Inside GRAMMIUM: How The Bulova GRAMMY Timepieces Combine High Engineering With NYC Attitude To Create An Emotional Connection To Music And Fashion
What do music and timepieces have in common? A heck of a lot — and it has a lot to do with emotional resonance and how we relate to one other. Michael Benavente, managing director of Bulova, illuminates the timepiece company’s longtime GRAMMY partnership.
Michael Benavente is a ravenous music lover, digging everyone from AC/DC to Adele. But as the managing director of Bulova, the premier timepiece company, and someone who’s not a musician, he's honest with himself about one possibility.
"I'll never be near a GRAMMY ever in my life," he asserts. "But this gives me an opportunity to have a piece of a GRAMMY on my wrist."
What's he referring to? A resplendent collection of watches Bulova has crafted in partnership with the Recording Academy. How is it a "piece of a GRAMMY," though?
On the dial of each of these watches, the gold alloy you see is GRAMMIUM — the very material from which GRAMMY Awards are made. Obviously, music and fashion go hand-in-hand, but Benavente argues there's something deeper at play here.
"The emotional connection is really, really strong," he says, speaking both of a cherished song and an inherited timepiece from a loved one. Maybe they fire up the same neurons after all — and that's the heart and soul of the years-long partnership between the Recording Academy and Bulova.
GRAMMY.com spoke with Benavente about his musical roots, why Bulova chose to partner with the Recording Academy, and what he's most looking forward to at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards on Sunday, April 3.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What inspired this partnership between Bulova and the Recording Academy?
We have a history with music. We were the first radio commercial ever. We were the creators of the clock radio. We went on to be the first television commercial ever. So, our tagline has been "A History Of Firsts" for the last seven years. Actually, it just evolved into "Bold At Heart," which is a new campaign starting now.
But it was "A History Of Firsts" because we had a lot of firsts in the brand, whether in the product or in marketing and communications. When we were looking for a marketing platform seven years ago, music was really obvious for us to want to be involved in.
In a previous life with another brand, I had a relationship with the Recording Academy, so that made it that much easier to engage. So, it's been seven years together!
The golden gramophone is an internationally recognized symbol. How did Bulova fold the look and feel of the GRAMMY Award into the design?
For whatever collaborations we do, we really study hard — the icons and symbols. In this case, it was important for us to incorporate the gramophone and the gold and subtle details of the GRAMMYs into our timepieces.
I think the last iteration of the watch we created really ties the two together in that we're using actual GRAMMIUM, which is the material the gramophone statuettes are made of. The GRAMMIUM is on the dial of the watch.
So, I like to say that I'll never be near a GRAMMY ever in my life, but this gives me an opportunity to have a piece of a GRAMMY on my wrist.
What exactly is GRAMMIUM?
It's an alloy. Actually, a gentleman [in Colorado, John Billings] creates the statuettes from GRAMMIUM for the GRAMMYs every year, exclusively. So, we get the GRAMMIUM from him and ship it to our facilities, where we create the dials.
What can you tell me about the specific features of these timepieces?
We have a couple of different iterations that are in the GRAMMY collection. We're also partnered with the Latin GRAMMYs, so we have a relationship with them as well. But for the GRAMMYs, we have several different watches.
When we introduce a new watch, we like to keep the prior ones — assuming they're still selling well, and doing well — so we have a whole collection. So, we have quartz watches, which are watches that require a battery, but they're super-accurate.
We also have automatic — or self-winding — watches, which don't require any energy other than the movement of your arm. So, as long as you wear the watch, it's winding itself and keeping pretty accurate time.
If you put the watch down for two or three days, it'll lose all its energy because you're not wearing it, but it's super easy to just wind it up again and start using it, and you're back in business.
We have a little bit of everything in the collection, so we touch several different price points — medium to high, let's say — and different types of movements. Someone who's looking for a timepiece may not want a quartz watch, or vice versa; they may not want an automatic watch. So, we try to give options.
Can you give some insight on how they're made? I'm sure it's an elaborate and fascinating process.
