Profiles in Style: Blueprints

New York’s architecture and design community is having something of a moment. Over the past decade, the city has played incubator to a fresh crop of talent, business-savvy collaborators and self-producers with an eye on the future and a healthy appetite for risk. They aren’t siloed by specialization. Buildings, interiors, graphics, lighting, product, branding—anything goes. They use 3-D printers, run pared-back studios and are sought after by premier European manufacturers. Basically, they’re making the job cool again.

Naturally, we wondered about their taste in watches.

In keeping with the spirit of our Design Issue, Watch Journal rounded up a selection of fine timepieces, an eclectic mix of classics and newcomers, all of them with blue dials. (Naturally.) Then we met with five of New York’s best young architects and designers, laid out the watches, and let them choose what went on their wrist during our photo shoot.

Consider this an introduction to the design bellwethers of the moment, a snapshot of their personal styles, and an insight into their horological leanings.


Name: Dror Benshetrit
From: Tel Aviv
Studio location: Chelsea
Known for: Architecture on Zaya Nurai Island, named the “World’s Most Luxurious Project” by Newsweek; designing the “Peacock Chair” for Cappellini, featured in Rihanna’s “S&M” music video; his signature line of home goods for Target; designing WeWork interiors
Picks: Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantième, Girard-Perregaux Laureato

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantième
Girard-Perregaux Laureato

Dror says: “My first important watch was a strange choice. It was a Hamilton Ventura, the famous one with the triangle-shaped case. Somebody gifted it to me, and it really got me into the culture of watches. Then I was wearing, for a very long time, the classic Bell & Ross and also a Hublot. I’m really not so used to small watches. So this one [the Jaquet Droz] feels very good. The Girard-Perregaux, I like the shape. I’m drawn to the elegance of it.”


Name: Stephanie Goto
From: New York
Studio location: Union Square
Known for: Designing three Michelin-starred restaurants in New York (Piora, Corton, Aldea); the homes of several notable chefs, including Daniel Boulud; selecting furniture for the Museum of Arts and Design; overhauling the project space at the Calder Foundation; editing the Journal of Architecture’s fifth volume
Pick: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin

Stephanie says: “I’m actually in the process of acquiring [a Royal Oak] right now, so this is sort of my test run. I met an Audemars executive at Art Basel a few years ago, and tried on the watch. It felt a little big, at least for me, but when they came out with the Extra-Thin, I was like, ‘Okay, this is perfect.’ . . . It’s just so classic, that Royal Oak shape, and the stainless band is very in line with the work I do. Understated, but detailed. I think there’s a real beauty in the design of the mechanics, too. It’s so beautiful. I love it! When is mine coming?”


Name: Marc Thorpe
From: Nashville, Tennessee
Studio location: DUMBO
Known for: “The Mark Table” and “Blur Sofa” for Moroso, featured at Salone del Mobile and in Vogue Living; creating retail spaces for Acqua Di Parma and Under Armour; the Ducati Project E electric motorcycle concept; Infiniti Pavilion at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
Picks: Panerai Luminor Due, Patek Philippe Complications Annual Calendar 

Panerai Luminor Due
Patek Philippe Complications Annual Calendar

Marc says: “The Panerai is more my style. I like simple watches. Well, simple faces at least. IWC Portugieser, Rolex Explorer, Omega Speedmaster. I’ve got a little collection, you know, just six pieces, my go-to watches. One of them is a Panerai Radiomir Black Seal, which I really love. But the Patek is just so beautiful. If one of you doesn’t ask me to give it back soon, I’m going to walk out of here wearing it. Actually, wait. . . . [retrieves iPhone] Can I take a photo of it on my wrist?”


