Watches: Vacheron’s New World Time Model, Madison Avenue Watch Week



Wrinkles in Time

For jet-setters with a penchant for mechanical watches, a world time model epitomizes stylish sophistication. Not only does the wristwatch simultaneously display the time in the 24 time zones established by the 1884 International Meridian Conference in Washington, D.C., it does so in a manner that gives even armchair travelers a distinct thrill: Among the exotic locales featured on the dials of most world timers are the Azores, Moscow, and Nouméa in New Caledonia.

Since 1935, when the mechanism at the heart of the world timer was invented by Louis Cottier, a watchmaker in Geneva, the complication has featured prominently in the collections of many prestige brands. Patek Philippe’s World Time watch has long been seen as the standard bearer.

Although the cities touted on its dial have changed over time—Algiers, Calcutta, Dakar, Klondike, and Saigon were among the evocative names to appear on past Patek models—the brand, along with its peers in the world of haute horlogerie, was forced to rethink place names in 2007, when President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela declared that clocks in his country would be moved back by 30 minutes. Watchmakers had to decide what to do with Caracas, used to designate the time zone sandwiched between Rio de Janeiro and New York City.

Some, like Patek Philippe, chose to stick with the status quo. ­Others, such as Girard-Perregaux, A. Lange & Söhne, and Jaeger-LeCoultre, replaced Caracas with San Juan, Puerto Rico; Santiago, Chile; and St. Barts, respectively.

But this year, Vacheron Constantin upped the ante. In Geneva, the watchmaker introduced its new Patrimony Traditionnelle World Time, which shows Caracas’ time on the half hour. The model’s innovative movement is capable of indicating not only the full time zones but also the partial ones, “so as to reflect the exact temporal reality in the 37 time zones,” according to a press release. Now, if only the watch could help us keep track of daylight saving time.

On the Avenue

Hordes of tourists routinely descend on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue to browse, and buy, at its mega-sized luxury emporiums. Yet among connoisseurs, the less-trampled stretch of Madison Avenue between 57th and 86th streets has emerged as a much more exclusive shopping destination. Its concentration of high-end watch boutiques is a large part of the draw.


From April 11–16, Madison Avenue’s watch retailers hosted a high-end block party.


Hublot welcomed visitors to its Madison Avenue boutique, which opened in February.


Billy Farrell Agency (3)
Georg Jensen was among 19 retailers who participated in the weeklong promotion.

 

Recognizing that strength does, indeed, lie in numbers, 19 of the avenue’s watch retailers came together April 11–16 to host Madison Avenue Watch Week, a series of free and open-to-the-public cocktail parties, discussions, artisanal presentations, and collection previews. Participants included Breguet, Chopard, David Yurman, F.P. Journe, Graff, Georg Jensen, and Hublot.

“Look at the number of shops selling watches—it’s unparalleled,” says Matthew Bauer, president
of the Madison Avenue Business Improvement District, the organizer.

The promotion, intended to pique consumer interest in fine timepieces—and, presumably, spur sales—was fruitful even for retailers without a watchmaking tradition, like Graff. The London firm launched a timepiece collection two years ago but is better known for its large diamonds.

“It
was good to bring awareness to the watches,” says Peter Kairis,
managing director of Graff’s New York City flagship. He noted the
camaraderie shared by the avenue’s watch retailers, who are magnanimous
enough to recognize when clients are better suited to the competition.
“If it’s not in their power to purchase our watches,” Kairis says of
browsers bowled over by Graff’s prices, “we always recommend other
companies on the street.”