It is. Our GRAMMY-version watches are made in Japan. Our holding, or parent, company is Citizen Watch America. They purchased Bulova about 12 years ago. We're part of that group, and what's great about that relationship is that they have big manufacturing facilities in Japan.
We also have a design studio in New York. So, we kind of marry the worlds of high engineering, and we have the heart and soul of the brand, which is in New York. Bulova has been in New York for 147 years uninterrupted, which I think is always the coolest part of the story.
So, you get that New York-U.S. attitude in the design and development, and we get that great Japanese engineering.
How do you connect your early love of music to your current role as managing director of Bulova?
For me, music is such an emotional communication tool. Of our senses, smell is number one in terms of triggering a memory. They say you can smell something you haven't smelled in 30 years, you come back in contact with that odor, and you're right back to where you were that time.
Music's not that different. Maybe it's not as powerful as scent, but pretty close. You can always remember a song you heard 20, 30 years ago. Sometimes, you remember exactly where you were, who you were with, what you were doing. The emotional connection is really, really strong.
For us, in the timepiece/watch business, I like to say we're not selling watches anymore as a utilitarian item because nobody really needs a watch to tell time. There are 100 gadgets probably within our arm's length that will tell you the time.
But people choose to wear a watch today for that emotional connection. Sometimes, it's handed down from generation to generation. Sometimes, someone wants to buy a new watch to start a new tradition. They may want to hand it down to their son, daughter, friend — or gift it. Music adds that extra layer to that emotional connection.
What's your strategy to get music fans interested in these elegant timepieces?
We've done a lot of work with the GRAMMYs over the years. Part of this collaboration is through activations. Certainly, we're official partners as well in terms of timekeeping, so we're on the website. We count down to the evening, so our countdown clock is there.
We activate, really, 365 [days per year], although GRAMMY Week is one week and GRAMMY night is one night. We're activating year-round. We have more than 6,000 points of sale in the United States, so we have a pretty wide distribution in which we're communicating the GRAMMY message every day — whether through sales associates in stores or our digital flagship at Bulova.com.
We use a lot of different channels to communicate the relationship between Bulova and the GRAMMYs.
What are you listening to lately?
I'm a very eclectic listener. I listen to a broad range of craziness. [Laughs.] I've been listening to the new Adele album. I thought that was quite interesting from her. She sounds really good. We have a Sinatra collaboration we started three or four years ago, so I've been listening to a lot of Frank and Tony Bennett lately.
And then I can weird you out and start listening to some AC/DC. I'm a big Rush fan. I really am all over the place.
What are you personally excited about regarding the 2022 GRAMMYs?
I'm looking forward to getting everybody back together at [MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas]. Unfortunately, I can't make it this year; this will be the first [GRAMMYs] I've missed in quite a long time. But we are sending some other folks from our team, so I'm excited for them to be able to see everybody back together again.
Underrepresented, Overworked & Underpaid: 7 Key Learnings From The Newly Published Women In The Mix Study
Released today, on International Women's Day, the Women In The Mix Study explores the employment experiences, job satisfaction, family decisions, and pathways women professionals take in the music industry
It perhaps shouldn't come as a shock that women working in a variety of professional fields face challenges unique to their gender. Those working in the American music industry are no exception.
The newly published Women In The Mix Study — released today by the Recording Academy, Arizona State University (ASU) and Berklee College of Music Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship (BerkleeICE) — explores the experiences and socioeconomic landscape of women and gender-expansive people working in music. Built on data from a 2019 study conducted by the Berklee College of Music, the Women In The Mix Study surveyed more than 1,600 professionals working in various capacities — from behind the scenes to center stage — and at all levels, with all ages, races and ethnicities responding.
The Women In The Mix Study explores demographic characteristics, employment experiences, career challenges, job satisfaction, family decisions, and pathways into the music industry. More than 1,000 respondents also provided suggestions for improving the climate for women in music.
Ultimately, the study is designed to influence advocates, allies and leaders in music to work toward a more inclusive and equitable industry, while amplifying women's voices.
