A product doesn’t have to have four wheels to be a part of this week’s Specialty Equipment Market Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, but it helps.
Returning to Las Vegas last week after hiking Mount Kilimanjaro for a friend’s Air Force retirement ceremony at the summit, entrepreneur-pilot-adventurer Abingdon Mullin is parlaying a business relationship with NASCAR driver Julia Landauer to try to become a rarity — a Las Vegas company exhibiting at one of nation’s largest automotive events and one of Southern Nevada’s biggest trade shows.
Mullin is not quite there yet, but Monday’s introduction of a new wristwatch in conjunction with SEMA and Landauer’s NASCAR ties could enable her to exhibit next year.
The trade show opens Tuesday. Automotive television and radio show personalities will dot the floor throughout the week. NASCAR, hot rod, monster truck and Hall of Fame drivers will make appearances.
And that’s where Landauer, herself an adventurer who once participated on the “Survivor” reality television show, comes in.
Mullin formed The Abingdon Co. in Las Vegas in 2007 and has designed and produced five watch models. She happened upon an online interview of Landauer and liked her spirit of adventure and how she navigates the male-dominated automotive industry.
“I’m a big fan of most women who do really cool things,” Mullin said. “She talked about how the racing industry is remiss in not marketing more to women because all these cars have all these stickers and decals and wraps and the drivers are sponsored by about three dozen sponsors, from STP to Pennzoil. She said, ‘When you’re racing, 40 percent of your audience is female, and yet most of the products advertised on these cars are being advertised toward men.’”
That’s when Mullin decided to reach out to her.
“I emailed her website and introduced myself and said, ‘I think what you’re doing is great. I’m kind of doing something similar, but with watches. If ever there’s room for us to collaborate, I’d love to talk with you,’” she said.
Mullin, who got her pilot’s license when she was 22, was frustrated she couldn’t find a pilot’s watch suitable for a woman.
“They make some beautiful aviation watches, the Breitlings and the Citizens,” she said. “But none of them are made with women in mind. They’re all men’s watches. I have a tiny frame, and when I put one of those watches on me, it just looked like a grandfather clock hanging off my wrist.”
The five watch models her company has produced since 2007 — the Amelia, Jackie, Marina, Katherine and Elise — all have flight computers, Greenwich Mean Time converters, luminous hands and anti-glare sapphire crystals.
A perfect fit
The new line Landauer helped Mullin introduce Monday in conjunction with SEMA at a private unveiling in downtown Las Vegas has automotive features, and Mullin says she thinks its durability makes it a perfect fit for the SEMA crowd.
“You can use it and it’s not going to break,” she said. “So many watches are designed that have that racer look, but it has a mineral crystal instead of the sapphire crystal, something that’s so simple to have a hardened crystal on it.
“You’re around a track, you’re around hard machines. You’re working on your car. We’re going to have different accessories where you can clip it on your belt loop as opposed to wearing it on your wrist if you need your hands free to use tools to get into an engine,” she said.
The Julia watch is equipped with a tachymeter, which is used to measure a vehicle’s speed, and a precision 60-minute stopwatch that measures time passage to one-hundredth of a second. It also monitors time of day in two time zones for travelers.
The watch line is Abingdon Co.’s first created with a specific person, Landauer, in mind. At the unveiling, Mullin was scheduled to have her first face-to-face meeting with Landauer, with whom she has only corresponded by phone and email.
Mullin is hoping demand for such a timepiece will convince SEMA to allow her to exhibit at next year’s show instead of just making appearances and introductions.
“Our main focus at SEMA is to introduce The Abingdon Co. to the automotive industry as a watch for adventurous women, as a watch that both women and men want,” she said.
SEMA wouldn’t allow Mullin to exhibit at the show this year because show management felt there wasn’t a strong enough connection between a timepiece and the automotive industry.
“Trade shows like ours work really hard to make sure that the exhibitors are a good fit and meet the expectations of the buyers that fly in from around the world to attend the show,” said Peter MacGillivray, vice president of events and business development for SEMA.
MacGllivray said there’s a limited amount of space, and this year existing exhibitors couldn’t even expand.
“There are other people looking for space that can’t get it that are wheel manufacturers and seat manufacturers and other types of accessories, and if they were to find out that someone that wasn’t qualified was taking up their space, they would be really disappointed,” he said. “We’re really grateful for the interest and enthusiasm that everybody has here in Las Vegas and around the world for the SEMA show, but when you’re at the situation where we are that you have limited space, we really have to be selective about who gets to occupy it.”
The Las Vegas Convention Center’s Silver Lot at the northwest corner of Paradise Road and Convention Center Drive is usually the site of SEMA’s big end-of-the-show parade and party.
But because the LVCVA is building its new $935 million exhibition hall on a portion of the Silver Lot, activities will be shifted to the Platinum Lot at the southeast corner of Swenson Street and Desert Inn Road, east of the Convention Center’s South Hall.
The SEMA Cruise, one of the only events open to the public, is a parade of vehicles participating in the show, beginning Friday at 4 p.m. The Cruise culminates with SEMA Ignited, the show afterparty running from 3-10 p.m. at the Platinum Lot.
The LVCVA said the two post-show events at the new location will result in Swenson Street being closed between Sierra Vista Drive and Desert Inn Road from 6 a.m., Friday, to 10 a.m., Saturday.