Every year, since my second year attending Baselworld, and always on the Saturday halfway during the 10-day fair, there’s the ‘infamous’ schnitzel dinner. With the current state of Baselworld, Rolex and Patek moving to the Geneva-based fair and leaving behind the Baselworld management, MCH shareholders, exhibiting brands and journalists wondering if we will ever see another edition of this important fair for the watch world, I’m wondering… Tonight would have been the 10th edition of the Schnitzel Dinner where all the cool independent watchmakers and online journalists gather to eat schnitzel and fries and to drink beer, and most importantly, to have a good time. Will there ever be another edition of Schnitzel Dinner?
What is Schnitzel Dinner? Well, let’s go back ten years in time, to a (still) young watch enthusiast who wanted to see the Baselworld fair firsthand. My first-time Baselworld was in 2009. Same goes for Robert-Jan Broer from Fratello Watches, with whom I drove from the Netherlands to Basel. We spend seven or eight nights in the most crappy F1 hotel you can imagine, located just next to the highway, in France close to the Swiss border. But it was affordable and we were on a budget.
A year later Ben Clymer (Hodinkee) and Ariel Adams (aBlogtoWatch) were coming to Basel for their first Baselworld and since we were the online guys (the vast majority of journalists, at that time, were from the print world) we thought it would be a good idea to meet. And so we did. First for some beers and later we moved to this small café/restaurant that was just around the corner from the main Baselworld hall and they served schnitzel and large pints of beer. Bart and Tim Grönefeld joined us, and so did Stepan Sarpaneva, Gerard Nijenbrinks, Bernard Werk (does the name sound familiar?) and if memory serves well, Kees Engelbarts and Peter Speake-Marin also joined us that evening. It all just happened and to me, this was simply brilliant. Going to a watch fair and ‘hanging’ with the cool guys, the watchmakers that you admire and some fellow watch nerds who also started a blog.
Schnitzel dinner remained ‘unbranded’ and always for the sake of nice people spending time with other nice people.
Since all of us enjoyed that evening so much, the next year I organized a similar evening. Again in that same small place, although this time with some more guests. Besides the guys from the previous year, Kari Voutilainen also joined us that night and… well, to be honest, I really don’t know exactly who was and who wasn’t there that year.
Over the years the schnitzel dinner became quite a thing. People started talking about it and it was Charris’ words (Charris is chief communicator at MB&F) that brought back the feeling that I had and I guess many more… Let me quote him: “I remember my first Schnitzel dinner, I think in 2012, about a year after joining MB&F. I couldn’t believe my eyes: assembled in the compact and cosy setting of the restaurant, an absolute dream team of Indie watchmakers and other players from the industry, sharing laughs over beers. There was someone I had been dying to meet in every corner, at every table. An unforgettable moment, which I looked forward to every year – I believe I didn’t miss a single session.”
In 2012 we saw Bart and Tim Grönefeld receiving their Timezone Watch of the Year Award, it’s also where business deals are initiated, it’s where people find a new job, make friends and most important, it’s fun. Every year managing schnitzel dinner’s guest list became harder. Many people wanted to attend, but in the end, there were simply not more than 45 seats.
Max Busser also shared his view on the yearly Schnitzel dinner: “It was one of those rare moments during Baselworld where we could for sure “let our hair down”. A bubble in time where we forgot about orders, business, production issues, etc… Just great watch-loving friends sharing and enjoying a really wonderful moment together. “
I’ve received quite a lot of photos and here’s a small compilation, so you can get a sense of what that evening is all about.
Since Schnitzel Dinner is a gathering of people working in the watch industry, people writing about the watches, and people collecting watches, we always end with an almost ceremonial activity. To many of the guests, this is one of the highlights of the evening… table shot!
I want to thank so many people who have attended “schnitzel blitzel“, as James Thompson aka Black Badger calls it. Many thanks to Max Busser, who is always the first to reply to my email invite for the next Schnitzel Dinner. Many thanks to Bart and Tim Grönefeld for cheering up the evening with their jokes, stories and tricks (Bart and large beer glasses… won’t say more), Kari and Peter and John for sometimes skipping another important meeting on Baselworld’s Saturday evening, so they can attend the schnitzel dinner. I want to thank everyone who attended and made this happening. I know that the guests didn’t come for my speech, as it was probably the shortest speech of the year. They came to have a good time and a laugh, to ‘break’ the intense Baselworld week. Fingers crossed for a next edition of Schnitzel Dinner!