Time: Out of the Closet

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Robert Goldstein, president of the Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, lives for his watches. More precisely, Goldstein lives with his watches. Rather than store his collection of more than 50 timepieces furtively in a vault, he displays them in his living area, all spinning in an Orbita Bergamo, one of the new, massive winder cabinets capable of housing dozens of models. “I enjoy looking at my whole collection,” he says, “and occasionally sharing it with a few friends.”

In this respect, Goldstein is not a typical collector, says Marcus Ovando, U.S. distributor for Erwin Sattler Clocks, a German company that makes wall and floor clocks, some featuring storage spaces equipped with watch winders from Austrian manufacturer Buben & Zorweg. “Watch collectors have always been very elusive about their habits,” Ovando explains. “Security concerns have always been the most important reason, but many collectors are private because they feel their friends, even their wives, won’t understand how they could possibly spend so much money on such a strange obsession.”


Then there are growing numbers of collectors, such as Goldstein, who celebrate their obsession by displaying their collections in watch-winding cases that, in terms of craftsmanship and appearance, are worthy of their contents. These consoles range from the Orbita model that Goldstein owns to custom designs that can be built to complement a room’s—or even a closet’s—design and decor.


A watch functions more efficiently when it remains running because the movement continually distributes lubricants that protect the contact points. By regularly rotating watches, winders keep the mainsprings charged and the mechanisms operating at maximum efficiency. The winder’s constant rotation also allows you to select a watch for the day without the tedious process—especially with some complicated models—of resetting the time and calendar functions.

Single watch winders were introduced in the early 1990s by Scatola del Tempo, still one of the major manufacturers, and the multiunit display cases soon followed. Orbita, which is based in Wilmington, N.C., debuted its original Bergamo 10 years ago. Its primary function may have been to keep its contents of 24 watches wound, but with its finely finished burl wood cabinetry and tempered glass doors, obviously it was intended to be seen.

Two years ago, Orbita produced a 40-watch version of the Bergamo, a handsome Italian-made waist-level chest that conceals its true function until you press a button that elevates the winder panels from the base. If this design seems too modest a home for your horological treasures, consider the company’s latest offering, the Bergamo Baroque ($75,000), a frilled structure crafted with ash and walnut burl veneers embellished with wood inlays and 24-karat gold fascia trimmings. Orbita dispensed with the rising winder apparatus, surmising that the owner of such a grand piece of furniture will prefer simply to open the doors to flaunt his collection.

A number of winder companies have addressed collectors’ security concerns by equipping their units with armored panels, solid doors, and locking systems. Scatola del Tempo produces armored cabinets to accommodate 32, 64, and even 96 watches. As the multiples imply, these cabinets employ one, two, or three of the company’s 32-winder modules. Scatola’s latest creation, the armored 64 ($150,000), provides storage for 64 automatic watches. It also includes compartments for tools and straps, as well as for hand-wound timepieces that cannot benefit from the cabinet’s winding mechanisms.

While Scatola’s 64 is tailor-made for tinkerers, other manufacturers have designed pieces purely for exhibition purposes. Buben & Zorweg’s 48-unit Time Mover 48 Grande Precision, for example, features a Sattler pendulum clock in the center, flanked by watch-winder storage bays that are revealed when the side panel doors are opened and slid back into the cabinet. “Display is a primary function of this unit,” says Petra Gansch, Buben & Zorweg’s product development director. “Many collectors, particularly the Russians, install these units in full view in the living room. Of course, their houses are built like fortresses.”

Some houses are constructed in a manner that invites the commission of a custom watch-winder case. Mulholland Furniture, a custom furniture and design company in Los Angeles, recently installed 18 Orbita winder boxes into the countertops of a small cherry-lined room that Mulholland designer Louis Kramer calls a “studiola,” which is located between the client’s closet and bedroom. “It looks better than any premade furniture unit,” says Kramer, “because it is scaled to the room and made with the same quality cabinetry.”

However, a winder cabinet has to do more than just look good. Different watch makes and models have different winding requirements; improper winder tuning can result in underwinding or overwinding, which can cause a watch to stop or subject the movement to excessive wear. The most sophisticated units, including the new 50-winder cabinet from English manufacturer M.A. Rapport & Co., allow a professional installer to adjust the individual winder modules to accommodate the specific requirements of each watch.

Erwin Sattler Clocks, which has a long-standing collaboration with Buben & Zorweg, recently began manufacturing its own winding box mechanisms with USB PC links that enable you to tweak the individual module settings yourself. The mechanisms are built into the company’s new ebony desk, in concealed banks that rise by remote control. Sattler employs its own clock wheels in the turning gears of the winders and has engineered its winding modules so that they align resting timepieces with 12 o’clock in the up position for optimum viewing.

Watch manufacturers may prefer that their pieces be flaunted on the wrist, but when Glashütte Original debuted its new PanoMatic collection at the spring watch shows in Switzerland, it presented the watches in a piece of furniture dubbed the Gentlemen’s Corner. It is a winder cabinet with a DVD player, a humidor stocked with Cohiba cigars, and a bar—everything you would need to enjoy some alone time with your new PanoMatic Tourbillon, Chrono, Lunar, Reserve, and Venue models.

Of course there are those who have developed more meaningful relationships with their timepieces. Scott Meller, assistant manager of Feldmar Watch & Clock Center in Los Angeles, recalls a client who commissioned his company to install custom safes with winders—one for him and one for his wife—in a room-sized closet. “When the husband has a bad day,” says Meller, “he goes in there to be with his watches.” 


Buben & Zorweg



Erwin Sattler Clocks



Glashütte Original



Orbita Corp.



Rapport Watch Winders



Scatola del Tempo



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