Name: Todd Bracher
From: New York
Studio location: Brooklyn Navy Yard
Known for: Serving as creative director at Georg Jensen; “Distil Table” for Herman Miller; “The Architect’s Chandelier” for Swarovski; creating 3M Architecture’s award-winning LED lighting installations; packaging for Issey Miyake fragrances; the SodaStream Fountain
Pick: IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII

IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII

Todd says: “I don’t like the Apple Watch, but it opened up my mind to the idea of getting a Garmin watch, which is really big, like 50 mm. It’s funny how dainty another watch feels after that. But the IWC, yeah, this is a proper watch. Quiet, introverted in some ways, while being fiercely precise. I like the [dial] color. The blues tend to be quite polarizing, and this one’s not the most obvious shade…. There’s something about the joy of going backwards, too. I’m in the process of dumbing down my phone, turning off push notifications, that kind of thing. The IWC captures a sophisticated simplicity. That speaks to me.”


Name: Joe Doucet
From: Terrell, Texas
Studio location: DUMBO
Known for: “Duet Task Chair” for Bernhardt; “Alba Decanter” for Nude glassware; “Minim” playing cards for Areaware; the bottle design for SŌTŌ sake; packaging for Hugo Boss bodywear; cofounding the 3D-printed premium household products brand OTHR
Picks: NOMOS Glashütte Metro at Work

NOMOS Glashütte Metro at Work

Joe says: “My first real buy was a Panerai. I got it when I made partner [at New York creative agency KBP]. It was my little treat to myself, you know? Now I’ve got a few watches. Got the vintage [Rolex] Submariner. But my daily go-to is an IWC Portofino. Simple, blue dial. I tend to go for things that look and feel quite understated. The NOMOS, I like the overall aesthetic, especially that little pop of color on the subdial hand. Plus it feels really light on the wrist. I know it’s not the most expensive, but it’s the one I’d go for.”

The Mercedes Benz G-wagen (1979-2018)

Encased in amber on this page is a collection of parts representing a greater sum, a tool made redundant by progress but reborn as a status symbol, an anachronism that survived as the object of enthusiast lust. Sound familiar? Parallels to the wristwatch aside, we loved the original Mercedes-Benz Geländewagen because of what it represented: an epic and improbable triumph of smart engineering and authentic style.

The backstory is equally as improbable. The first prototypes were commissioned in 1973 by the Shah of Iran, at that time a major Mercedes-Benz shareholder. He asked the company to create an all-new truck, one that could traverse his kingdom’s vast and harsh terrain. The resulting machine, equipped with a stout diesel engine and hardcore four-wheel-drive system, resembled a Jeep that subscribed to Architectural Digest and liked hitting the squat rack. It underwent extensive torture testing in the Arctic Circle and Sahara Desert, only to arrive in early 1979—just after the Shah was deposed.

The original 280 GE on display before the new model’s arrival at the North American International Auto Show, in Detroit. (Photo: Daimler/Deniz Saylan)

Not that it mattered. Build by hand at a dedicated facility in Graz, Austria, the new truck’s overall rugged construction, robust mechanicals, and freakish off-road abilities were a revelation. It wasn’t long before the Geländewagen, known colloquially as the “G-wagen,” found its way into military fleets around the globe. Mercedes began offering a street-legal version to civilians across Europe. Sales held steady throughout the 1980s.

Then something funny happened. Which is to say, nothing happened.

 (Photo: Daimler/Deniz Saylan)

Whereas modern cars get styling tweaks after two or three years, and a clean-sheet redesign after seven or eight, the Mercedes saw just one exterior overhaul, in 1990. Even then, it retained the same durable body-on-frame bones, the same upright windscreen, and squared-off profile. When the G-wagen finally arrived at U.S. dealerships, in 2002, it was stuffed with premium features and a complex V-8 engine but still rode on its original steel chassis. Customers lined up to pay six figures for what was essentially a brand-new antique.

They quickly discovered that, as a commuter vehicle, the G-wagen was compromised in nearly every facet. The mega-tall roof, engineered to accommodate a high seating position for scanning rutted dersert topography, became an albatross in parking garages. The soft suspension and slow steering were ideal for off-road handling but sloppier than a soup sandwich on asphalt. The braking performance and fuel economy, about which the less said, the better.

