By Michelle Graff
Stewart Wicht, who just retired as head of the U.S. market for Rolex, received a standing ovation as he took the stage to accept the 2019 Gem Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Photo credit: Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com)
New York—When Stewart Wicht was 21 years old, he had no idea what he wanted to do.
But he was “working out” what he didn’t want to do, he told the crowd at the 17th Annual Gem Awards Friday evening after stepping onto the stage to accept the 2019 Lifetime Achievement award.
He did not want to: be a priest, work in a factory, go into IT or HR, work for a company that produced plastic bottles or hair-care products, or wear a canary-yellow jacket while renting cars at an airport.
In the summer of 1975, Wicht started at the one job that stuck—working for Rolex in Geneva where, Hodinkee founder Benjamin Clymer shared in introducing Wicht, he was put in charge of “a little of bit of everything” as the only native English speaker at Rolex Geneva at that time.
Over the years, he worked all over the world for Rolex while establishing departments that proved key to the company’s future success, trademarks and domain names.
In 2011, following the death of Allen Brill, Wicht received his most important assignment yet—come to the United States to head the watch brand’s No. 1 market. Here, he strengthened both the brand and its relationship with retailers and led the company in achieving phenomenal growth during his eight years at the helm.
Wicht retired as president and CEO of Rolex Watch U.S.A. as of Jan. 1, though he remains on the company’s board of directors.
In accepting his award Friday, he thanked a few of the many people who helped him in the U.S., including Ed Bridge and the late Martin Gatins of Cartier.
“I always say that you can go faster alone but you can go further together, and I think that is what you have to understand (about) the way I think about things,” he said.
And the Winners Were …
In addition to Wicht, the Gem Awards recognized achievement in jewelry media, design, retail and marketing.
The first award of the night, Media Excellence, went to Town & Country’s Will Kahn, who has been covering jewelry for more than a decade and created #willsnotebook for Instagram.
Town & Country Fashion Market and Accessories Editor Will Kahn beat out International Watch Editor-in-Chief Michael Thompson and National Jeweler Senior Editor, Gemstones Brecken Branstrator to snag the 2019 Gem Award for Media Excellence. (Photo credit: Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com)
Brazilian-born, U.K.-based designer Fernando Jorge—who got his start exhibiting as part of Stephen Webster’s Couture room of up-and-coming designers, Rock Vault—topped fellow Brazilian Silvia Furmanovich and Paris-based Valerie Messika for the Gem Award for Design.
Fernando Jorge makes his way to the Gem Awards stage to accept the 2019 design award. (Photo credit: Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com)
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