"The Women In The Mix Study is a groundbreaking account of the realities and decisions that we as women working in music are publicly and privately making each day," Recording Academy Co-President Valeisha Butterfield Jones said. "By centering this study around active listening, learning and building solutions, we've armed the industry with valuable data about the barriers affecting women in music and how we can together take a stand."
"When trying to create meaningful change you have to speak directly to the people who will be most affected by that change and let them be a part of the conversation," Erin Barra, Director of Popular Music at ASU, added; Barra co-authored the study with Mako Fitts Ward, Ph.D.; Lisa M. Anderson, Ph.D.; and Alaysia M. Brown, M.S.
In celebration of International Women's Day, GRAMMY.com is taking a deep dive into some of the major findings of the Women In The Mix Study.
Women are underrepresented, overworked and underpaid
The Women In The Mix Study cites work from the University of Southern California's Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which found that women are severely underrepresented in the music industry, accounting for just 21.6 percent of artists, 12.6 percent of songwriters, and 2.6 percent of producers. The Initiative's annual Inclusion in the Recording Studio report found that there has been no meaningful increase in these numbers over the years.
More than half (57 percent) of Women In The Mix respondents work two or more jobs. Twenty-four percent work between 40-51 hours per week, while an additional 28 percent clock more than 50 hours per week.
Thirty-six percent of respondents earn less than $40,000 per year, and nearly half of them feel like they should be further along in their careers. Nearly half of the respondents who identify as music creators and/or performers reported making less than $40,000 a year.
Approximately 57 percent of music creators felt they should be further along in their career, compared to those working in music education (48.5 percent), event/tour production and management/promotion (41.7 percent), music business (37.4 percent), and music media and technology (32.9 percent).
Discrimination is prevalent — especially for gender-expansive respondents and women of color
Across all racial identities, 84 percent of respondents had faced discrimination. Seventy-seven percent felt they had been treated differently in the music industry because of their gender, while more than 56 percent believed their gender had affected their employment. Music creators and performers experienced this the most, with 65 percent experiencing discrimination. Sixty percent of respondents said they had been discriminated against for their age.
Gender-expansive respondents were less satisfied than those who identified as women by a 16 percent margin. They were twice as likely to make less than $40,000 per year and felt less comfortable in their workplace by a margin of almost 18 percent.
Women of color reported feeling the highest level of discomfort in the workplace and noted less workplace support. More than half of respondents of color felt they should be further along in their careers.
Career advancement is often prioritized over parenthood
Roughly one out of every two respondents said they chose not to have children or had fewer children than they wanted because of their careers. Respondents with children under the age of 18 represent slightly less than two out of every 10 women and gender-expansive people in the music industry.
People who make over $100,000 per year had a 27 percent likelihood of having children. Those earning less than $40,000 a year have a 15 percent likelihood of having children. Women of color are the most likely respondents to have children, though they still reported that their career was a factor in their decision-making around having or rearing children.
Work-life balance development should begin early
While less than half of respondents reported having an internship during their career, 78 percent felt internships contributed to their career.
However, since internships, particularly those in creative fields, are often unpaid, these opportunities may not be feasible for people without sufficient financial and/or supportive resources. Study respondents suggested paid internships as one method of addressing networking, access to opportunity, and work-life balance.
Respondents — many of whom are working more than 40 hours per week — noted that burnout is a significant challenge. Additional and/or mandatory paid days off would also improve work-life balance throughout the industry.
Mentorships and advocacy organizations are valuable
Ninety-three percent of respondents felt that mentoring had contributed to their career. These respondents were more likely to feel they were where they should be in their careers and reported feeling satisfied with their jobs. Respondents suggested that providing access to quality mentorship and mentors can have a profoundly positive effect on the careers of women and gender-expansive people.
Forty percent of respondents were members of advocacy organizations, while 35 percent of respondents cited professional or industry-related organizations as crucial factors to their growth and advancement. Roughly 20 percent mentioned advocacy in their recommendations to help improve the climate for women and gender-expansive people.