The original 280 GE on display before the new model’s arrival at the North American International Auto Show, in Detroit. (Photo: Daimler/Deniz Saylan)

But the design resonated. Rolling around Beverly Hills or South Beach, where a curvaceous, high-tech supercar is all but mandatory, the G-wagen’s brutal angularity and warhorse vibe seemed vaguely rebellious and deeply cool. Mercedes leaned into the silliness, offering customers new levels of conspicuous absurdity—a six-wheel version, an exotic twin-turbo V-12 engine, a special-edition wearing fluorescent yellow paint. Incredibly, the G-wagen, effectively unchanged after nearly four decades in production, hit record sales last year before its all-new replacement was announced.

The cynical take is that we, as a people, are attracted to excess. Maybe that’s true. But the G-wagen’s brand of excess stood for something, even if many of the customers didn’t realize it. Planned obsolescence is a treadmill; newness is a cult. But function and quality, and good design, are forever.


Paul’s Take…

“The G-wagen succeeds because it’s a piece of anti-design design. Of course, there’s something disingenuous about that—it’s a very elaborate, powerful, luxurious vehicle. But it’s ostentatiously boxy, and looks plain in the same way that someone in jeans doesn’t look dressed up. It’s a brilliant piece of reverse snobbery, which is why it took on a whole new life as a luxury vehicle. It appeals to people who want to spend a lot of money and avoid conventional status symbols.” 

— Paul Goldberger, architecture critic and Vanity Fair contributing editor

Travel Time: The 9 Coolest Spots in Berlin

While company headquarters are two hours south, NOMOS Glashütte’s in-house design studio is located in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. The area’s hipper than all get-out, a sprawling collection of third-wave coffee shops, art galleries, and vintage shops, home to punks, poets, students, and a strong contingent of Turkish expats. NOMOS maintains that the influence of Kreuzberg, and Berlin in general, is central to the handsome, modern aesthetic of its timepieces. We asked the brand’s design team to give us the lowdown on the city’s coolest spots.


1. Michelberger Hotel

“This beautifully converted factory building is a favorite of ours. [Award-winning furniture designer] Werner Aisslinger—who recently collaborated with NOMOS—designed the interior of this vibrant, homey, and creative hotel in Friedrichshain. The restaurant and bar are always worth a visit, too.”

2. Hotel Oderberger Swimming Pool

Hotel Oderberger Swimming Pool

“This boutique hotel occupies an old public bathing house [designed by architect Ludwig Hoffmann in 1898]—the rooms still have some of the old features, and, most importantly, the swimming pool is open for all. We held an event here last summer to launch its Aqua series.”

3. Lode & Stijn

The Dutch Chef Duo in charge of Lode & Stijn. Photo by Lena Ganssmann

“Contemporary, inventive, and down-to-earth in the heart of Kreuzberg, Lode & Stijn is a beautiful little restaurant that has built its reputation on local, seasonal cooking in a relaxed but elegant little space. It’s great for a drink and some bar snacks, or a leisurely evening with their carefully selected five-course menu.”

4. Katz Orange

Katz Orange

“Tucked away in the sweet courtyard of a converted brewery, Katz Orange is a treat. There’s a cozy bar with delicious cocktails, which opens out onto the courtyard in summer. Then there’s the menu of slow-food delights, put together by the brilliant German chef Daniel Finke. We also think they have great taste in desserts—try the petit fours, to which we have dedicated our latest series of Tetra watches.”

5. Kranhaus Café Schöneweide

“This small café is on a ship, on the banks of the Spree river, anchored between the AEG Hall and the so-called Behrens Bau—the former flagship buildings of Berlin’s industrialization. Our watches are made in Germany, and are influenced by German industrial design in the traditions of Bauhaus and the Deutscher Werkbund, which makes the place even more special.”

