Are you planning a trip East for a bit of leaf-peeping this fall? Then, consider taking a short detour via New York City to catch two of the most popular consumer watch shows in the United States – the WindUp Watch Fair and WatchTime New York. Although these blockbuster shows are only a few years old, they draw thousands of watch collectors and enthusiasts each year.
WindUp Watch Fair and WatchTime New York aren’t your typical multi-vendor sales events targeted only at stores and suppliers – they’re more like ComicCons for watch lovers. You don’t have to have a business license or a special invitation to attend, and you can take those thousands of dollars you would have spent traveling to Geneva or Shanghai and purchase your favorite timepiece instead.
Some things they do have in common with the big watch shows in Switzerland and elsewhere are that they give you a front-row seat to new releases, a chance to talk directly to watchmakers, and highly informative expert panel discussions. Oh, and did we mention you get to hang out and talk watches with hundreds of other enthusiasts for hours on end? So strap on your favorite Omega Speedmaster or send that vintage Blancpain to a watch repair shop for a tune-up – you’ll want to be wearing one (or two) of your favorites when you walk into the show and start talking shop.
WindUp Watch Fair
The watch enthusiasts at Worn and Wound, a multimedia blog, created WUW in 2015 to offer everyone, from newbies to serious collectors, a chance to get up close and personal with independent watchmakers from around the globe. Not only are visitors allowed to see and feel their favorite pieces “in the metal,” but there’s a good chance they can purchase one of them on the spot if they want.
For many smaller independents and microbrands like Lorier, Baltic, and Nivada Grenchen, WindUp is the only place they can meet face-to-face with their customers. Most don’t have the client base to afford brick-and-mortar stores or extensive distributor networks, so they sell their wares primarily online. Baltic, for example, only has six authorized dealers and two showrooms worldwide (none of them are in the United States).
The event quickly grew popular with watch lovers around the nation, so Worn and Wound expanded it to San Francisco in mid-May 2018 and then to Chicago in July 2022. Chicago was slated to debut as a WUW location in 2020, but we all know the global pandemic had other plans. While the fair reconvened in New York in late 2021, the San Francisco and Chicago shows didn’t return until last year.
The WindUp Watch Fair is free, and this year’s exhibitor lineup promises to be stellar. You’ll be able to see familiar brands like Oris, Bulova, and Citizen, as well as smaller independents and microbrands, such as Baltic, Zodiac, Nivada Grenchen, and Lorier. All told the fair is expected to host more than 80 brands. WindUp has also attracted a few vintage dealers in the past, so you may want to keep your watch repair expert on speed dial if you happen to find a hidden gem that you can’t live without.
WatchTime New York
Watch Time Magazine is a premier New York-based watch enthusiast periodical founded in 1999 by the German Ebner Publishing Group and is responsible for creating WatchTime New York. The luxury watch show debuted in 2014 and features big hitters like Breguet, Piaget, and Ulysse Nardin. And while you probably won’t be walking home with a new watch from this fair, you’ll get the incredible opportunity to admire, handle, and even wear timepieces that likely cost more than your car (and maybe even your house).
As with other trade shows, the brands at WatchTime will be showing off new releases and U.S.-exclusive models, demonstrating cool complications, and talking about the latest industry trends. The most remarkable aspect of a show like WatchTime is that you will likely find the brand president or a high-level executive behind the booth answering questions.
You also won’t see any unapproachable booths cordoned off with velvet rope or mandatory income requirements at this event. For a modest daily entry fee ($39), Gotham Hall exhibitors are open for all watch enthusiasts, regardless of socioeconomic status. There is a VIP Friday night opening reception, but not to worry, the entry price is about as much as you’d pay for a famous Broadway show and includes access to the entire weekend’s activities ($189). You’re out of luck for this year since, though, since VIP tickets are all sold out.
WindUp and WatchTime occur on the same days, October 20-22, 2023, and the two venues are just over a mile apart. That’s a short drive, even in Midtown. With some planning and relatively little expense (unless you expect to make a purchase), you can easily make this an “all watches, all the time” weekend.
Engaging directly with watch lovers and collectors is an invaluable part of creating more enthusiasm around watch brands, big and small. And judging by the growing popularity of events like WindUp Watch Fair and WatchTime New York, it’s working.