For decades, the watch industry calendar has revolved around two events, both held in Switzerland: the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, in January, and Baselworld, in March. That all changed over Presidents Day weekend, when the inaugural Watches & Wonders Miami transformed South Florida into a horological mecca.
The event, a joint venture between the Fondation Haute Horlogerie and Miami Design District Associates, emphasized a party-like atmosphere and social media sharing. W&W Miami offered the general public unprecedented access to more than 20 premium watch brands including Bulgari, Hublot, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Parmigiani Fleurier, Tag Heuer, and Van Cleef & Arpels.
Some of them showed recent collections, museum pieces, and one-of-a-kind creations; others trotted out world premiers and top execs. Master watchmakers held classes; Buckminster Fuller’s “Fly’s Eye Dome” and other art installations, as well as a rolling street party, added an element of pageantry. Wristwatch aficionados and collectors descended in droves.
Notable guests included musician Brendan Fallis, actor and model Eric Rutherford, art collector Craig Robins, author Aaron Sigmond, and style bloggers Marcel Floruss and Lainy Hedaya.
Home timepieces don’t have to be sleepy. These contemporary table clock designs from Patek Philippe, Cartier, Panerai, and others will tempt collectors.
By Kareem Rashed
Dating back to the Renaissance era, clocks have long been a canvas for watchmakers’ creativity. Thanks to their generous surface area, clocks afford watchmakers the ability to flaunt their handicraft skills, from intricate engravings to elaborate enamel paintings. “During the 1920s, clocks from great jewelers and watchmakers surpassed mere mechanics and became outstanding works of art,” says Lee Siegelson, an esteemed dealer of estate jewelry and objects whose collection includes several museum-worthy art deco clocks. “The makers of these clocks designed increasingly complex and ingenious creations to continually outdo themselves and each other.”
Part of the allure of timepieces lies in their balance between form and function: they aren’t purely decorative, yet are more than just machinery. A great watch doesn’t simply tell the time—it has brains and beauty in equal measure. In that sense, table clocks are the ultimate symbol of the watchmaker’s talent: utilitarian mechanics housed within an artful package. So, while there is no shortage of options for telling the time today, there still isn’t anything that does the job quite as attractively as an exquisitely designed table clock.
Although table clocks may not be as ubiquitous as they once were, the range available today is as diverse, and desirable, as ever. Many of the most storied watch brands create a select few clocks annually that are prime examples of their watchmaking virtuosity—pure catnip for connoisseurs. More than just beautiful objets, these clocks celebrate the enduring appeal of craftsmanship in the face of an increasingly digitized world.
Patek Philippe has a rich heritage of creating exceptional clocks, including one gifted to J.F.K. in 1963 by the people of West Berlin depicting the time in Moscow, Washington, D.C., and Berlin. Their latest is “The Hour Circle,” a unique Bauhaus-inspired design that is meant to be viewed from above. The clock’s surface is a study in the art of enamel, with inqué and guilloché designs coated in a vibrant transparent blue.
Cartier’s annual high-jewelry collections showcase the breadth of their atelier’s technical abilities and always include a select number of one-of-a-kind clocks. This piece, in white gold, agate, onyx, turquoise, and diamonds, features a dial made of faceted amethyst. The mystery clock setting, which Cartier has championed since the 1920s, utilizes hour and minute hands affixed to clear crystal disks connected to a movement in the clock’s base, giving the illusion that the hands are floating within the dial.
The art deco era was arguably the table clock’s heyday, with numerous brands upping the design ante to create clocks on par with the fashions of the day. This piece, from the collection of Lee Siegelson, was designed for Boucheron in 1929 by Verger Frères, a leading clock manufacturer, and features a movement by Vacheron Constantin. Constructed at the same time as the Chrysler Building, the clock’s design is quintessential deco, with graphic, architectural lines rendered in nephrite, agate, gold, enamel, and coral.
