
We'd like to take this moment to thank Barbara for her time and for featuring on 15 Questions With.
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