I went to NYC's biggest luxury watch show, and the most memorable part wasn't the $1.8 million diamond watch or the $182,000 piece they let me try on

WatchTime NYC 2018Lina Batarags/Business InsiderThe view of the exhibition floor at WatchTime New York.Lina Batarags/Business Insider

  • WatchTime New York is the biggest luxury watch show in NYC.
  • It features exhibits by many of the biggest and most respected names in the luxury watch business, including Bovet, Montblanc, MB&F, and Breguet.
  • I know very little (read: almost nothing) about watches, but I decided to check it out.

I'll preface this by saying I know very little about watches. I have a $100 Skagen that I've been wearing every day since I got it for Christmas two years ago and that, aside from some waterproof stopwatches I wore as a teenager, is the extent of my watch ownership.

But, as the executive life editor for Busines Insider, I'm fascinated by the endless trappings of luxury, even the ones on our wrists, so I decided to check out WatchTime New York, NYC's biggest luxury watch show.

The late October show is a two-day day event in midtown Manhattan. This was its fourth year running, and it was co-hosted by watch publication WatchTime and luxury blog and Instagram account Watch Anish.

It's a testament to the buzzy energy at the show, and to the attentiveness of the PR team that was showing me around, that I didn't feel completely lost.

Here's what it's like inside NYC's biggest luxury watch show.

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WatchTime New York is a two-day event. It's the biggest luxury watch show in NYC, and for the fourth year running, it was held in Gotham Hall, a couple of blocks from Bryant Park in midtown.

WatchTime New York is a two-day event. It's the biggest luxury watch show in NYC, and for the fourth year running, it was held in Gotham Hall, a couple of blocks from Bryant Park in midtown.

I showed up for the event after work at around 7 p.m. on Friday, by which point the show had already been running for about two hours.

I showed up for the event after work at around 7 p.m. on Friday, by which point the show had already been running for about two hours.

I wasn't sure what the attire was, so I wore black jeans and a black turtleneck, thinking I couldn't go wrong. A doorman let me into the building, where I was able to check my coat and backpack.

I wasn't sure what the attire was, so I wore black jeans and a black turtleneck, thinking I couldn't go wrong. A doorman let me into the building, where I was able to check my coat and backpack.

It didn't take long to realize, though, that the standard attire of the evening was far fancier. Attendees were dressed in fancy, borderline black-tie attire.

It didn't take long to realize, though, that the standard attire of the evening was far fancier. Attendees were dressed in fancy, borderline black-tie attire.

The interior of the building was stately, with a high, domed ceiling, chandeliers, and warm lighting.

The interior of the building was stately, with a high, domed ceiling, chandeliers, and warm lighting.

The show is co-hosted by WatchTime, a bi-monthly publication on fine watches, and Watch Anish, a luxury blog and major Instagram presence (1.7 million followers) that primarily covers watches and menswear. I was fortunate enough to be guided through the show first by Rachel, a member of Ana Martins' PR team, and later by Jeremy, a Watch Anish partner.

The show is co-hosted by WatchTime, a bi-monthly publication on fine watches, and Watch Anish, a luxury blog and major Instagram presence (1.7 million followers) that primarily covers watches and menswear. I was fortunate enough to be guided through the show first by Rachel, a member of Ana Martins' PR team, and later by Jeremy, a Watch Anish partner.

Upon entering the show itself, I was greeted by a buzz of activity and excitement ... and a large, glimmering bar.

Upon entering the show itself, I was greeted by a buzz of activity and excitement ... and a large, glimmering bar.

In total, the show had 31 exhibitors, including high horology (that's the study of time) brands like Bovet, MB&F ...

In total, the show had 31 exhibitors, including high horology (that's the study of time) brands like Bovet, MB&F ...

... Breguet, and Greubel Forsey. Each had its own stand and a whole team of experts to display the time pieces.

... Breguet, and Greubel Forsey. Each had its own stand and a whole team of experts to display the time pieces.

In addition, independent brands like Romain Gauthier, mid-market brands like Grand Seiko, and groups such as LVMS, Richemont, and Swatch were all represented at the show.

In addition, independent brands like Romain Gauthier, mid-market brands like Grand Seiko, and groups such as LVMS, Richemont, and Swatch were all represented at the show.

Source: WatchTime New York

Rachel, the PR rep showing me around, told me they were expecting about 1,200 people over the course of the two-day show.

Rachel, the PR rep showing me around, told me they were expecting about 1,200 people over the course of the two-day show.

I went for a couple hours on both Friday and Saturday — the latter was far more casual — and found the show to be full of excitement and activity the entire time I was there.

I went for a couple hours on both Friday and Saturday — the latter was far more casual — and found the show to be full of excitement and activity the entire time I was there.

Sources: WatchTime, Watch Anish

Throughout the event, crowds were gathered around many of the exhibitors' stands. What really struck me was how friendly it all was; at times, the event felt more like a reunion of old friends than it did a formal exhibit.

Throughout the event, crowds were gathered around many of the exhibitors' stands. What really struck me was how friendly it all was; at times, the event felt more like a reunion of old friends than it did a formal exhibit.

And as for the watches themselves ... they were shiny, they were expensive, they were overwhelmingly Swiss. Some were tucked away in glass exhibits, which was just fine with me, seeing as they cost well into the tens of thousands ...