For its first-ever table clock, Panerai scaled its iconic Radiomir dial up to 65 mm and encased it in a glass sphere. As with all of Panerai’s watches, the dial features luminous indices and an engraved logo. An open back, also topped with convex glass, allows a magnified view of the P.5000 caliber at work inside. The movement is hand-wound using the oversize polished-steel crown at the clock’s top and has a power reserve of eight days.
A striking monolith of polished obsidian provides the backdrop for this clock’s elaborate dial, embellished with three-dimensional carved mother-of-pearl and sculpted gold. The floral motif recalls the lacquered chinoiserie screens that Coco Chanel collected in her famed Paris apartment. An exhibition back reveals the openwork movement, which is wound with a gold key that is, naturally, studded with diamonds.
Part of a series of 12 clocks released to commemorate the brand’s 250th anniversary, this one-of-a-kind piece is capped with an arch of black tourmaline, highlighting the beauty of the stone’s natural inclusions. The transparent cabinet offers a full view of the constant-force, manually wound caliber 9260, which boasts an impressive 30-day power reserve. In a display of the house’s decorative savoir-faire, the Roman numerals and silver guilloché feet are coated with precious Grand Feu enamel, a notoriously difficult material.
L’Epée has been solely dedicated to crafting exceptional clocks since 1839, even producing wall clocks for ultra-luxe Concorde jets—the only timepieces ever to grace a civilian plane. Their Destination Moon clock draws on the Space Race craze of the 1960s, with a body that unmistakably resembles a toy rocket. The winding crown is at the rocket’s base, leading into a mainspring barrel cleverly disguised as a ladder, complete with a tiny silver astronaut. The time is displayed via two rotating discs towards the rocket’s top, the one concession to reality in this whimsical design.
The elements of great watchmaking-precision, ingenuity, beauty, surprise, delight—are all found in great food, and no one knows this better than chef Eric Ripert.
By Mark Rozzo
Chef Eric Ripert is a Vacheron Constantin ambassador, free-ranging watch collector, and zealous advocate for the high art of horology, the man who made New York’s Le Bernardin into the most sophisticated seafood restaurant in the world (with three Michelin stars) certainly knows his oysters—on the plate and on his wrist. He spoke with Watch Journal about watches, cooking, his undying regard for Swatch, and the mystery of time itself.
So how did you get hooked on watches?
I was very young, fourteen or fifteen years old, and my mother gave me a Cartier Santos, my first real watch. It’s a rare one. It was not a limited edition, but they didn’t do many of them. The dial window is sapphire; stainless-steel-and-gold bracelet. A very simple watch—a beautiful watch for a young kid. I still have it here in New York. But I think my wrist has grown a lot since I got that watch!
I hear you are quite fond of Swatch.
Yes! I still have a Swatch that says, “DON’T BE TOO LATE.” Swatch does a fantastic job. They reinvent themselves all the time, with artistic ones and some that look like luxury pieces. The coolness of Swatch doesn’t go away. I really started to be knowledgeable about watches in the late nineties, early 2000s. I got my first Vacheron Constantin and started to understand how you value a watch, which is not necessarily about the name itself or diamonds or gold. The value of the watch is about the complications. I had no idea about that.
So I started to enter that world through Vacheron Constantin, who actually mentored me. I went to Switzerland to visit the factory, and they taught me a lot. I didn’t know that every piece in each of those watches is decorated in a different way. And then the complications—the way they calculate the time and the moon and the sun, the rhythm of the planets and everything else.
Why was it that Vacheron Constantin became so important for you as a watch wearer and collector?
I like their philosophy. It’s about simplicity, not about having something flashy. The design is always very sober. It’s about the beauty of the details that only a collector will recognize. And, for me, what is interesting is that it has a lot in common with the craftsmanship that we have in a kitchen. There are a lot of similarities.
