REMEMBERING DOMINIQUE TADION-SABBAGH
writing about the departed, especially when they were as alive as Domnique Tadion-Sabbagh.
I liked Dominique and it is such a shame that I did not know her better. For instance, it was only after her death that her daughter, working at IWC, got in touch… Dominique simply struck me as far too young to have a child of working age.
Born in Lebanon, she completed her university studies in Geneva. Shortly after graduating she joined Rolex and it was in the press department of the watch that wears a crown that many of us first met her.
As is often the case in life, one confuses the role with the person, and for over 20 years Dominique was the face that Rolex presented to the press. As such, Dominique was a class act; elegance and poise personified. I remember thinking that she was rather more glamorous than was, strictly speaking, necessary for her job – a Cameron Diaz for the boardroom.
In those days Rolex did not really open itself up to the press and it struck me that she had a difficult job, managing a very limited amount of officially sanctioned data; Dominique could not really divulge too much in the way of interesting information. In an almost Kafka-esque appointment she was running the communications department of a brand that was notoriously secretive and disinclined to… well… communicate.
I try not to indulge in too much gender stereotyping but, thinking about it, it cannot have been easy being a young attractive woman joining one of the most conservative companies, in
It is hard
what was then a conservative industry, in a country that only gave women the right to vote and stand for parliament in 1971. Yet her prominence in the industry was ample evidence of her success.
It was only when she joined the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie that I got to know her a bit better. The FHH is an organisation of which I am immensely fond: it believes in promoting the cultural values of watchmaking. Too often timepieces are seen either as functional mechanical objects, status conferring possessions, or units of industrial manufacture – The FHH aims to establish them in their cultural context. Its annual exhibitions at the SIHH are consistently amongst the most interesting and least celebrated things on display at the annual Geneva fair.
the work it does the FHH is a small organisation and it was almost as if Dominique’s charm, intelligence and energy were allowed to blossom in a way that would have been unthinkable in a large organisation. Dominique could certainly play the corporate game if she had to; experience that doubtless came in handy when negotiating the complicated relationships of brands, groups, egos and individuals that make up our beloved industry. And given its aim to be an oecumenical body that speaks about watchmaking with knowledge and passion, but without brand bias, in Dominique the FHH had found a skilled and experienced communicator.
Moreover, should her quarter century of experience in the watch industry fail her, she could always fall back on her charm: the flattery, the smile
Yet for all
and the hint of a fluttering eyelid certainly worked their magic on me, when she talked me into going to New York to speak about Dominique Flechon’s book, The Mastery of Time.
speaking and I feel even more of a fraud than usual standing up in front of a crowd of strangers and talking about someone else’s work. After the event I wrote a little account of it for the FHH website and there were a couple of sentences that said all that needed to be said. “Even when I am launching my own books, I am reluctant to give a speech and am only really comfortable when my fingers are dancing across the keyboard” I wrote. “However, it is hard to resist that arch seductress Dominique Tadion: all she had to do was bat her eyelids soulfully, fix me with those melting eyes and I was putty in her slim, delicate hands... a routine all the more impressive because it was carried out down the phone line.”
However this was not cynical manipulation on Dominique’s part, but a genuine demonstration of authentic enthusiasm for the mission of the FHH. And she reveled in the different worlds with which her role bought her in contact, clearly enjoying a working life that might see her discussing the finer points of the gnomon and the clepsydra with a serious horological historian or helping establish the insanely successful SIHH of the East: Watches and Wonders.
It is hard not to respect her as a professional, but what I liked most about Dominique was that she was a kind, thoughtful woman who valued the gift of life and who valued individuals for who they were and not just what they could do.
I hate public