After being ushered into a room filled with a couple of Betsey‘s handlers, I was welcomed to take a seat next to the famed designer, while another employee spread Betsey’s just-launched watch collection on the table. I introduced myself to Johnson, who gave me a warm welcome and motioned a hello with one hand–the other hand was otherwise occupied, getting a manicure. “I need my quick dry…where’s the quick dry?” she rasped, turning to her manicurist. “I have to fix the tips on my nails, if anyone takes pictures…” she trailed off, giving me a knowing look.
Once Betsey settled in a bit, we got down to business: The watches. “I hate to say it,” said Johnson, picking up a classic-looking round watch with leather strap, “But after the digital space cadet one, this one is my favorite because I’m grandma classic.”
“I just really love them. The numbers are big, they have a real weight to them…I mean Frankie has me down,” she said, before motioning to a man holding a champagne glass nudged into the back of the room. “Frank, he owns the company…,” she said and then turned to him asking, “Frankie what’s your last name?”
After establishing the man’s identity, Johnson went on, “Anyway, we license together in jewelry…what is it now? Seven years. And now he does my watches. Miriam Haskell is the company and she has been one of my favorite vintage jewelry designers.”
We have to say, whatever Betsey and Frank have been cooking up, it looks good. While there is certainly a fair dose of classic Betsey–think glitter, hearts and skulls–the watches were surprisingly sophisticated, and yes, “grandma classic.”
“What I love is that the collection has something for everyone,” Johnson said, strapping on a fifth watch to one of her wrists. “We go from kiddie to grandma, classic to cute, twinkly to chic.”
But it’s not every day we get to interview Betsey Johnson so we had to ask one final question: Got any cartwheel tips for the gymnastically-challenged?
“Oh, I don’t want to tip into a cartwheel anymore, believe me!” she laughed. “No, you know, it’s a rough thing but it’s a great thing to have to pull off every season. Actually I screwed up for the first time this season. I went to kick and I felt completely off-balance…everything was great, and then I walked out of the tents and the next thing you know in Las Vegas on an appearance scheduled the next I ended up in the hospital getting a leg brace from ankle to thigh that I got from just walking! So I think cartwheel is less dangerous for me.”
At the end of the interview, Johnson glanced at her wrists, which at this point were sporting four watches each, before asking, “Can we fit any more on here?”
And that’s kind of Johnson’s whole philosophy: More. We don’t think we’ve ever met a designer with such a lust for life–and seriously, we wouldn’t have Betsey any other way, kookiness included!
See her full watch collection below.