However, mentorship and networking are both largely built upon a person's interpersonal skill set, as well as their ability to negotiate and advocate for themselves. By bolstering soft skill development, while also building and strengthening institutional programs, support infrastructure, and active education, the music industry can improve business acumen for women and gender-expansive people early in the employment pipeline.
Organizations should take real action and spend money
Simply saying your business is committed to DEI isn't enough. Women In The Mix Study respondents suggested recruitment pledges — a commitment from hiring managers to recruit diverse and robust candidates — as a means of intentionally addressing access to opportunities and dismantling gatekeeper culture.
Addressing women's representation in music has been a longstanding priority for the Recording Academy. In 2019, the organization launched Women In The Mix, which prompted hundreds of music professionals and organizations to pledge to consider at least two women in the selection process every time a producer or engineer is hired. That same year, the Recording Academy pledged to double the number of women voters in its voting membership by 2025; the organization has reached 60 percent of that goal.
In 2021, the Recording Academy donated a total of $25,000 to five charities and organizations that support the growth of women and girls in production and engineering. Based on the Women In The Mix Study findings, and to help address issues surrounding access to resources and opportunities, the Academy has committed to donating an additional $50,000 to five organizations that support the growth of women and girls in music, including Beats By Girlz, Femme It Forward, Girls Make Beats, She Is The Music, and Women's Audio Mission.
Career satisfaction and passion for the music industry remain high
Despite the challenges around insufficient earnings, burnout, gatekeeper culture, sexism, and the competing demands of creative vision and generating revenue, 78 percent of Women In The Mix Study respondents reported feeling satisfied in their careers. Even in career categories that seem to face the most obstacles — such as freelancers and music creators and performers — more than 80 percent of respondents said they felt satisfied. Respondents working in event and tour production, management and promotion were the least satisfied, noting a 65 percent satisfaction rate.
Such satisfaction may be the result of inherent passion: Over half of respondents said that their pathway into their careers was through their inherent love for and excitement about the music industry.
Vicente Fernandez performs at the 2002 Latin GRAMMY Awards
Photo: M. Caulfield/WireImage
Vicente Fernández Posthumously Wins GRAMMY For Best Regional Mexican Music Album | 2022 GRAMMYs
The late Mexican legend, who died in December at 81, won the GRAMMY for Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano) for his 2020 album, 'A Mis 80's'
Nearly four months after his death, Vicente Fernández 's legacy lives on.
The Mexican icon’s album, A Mis 80's, won Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano). The posthumous win marks Fernández 's fourth career GRAMMY.
Aida Cuevas' Antología De La Musica Ranchera, Vol. 2, Mon Laferte's Seis, Natalia Lafourcade's Un Canto Por México, Vol. II and Christian Nodal's *Ayayay! (Súper Deluxe)* were the other albums nominated in the category.
Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2022 GRAMMYs.
GRAMMY trophies at the 59th GRAMMY Awards in 2017
Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images
The Recording Academy Announces Major Changes For The 2022 GRAMMY Awards Show
Process amendments include the elimination of nominations review committees and the addition of two new GRAMMY Award categories, including Best Global Music Performance and Best Música Urbana Album
Editor's Note: The 2022 GRAMMYs Awards show, officially known as the 64th GRAMMY Awards, has been rescheduled to Sunday, April 3, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The below article was updated on Tuesday, Jan. 18, to reflect the new show date and location.
The Recording Academy announced today that it has made significant changes to its Awards process that reflect its ongoing commitment to evolve with the musical landscape and to ensure that the GRAMMY Awards rules and guidelines are transparent and equitable. Among the changes are the elimination of Nominations Review Committees, a reduction in the number of categories in which voters may vote, two GRAMMY Award category additions, and more. These updates are a result of extensive discussions and collaboration over the course of the last year among a special subcommittee of Recording Academy members and elected leaders, and were voted on by the Academy's Board of Trustees. These changes go into effect immediately for the 2022 GRAMMY Awards show, officially known as the 64th GRAMMY Awards, taking place Sunday, April 3. The eligibility period for the 64th GRAMMY Awards is Sept. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021.
