While we’ve certainly done multiple events with brands and manufactures over the years, it’s only with Blancpain that we can say that we’ve held them in three different boutiques, yet all in the same city.
What is there to say about this storied maison that hasn’t already been said? Probably not much, which is why we’re not going to get into a history lesson here. It’s enough to know that they’re consistently at the top of the game in terms of movements, complications and finishing, and moreover, that they’re one of the crown jewels of Swatch Group. In light of this, it should come as no surprise that they deserve a flagship boutique that befits their status, and while we certainly had no issue with their previous location – also on Fifth Avenue – their new space certainly fits the bill.
(A skylight and a full bar…)
A sweeping central staircase greets you as you enter from the street (an elevator waits discreetly off to the left), with the wall to your immediate right given over to a rather dramatic, two-story image of a perpetual calendar Villeret timepiece – I’m assuming that this image will rotate over time, but as it stands it certainly sets the right mood. Once upstairs, you’re greeted by an inviting living room-type space immediately in front , while to your left is the main boutique with a skylit bar – a full bar, we might add – the showroom floor and a semi-private VIP space towards the front. The effect is at once grand and intimate. While there’s no denying that the large, smoked glass skylight over the bar makes quite a statement, it doesn’t overwhelm, while the relatively low ceiling that covers the rest of the boutique makes the overall feeling less imposing than in the previous boutique, which had a double-height ceiling throughout.
It should be mentioned here that when we hold our events there’s a certain format that we tend hew to: arrival/mingling; a few words of welcome, as well as an introduction to the brand and/or highlighted collection; and after that, the evening progresses. This time around Blancpain decided to mix things up a bit, and in a rather unexpected fashion. After I introduced David Gely, Blancpain’s brand director for North America, he drew everyone’s attention back to the black envelopes that they were holding. Wait… Did I forget to mention that every RedBar member who walked through the door was handed a black envelope? I did? Well, they were, and when opened, the envelopes revealed 10 questions that were part of a boutique-wide scavenger hunt.
And so it was that RedBar found itself chasing clues around the second floor of Blancpain’s new Fifth Avenue flagship boutique at 7:30pm on a Wednesday night.
(A wild goose chase indeed, except this time someone caught the goose…)
Frankly, we couldn’t have asked for more, and yet more is exactly what was coming in the form of Blancpain VP and Head of Marketing, Alain Delamuraz, and none other than Jeff Kingston, the man who literally wrote (writes) the book on Blancpain. In what worked out to be rather serendipitous timing, they arrived just as the scavenger hunt came to a close, which allowed all present to be welcomed officially to the the boutique by Mssr. Delamuraz and then listen to an absolutely fascinating presentation on the creation of the Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms Mil-Spec by Mr. Kingston. (If you’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to his Inside Geneva/Basel talks at WatchTime then you know exactly how fortunate we were to have him all to ourselves.)
(A truly lousy picture of a truly passionate watch lover, Mssr. Alain Delamuraz…)
(When Jeff Kingston speaks, watch collectors listen…)
With the conclusion of Mr. Kingston’s talk, the winner of the scavenger hunt was announced. The prize? A Fifty-Fathom’s wall clock! (No, yours truly wasn’t allowed to participate, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not plotting on how to get my hands on one for my very own…) As for the rest of the evening, it’s a given that we cruised right past closing time and kept the bar open for an extra hour, after which it was time to say goodnight to our hosts and their wonderful new home.
The Blancpain boutique at 697 Fifth Avenue is now open for business, Monday through Friday from 10am to 7pm, and on Sunday from 12pm to 5pm.