I should have known better than to let Nelson choose the hotel - again!
Nelson is a serious collector and and a truly generous soul, but when it comes to hotel accommodations, he would happily stay in an abandoned panel van if it had running water and a clothes hook.  He simply believes any amount of money paid for a hotel room is a waste of resources. I feel the same way about cars, but then again I don't sleep in cars, and I do like a few niceties in a hotel room such as door locks and a flush toilet.  When I pulled up to the hotel and saw the neon cross, I knew this would be another 5-Star Herring property.

IWC NYC Flagship Grand Opening   2012
"I'm sorry Mr. Russell, Mr. Kern can not speak with you because our records show you've never made a movie or played a professional sport". I explained that I had been in the playground scene in Tora! Tora! Tora! but she was certain that would not qualify. "I know", I implored, "but I could have been killed by a bomb!" Click.

About a month ago I got a call from Nelson Herring advising me that there might be a Collector's "Grand Opening" at the new IWC Flagship store in NYC and if I hurried and made at least 50 "great post" posts on the IWC Forum, I might stand a chance of an invitation. I had been absent for a great while and needing to re-connect with all of my IWC friends, but "great post" posts just weren't my style and I knew IWC would see right through me. I just had to find another way - so I called Georges Kern.
When I was certain all hope was lost, I did indeed receive an invitation. Fate had intervened, aided I'm sure by Michael Friedberg, and off to the Big Apple soon I would be!

When Terry told me of his good fortune, I arranged a flight to The Big Apple - IWC was gracious enough to send the Spitfire around to collect me - and I quickly booked two rooms in the New York branch of Geneva's Trente Trois Hotel - a minimalist property with a bed, a light bulb, 1 window bolted shut, and a negotiable bathroom providing one's movements are slow and precise. 
When I arrived at the hotel, I knew we were in for a special time. Not only did great watches await us, but also old friends, new friends, champagne, beer, wine, super-models, and skyscrapers. And the Flagship Boutique!
Knowing Terry would be suspicious of my hotel selection, I was at least pleased to see a neon cross outside my window, believing it would be something of an indication to him of a good neighborhood.

I believe you save your money for important things, like beer and IWC's. At least our hotel was in walking distance of the Flagship, where Noreen MacDonald, boutique manager, was preparing for the Saturday onslaught of journalists, guests, friends and collectors. Poor thing didn't realize we would repeatedly make our way through those doors during the weekend, though she was very gracious, even when T-Bone stripped down to his Class C's and tried to take a nap on one of the sofas.

When we first arrived Thursday afternoon, Security was tough. Terry asked the burly doorman if he could get a battery change in his orange Aquatimer, and surprisingly enough, he let us in, explaining that the watch would have to be sent away for the work. Once inside, we met up with Arnaud Pinel and begged him to accompany us to lunch. Terry's movie career must have done the trick because he took us to the fine establishment we would see again at Saturday night's dinner.

While I was in town for the Saturday night collector's affair, Nelson had managed to gain entry into the Wednesday night Celebrity Fest. There's even a few brief frames of him lurking around in the background of several YouTube vids floating around the Net. I found it funny that he didn't know the names of any of the celebrities, though he did later recognize one guy on an Avenger poster plastered on the side of a city bus.
I asked him he'd tried hitting on Adriana Lima or Karolina Kurkova, to which he replied, "Who?"

"Look Karolina! It's Nelson!"

Friday morning, I used the complimentary crowbar to wedge myself out of the tiny hotel room, and Terry and I met up for a  greasy-spoon breakfast down the street at the Cosmic Grill.  We were both surprised when we arrived back at the hotel and were told a delivery had been made to our rooms. What could it be? The Siderale I was hoping for? Karolina? Adriana?

One look upon entering the room and I knew immediately - the Dutch had invaded!  Left on the bed was a bag of wonderful Hopjes and Dutch waffles!  Who could have had such stealth, such thoughtful cunning?  Why only a military-trained IWC collector of course. Mark Levinsohn was in town and had penetrated hotel security by walking right in the front door. A while later we met Mark  for lunch at Bloom's Deli and had the chance to see close up the new Big Pilot Ceramic. To celebrate, we ate 3 kilos of pastrami and then headed out to shoe shop with Mark, who had had his shoes confiscated by the TSA when they  found them full of stroopwafels. After a good haggle or two, Mark had his new Alden's  and we headed to the pub to await the arrival of Oliver Siegle.
Arnaud's reaction to our invitation to lunch

While Mark & I  tossed back a few beers, Nelson went in search of Oliver who was to join us that evening for dinner. Nelson claimed later that he found Oliver in Times Square blocking traffic, but the photo evidence shows otherwise. Oliver later told me he saved Nelson from some crazed woman who had chased him across the street yelling "Nelson, show me your Real Big Pilot".  Soon thereafter we were off to Little Italy for dinner.
"Look Adriana! It's Mark & Terry!"