Additional rule amendment proposals will be discussed and voted on at an upcoming Recording Academy meeting and the full rulebook for the 64th GRAMMY Awards will be released in May.
"It's been a year of unprecedented, transformational change for the Recording Academy, and I'm immensely proud to be able to continue our journey of growth with these latest updates to our Awards process," Harvey Mason jr., Chair & Interim President/CEO of the Recording Academy, said. "This is a new Academy, one that is driven to action and that has doubled down on the commitment to meeting the needs of the music community. While change and progress are key drivers of our actions, one thing will always remain — the GRAMMY Award is the only peer-driven and peer-voted recognition in music. We are honored to work alongside the music community year-round to further refine and protect the integrity of the Awards process."
APPROVED RULE AMENDMENTS INCLUDE:
Voting Process Changes
Elimination Of Nominations Review Committees In General And Genre Fields
- Nominations in all of the GRAMMY Award general and genre fields will now be determined by a majority, peer-to-peer vote of voting members of the Recording Academy. Previously, many of the categories within these fields utilized 15-30 highly skilled music peers who represented and voted within their genre communities for the final selection of nominees. With this change, the results of GRAMMY nominations and winners are placed back in the hands of the entire voting membership body, giving further validation to the peer-recognized process. To further support this amendment, the Academy has confirmed that more than 90 percent of its members will have gone through the requalification process by the end of this year, ensuring that the voting body is actively engaged in music creation. Craft committees remain in place (see below for craft category realignment.)
Reduction In Number Of Categories Voter May Vote
- To ensure music creators are voting in the categories in which they are most knowledgeable and qualified, the number of specific genre field categories in which GRAMMY Award Voters may vote has been reduced from 15 to 10. Additionally, those 10 categories must be within no more than three fields. All voters are permitted to vote in the four General Field categories (Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist). Proposed by a special voting Task Force who brought forth the recommendation, this change serves as an additional safeguard against bloc voting and helps to uphold the GRAMMY Award as a celebration of excellence in music, with specific genre field categories being voted on by the most qualified peers.
Craft Category Realignment
To better reflect the overlapping peer groups within the voter membership body, six existing craft fields will be consolidated into two fields: Presentation Field and Production Field. In either newly consolidated field, voters would have the ability to choose how many categories they feel qualified to vote in, respecting category vote limits, without being excessively limited by the three-field restriction. This benefits the integrity of these Awards by embracing and utilizing the specializations of the voters, without restricting their choice or contributions due to the field limits imposed by the recent reduction of the number of categories voters may vote in. Field updates are as follows:
Package Field, Notes Field and Historical Field renamed and consolidated to Presentation Field
Production, Non-Classical Field; Production, Immersive Audio Field; and Production, Classical Field renamed and consolidated to Production Field
New Categories Added
Two new categories have been added, bringing the total number of GRAMMY Award categories to 86:
Best Global Music Performance (Global Music Field)
Best Música Urbana Album (Latin Music Field)
"The latest changes to the GRAMMY Awards process are prime examples of the Recording Academy's commitment to authentically represent all music creators and ensure our practices are in lock-step with the ever-changing musical environment," said Ruby Marchand, Chief Industry Officer at the Recording Academy. "As we continue to build a more active and vibrant membership community, we are confident in the expertise of our voting members to recognize excellence in music each year."
"As an Academy, we have reaffirmed our commitment to continue to meet the needs of music creators everywhere, and this year's changes are a timely and positive step forward in the evolution of our voting process," said Bill Freimuth, Chief Awards Officer at the Recording Academy. "We rely on the music community to help us to continue to evolve, and we’re grateful for their collaboration and leadership."