6. Turkish Market, Maybachufer, Kreuzberg

“Every Tuesday and Friday, countless vendors set up their stalls along the Landwehr Canal, selling everything from fabric and fruit to falafel wraps. NOMOS employees can often be found here on their lunch breaks, having a stroll, or getting groceries.”

7. Berlinische Galerie

“This is one of our favorite museums in Berlin, as it focuses on local art from the past 150 years, giving a real insight into the cultural history of the city. Besides the beautiful permanent collection [which includes works by Max Liebermann, Otto Dix, and Hannah Höch], there is always a temporary show worth visiting.”

8. Bauhaus Archive/Museum of Design

Berlinische Galerie Treppengalerie. Photo by Nina Strassguetl.

“It’s no secret what a source of inspiration the Bauhaus movement is to our aesthetic. This iconic building, designed by the great Walter Gropius [in 1964], houses one of the largest collections of Bauhaus material.”

9. Boros Bunker

Boros Collection. Photo by Noshe

“Only in Berlin can you find 3,000 meters of exhibition space in a converted war bunker. We share the Boros’ love for clean and creative design, rooted in the 20th century but constantly in dialogue with today’s developments. [Famed art collectors] Christian and Karen Boros have built their home onto the top floor of the bunker; on the many floors below, they put on an impressive exhibition.”

Travel Time: Berlin

Venice may be more picturesque.
London may be more polished.

But nothing compares to the raw energy of Berlin.

Here, in Europe’s undisputed capital of contemporary art, the grit and graffiti have an appealing allure. And yet, Berlin is growing up. Sure, you can still party hard in the techno clubs in bombed-out warehouses, but you can just as easily find expertly crafted cocktails at boho rooftop bars and moody speakeasy-style joints. Foodies, take note: Berlin now has more Michelin-starred restaurants than Copenhagen, with talented young chefs redefining German cuisine, making the city’s culinary scene more dynamic than ever.

Ahead, our guide to unwinding, indulging, and getting cultured like a Berliner.


Where to stay… 

A grande dame opened in 1909 and overlooking the Brandenburg Gate, the Hotel Adlon Kempinski (from $335 per night) survived World War II only to burn to the ground shortly after. It was rebuilt to the original exacting standards in 1997 and continues to innovate. The rooms may be traditional in style, but the restaurant Sra Bua by Tim Raue—Germany’s hottest chef—is contemporary in both concept (e.g., pan-Asian dishes prepared with haute cuisine techniques) and design.

Sophisticated travelers, including A-listers like Tom Hanks, check into Rocco Forte’s Hotel de Rome (from $385 per night) for a chic pied-à-terre away from the crowds but still centrally located in Mitte. This five-star property, which occupies the landmarked Dresdner Bank across from the Staatsoper Opera House, boasts a modern design and contemporary art. On a warm evening, the rooftop bar is the place to be.

Located in Charlottenburg, on the city’s more commercialized west side, Hotel Zoo (from $245 per night) is eye-catching. Whimsical touches abound, from birdcage chandeliers in the restaurant to elevator art depicting paparazzi whose cameras flash when you enter. The attention to detail extends to the in-room rotary phones and bathrobes by Maison Margiela.

Where to play…

A T-shirt in the window of this Michelin-starred restaurant near Checkpoint Charlie reads “Who the fuck is Paul Bocuse?” That pretty much sums up the cheeky attitude at Nobelhart & Schmutzig, where vinyl albums spin as diners, seated at an L-shaped counter, sip biodynamic wine and watch the chefs prepare hyper-local dishes in an open kitchen.

The Michelin-starred Pauly Saal was once a Jewish girls’ school, and it retains the original tiled walls from the gymnasium, in interesting contrast with the Murano glass chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. But the real reason to go is Arne Anker, the talented chef who’s creating truly artful New German cuisine.

Come happy hour, you’re likely to find Berlin’s creative types at the Monkey Bar, located on the rooftop of the 25 Hours Hotel Bikini Berlin, gathering for craft cocktails with views of the west side. Order a refreshing Garden & Tonic (gin, maraschino liqueur, celery bitters, tonic water, fresh cucumber, and mint) and watch the sunset.

