Stewart Wicht, who just retired as head of the U.S. market for Rolex, received a standing ovation as he took the stage to accept the 2019 Gem Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Photo credit: Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com)
New York—When Stewart Wicht was 21 years old, he had no idea what he wanted to do.

But he was “working out” what he didn’t want to do, he told the crowd at the 17th Annual Gem Awards Friday evening after stepping onto the stage to accept the 2019 Lifetime Achievement award.

He did not want to: be a priest, work in a factory, go into IT or HR, work for a company that produced plastic bottles or hair-care products, or wear a canary-yellow jacket while renting cars at an airport.

In the summer of 1975, Wicht started at the one job that stuck—working for Rolex in Geneva where, Hodinkee founder Benjamin Clymer shared in introducing Wicht, he was put in charge of “a little of bit of everything” as the only native English speaker at Rolex Geneva at that time.

Over the years, he worked all over the world for Rolex while establishing departments that proved key to the company’s future success, trademarks and domain names.

In 2011, following the death of Allen Brill, Wicht received his most important assignment yet—come to the United States to head the watch brand’s No. 1 market. Here, he strengthened both the brand and its relationship with retailers and led the company in achieving phenomenal growth during his eight years at the helm.

Wicht retired as president and CEO of Rolex Watch U.S.A. as of Jan. 1, though he remains on the company’s board of directors.

In accepting his award Friday, he thanked a few of the many people who helped him in the U.S., including Ed Bridge and the late Martin Gatins of Cartier.

“I always say that you can go faster alone but you can go further together, and I think that is what you have to understand (about) the way I think about things,” he said.

And the Winners Were …
In addition to Wicht, the Gem Awards recognized achievement in jewelry media, design, retail and marketing.

The first award of the night, Media Excellence, went to Town & Country’s Will Kahn, who has been covering jewelry for more than a decade and created #willsnotebook for Instagram.
 20190115 Will KahnTown & Country Fashion Market and Accessories Editor Will Kahn beat out International Watch Editor-in-Chief Michael Thompson and National Jeweler Senior Editor, Gemstones Brecken Branstrator to snag the 2019 Gem Award for Media Excellence. (Photo credit: Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com)

Brazilian-born, U.K.-based designer Fernando Jorge—who got his start exhibiting as part of Stephen Webster’s Couture room of up-and-coming designers, Rock Vault—topped fellow Brazilian Silvia Furmanovich and Paris-based Valerie Messika for the Gem Award for Design.

20190115 Fernando JorgeFernando Jorge makes his way to the Gem Awards stage to accept the 2019 design award. (Photo credit: Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com)

The Gem Award for Retail Excellence went to Threads Styling, a personal styling service that provides fashion editorial to its clientele—largely high-net-worth millennials—then finds what they want, sources and ships it to them, all via mobile chat platforms.

20190115 ThreadsSophie Quy, head of fine jewelry and watches for Threads, accepted the Gem Award for Retail Excellence on behalf of the company. Broken English and New York City independent Cellini Jewelers were the other nominees in the category. (Photo credit: Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com)

Ferg Alert
While the Media, Design and Retail Excellence awards were the only winners revealed Friday night—Tiffany & Co. already had been announced as the recipient of the Gem Award for Marketing & Communications, and the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is always known in advance—there was one more surprise to come.

Rapper and New York City native A$AP Ferg, who released an updated version of “Moon River” for “Believe in Dreams,” the innovative marketing campaign that netted Tiffany a Gem Award, came on stage to present the award to Senior Vice President of Marketing Andrea Davey.

A$AP Ferg told the crowd how as a kid growing up in Harlem, he would walk past the Tiffany flagship on Fifth Avenue on his way to the subway, look in the windows and think, “One day, I’ll be able to actually walk in the store and get something.”

20190115 ASAP FergRapper A$AP Ferg (born Darold D. Brown Ferguson Jr.) on stage Friday night presenting Tiffany & Co. with the Gem Award for Marketing & Communications. A$AP Ferg recorded a contemporary version of “Moon River” and performed at Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue flagship as part of the “Believe in Dreams” marketing campaign. (Photo credit: Benjamin Lozovsky/BFA.com)

“This is a huge moment for me because … I come from New York City, (from) Harlem. We look and aspire to get diamonds, and we love this lifestyle.

“When you go from the inner-city kid to the Gem Awards ...,” he trailed off to applause from the crowd.

The Gem Awards was the first in a string of jewelry events that took place in New York over the weekend.

On Thursday, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee held its annual luncheon, while the Jewelers’ Security Alliance’s annual event was Saturday afternoon.

The JSA honored journalists Rob Bates of JCK and National Jeweler Editor-in-Chief Michelle Graff along with the Paramus (New Jersey) Police Department’s Deputy Chief Robert M. Guidetti, Detective Lieutenant Frank Scott and Detective Nicholas J. Luciano.

On Saturday night, the 24 Karat Club of the City of New York held its yearly gala at the New York Hilton Midtown—the banquet’s longtime home, the Waldorf Astoria, is still undergoing renovation—with entertainment by legendary R&B group The O’Jays.

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