Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
Glashutte Original movement. Courtesy of Glashutte.

Glashutte Original movement. Courtesy of Glashutte.

Systematic collecting of art and decorative objects seems quite old-fashioned today, especially when juxtaposed to our inherently spatially-challenged urban existence. Add to that the transitory character of our relationship to countries, cities, or even neighborhoods—all deriving from ambitious travel schedules and constant relocating imposed by work demands—and it appears that building a collection befits only those who can spend millions at a time at auctions for oversized canvases. Or does it?

Timecrafters, an annual exhibit of luxury brand watches (The Park Avenue Armory, September 14 and 15) challenged my previous views on collecting. Admittedly, I am not a regular in the circuit of luxury watches—but I am interested in timepieces and more so in luxury brands and their strategy in promoting objects that come with a hefty price tag (that reaches at times the range of one’s annual salary). At the show, I visited almost everyone’s booth and I spent quite some time at Audemars Piguet, Harry Winston, Glasshütte, De Bethune, Girard PerregauxRichard Mille, Julien Coudray 1518, A. Lange & Söhne.

Enlightened by the new information each brand imparted to me, I am now convinced that certain timepieces are in fact art pieces and that their function is secondary to their physical traits that define how innovative, artistic, and desirable each piece is. Looking back at how I perceived the world of luxury watches prior to my experience at Timecrafters, I am now aware of the limitations that define one’s understanding and that derive from lack of information. I am also happy to have been privy to a world where innovation in both the mechanical and artistic realms is the catalyst that transforms the luxury watch market and the community that supports it.

Five hundred years after the invention of the first portable watch we still miss most of what makes a timepiece important as a functional, conceptual, and creative piece. Not to know intimately something that we wear on our own wrist everyday is ironic—it is also an opportunity to develop a taste within an area of collecting that is less crowded than that of contemporary art, for example. But I would not be surprised to discover that the aforementioned brands cater to the connoisseurs of renaissance or contemporary art. They are the truly discerning collectors of contemporary timepieces.

© Thomaï Serdari