RE­MEM­BER­ING DO­MINIQUE TADION-SAB­BAGH

Plaza Watch International - - Sihh Special - WO R D S NICK FOULKES

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

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