No matter how dedicated a watch collector or enthusiast you may be, it’s likely your passion hasn’t spilled over into your travel plans. If it hasn’t, too bad. Plenty of memorable locations and experiences around the globe will open the eyes any level of gadget geek—and many exist in startlingly pretty destinations. With that in mind, here is a comprehensive guide to some of the best cities to indulge your passions—whether a dose of history, some world-class shopping, or simply meeting and greeting with a large group of fellow enthusiasts. These are the places where you should go …
… for a History Lesson
Geneva was probably your first guess when you saw this list, so let’s get it over with. Geneva is home to the corporate headquarters of countless watch brands—Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, Chopard, F.P. Journe, and Piaget, to name a few—but it’s also host to some of the most impressive watch boutiques on the planet. (Remember that Geneva boutique edition AP we wrote about last week?) The icing on the cake? Patek Philippe’s glorious museum is filled with the brand’s archives, an absolute must-see, even if you are pressed for time.
Instagram: Instagram photo by NOMOS Glashütte
Roughly two hours north of Prague and three hours south of Berlin, Glasütte is the kind of region you wouldn’t pass through unless you were trying. It is absolutely worth the detour. This is not the home of big names such as IWC and Zenith. Instead you’ll find interesting brands like Sinn, Glashuette Original, Tutima, and Nomos, which all claim the region as their home. Many of the brands can be happy to open their doors to enthusiasts if you reach out and ask politely.
We could talk Switzerland and Germany all day long when it comes to watch history. For a slightly different take on the matter, there is plenty to see and do in Tokyo, the heart of Japanese watchmaking. Seiko’s watch museum is a no-brainer; beyond that, Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science has an entire section dedicated to early and modern clockmaking. If you’re considering exploring more of Japan, a three-hour train ride to Nagano will lead you to to the Matsumoto Timepiece Museum, which houses the country’s largest, historically significant collection of working clocks.
… for Watch Boutiques
Rodeo Drive is a mecca for all things high-end, so there’s little surprise that it is home to some of the most impressive watch boutiques on the planet. One of Richard Mille’s flagship boutiques resides near the corner of Rodeo and Wilshire, as does Westime—a California powerhouse that deals in some of the best, most exclusive watch brands on the planet, including MB&F, Harry Winston, Jacob & Co., and Christophe Claret—all within a single showroom.
Instagram: Instagram photo by @miamidesigndistrict
Miami’s design district has grown so rapidly over the last decade or two that it can easily rival Rodeo Drive or Madison Avenue any day of the week. If you’re hunting for your next high-end watch, you can find anything here, from Audemars Piguet to Zenith and everything in between. The city is even home to a flagship boutique for the glorious and rare Parmigiani Fleurier.
The watch-shopping experience in Hong Kong is an entirely different animal that is equally worth experiencing. Forget the mega-boutiques that house only a dozen or so watches. In Hong Kong, you will find rows upon rows of glass cases filled with Rolex, Omega, Breitling, and other top-tier brands, packed inside as if each case were a sardine can. Every boutique houses millions of dollars worth of stock on a given day; in a city with one of the highest commercial rental rates on the planet, you can still expect to see at least a handful of stand-alone boutiques and authorized dealers for such brands as Rolex and Patek Philippe within a two- or three-block radius. The best part? You can always find opportunity to negotiate a much more appealing sticker price.
Instagram: Instagram photo by Burlington Arcade
London ticks all the boxes for every variety of watch buyer. Yes, all the big guns have boutiques here, and thanks to the impact the Brexit vote has had on the U.K. pound, they’re all offering relative sale prices to those from across the pond. Aside from this, the vintage watch market is hot in London; such places as Watch Club on Old Bond Street, or the plethora of smaller boutiques in the Burlington Arcades, will easily satisfy your quest for a top-notch vintage timepiece.
… for the Watch Community
New York has always been an interesting melting pot of social activity, so it’s no surprise that the city gave birth to the biggest, fastest-growing watch-enthusiast movement on the planet, a club known as RedBar. The New York chapter meets every Wednesday in a mix of stand-alone get-togethers and brand-sponsored events that can draw from 20 attendees to more than 80. If you’re passing through town, reach out to the crew via social media with a bit of your watch geek background, and there’s a healthy chance you’ll be welcomed into the fold.
The RedBar phenomenon has led to creation of a number of satellite clubs around the world; of those launched in North America, San Francisco’s chapter is by far one of the fastest-growing and best-attended. The city’s RedBar chapter usually meets monthly rather than weekly, with attendance ranging from 25 to more than 45, depending on the occasion. Much like the New York chapter, there are frequent brand-hosted events definitely worth squeezing into your calendar, should travel dates line up.
Instagram: Instagram photo by Singapore Watch Club
Singapore’s watch collecting community is a force to be reckoned with. The city is packed with high-end watch retail. A quick look at what the Singapore Watch Club brings to the table at every meeting offers strong testament to the passion for horology to be found in the city. Gatherings are typically capped at about 30 people, but the club’s founding team is always happy to chat with a fellow collector—especially one rolling in from out of town.