Saturday had finally arrived and again I had to drag Nelson off in search of a breakfast high in saturated fats.  We anxiously awaited our rendezvous later that day with one of IWC's most elite collectors groups, many of whom had traveled from all over the world, including Virginia.
After breakfast we stopped by the Panerai boutique and found our very own Mr. Zakem taking a "Nad Shot" while swinging from the hatch of a Norwegian tuna boat display. It was our great pleasure to finally meet this bon vivant and raconteur in person, and after 12 complimentary espressos, we hit the street in search of more complimentary espressos.
Nad - graciously autographing the GOAT book - for the 3rd time

After an exhausting walk navigating the one block that now makes up Little Italy, a street-wise restaurant tout convinced us to try 'his' restaurant - Da Gennaro.  Inside, over a few nice bottles of wine, we feasted on a cioppino appetizer  before stuffing ourselves with pasta.  Oliver was holding up remarkably well considering how long it had been since he had slept.  When returning him to his hotel in the Meat Packing district, Terry told the cab driver not to stop, to just slow down enough so Oliver could  leap out of the cab while we sped off.  We figured he was certainly safe enough since he was wearing the Big Pilot Ceramic Perpetual.  At 48 mm, it is a registered weapon in some European municipalities.


With our cholesterol levels at a high point, Terry dragged me through several of New York's finest haberdashers looking for a particular shirt that in the end seemed rather common to me and certainly available elsewhere. By Saturday, he had developed a blister on his right foot which I would hear about ad-nauseum the next day, but we finally reached the rendezvous point where we met up with the crew.  We spent the afternoon invading watch shops en masse and causing general concern amongst store managers, but of course no one bought any thing, waiting instead for the IWC Boutique to reveal its treasures.  MF was most generous, buying us all a great lunch and we of course spent this time passing around watches and generally confusing the wait staff. Afterwards, we dispersed in an orderly manner, excited about our upcoming evening with IWC .
Not pictured: Kurt Klaus
Photographer: Bill Barker

And so concludes this story - mostly - of the grand opening of IWC's new NYC Flagship Boutique.
For me, the chance to attend was as much an honor as it was a thrill to see my many friends I've either met or gotten to know over the years. Something always brings people together, and this common interest we share is made all the more special by the support we receive as collectors from the company whose watches we so admire. So perhaps I'll conclude with a special thanks to the generous IWC team -  Noreen MacDonald, Arnaud Pinel, Oliver Siegle, Michael Friedberg, and Gianfranco D'Attis - or perhaps I'll conclude by sharing with you the story of the incredible blister on my right foot (by the time I got home it covered my entire body), or Nelson's inexplicable fascination with bookends, or by lamenting the absence of Larry Seiden who would have certainly created at least one memorable moment, or maybe I'll just simply let pictures utter their thousands of words.

So anyway, my right shoe must have been a bit too tight ...

Noreen finishes up a tourbillon adjustment on my Aquatimer
Early arrival - the evening begins
A beautiful setting for free champagne...or vice versa
Crowds start storming the boutique
Bookends everywhere!
Sarah Palin saw Russia from here on Thursday
Dr. "Painless" Herring and Oliver Siegle
                All I ever really wanted was a bookend
       Bill Barker, Nelson, and MF
        Gianfranco, MF, and Roland Iten (Mr. Magic Buckle)Atti
  A costly moment when I saw the new DFB Big Pilot
  A rare 6-Man Nad Shot
  An equally rare 2-Man Nad Shot
David Polakoff with Oliver and Harry Potter. Harry Potter?!

  The obligatory table shot - sweet!
Patek should be so lucky
On behalf of all who attended this great grand opening event, thank-you IWC for a great evening!
A farewell nightcap atop the Peninsula
Alan working the shoe department
Terry Russell
Nelson Herring

May 2012
Copyright 2012
Alll photos were provided by those who took them, or used under the doctrine of fair use.