WatchTime New York is the largest luxury watch event in America, held annually in the heart of Manhattan. Here, collectors, enthusiasts, and members of the industry come together for a spectacular two-day event. It begins with a VIP cocktail reception. This gives attendees an exclusive sneak peek of the exhibitors and newest and most interesting timepieces in their current collections. The following day features the exhibition along with educational panels and seminars. In 2019, the event also included the first public screening of Blancpain’s film, Fifty Fathoms: The History as Told by the Pioneers Who Created It.
Important Product Launches
Since WatchTime New York first established in 2014, it has become an important event for product launches. Among them were around half a dozen models making their first public debut. This included Bremont’s H-4 Hercules Limited Edition Spruce Goose pilot watch and many more. Other brands also brought along rare and exclusive models. For instance, OMEGA showcased one of only three editions of the Seamaster Ultra Deep. Earlier in 2019, this model set a new depth rating record after descending to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
Record Numbers of Brands Exhibiting
In 2019, WatchTime New York set its own records. This included the largest number of brands exhibiting, 37, and guests in attendance, over 1600 throughout the weekend. Some standout exhibitors included A. Lange & Söhne, Bell & Ross, Breguet, F.P. Journe, Glashütte Original, Jaquet Droz, Maurice Lacroix, Montblanc, Oris, Zenith, and more. In addition, the 2019 event was particularly special. It marked the fifth anniversary of the exhibition and twentieth anniversary of WatchTime magazine, creator and host of the event.
American Community, Global Perspective
The fate of the traditional, mechanical watch industry has long been up for debate, particularly in the wake of the Quartz Crisis and advent of the smartwatch. There’s also much speculation about which market is strongest – Asian, European, or American. If WatchTime New York is any indicator, the watchmaking industry is stronger than ever, particularly in the U.S. Still, it begs the question, are the best years of watchmaking behind us or ahead of us?
WatchTime New York tackled this topic head-on in a panel on the Golden Age of Watchmaking: Past or Present. Here, five industry veterans sat down to debate. Renowned collector Jeff Kingston moderated the panel, which featured the co-founder of Greubel Forsey, Stephen Forsey; President of the Horological Society of New York, Nick Manousos; Managing Director of Timezone and Founder of Massena LAB, William Massena; founder of RGM Watch Company, Rolland Murphy; and Senior International Consultant of Watches at Christie’s and founder of Collectability LLC, John Reardon.
The Golden Age of Watchmaking: Past or Present
Massena admitted he’d prepared for the panel by Googling “golden age.” He found that the term comes from Greek mythology but shares a similar sentiment to the “good old days.” It’s an idyllic, often exaggerated, memory of a past time of peace, prosperity, or happiness. Forsey suggested this notion of romanticizing the past might account for the growing numbers of re-editions and vintage-inspired models today. However, he countered the point by exerting that if you accept everything great has been done in the past, you’re never going to appreciate the present or invest in the future. Overall, the panel quickly came to the consensus that defining the golden age is all relative to time and place.
Forsey followed up with several examples throughout history. Perhaps the sixteenth century was the golden age of design with the introduction of materials like brass, bronze, and silver. The eighteenth century could be the golden age of technical innovation with the development of the balance spring. Or, maybe we’re in the golden age of watchmaking with the renaissance that’s taken place in the post-quartz era. Murphy solidified the notion, stating that only history and perspective can truly reveal a golden age.
To that end, the value and purpose of a watch is also deeply intertwined with the period in history. Massena gave the example of watch complications. In the past, a complication like the minute repeater was necessary to tell the time in the dark. Today, that’s no longer the case. Instead, Reardon suggested that many people appreciate modern mechanical watches more like piece of wearable art than tools. With that in mind, Massena added that today might very well be a golden age of watchmaking for consumers with the sheer volume of options available.
In closing, Manousos asserted that defining the golden age is nearly impossible because it’s so highly subjective. Yet, what he sees in consumers is the more they learn about watches and their history, the more they appreciate each era for the purpose it served in the big picture. To Massena’s earlier point, Forsey added that consumers have more educational resources now than ever before. If education is key, perhaps we are truly approaching the golden age of watchmaking.