I used to do commercial work for a good friend, and a good man, Roger Bartley. Roger was the official importer of several boutique watches from Switzerland and Germany, and later even added his private brand, Eklund. His company, GNT, Incorporated lived with him in his house in Pawtuxet Village. I started doing computer work for him in exchange for a watch that had the phases of the moon. I had been looking for a reasonably priced one and my friend Alan brought me in contact with Roger. He lived alone and maintained a quiet and simple life. Little things would please him, many would even amaze him.
When he found out that I also did photography, he asked me to photograph a few watches for his Web site catalog. I gladly did that and learned the idiosyncrasies of watch photography from Roger. The watch hands had to be at 10:10 or 1:50, and the second arm if there was one must be stopped at a 25 passed position so as not to cover other features or the branding information. In any case, later on, I ended up redoing his Web site with an easy to use content management system which he loved to update when he wanted. One thing that always baffled him was the uploading of the new watch photographs, so I would do that part and then he would update the content and add the price.
Our work relation and friendship grew, partly aided by Jan’s baklava. He loved Jan’s baklava and we used to take him a few pieces whenever Jan made some or called him for a cup of coffee and baklava. He would oblige willingly! He used to advertise in a couple of magazines with simple photographs that he used on the Web site, and the magazine would do a simple layout for him. He asked if I could take some sample advertising photographs of his watches to see what could be done. That was a new type of photography with its own problems, mainly one of controlling reflections without totally eliminating them. One photograph lead to another, and in the end GNT, Incorporated used my photographs in about a dozen or more issues of International Wristwatch Magazine. To control costs, I would on occasion take a watch in trade; we were both happy with that deal.
He had the private label brand as I said, Eklund. I asked him how he came up with the name and he said he simply liked the sound of Eklund. George Eastman once said the same of his world-famous brand, Kodak. Coincidentally, GNT had no meaning either, Roger thought the combination of G-N-T looked and sounded just right for him.
Roger was battling a kind of leukemia which you could not tell from his jovial and generally happy attitude and his colorful complexion. Periodically he would undergo treatment but everything seemed under control. Unfortunately, things got worse and we lost Roger a little over a year ago (October 5, 2010) and GNT, Incorporated stopped its operations. At the request of his brother, I took down the GNT, Incorporated Web site and put in its place a single page remembrance for Roger.
With this post of the photographs he used in the magazines, I wanted to remember him and bring closure to his death. These are some of the photographs I took for Roger and we chose some to go to print. I did not scan all of the magazine ads, but there are enough to give you an idea of the transition from one medium to another. He was very proud of his products and the ads that featured them. The Atlantic watch ad came out a little too dark and I believe he had the magazine redo that in the next issue.
We, who knew Roger, miss him. I remember him often when I check time; I always wear one of his watches from my collection that he helped to build.
Here is Roger’s Collection of Watches