What I like most about watches is the fact that time—it’s not tangible, right? Time, the way they calculate time, to me, is still a mystery—exactly like the way we put flavors in a sauce. You cannot really measure the flavors that go to into a sauce. But we still do that. So we have that in common. And when I met with an artisan at Vacheron, I had a lot of discussions with him about that. So that created a lot of respect and friendship for the brand. I had that bonding with them, which creates loyalty.
What is it with chefs and watches? Thomas Keller loves Vacheron and Panerai. Daniel Humm has been an Audemars Piguet ambassador. Daniel Boulud likes his Rolex. Do you guys trade notes on watches the way you might talk about wine or Michelin stars?
First of all, they’re all very good brands, fantastic brands. Audemars Piguet is fantastic. I have some Rolexes at home also. You can take one of those from 1956 and put it on your wrist today. They’re totally timeless, in a sense. But when I talk with those guys, it’s usually more about drinking and eating! It’s sometimes about watches, but not so much.
Which one are you wearing right now?
A Vacheron Overseas, stainless steel. Some collectors put watches in a vault or in a safe and admire them. I like to wear them. My problem is that I am in a kitchen! But the Overseas is very strong and can be with me in a kitchen. I also have a Vacheron Constantin Patrimony in platinum. I wore it in the kitchen and within one month I was three times at the store. In the end, I was so embarrassed. I said, “Okay, I’m not going to wear it in the kitchen! I’ll just wear it outside.” I broke the glass. I got the bracelet—crocodile—drenched and stained with sauce and oil. I even burned one bracelet once. I was working by the stove, and I don’t know what happened. Instead of burning my wrist, the watch protected me. So it was burned. And again I was embarrassed. I was like, ‘Oh my god, I cannot call them and tell them about this—they’re gonna be, ‘How can you burn a bracelet?’ I did that with my Vacheron Constantin Historiques American 1921—such a great watch.
Owning these watches—and you have more than 20—implies responsibility, stewardship. Do you ever think about this in terms of passing down your own watches?
So my son is fourteen years old. He’s definitely not getting any watch from me now! [laughs] However, when he is more mature—and if he has an interest—I will obviously share with him the knowledge and the pleasure of having watches, along with the importance of supporting the craftsmanship that goes into creating those watches. To me, it’s about preserving the know-how of those artisans. It’s not about showing off. It’s a philosophical statement: I’m helping artisans who are carrying on generation after generation of incredible craftsmanship and precision.
Speaking of artisans, I know you don’t like having tech gadgets in the kitchen. You prefer to do things by hand.
I’m a guy who likes knives and a spatula and a whisk, and that’s it. I collect knives, too. I have some beautiful knives. But it’s the same thing, whether it’s about the art of cooking, the art of making a knife, the art of making a watch: It’s about the connection we have in common among artisans.
Do you always buy new, or do you sometimes do vintage?
Sometimes I do vintage. And in that case, I go to Tourneau. And I know a couple of collectors who’ll find you the watch that you want if you have something specific in mind. All those ultra-experts, the amazing collectors, they have something eccentric, something very unique-slash-crazy about them, in a good way. Anyone who’s really knowledgeable about watches has something crazy about him!
Are there any particular details you look for in a watch, like favorite complications, a certain kind of dial?
I like to know what is inside the watch, what nobody sees. I always look inside. They open the watch for me, and I look at all the pieces. They are all engraved with a different design. And that, for me, it’s like, “Wow.” Those pieces are so tiny and the precision is crazy. Not even a computer does that. It’s man-made.
And I’d guess you’ve bought watches for people in your life.
Yes, of course. For my wife, Sandra, mostly. She likes a lot of the designs that Cartier does. She has five or six watches she wears regularly. She has also an old Hublot, from about thirty years ago. The kind with a rubber bracelet. I got her that one. It’s so simple and gorgeous.
I like when I see you and you’ve got your prayer beads on one wrist and a Vacheron Overseas on the other. It seems like a healthy, elegant yin and yang, to mix religious metaphors.
At the end of the day, I think it represents part of my personality, right? It is what it is. Watches—they represent us, in a way. They are part of who we are.