Every October, New York City plays host to two major watch trade events: WatchTime New York and the Windup Watch Fair. The two shows—coupled with the many brand-specific launches and parties that crop up around them—add up to a kind of unofficial NYC watch week.
WatchTime New York is held in the epic Gotham Hall on Broadway and 36th St., while the Windup Watch Fair set up in a large pop-up space at Chelsea Market. Weaving through the big shows are various brand-driven press events and launch parties designed to capitalize on the retailers, watch enthusiasts, collectors, and members of the media that have gathered in NYC to attend them.
The watch industry is always evolving, and the annual week of shows typically points to what’s new, hot, and worth watching in the industry. Here were my main takeaways from the week-long swirl of shows and happenings.
Micro-Brands Are Here to Stay
The Windup Watch Fair, hosted by watch review website Worn & Wound, is a Mecca for micro-brands: the small-scale, boutique timepiece brands that aren’t yet household names, but inspire deep devotion from watch lovers. Judging by the huge number of attendees at the event, it’s safe to say that micro-brands aren’t going anywhere. Small-but-buzzy brand Monta was getting a tremendous amount of attention, as was Brew Watch Co., which has shown up on the wrists of television personalities including Alton Brown and Fred Savage. Watches are for everyone, not just the world’s one-percenters, and micro-brands are increasingly finding ways to make that statement a reality by offering really special and well-made watches at relatively accessible prices (Brew’s great-looking watches start at $350).
Most Buyers Understand that Grand Seiko and Seiko are Different—But Not All
Having attended the Time Out Watch Fair at jewelry retailer Little Treasury Jewelers in Gambril, Md., a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of the major impact Grand Seiko has (and continues to have) on the watch community at large. The brand’s collectors and their retailers truly get it. And seeing the brand’s tremendously crowded booth at the WatchTime NY show underscored that point. But it wasn’t until I spoke to a couple of watch enthusiasts, both wearing Rolex, who had travelled up to the show from the Philadelphia market that I realized not everyone understands the difference between Grand Seiko and Seiko.
To be clear: Luxury watchmaker Grand Seiko Corporation of America is a standalone company, but a wholly owned subsidiary of Seiko Watch Corporation. I tried to explain to these two buyers that there’s a stark difference between the two brands, but they weren’t able to wrap their heads around that. Is the association hurting Grand Seiko? The brand is selling like hotcakes, so maybe not (and maybe the Rolex-loving buyers simply weren’t their customer). On the other hand, I wonder if Grand Seiko should be doing more to differentiate themselves from the workaday Seiko brand it so successfully spun off of.
Responsible Environmental Practices Do Exist in the Watch World
Back in late August, Swiss watch brand Oris released the Aquis Date Upcycle watch, an entirely new version of their popular high-performance diver’s watch with a dial made of recycled PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) plastic gathered during Ocean cleanups. The two versions of this watch–available in 41.5mm and 36.6mm sizes–were showcased by the brand at both WatchTime NY as well as the Windup Watch Fair, “We’ve had such an incredible response to these watches,” Oris’ North American CEO, V.J. Geronimo, told me. “People love the idea behind it, but they also love that each watch is one-of-a-kind.”
Another young Swiss indie watch brand, Norqain, showcased its classic-feeling watches that prioritize sustainable materials, including straps made from Perlon rubber produced in Switzerland by BIWI, a company that specializes in vegan-certified products.
The Music and Watch Industries Are Natural Collaborators
Music has loads to do with timekeeping, and the watch world has happily embraced musical collaborations. At WatchTime NY, De Bethune watches, which is now in partnership with Philadelphia-based pre-owned seller WatchBox, released its limited-edition Dream Watch 5 Tourbillon ‘Season 1’ watch in collaboration with music producer and rap artist, Swizz Beatz. Only ten pieces of the watch were manufactured, and Swizz Beatz was on-hand at both WatchTime NY and at the launch party afterward to show his personal model off.
Top photo: Grand Seiko Sport Collection model #SBGM247 (courtesy of @grandseikousa)