And as for the watches themselves ... they were shiny, they were expensive, they were overwhelmingly Swiss. Some were tucked away in glass exhibits, which was just fine with me, seeing as they cost well into the tens of thousands  ...

... while other brands, like Grand Seiko, had arranged them more approachably.

... while other brands, like Grand Seiko, had arranged them more approachably.

Either way, the exhibitors were attentive and ready to pose with and show off their goods.

Either way, the exhibitors were attentive and ready to pose with and show off their goods.

I even had a chance to try a couple of them on, like the MB&F HM9, which is, according to the company, "reminiscent of a jet engine."

Source: MB&F

It's also, I discovered as the company rep helped me strap it onto my wrist, rather heavy and designed for wrist larger than my own — and, with a price tag of $182,000, an overall remarkable, while intimidating, machine.

It's also, I discovered as the company rep helped me strap it onto my wrist, rather heavy and designed for wrist larger than my own — and, with a price tag of $182,000, an overall remarkable, while intimidating, machine.

Source: MB&F, Forbes

The show's crown jewel — or at least its most expensive jewel — was this watch, Be Crazy by Breguet.

The show's crown jewel — or at least its most expensive jewel — was this watch, Be Crazy by Breguet.

Source: Breguet

The 18-carat white gold wristwatch costs $1.8 million.

One theme I heard repeatedly throughout the night was that watch brands succeed when they connect and resonate with customers based on their storytelling. While the exhibit setups were mostly variations on each other, they did all have personal touches that served to best communicate their brand story.

One theme I heard repeatedly throughout the night was that watch brands succeed when they connect and resonate with customers based on their storytelling. While the exhibit setups were mostly variations on each other, they did all have personal touches that served to best communicate their brand story.

Fiona Kruger, for example, is an independent watchmaker whose stand was set up around the perimeter of the room.

Fiona Kruger, for example, is an independent watchmaker whose stand was set up around the perimeter of the room.

I walked over to say hello, and saw she'd brought along her sketchbooks. I flipped through the pages and got a first-hand look at some of the inspirations and developmental stages behind her designs.

I walked over to say hello, and saw she'd brought along her sketchbooks. I flipped through the pages and got a first-hand look at some of the inspirations and developmental stages behind her designs.

They provided fascinating context for her final designs, which are artistic, eye-catching, and certainly unusual.

They provided fascinating context for her final designs, which are artistic, eye-catching, and certainly unusual.

And while the watches were noteworthy in their own right, they stood out to me all the more because of the obvious passion with which Kruger herself displayed them, and because I was privy to the thought process that went into them.

And while the watches were noteworthy in their own right, they stood out to me all the more because of the obvious passion with which Kruger herself displayed them, and because I was privy to the thought process that went into them.

Over by Greubel Forsey, a company watchmaker had a workstation set up next to the exhibit.

Visitors had a chance to watch as he worked ...

Visitors had a chance to watch as he worked ...

... or, alternatively, to give the tools a try themselves.

... or, alternatively, to give the tools a try themselves.

And while a brand like Bovet, with its iconic Recital 22 Grand Recital ($632,000), is famous enough to speak for itself ...

Source: Business Insider

... meeting the man behind the brand, Pascal Raffy, makes the entire brand all the more unforgettable. I managed to snag some time to chat with Raffy and found him engaging, personable, and devoted to his children (they came up several times throughout the conversation).

... meeting the man behind the brand, Pascal Raffy, makes the entire brand all the more unforgettable. I managed to snag some time to chat with Raffy and found him engaging, personable, and devoted to his children (they came up several times throughout the conversation).

G-Shock, meanwhile, had set up its exhibit in an adjacent room, where the vibe was notably different: The lights were simpler, the show more bare and industrial. I have to say, it matched — and complemented — the company's vibe.

G-Shock, meanwhile, had set up its exhibit in an adjacent room, where the vibe was notably different: The lights were simpler, the show more bare and industrial. I have to say, it matched — and complemented — the company's vibe.

The company had set up an elaborate contraption whose point was to demonstrate the watches' durability. I was urged to press a red button that would send a watch shooting down at the carpet below. I did it, and admit I breathed a sigh of relief ...

The company had set up an elaborate contraption whose point was to demonstrate the watches' durability. I was urged to press a red button that would send a watch shooting down at the carpet below. I did it, and admit I breathed a sigh of relief ...

... when it came back up in one, unscathed piece and I realized I had not, in fact, created several hundred dollars worth of damage in one fell swoop.

... when it came back up in one, unscathed piece and I realized I had not, in fact, created several hundred dollars worth of damage in one fell swoop.

After about six hours of browsing through watch exhibits, I finally concluded that my favorites were probably the Montblancs.

After about six hours of browsing through watch exhibits, I finally concluded that my favorites were probably the Montblancs.

With their clean, sturdy design, the watches seemed like they'd been designed for long-lasting function.

With their clean, sturdy design, the watches seemed like they'd been designed for long-lasting function.

Going into the event, I'd been a little intimidated by my lack of knowledge about luxury watches, but from the minute I walked in right up to the moment I left, the prevailing sentiment at the show was of contagious excitement. People were greeting each other like old friends (which they might have been); by the end, some of them were even greeting me like a friend.

Going into the event, I'd been a little intimidated by my lack of knowledge about luxury watches, but from the minute I walked in right up to the moment I left, the prevailing sentiment at the show was of contagious excitement. People were greeting each other like old friends (which they might have been); by the end, some of them were even greeting me like a friend.
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