The Recording Academy accepts proposals from members of the music community throughout the year. The Awards & Nominations Committee, comprised of Academy Voting Members of diverse genres and backgrounds, meets annually to review proposals to update Award categories, procedures and eligibility guidelines. The above rule amendments were voted on and passed at a Recording Academy Board of Trustees meeting held on April 30, 2021. For information on the Awards process, visit our GRAMMY Voting Process FAQ page.
The Recording Academy will present the 2022 GRAMMY Awards show on Sunday, April 3, live from the *MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on demand on Paramount+ from 8–11:30 p.m. ET / 5–8:30 p.m. PT. Prior to the telecast, the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony will be streamed live on GRAMMY.com and the Recording Academy's YouTube channel. Additional details about the dates and locations of other official GRAMMY Week events, including the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony, MusiCares' Person of the Year, and the Pre-GRAMMY Gala, are available here.*
Photo: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images
Inside The Bulova "Tune Of Time" Brunch With Nile Rodgers
Featuring a special Q&A and performance by GRAMMY winner Nile Rodgers, the Bulova “Tune of Time” brunch event helped kick the 60th GRAMMY countdown fever into high gear
Time is a gift and no one knows that better than Bulova. That's why the Recording Academy partnered with the New York-based maker of classic timepieces this afternoon for the "Tune of Time" brunch, which featured a live performance by three-time GRAMMY winner, Nile Rodgers.
The exclusive event was held at the posh Cipriani in lower Manhattan, N.Y. Tastemakers, musicians, producers, and industry vets mingled while air kisses were blown across the room during cocktail hour. Mimosas and bellinis flowed as guests posed for pictures on the red carpet with the life size GRAMMY statuette. Once seated, guests were formally welcomed by Michael Benavente, managing director at Bulova, who shared his excitement for the partnership with the Recording Academy. He offered powerful words about the impact of music, noting that the spirit of today's event is the "intersection of music and time."
The audience had a chance to hear directly from Rodgers as GRAMMY Museum Executive Director Scott Goldman sat down with the legend for a one-on-one conversation. When asked about his gift for collaborating with other artists, Rodgers — who has produced for legends like Diana Ross, Mick Jagger, Madonna, and many more, offered a simple answer: "I'm not afraid to fail, and I have total respect for the artist I work with," he said.
During the conversation Nile also spoke about the forthcoming Chic album, It's About Time, which was delayed because of the untimely passing of his close friends, Prince and David Bowie. The frontman, who describes his band as the “Grateful Dead of dance music,” admits to usually playing just one special guitar, despite having well over 100 of them.
The highlight of the afternoon was undoubtedly the performance by the producer extraordinaire, and his band, Chic. Rodgers, who is a co-founding member of Chic and lead guitarist, reminded us why he's the king of disco funk. The band gave an explosive performance that had everyone on their feet, singing along. Performing hits such as “Everybody Dance," “I Want Your Love” and even some new material, it felt like Studio 54 in the '70s. And if that wasn't enough, Rodgers also performed hits from artists he's collaborated with, including Diana Ross and Sister Sledge.
Not one person was seated during the performance — Jason Lipshutz, editorial director at Billboard, included. "To hear Nile tell stories and reflect on his contributions to music and witness a live performance really sets the tone for the weekend,” Lipshutz remarked.
GRAMMY.com also got a chance to chat with Rodgers, a New York native, about working with Bulova. "Bulova is such an iconic brand. All of my life I've been going to the airport and passing the Bulova building, which is a landmark," says the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. "And the GRAMMYs are a symbol of excellence. It's cool to be associated with iconic brands."
As the official timepiece partner of the 60th GRAMMY Awards, Bulova is celebrating the milestone anniversary with a limited-edition timepiece that will be presented to all winners of tomorrow's annual GRAMMY celebration.
Hosted by James Corden, the 60th GRAMMY Awards will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York on Jan. 28, airing live on CBS from 7:30–11 p.m. ET/4:30–8 p.m. PT.
(Lakeia Brown is a freelance writer and host of the podcast, Decoded with Elle Bee. She has been published in publications like O, The Oprah Magazine, Essence and Complex. You can follow her on IG @elle_bee_decoded.)