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Event Report: Stephen Silver State of Independence Silicon Valley

The State of Independence
by Chester Lau on October 29, 2016

About two months ago, I wrote about the state of wrist affairs in Watches of the Silicon Valley. In the article, we confirmed the unsurprising SV stereotypes with the array of Apple watches and Fitbits. Watch boutiques here are scarce and hard to chance upon, especially for someone so used to the dense concentration of watch retailers in Singapore.

Well turns out, there is a nifty boutique hidden right in my backyard. A 10 minutes drive from my workplace and just down the road from campus. But what drew my attention to this little boutique was even more surprising. Quite the contrary to the Apple watch crowd that I see everyday, Stephen Silver- the retailer, was hosting a round table on the State Of Independence within the art of Haute Horologerie. So there were some watch afficionados in the wild west after all.

artist

Putting on the final touches on a MB&F LM Perpetual painting.

 

As the round table title suggests, the discussion to be held was centered on Independent watches. Apart from its staple of jewelry, Stephen Silver retails a vast collection of independent watch brands. From Greubel Forsey to F.P Journe, they have a pretty substantial collection.

 

guests-mingling

Guests arrive at the Rosewood Sandhill Hotel, where the Stephen Silver boutique is located.

 

The guests were a learned bunch. And safe to say, amidst the crowd, there were some who were truly concerned about the state of affairs in the business. Now if only Kari Voutilainen’s Chinese mobile phone co-branding news was released before the event…

 

 The Stephen Silver State of Independence panel: (From left to right) Frederic Watrelot-Christie's, James Malcomson-Robb Report, Sophy Rindler-Redbar, Manuel Yazijian-Watch Inspector and Ariel Adams-A Blog To Watch.

The Stephen Silver State of Independence panel: (From left to right) Frederic Watrelot-Christie’s, James Malcomson-Robb Report, Sophy Rindler-Redbar, Manuel Yazijian-Watch Inspector and Ariel Adams-A Blog To Watch.

 

Read also:   Hands on with the Montblanc Heritage Chronométrie Dual Time Vasco Da Gama Limited Edition 238

The panel consisted of industry experts with varying vantages. Coincidentally, I had a warm reunion with Christie’s Frederic Watrelot, which I interviewed in Singapore a month before heading to the US of A. Sophy Rindler of Redbar Miami served as moderator and did a great job steering the discussion.

The panel shared stories about their ‘firsts’ with watches, their first real watch and the fun they have in the trade. Topics discussed included questions on longevity of independent brands; in particular, who will service my Philippe Dufour if the guru passes on? Or, do we have enough watch makers that can be trained to take over? Will the younger generation, namely the millennials still like watches, and like them enough to buy these expensive Indies?

 

lm2Spotted on the wrist of a former SF Giant, the MB&F LM 2.

 

The Vertu Aster here with the stunning platinum MB&F Legacy Machine 2. A perfect match for the watch collector? You tell us.

The Platinum MB&F Legacy Machine 2, seen here with a Vertu Aster.

 

James Malcomsom of Robb Report cited the work being done by Dufour to train younger watchmakers, and also Greubel Forsey’s role in promoting the longevity of the art. Frederic shared a story of his visit to the Patek Philippe museum with Max Büsser a decade ago. At the museum, Max singled out a particular antique timepiece and remarked that not one watchmaker in Switzerland can service/recreate something like that. Manuel supplemented the notion that skills die out with time, at times due to new technology and machinery that warrants old skills obsolete. At that point, Stephen who was in the audience remarked that technology has also advanced the trade, with improved movements, materials and even traditional artistry, like enamel dials.

Read also:   Insider View: State of the Industry Assessment

 

gf-art2

Off the wrist of Steven Rostovsky, the distributor of Greubel Forsey in North America. He was introducing the Art Piece 2 to two young female watch collectors, and myself.

 

A member of the audience asked about the relevance of luxury timepieces to the millennials and another about the sweet spot of veblen goods. In essence, the panel responded by saying that there was no fear that veblen goods would face diminishing demand. Historical provenance suggests that people will always desire something beautiful, a treasure or an art piece, and somehow they will always have the resources to do so.

 

Greubel-Forsay GMT in rose gold. The entire movement, including small components like screws are made within the premises. Every surface of every component is finished and polished, not only the parts visible, but also those hidden and the underside of the parts. Impressive.

Greubel-Forsey GMT in rose gold. The entire movement, including small components like screws are made within the premises. Every surface of every component is finished and polished, not only the parts visible, but also those hidden and the underside of the parts. 

 

On creating relevance and demand for timepieces for the younger generation, different opinions were aired. Some say that sentimentality keeps watches relevant, like a gift from one’s mother; others say that watch appreciation and interest comes naturally with the coming of age. For instance, when one gets a good paying job, wants to buy himself something nice and sees that his friends are buying watches…

 

in plat, the HM6 SV is a bit more sober looking, the blue and white combination still particularly fetching.

Spotted on the wrist of Stephen Silver, the MB&F HM6 Sapphire Vision.

 

My view however, is somewhat more idealistic. I think passion for watches comes from cultivated appreciation. Speaking from personal opinion, at the end of the day, knowing how a watch runs and being able to appreciate its intricacies is what cultivates this life-long hobby.

Read also:   To win a Watch Collector's Heart, Smartwatch designers need to get Smart
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3 Comments
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  • Andrew Chasin
    November 1, 2016 at 12:40 am

    Interesting take on SV watch retailers. While I agree that Union Square is not exactly a hot bed of high-end watch shops, I wouldn’t exactly put stores like Shreve in the ‘sad’ category. And if you drive a little south of the peninsula, you will find a very fine watch retailer named CH Premier Jewelers with which I have no affiliation other than being a very satisfied customer. This isn’t said to take anything away from Stephen Silver – I agree that Mr. Silver and his team have created a very unique watch experience in the Bay Area and I have recently become a customer there as well, and was in attendance at the event that you have covered here. But I think you’ve unfairly denigrated the other fine stores in the Bay Area with your generalizations.

    • Chester Lau
      November 2, 2016 at 7:31 am

      Hi Andrew,

      Thank you for your comments. Indeed, as you aptly pointed out, I was too hasty in my writing; do pardon this new settler’s short-sightedness. I will definitely check out the two other establishments that you have mentioned.

      Regards

  • Burton Goldfield
    October 31, 2016 at 1:29 am

    I appreciate what Stephen is doing. Although I have not yet purchased from this establishment I appreciate the welcoming environment and expertise. As a watch devotee who vists stores all over the world, this is not always the case.

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