I’d never heard of Ben Silverman before, but when I received an invitation to celebrate the U.S. launch of Vacheron Constantin’s Harmony collection at “the Silverman residence” in Los Angeles’ Pacific Palisades neighborhood on Friday night, I knew better than to turn it down.
As a veteran of Swiss watchmaking events, I thought I knew what to expect: a tasteful, very rich home; expensive wine and fine liquor; sophisticated hors d’oeuvres; and a crowd of collectors and clients (presumably, white and old men representing the banking and real estate industries).
The first clue that this party was—and was not—that came shortly after my boyfriend Jim and I pulled up to the property on swanky Spoleto Drive. I’ll leave it to Zillow to describe the house: a five-bedroom, seven-bath “East Coast Traditional estate in exclusive Riviera rim location” that last sold in March 2008 for $10.2 million. Tasteful, very rich residence? Check.
Upon entering the home, Jim and I were greeted by two waiters, one offering flutes of Champagne, the other glasses of chilled rosé. In the kitchen, a charcuterie- and cheese-lover’s dream awaited us: plates of gourmet cheeses and meats, bowls of fresh bread drizzled with olive oil, and candied walnuts and pecans.
We made our way to the backyard, and found a bar manned by Masa Urushido, a mustachioed mixologist and ice sculptor who’d perfected his technique at the Tokyo hotspot Tableaux. Starting with a large rectangular block of ice, Urushido whittled hunks of it down to perfectly formed spheres in the fine tradition of ice carving, a staple of Japanese bartending. He placed a single sphere into a highball glass, poured an expensive Kentucky bourbon (Blanton’s Single Barrel) over it, and handed it to a smiling Jim. Around the corner, a more conventional bar served inventive cocktails. Expensive wine and fine liquor? Check.
Mixologist and ice sculptor Masa Urushido
As we took in the lavish setting, we didn’t know where to focus our eyes. The displays of Vacheron Constantin timepieces stationed around the patio? The long graceful swimming pool, the surface of which emanated wispy clouds of heat? The canyon views offering glimpses of the nearby Pacific Ocean? The watchmaking bench where 35-year industry veteran Richard Rogers demonstrated his craft?
Drawn by a wafting scent, we wandered over to the grill, where Travis Lett, head chef of Gjelina, a foodie favorite in Venice Beach, was cooking a Copper River king salmon. He promised us he’d keep things simple—a little lemon, a little crème fraîche—so as not to corrupt the fish’s natural flavors. Meanwhile, handsome waiters passed plates of mushroom toast seasoned with thyme, crispy falafel balls, and garlicky plates of asparagus. Sophisticated hors d’oeuvres? Check, check, check.
The Copper River king salmon prepared by Gjelina’s Travis Lett
So far, the party was as stylish and upscale as I’d expected. We’d arrived promptly at 7 p.m., expecting to stay maybe an hour. But as more guests began to crowd the terrace, and the DJ hit his stride, we decided to linger and enjoy the scene, which was quickly proving to be far hipper, younger, more diverse, and filled with more Tinseltown heavies than any watch event I’ve ever attended (save for, perhaps, IWC Schaffhausen’s glamorous shindigs, owing to CEO Georges Kern’s obsession with Hollywood A-listers).
We still had no clue who our host was, or how he was connected to Vacheron, so I flagged down fellow watch writer Degen Pener, a former editor at The Hollywood Reporter, and he filled us in. Silverman, we learned, is the founder and CEO of Electus, a studio financed by Barry Diller’s IAC. Prior to starting his own company, he served as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment. As an up-and-coming producer, he cocreated and executive produced hits like The Biggest Loser, The Office, and Ugly Betty.
Pener pointed out some equally major power brokers in our midst: Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, big-time agent Jim Wiatt, and party co-host Robert Kyncl, head of content and business operations at YouTube.
Clearly, Vacheron—led by the brand’s new president of North American operations, Vincent Brun—was courting Hollywood tastemakers, sparing no expense to prove to them why the world’s oldest continually producing watchmaking firm (260 years old as of 2015!) was still relevant.
If there was any doubt about that mission, Silverman dispelled it in his opening remarks:
“Robert and I are thrilled to bring our two worlds together tonight,” he said. “Both Robert and I lean in from the other side. We’re the San Fran–L.A. thing, and as the world changes, one thing stays the same and that’s super high quality. Vacheron and the team led by Vincent represent that. Obviously, it’s something that’s aspirational for Robert and me. We look and see and surround ourselves with the best artisans in the world like Richard, prince of the Vacheron brand.”
Then, Silverman introduced Brun as “a new friend.”
“He’s allowed us to have Travis and Gjelina here, and to mash up our vibe and his vibe. Everyone with a blazer on and sneakers, say yahoo! And thank you, Vincent!”
After Silverman’s speech, Jim and I poached him for a minute to ask him about the party. But we didn’t get very far. He seemed genuinely excited to see us, if perhaps a tad perplexed by our unrecognizable faces, but he was so distracted and exuberant that I only had time to admire the Vacheron Constantin Overseas chronograph with blue dial on his wrist before he returned to his socializing (he’d promised an after “partay” at the house next door, which he also owns, and that’s where he promptly disappeared).
Before Jim and I did the same, we stopped to gawk at the Harmony Tourbillon Chronograph on display. At that exact moment, actor Rob Morrow of Northern Exposure fame approached the stand. The three of us stood in silence for a moment watching the tourbillon whirl inside its cage before I got up the courage to ask him if he was a collector.
Courtesy Vacheron Constantin
The Harmony Tourbillon Chronograph by Vacheron Constantin
“A collector? Not really. I used to have a few watches,” he said, glancing at his wrist and pulling up the sleeve so we could see his Patek Philippe Aquanaut with black dial on black strap.
Morrow then shared an anecdote with us about the watch—too long to relay here, and probably a little too intimate—that left all three of us smiling. The upshot, however, was clear: One of the most compelling reasons why high-end Swiss watchmakers like Vacheron Constantin continue to woo well-connected tastemakers, and why they’ll continue to find success: Nothing beats the allure of authentic luxury goods, nor the powerful retail therapy they provide, even—or especially—for those who appear to have it all.