Silence Is Complicity: How The #WatchFam Is Standing Behind Ukraine
Many, if not most of us, have been feeling the way that Dan-Andrei Kluska is feeling right now about Ukraine: helpless, sad, lonely, helpless, outraged, mournful, helpless, despairing, disconsolate, and grief-stricken. Oh, and did I mention helpless?
It doesn’t take much to see how everyone is suffering, most of all the citizens of Ukraine. On Instagram and other social media channels, members of the #watchfam have been making posts about standing together and uniting for Ukraine. But as individuals there is very little we can do aside from show support and donate time, money, and goods to charities and organizations set up to aid Ukrainians in need. I’m proud that so many people I know are doing what they can.
One example is the “Ukrainian Rolex” that my friend and Fratello contributor Balazs Ferenczi photoshopped together and posted on his social media accounts. This led to @the_art_of_horology reaching out to him to design a sticker together – which they’ve named “Glory to Ukraine” – with all proceeds from the sales going to a charity called Save the Children, which aids children caught in the conflict.
Another example is my good friend (and sometime contributor to Quill & Pad) Jan Lidmaňský and the Czech publication he works for, which held an auction over the past week in support of Ukraine involving an SKX donated from the Seiko community, which raised €3,000. The Czech edition of Forbes auctioned a customized Bohematic Graphic Sutnar model reflecting Ukraine’s national colors for approximately €70,000 (the value of which is normally under about €5,000) through Twitter, while Czech manufacture Prim created and auctioned ten quartz watches online, which raised about €7,000.
But back to Dan-Andrei, who has now written an open letter to the watch industry about how he feels. “We are living at a turning point in history. Are we doomed to repeat what happened in 1939? Many reasons given for this atrocity are similar . . . the difference is that back then it was just a frustrated art ‘student’ while now we have a killing machine. Back then, the weapons of mass destruction were virtually none, while now they can erase life as we know it,” he wrote to me and others in an email.
“I am writing to you hours later than I first intended. After repeated empty messages I have sent to a watch enthusiast and young watch journalist, I lost contact with him last evening. He was in a bomb shelter in Kyiv. I hope he is not dead . . . I feel bad that I could sleep last night.”
In his open letter, Dan-Andrei is asking us – the members of the watch industry – to stand up against a war that might bring death and destruction to our door. “For some, it is already in your home, if it’s still standing. It is a war, and you need to take sides. If companies like BP, Shell, Exxon, Boeing, Apple, Ford, Mercedes, etc. can make a stand, and moreover lose billions in assets and investment, why can you not just express against war? As mentioned, a #stopwar or #makelovenotwar would mean much more than you can imagine.”
Meanwhile, though, in the time since Dan-Andrei has expressed his views, luxury groups LVMH and Kering have released statements and actions in support of Ukraine. LVMH writes on its Instagram account: “The LVMH Group is closely monitoring the tragic situation in Ukraine and stands alongside all those severely affected by this war. The Group’s first concern is the safety of its 150 employees in Ukraine and is providing them with essential financial and operational assistance. LVMH has today also decided to make a first emergency donation of five million euros to support the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help the direct and indirect victims of this conflict. In addition, the Group is launching a fundraising campaign in support of the ICRC to facilitate the contributions of employees across the Group and its 76 maisons. The LVMH Heart Fund, launched in 2021, has been specifically activated to provide financial and psychological support to all employees, especially those directly affected by this conflict. The LVMH Group’s crisis committee is constantly tracking the situation and will adapt its measures as needed.”
And Kering, owner of Gucci and previous owner of Ulysse Nardin and Girard-Perregaux, writes on its Instagram account: “In order to contribute to humanitarian efforts to bring aid and support to Ukrainian refugees, Kering will make a significant donation to the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugees Agency. We hope for a peaceful resolution of this conflict.”
You can read Dan-Andrei Kluska’s open letter to the watch industry below, as we have reprinted it here, or by clicking to go to his blog, Watch I Love.
