Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sully Gets His Retirement Watch

Note Sully's JEANRICHARD watch.
These are the days of the celebrity endorsement, so it should not come as a surprise that to the list pilot/hero/author/motivational speaker Chesley Sullenberger is now adding, "Brand Ambassador".

Lean and handsome, in a my-generation-sort-of-way, Sully would have fit in with all the other beautiful celebrities walking the Oscar night red carpet and modeling the designer duds and valuable accessories of luxury goods manufacturers. But Hollywood isn't his world. (Perhaps if he'd occupied even a small part of Tinsel Town, the movie Flight might not have been such an unintentional fantasy from reality.)



The company that can claim to have won Sully's first product endorsement is JEANRICHARD, a high-end Swiss watch manufacturer whose products range from the economy priced $3500 to $6400 timepieces. Sully flew his last for US Airways 3 years ago, and I'm guessing his airline didn't present him with just this kind of watch on his retirement.

With the May 2012 publication of Making a Difference, a business book that wrapped up his two-book deal with HarperCollins, Sully seems to have left the world of aviation behind. During the publicity tour in New York, he shared a stage with boldface-named leaders and executives and the word "airplane" hardly arose. From my seat in the packed auditorium I watched as the crowd hung on his every word and I thought to myself, "Well, he's moved on." 

So Monday night, when JEANRICHARD hosted a dinner at the trendy Standard Hotel on New York's also-trendy High Line, to celebrate the 2 year deal with the most famous brand ambassador the watch company has ever had, I asked Sully what it was like to be removed from the business that delivered him to this place. He answered that he is grateful and still often surprised at the way his life has changed.


Ashika Pratt and Isaac Hinden-Miller my dinner seatmates
Just how much, was obvious to me as soon as I got to talking with other guests at the party. I schmoozed with Doug Gollan, editor-in-chief of Elite Traveler, a magazine that claims as its readership, folks with average household incomes of $5.3 million. To my right at dinner was New York Times men's fashion writer Isaac Hinden-Miller and his stunning partner, international model, Ashika Pratt. To my left were Mark Marshall and Shirley Waters, sales execs for JEANRICHARD sibling watch maker, Girard Perregaux. This was no aviation-geek crowd.

When I reviewed Sully's first book, Highest Duty, which was co-authored by my friend, the late-Jeff Zaslow, I was struck at how well it portrayed the life of an ordinary Airbus driver, humping like every other pilot in a volatile industry, trying to get enough sleep to fly safe and make enough money to put the kids through college.


A well-written biography - and Highest Duty is such a biography - can lead the reader to believe they know the subject. But after watching Sully in impeccable suit, fashionably sans tie with a JEANRICHARD watch peeking from a perfect-length cuff, I realized there's more to the Sullenberger story. Capt. Brand Ambassador better hang on to that fancy watch because only time will tell where this path of re-invention may take him.


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