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Brückners Time Signals

What do Alpha males do with their subscription watches?

With the acquisition of new readers, many publishing companies have, for many years, made use of a fairly successful strategy: Those that take out a subscription receive a watch as an additional gift. From reports reaching me from marketing managers in large publishing companies, it seems that no other subscription gift is as popular as a free timepiece. And as chance would have it, I met one of the recipients recently in the on-board restaurant on the express between Hamburg and Frankfurt. I'd just come from the first watch salon in the Hanseatic town and was browsing curiously through the brochures from one of the smaller manufacturers, something my travelling compatriot noted immediately, using the fact pitilessly in order to ensconce me in a conversation which lasted from Hannover central station to Fulda. Triumphantly, he brought his left arm above the table, nearly knocking over the empty wine bottles and held up his watch, right under my nose – a quartz model from a rather lowly price category. "What do you think I paid for it? Go on, have a guess", he asked me impatiently and with the gleaming eyes of a player who has one more ace up his sleeve. As a polite person I answered diplomatically that this particular brand is foreign to me, but the design is interesting. Now, everybody knows what is meant it if something is described as "interesting". Mediocre cookery that is termed "interesting" means, for example, that the food practically offends the United Nations anti-torture convention. But as already mentioned, on this particular delightfully sunny afternoon I was only too pleased to give the man the necessary compliment he wanted to hear. So I said, "What an interesting watch. It suits you admirably“. Of course I was aware of the ambiguity of this statement. "You see", he replied. "And how much do you think I paid for it....? Let me tell you. Not a cent. I took out a subscription to a weekly paper“. Though I was not able to estimate whether the duration of the subscription would exceed the life expectancy of the quartz watch (rather incredibly), I congratulated the loquacious man and we stumbled into this successful deal.

A little later, I discovered a similar watch in a magazine which is aimed at the elite of the German economy, or at least, that's what the magazine title implies. Every executive who takes out a subscription gets a cheap watch as a reward. Strangely enough, the aforesaid magazine is full of reports about the watches worn by the entrepreneurial managers and bigwigs. I've never seen such a rubbishy reward for taking out a subscription.

Now that's bad. And I'm not the only one that thinks that. What does it say in the Nomos glassworks "watch notebook"; something that puts all of this in perspective? "Those who take trouble with their suit, shoes, bag and the contents of their heads should not let themselves down with their choice of wristwatch“. If there really are executives around with subscription watches, something I find hard to believe, then what the devil is happening inside their heads? The answer would seem to be unseemly. Let's forget that question.

What do German managers and other members of the managerial elite do with the watches that they receive as gifts? Do they sell each one of them on ebay for a euro? That would be too time consuming, and the profit margin wouldn't justify the time invested. Do they give away these watches to deserving employees at employment jubilees, or as a "well-earned retirement“ gift? Do they wear the watches during negotiations with stingy customers, or possibly during audits of the operating results? The motto must surely be this: "Look here, you don't need to be envious. I've had to take out a subscription to a monthly magazine to get this watch".

To tell you the truth, I'm baffled. So therefore I'm willing to accept discreet advice at any time. And with pleasure and complete anonymity in the train dining car.