Dan-Andrei Kluska’s open letter to the watch industry
My name is Dan-Andrei Kluska, and I am the owner of the online publication Watch I Love Magazine.
Over the last few days, I have watched the news in horror. I have lost sleep, I have cried a lot, and I feel that I have been paralyzed by the eruption of war in Europe. After the first shock wave passed, and my tears dried, I started to think about the future and I was sincerely fearful because a nuclear war would wipe out humanity as we know it.
When I came back to my senses, I realized that I could help. I have sent money to organizations that are directly helping those adversely impacted (in my case Romania since it’s my home country). I have received hundreds of messages asking if I, from more than 1,000 kilometers away, can help in any way (forwarding a message or forwarding money). My feeling of calm was short-lived. The second wave of crying and despair hit when I saw that apart from soldiers, this merciless war kills civilians, children, and their pets (cats, dogs, etc.). The Ukrainian authorities have reported the deaths of some 300 children, and that was yesterday’s (now) obsolete tally.
As all of this was unfolding, my social media feed was equally full of fashion shows and news from the watch industry. And I started to wait for a statement, a reaction, something to show that these “luxury” brands in these industries are against not just this war, but all war. But nothing has come.
I know that many of you (watch brands) consider Russia a major market. I know that . . . I can see a certain leader’s watch when he says that he has no problem pushing the button, triggering a nuclear end to the world. I am not asking you to completely forget one of your most important markets.
With that said, I am asking you to show respect for the fallen and to take a stand against war. I am not expecting so much. Even #stopwar or #givepeaceachance would go a very long way. I am not asking you to take sides or point fingers. I am just asking you to show just a little bit of mercy to those who will be left without their children, brothers, sisters, parents, or their loving pets.
I know that you can do that much. You were there for #blacklivesmatter, for #pridemonth, and for #notredame. And in truth, you even made money from these social actions, you speculated on people’s affinities or sense of despair. And I know you can also cut ties with the Russian market because others have already done it despite huge financial losses.
I do not hate the Russian people and do not wish to fight against that great country. I am, however, asking you to stand up and be counted against war and to help the poor souls that need your support the most.
These past few days I have seen various ways of showing support for the people in need and various ingenious ways to say #makelovenotwar. So, it is possible. But up to this point, you have decided to stick your heads in the sand and pretend that nothing is happening. Are you afraid of losing money?
Then let’s try an exercise in imagination:
First scenario: war will engulf the whole of Europe – will you continue to sell to a dictator and his supporters, to a country that commits genocide?
Second scenario: Russia is completely locked down under trade embargos – will you find illegal ways to sell your luxury products to a bunch of pariahs?
Third scenario: the red button is pushed, and we glow in the dark – who will you sell watches to in a desolate wasteland?
So, this is what I am asking you: Why are you so quiet? Are you pro war? Are you pro death and destruction? Can you sleep at night with blood money in your pockets?
Your current silence says yes . . .
In this case, I want to have nothing to do with you. I will use my time to write against war. I will use my money to help those who need it the most.
And for all rest of you, dear journalists, and people of PR, I am asking you – what is your plan? Go to Geneva and see nice watches for the Russian market and drink champagne while women, children, and animals are killed in a useless war? Stay in four- and five-star hotels costing thousands and tens of thousands of Swiss francs while old people and mothers with children are marching in thirst and hunger for days to escape death and destruction?
I will not!
What might the future bring? I don’t know. I just hope and pray to any god that I can find for understanding, for peace, for love.
From now on, my platform Watch I Love Magazine will be used only for those brands and people that showed, in one way or another, support for peace and for people in need.
I am saying this with not so heavy a heart because my conscience is clear. Until now I have spent my time and resources sharing the joy of watchmaking. I have been so committed that I have published every day, even from a hospital bed and kept the publication alive. But now this will stop. It is time to reflect on what is important in life, on what really matters.
And when it comes to war there is no grey area – you are against it or you are not. And your silence, dear watch industry, shows not fear but greed.
I beg you please, prove me wrong.
Yours truly, Andrei