Diving Watches: From Sports Watches to Certified Icons
New Yorkers are spoiled in so many ways. The amount of options is simply mind-boggling, whether it’s grocery stores, fashion outlets, or events to attend. If you want it, New York will have it. The same applies to timepieces. Most major brands have storefronts in the Big Apple. Many hold launch events in the city and often introduce pieces made exclusively for the US market. Apart from that, the city has a thriving collector’s scene. Every week sees at least one gathering or get-together of like-minded watch enthusiasts à la the Chrono24 New York GTG this past June. Watch-loving New Yorkers especially look forward to October and two major events: WatchTime and Windup. This year, we were lucky enough to visit both. Here’s what we experienced.
Let’s start with the fancier of the two, shall we? According to its website, WatchTime New York is “America’s largest luxury watch event for collectors and enthusiasts.” Having just been there, I can confirm this statement. The number and quality of the brands that exhibit there are overwhelming. Of course, you’ll find big players like A. Lange & Söhne, Blancpain, Omega,Seiko, and Zenith. However, there are also many smaller independent names making their mark on haute horologerie, such as Akrivia, Armin Strom, HYT, and MB&F. Then there’s the breathtaking venue itself: the legendary Gotham Hall. This New York landmark sits right on Broadway across from Macy’s. Not a single inch of the magnificent ballroom’s 8,600+ square feet went to waste. The floor was dotted with stands from different companies, with a select few occupying the prime real estate in the center of the space. Furthermore, Seiko got a separate room, and there was a third location for panel talks on the floor above.
When WatchTime New York started in 2015, only 17 brands attended. Today, visitors can interact with 37 different watch companies. According to Roger Ruegger, Editor in Chief of WatchTime Magazine (the event’s host), “The majority of visitors are readers of the magazine and members of the lively New York watch scene, with a solid income and thirst for new releases from the brands.” Indeed, it is the only watch event of this scale in the area (and perhaps even in the whole US). “The success of the show lies in the fact that we do not want to copy Baselworld,” explains Mr. Ruegger.This could not be more true. Unlike in Basel, visitors can try on the watches, talk to the salespeople, and ask questions while enjoying a glass of champagne. If you’re in New York during the show, it’s a must for any watch enthusiast.
A few blocks south of WatchTime, another watch event was taking place at the same time: the Windup Watch Fair. Windup is less of a show and more a friendly gathering of brands, their admirers, industry personalities, and the press. It takes place at Chelsea Market in New York’s hip and trendy Chelsea neighborhood. Despite being a short subway ride away, you’re a world apart from Broadway’s Gotham Hall. Here, there’s no entrance fee, though the venue is admittedly much less fancy than WatchTime’s ballroom. The selection of brands at WindUp is diverse and much more budget-friendly. Most are small or microbrands, and almost all of them are independent (meaning they’re not owned by any large conglomerate). That being said, larger companies like Junghans and Hamilton (of the Swatch Group) were also in attendance this year.
The entire world turns up at Windup. American brands (like Monta, Oak & Oscar, and Autodromo) exhibit alongside Swiss (Oris, Hamilton, etc.), German (Laco, Junghans, and Stowa), French (Yema), and British (Farer, Christopher Ward, and anOrdain) companies, to name a few. If you’re interested in bands, winders, or other accessories, Windup has plenty of exhibitors in those categories as well. You can explore the show floor, try on watches, take photos, and even purchase items then and there.This great and fun event attracts not only watch enthusiasts but also those who happen to be visiting the market.Worn & Wound, an online watch blog and shop, puts on the event. Their website has articles, videos, and a podcast (including this episode with Chrono24’s co-CEO Tim Stracke) and often features the same brands you see at Windup.
If you’re considering attending one or both events next October, here are some of the things to consider. First off, both events also take place on the West Coast.Windup New York has been organizing an annual gathering in San Francisco since 2018, and WatchTime held its first event in Los Angeles this year. It’s only a matter of time before another event pops up somewhere between the two. If you’re in Europe, WatchTime hosts a yearly event in Germany: WatchTime Düsseldorf. However, some years have seen the event venue move to Munich. Windup only takes place in the US, but there’s no saying what the future holds.
These two events could not be more different from each other, and that’s the way they like it. Despite their differences, the number of people who visit both is quite striking. The same group you find all gussied up at WatchTime can be seen a few hours later with their hair down and a beer in their hands, casually strolling the Windup fair. It’s also worth noting that, while Windup takes place from Friday to Sunday, WatchTime is technically a one-day affair. There’s a VIP evening on Friday followed by the main attraction on Saturday. This makes it easier to split your time between events, just like my colleagues and I did.
New York City has no problem concurrently hosting two equally successful events for the same industry. I doubt many other cities could pull that off, as each event tries to outdo both itself and its competition year after year. WatchTime demonstrates how important luxury brands are to consumers and the community’s desire to interact with them. On the other hand, Windup makes it clear that more affordable timepieces have a wide following. Do WatchTime and Windup have a place in the larger world of watch events? Absolutely. We wish them continued growth and success and can’t wait to go back in 2020. Until then!