For a post-dinner nightcap, head to the acclaimed speakeasy-style Buck & Breck. Ring the bell to gain entry, then appreciate the intimate vibe inside,  where expert bartenders stir and shake some of the city’s best cocktails.


Pocket guide… Mitte District

  • The magnificent Staatsoper opera house, originally commissioned by King Frederick of Prussia, recently reopened after a seven-year renovation, ushering in a new era for opera in Berlin. The retouched hall has better acoustics, improved visibility of the stage, and a fresh gloss.
  • The Pergamon Museum on Museum Island may be closed for renovation, but a temporary building housing a panorama and 3-D simulation of the Pergamon Altar will open in April, giving visitors an overview of this ancient wonder.
  • For a taste of the city’s world-famous contemporary art scene, head to the KW Institut for Contemporary Art, where a series of exhibitions by emerging and established artists are spread out over several floors. The leafy courtyard is a pleasant place to sit and sip a coffee after viewing the art.
  • Prominently located in the heart of Mitte near the Brandenburg Gate, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe by American architect Peter Eisenman serves as a somber reminder of Germany’s dark history. Walking through the rows of steel-gray stelae, you feel claustrophobic—and that’s the point. It’s worth taking time to reflect on what happened here.

Berlin according to… Kimia Kline

The Brooklyn-based painter and curator at Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel spent last September in Berlin doing a residency with 68Projects. She shares her favorite places to see art, eat, and unwind.

“Berlin is one of Europe’s best cities for art. If you can visit during the last weekend in April, you’ll be able to catch Gallery Weekend and see some world-class exhibitions. My favorite galleries are Philipp Haverkampf, 68Projects, Contemporary Fine Arts, and König Galerie.”

“In addition to galleries, the museums are filled with incredible art collections. The Neues Museum is home to one of the most impressive Egyptian collections in the world, and also houses the exquisite bust of Nefertiti. For German Expressionism at its best, visit the Käthe Kollwitz Museum in Charlottenburg and the Brücke Museum.”

“Public spaces are taken seriously in Berlin, with beautiful parks scattered throughout the whole city. Visit Görlitzer Park for an afternoon picnic or nap in the grass, then head over to Admiralbrücke Bridge to feed the swans and take a boat ride down the river.”

“My favorite restaurant in the whole city is Der Goldene Hahn. It has a rotating seasonal menu and great atmosphere. Think speakeasy meets Italian pasta house.”

Max Büsser’s Accidental Art Gallery Empire

When Maximilian Büsser opened the original Mechanical Art Devices Gallery in Geneva, in October 2011, he never expected to sell any of the artworks on display.

They were simply meant to contextualize his watchmaking collective, MB&F, and its experimental Horological Machines line of timepieces—“to demonstrate our path of thinking,” he says. But the gallery proved an incredible success as a showplace for fantastical kinetic art. So successful, in fact, that it spawned two satellite locations: Taipei and Dubai, which opened in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

Achille Varzi at the Circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, circa 1947. The photo is part of M.A.D. Geneva’s “For the Thrill of Speed” exhibition, featuring the work of French racing photographer René Pari.

For Büsser, a veteran of the watch and jewelry industry, the M.A.D. gallery led to a second professional life, as a curator. It’s a role he never expected but very clearly loves. His newfound passion for fine art and fascination with machinery meet in “For the Thrill of Speed,” a rare static exhibition at M.A.D. Geneva. It encompasses a collection of auto racing photographs by the late French racing photographer René Pari, which were painstakingly resurrected from damaged negatives by artists Daniel Berque and Serge Brison.

Before the grand opening of “For the Thrill of Speed” in Geneva, Büsser spoke to Watch Journal about the origins of the gallery, what he looks for in an artist, and why he prefers co-creation to inspiration.


What was the genesis of the gallery concept?

