Grand Seiko And Watches of Switzerland Launch The ‘Nature Of Time Experience’ In SoHo
In a world where merely opening the doors would be cause for celebration, this pop-up gallery goes beyond expectations to deliver a richly layered experience that might well become the new standard even in this new normal.
Watches of Switzerland and Grand Seiko have teamed up once again, this time to open an immersive pop-up store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood. The Nature of Time Experience is a special-edition timepiece gallery featuring the largest collection of Grand Seiko watches in the world. With previously unavailable pieces, themed zones, and two lounges, this special space prioritizes the “experience” portion of the retail experience.
Here, guests will have the opportunity to browse the “Nature of Time” pieces themselves, 60th Anniversary limited editions, and – for the first time – rare watches made exclusively for the Japanese market.
The layered spaces of the pop-up draw inspiration from the passing of seasons, and like the impermanence of the seasons themselves, this immersive gallery is only open for a limited time: now through the end of September.
A Long Time Coming
Just as winter thaws into spring, so too has the retail landscape slowly warmed back up following months of mandated store closures. More than anywhere else in the United States, the starkest contrast between pre-pandemic times and peak isolation times was in New York City, particularly in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood. The same sidewalks packed with masses of shopping bag-clad customers in early March reached a dystopian level of deserted by early April.
With the weight of this reality in mind, the Nature of Time Experience feels like a much needed “Welcome Back!” party. Watch lovers are once again able to walk into a store, strike up a conversation with a sales associate, and experience products in the metal. And with all the appropriate safety measures in place, people on both sides of the counter are eager for a return to (new) normalcy.
A Passport To The World Of Grand Seiko
There’s a certain atmosphere permeating through this pop-up boutique. one that’s tranquil, rejuvenating, dare we say spa-like. It’s in the heart of SoHo on Spring St. with Apple, Polo Ralph Lauren, and David Yurman stores as neighbors, and yet, the boutique space feels removed, like an oasis of calm, from the near-constant bustle of Lower Manhattan.
The pop-up itself is divided into themed zones. At the front of the space is a photo-friendly alcove dressed from floor to ceiling in sakura (cherry blossom) motifs. Next, the airy main gallery hosts various lines of Grand Seiko timepieces spanning the Sport, Heritage, Masterpiece, and Elegance collections with additional vitrines for ladies’ timepieces, the brand’s snowflake-dial watches, and the newly released Toge Special Edition GMT (HERE).
After the main gallery, one dives deeper still into the world of Grand Seiko. The middle room is the darkest and moodiest, bordered by traditional shoji screens backlit by swirling shades of blue and purple. Above these domestic screens are digital screens alternating between soothing, seasonal scenes of nature and Japanese poems on the impermanence of time.
In the center are the four pieces making up the Nature of Time collection: “Hanaikada” representing the cherry blossoms of Spring, “Rikka” representing the verdant vitality of Summer, “Tsukiyo” representing the moonlit nights of Autumn, and “Miyuki” representing the snowy silence of Winter. You can read more about the Nature of Time collection HERE.
Just beyond this space is the “Omotenashi.” The name translates to the “Den of Lions,” and it’s the first lounge awaiting guests with drinks, velvet seating, and diffused sunshine streaming in through the skylights above. Beyond that lies the gallery’s sanctum sanctorum, as only the lucky few will be invited downstairs to the Takumi Lounge – a VIP room modeled after the stylish cocktail bars of Ginza.
What Watches of Switzerland and Grand Seiko have presented here will be noticed and perhaps even replicated by other brands. It’s a new way of exploring this partnership between brand and retailer that provides guests with an experience immeasurably better than a few vitrines in the corner of the sales floor.
With global events like Baselworld on-hold indefinitely and brands already shifting to more localized exposure strategies, this pop-up in NYC feels like a path forward, whether they directly intended it to be or not.
The money that would normally be spent on traveling to and the building of elaborate (yet very temporary) booths for trade shows could instead be put towards concept stores like The Nature of Time Experience. There are tradeoffs to be had, for sure. But by offering brands more time, more space, and less stress to showcase their timepieces, the experience-focused concept store could be seen as a welcome change and – in the spirit of seasons – a natural one at that.
The Nature of Time Experience is open from July 10 to the end of September at 119 Spring St. In New York City. Walk-ins are welcome, but given the boutique’s limited capacity, reservations are highly encouraged. Can’t make it to the city? Guests around the world are invited to “visit” The Nature of Time Experience through interactive AR technology and videos of each zone from the comfort of their homes (HERE).
(Images provided by Grand Seiko, Watchonista photography by Liam O'Donnell)