Time’s Grand Hall: History Meets Horology at the 2018 Edition of WatchTime New York
What is it about the human desire to be around things that are old? Think about it. We scour antique stores searching for tabletop trinkets made in Transylvania. We hit our local estate sales with the same enthusiasm as a minor league player stepping up to the plate for the very first time. And we’re even happy to buy watches from retail shops that have a layer of dust on their shelves thicker than the Spring issue of Vogue. To us, old can mean established. It can represent wisdom, or endurance, or even reliability. Old means something of substance stood the test of time, which is why displaying time in a building as old as Gotham Hall is as fitting as it is festive.
It could very well be coincidence that the organizers of WatchTime New York chose this curious venue – the former Greenwich Savings Bank building, completed in 1924 – to hold their fair, or it could be that the team did their research and saw the tie-in with time. Greenwich is not just a village in New York City. As we all know (or should know), Greenwich is the area near London which in 1884 was assigned the line of 0 degrees longitude. It is from this point, all terrestrial longitudes are measured, and the world’s time zones are calculated. GMT, also known as Greenwich Mean Time, plays *the* essential role in modern timekeeping. “The whole world takes it’s time from Greenwich” is a line uttered by Dick Van Dyke’s character Bert in the 1964 musical Mary Poppins, and for many a New York-based collector, enthusiast, and watch journalist, the weekend of October 26th, 2018 meant exactly that.
While not an established entity, per se, the days leading up to WatchTime New York have unofficially been dubbed “New York Watch Week” because of the multitude of events and gatherings thrown by brands and retailers, alike.
When an affair such as this is able to gather watch personalities such as Romain Gauthier, Fiona Krüger, Stephen Forsey, Montblanc’s Davide Cerrato, and others in one place at one time, the main event is bound to grow legs, which frankly, is a good thing for the future of the watch industry. Think of the pregame festivities as the watch world’s foreplay before the climax that is Watchtime New York. (Yes, I just drew an analogy between a watch fair and sex [just ask Stephen Forsey] because let’s face it, I can, and if not me, who?) And if WTNY is indeed the climax, then consider the weekly RedBar gathering on the Wednesday before as a solid attempt at reaching first base.
This year’s pre-WTNY RedBar brought in faces seldom seen this side of the pond, with one face in particular being a complete New York newbie: Rexhep Rexhepi, who was going to be showing his creations at the WatchTime show for the first time. Like most human beings who’ve visited New York as a Big Apple virgin, Rexhep was smitten. “Everyone has been so nice” he said, and I thanked my lucky stars he hadn’t yet visited Brooklyn before making that statement.
Attendees of Wednesday’s RedBar were treated to another surprise… a guest appearance by watch connoisseur, artist, and actor, Aldis Hodge, who for some reason, willingly stayed until “closing ceremonies”, giving those in attendance a line we won’t soon forget: “Wow, this looks like all kinds of bad decisions.” Indeed it was, Aldis. Indeed… it… was.
The Main Event
As with previous editions of WTNY, this year’s fair also included a variety of seminars and talks in order to further the horological education of those in attendance. The talks included a discussion on the future of watch collecting, a panel with American watchmakers and designers, and an opportunity to meet and ask questions of some of the independent watchmakers mentioned earlier in this post.
What was also refreshing to see with regard to WatchTime New York, was just how many women were in attendance, whether they be running the show (women like Sara Orlando, Minda Larsen, and Ana Martins are largely responsible for keeping this thing going), attending the show as collectors, working the show as watchmakers (shout out to my homegirl Nat at Jaeger-LeCoultre!) or exhibitors, or covering it as members of the press. It felt as if this year saw a real increase in women attendees which will hopefully nudge the big brands even more to pay attention to those often forgotten in the past.
But the biggest takeaway from WatchTime New York that any person with a pulse could summon is that they directly reach the often unreachable: the everyday buyer. Is it an event that welcomes serious watch collectors? Sure, but collectors aren’t the only buyers in the marketplace. WTNY is open to the public for a minimal ticket price, which means the average Joe/Joanne can attend and not be afraid to ask questions, unlike if they stepped foot into a high-end watch retailer. Look, I’m only as successful (sort of) as I am because I am able to reach the people who are novices; because I have been able to learn about this business while taking my reader along with me for the ride. Not every reader out there is schooled in horology, nor do many of them even know what a flying tourbillon is (or care), so to have a trade fair that is inclusive to both the dilletantes as well as the novices is important to the future of this industry, and Watchtime New York accomplishes this task successfully and has so year after year.
So, kudos to the organizers for another great event. Hopefully New York will become a force to be reckoned with in the very near future as it pertains to the worldwide watch industry, and with Baselworld going through the changes it currently is, the future looks about as bright in New York City as a big, shiny apple. (The fruit. Not the wannabe watch.)
(Images provided by WatchTime New York)
One thought on “Time’s Grand Hall: History Meets Horology at the 2018 Edition of WatchTime New York”
November 12, 2018 at 7:35 PM
Good read. Glad to see the Brits still love their watchmakers and watches.