Most retailers didn’t understand what we were trying to do with our Horological Machines. They’d look at our pieces and say, ‘This is not a watch.’ I thought maybe our pieces should be presented in art galleries, so I went to see some art galleries, and they said, ‘Well, this isn’t art, it’s a watch.’ Clearly, something wasn’t working.

I realized I needed some sort of hybrid concept. It had to be an art gallery which was specifically catering to mechanical or kinetic art, so people would understand what we were trying to do. Initially, it was like a decoding machine. If you understand Frank Buchwald and his incredible machine lights, then maybe you’ll understand our Horological Machine. If you want a motorbike, you go get a Ducati, or a Harley Davidson; if you want a work of art, you get a Chicara Nagata. By the same token, if you want the time, you buy a Samsung or an Apple Watch. If you want a piece of art, you buy an MB&F.

What do you look for in an artist and where do you find them?

Initially, we were scouring the internet. Remember, we had a blog, “Parallel World,” on the website, and every week for ten years we had a post always talking about things that amazed me—things that I wanted to share. In doing this, I bumped into a lot of incredible creations and creators. We were very active at the beginning looking for artists we’d be proud to showcase; now we have a certain amount of artists who contact us.

I always say the M.A.D. Gallery is an orphanage because virtually all of the artists we showcase are either misunderstood or shunned by traditional galleries. Because traditional galleries are usually interested in paintings, photos, mixed media. Kinetic art is something ninety-nine percent of galleries don’t understand or want to deal with.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Definitely Damien Bénéteau, who does these incredible light sculptures. There is of course Bob Potts, the American artist who does these flying machines, which are so beautiful—real kinetic art. There is this incredible Turkish artist, Server Demirtaş, who had a solo show last May. He does these android robots who come to life and they’re mind-boggling. And we introduced an English kinetic artist called Ivan Black who created what looks like a lamp, which is actually a kinetic art piece that starts moving, and does incredible choreography. And I’ll finish with Nils Völker, who does choreography—we’re very much into choreography these days. Artists who create pieces that are beautiful to look at but when they start moving, they’re like a ballet.


Frank Buchwald
“Machine Lights Type No. 5” feels anatomical, mounting hand-crafted
lamps on alien-like, four-footed bases with quasi-corporeal symmetry
Server Demirtas
“Contemplating Woman’s Machine III” incorporates a complex network of
wires and Plexiglas cogs to execute hauntingly fluid movements
Chicara Nagata
“Art Three” took nearly 6,000 hours to complete, an undertaking that
involved more than 500 custom components, each fabricated by hand
Nils Völker
“Royal Blue” features 16 decorative honeycombs, which fold, unfold, and
pirouette in unison. Think: oragami flowers meet synchronized swimming.

Ivan Black
“Nebula Hive” is chandelier for the 21st century, a luminous vortex that
variably dims and spins to transform into countless celestial forms.

Do you find yourself inspired by the artwork when creating timepieces for MB&F?

I’m sure I am, but it’s not something very blatant. It’s not like I love Frank Buchwald’s machine lights, and then say, “Let’s do a watch that captures his style.” I wouldn’t have much pride in copying something that exists from someone who’s created something incredible. It actually infuses me. There are times when we’ve co-created, as with the LM1 Xia Hang, which has the little alien who falls asleep as a power reserve indicator [a collaboration with Chinese sculptor Xia Hang]. So we will sit down and say, “Why don’t we create something together?”

How do “co-creations” work?

The first co-creation we did was with Reuge, the music box company. It happened because we had some Reuge boxes at the beginning of M.A.D. Gallery; I loved them but they didn’t speak to me. So I went to them and we made MusicMachine 1 [an unconventional music box]. Then we started doing the clocks, the Caran d’Ache pen [known as the Astrograph]. All these clocks, music boxes, and pens very much have in mind creating 3-D kinetic art for the galleries. So it’s sort of, what goes around comes around. The gallery was there to make people understand MB&F and now MB&F is creating objects for the gallery.

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