In Memoriam: People Who Left Us In 2021
The Latin phrase “in memoriam” is often used in place of “in memory of.” And to my mind, people also use it to signify departed who may be gone but shouldn’t be forgotten.
Every year people working in the watch industry pass away, and brands come and go.
Here I’d like to highlight a special few of those we lost in 2021.
RIP: Gino Cukrowicz, retailer and early investor in F.P. Journe
Gino Cukrowicz passed away on May 6, 2021, in Singapore at the age of 61. He cofounded Ginotti with Thierry Maldague in 1987, a retail shop in Antwerp, Belgium. Ginotti was one of the early retail locations in Europe to recognize the coming era of independent makers, which is perhaps why he became François-Paul Journe’s first business partner.
Cukrowicz – known only as “Gino” to most insiders – was a flamboyant personality and became quite influential in the watch collecting scene.
Instead of more of my words, I would prefer to give you some written by Michael Tay, managing director of The Hour Glass, which he delivered as a eulogy at Gino’s funeral in Singapore.
“Gino was a watch man through and through. I met Gino 22 years ago and my first impressions of him were that there was something wrong with this person. He was anything but watch industry convention. He dressed and behaved eccentrically and was perpetually cracking one joke after another, laughing all the time. Coming from Singapore, this all seemed rather foreign. But as I spent more time with him, I began to appreciate his sense of humor, his nuances, his philosophy of life, and how he intended to live it fully, leaving no room for regret. More importantly, I grew to respect his scholarly knowledge and passion for watchmaking. The immense energy he poured into expanding and elevating the watch industry in Belgium and beyond is admirable – especially at a time when watch collecting was still largely a hobby for nerds and a small coterie of men with white hair. He was one of the world’s truly pioneering retail watch specialists.
“He took many risks with new and young watchmakers and was one of the early believers in those who are now watchmaking legends such as Daniel Roth, Franck Muller, and François-Paul Journe. His belief in what François-Paul was doing was so strong that Gino became a business partner, and it is clear FP could not have asked for a more loyal and affectionate friend.
“Gino’s passion for watchmaking consumed him and is what has defined so much of his adult life. He has touched us all in so many different ways.”
RIP: Christian Pfeiffer-Belli, perhaps the very first specialized watch journalist
I am so unbelievably sad at the passing of this icon of watch journalism. It seemed that in some way Christian Pfeiffer-Belli was always there, an interesting and influential voice carried through several generations of watch journalism. In fact, he may well have been the very first specialized watch journalist. I always enjoyed his stories, his friendly nature, and the advice (and anything else) he was always willing to give upon being asked (but only then).
Pfeiffer-Belli passed away on December 9, 2021, at the age of 81 following years of illness, which he mostly just (at least outwardly) ignored, carrying on with his beloved work until he no longer could. I feel like I last talked to him only a few months ago when he was researching something and called to ask if I might have a photo of a watch I had written about that he had found posted on the internet. I hadn’t realized that between that phone call and the news, which reached me a few days after his passing, that he had gone to hospice care. Due to the pandemic I last saw him at the inauguration of the Walter Lange Memorial in Glashütte in September 2020.
Whether he was the first watch journalist in the world or just the first in Germany is immaterial all things considered. It began for him when in 1976 his boss at Callwey asked him to edit a small book about clock repair. This coincidence, not unlike the coincidence that brought me to the watch world as well, was the kickoff of a career spanning 45 years – a lifetime.
Pfeiffer-Belli began writing about mechanical watches near the end of the 1970s, right in the time of the so-called quartz crisis, founding Alte Uhren in 1978, a “bible” of a quarterly magazine for vintage watches and clocks. Ebner Verlag took it over in 1994, renaming it Klassik Uhren. He also authored and co-authored countless books.
Rüdiger Bucher of Chronos wrote an obituary in German highlighting the very human influence Pfeiffer-Belli had on all of us. He will be sorely missed by all of us who knew and appreciated him.
RIP: Don Nunley, property master of Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monacos
Don Nunley passed away on February 11, 2021, at the age of 81. He was the property master of the movie Le Mans starring Steve McQueen. One of Nunley’s most important responsibilities (in watch terms, that is) was sourcing and keeping track of the Heuer Monaco chronographs worn by McQueen during filming.
In Nunley’s memory, see our exclusive interview that contributor Chris Malburg had with him before he passed, which we first posted on June 26, 2018: The Real Story Behind Steve McQueen’s Heuer Monaco: Exclusive Interview With ‘Le Mans’ Property Master Don Nunley.