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Notes from my recent trip to New York.

Note: This trip was in 1998, so a lot of the information no longer correct.

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The Barnes & Noble at 48th and 5th has a great collection of watch and clock books on the mezzanine. This isn't the biggest Barnes & Noble, but it specializes in books on the arts. Has many Schiffer books that are rarely seen in book shops.

Here's how a New Yorker gets a 33% discount on a watch with almost no effort.

A man is choosing a watch. He picks up and puts down 3 or 4 watches in the space of 30 sec. He makes his choice and asks, "How much?"

The salesman says, "Thirty."


"How much you wanna pay?"



And with that the buyer hands over a $20 bill, takes the watch, and walks away.

Of course, this transaction occurred on the sidewalk. I think the buyer may have forgotten to get his warranty card stamped.

These watches were so poorly made that I don't think I would call them replicas or fakes. They were just junk. I showed one of the sidewalk vendors my Explorer II, which I was wearing, and we found the closest match. It was very approximate, not a serious attempt at a copy at all. I don't think the guy knew what was on my wrist or what his watches were supposed to be suggestive of. I forgot to check carefully to see if the watch said "Rolex" or had the logo. I think it did not.

Comments on some watch stores:

  • Kenjo: Terrific. Click here to see a list of the 41 brands they carry. The guy I talked to said they were adding Zenith, which they are going to get on their own, without waiting for it to be imported. We shall see. (57th St. between 5th and 6th)
  • Cellini: Magnificent high-end collection. Only overlaps with Kenjo that I can recall are Breitling, Girard-Perregaux, and Hublot. (Waldorf Astoria)
  • Wempe: Good high-end selection, close to Cellini in completeness, and some moderately-priced watches as well. Very friendly and helpful, but some may find their 5th-Avenue-boutique atmosphere off-putting. Great windows containing most of their stock. (5th and 55th)
  • Tourneau: Huge selection, with tremendous range, from Swatch and Fossil all the way to Patek Philippe. (But no Lange.) Bothersome salespeople that reminded me of the sort found in appliance stores. Not much in the window--you have to go in. (57th and Madison)
  • Fortunoff: Only a few interesting watches, mostly inexpensive-to-moderate, but unusual among watch stores because they openly boast that they will match anyone's price. Probably very easy to get a discount here, although I didn't try them. Fortunoff is not primarily a watch store, but there is a watch department upstairs. (5th Ave., forget where.)

The jewelry and diamond district.

This is the block on 47th St. between 5th and 6th. (You know it if you saw the movie Marathon Man.) Most of the stores consist of little stalls run as independent operations. The landlord just supplies the basic services, including security. I would guess about 5% of the stalls are devoted to watches. There are two types of operations: New (gray market) and used.

The only new dealer I talked with was Frank Yaeger, of Yaeger Watch Corp. (578 5th, on the corner of 47th.) This is one of the larger stalls, maybe 10 by 15 ft., if that. Yaeger seemed very straightforward. He had lots of Tag Heuers and quite a few others. He also had catalogs on everything else and said he could get anything I wanted for 35% off. (I believe him.) He gets them from unnamed NY dealers. The warranty card is not stamped. If you need service, Yaeger said you return the watch to him, he gives it to the dealer, and the dealer gives it to the manufacturer. I have no idea if this works in practice. If you want to deal with Yaeger, my recommendation is that you approach the deal as if buying a used watch, and don't think about any warranty, except for exchange under whatever rules Yaeger sets.

There seemed to be many more used dealers. I looked but didn't talked to any. I have no idea how trustworthy they are, what their prices are, how easy they are to negotiate with, or anything else. Used watches aren't my area.

My overall feel about 47th St. is that the dealers probably all shoot straight, but know how to swing the deal their way. They seem to have been there forever (Yaeger since 1958), and aren't likely to last long if they get a reputation for dishonesty.

Oh yeah... if you need a Kosher restaurant, you'll find lots on 47th St., but they are tucked away and the signs are hard to spot. You have to ask. There's a Synagogue there, too. Look carefully, because it looks exactly like a store! (I didn't go into any of the restaurants or the Synagogue.)

While I was in NY, I picked up some watch tools that are impossible to find in my town, and incredibly easy to find on 47th St. The most complete store is DRS ("The Jeweler's Department Store") which occupies a few floors of a skinny building at 56 W. 47 St. (212-819-0237, 800-223-8960). You don't browse here--you go up to the counter and ask for what you want. They weren't too excited to see me, but I got decent service just the same, by demanding it. (I am a relaxed Boulder, Colorado, guy, but when in New York I wear my NY persona. The cabs stop for me when I cross the street.) I picked up a tool that pushes pins out of a bracelet (e.g., my Tag Heuer 1500 bracelet). I got a strap-pin tool from another store that happened to have it, although they don't really sell watch tools (don't remember the name). I haven't used either tool and only have a slight idea how, but I thought I'd like to have them.

This has nothing directly to do with watches, but the outstanding camera store in NY is B&H at 33rd and 9th (across from the main Post Office). The selection of products on display is stunning, beyond anything you can imagine. They deal mostly by mail order, which is how I deal with them. To give you an idea of how much business they do, when I arrived there was one FedEx truck backed up to their loading dock and two more parked next to it waiting their turn. Next to them was a UPS truck. If you are buying a camera in NY, you are nuts if you don't buy it from B&H. Everybody from Tourneau should take a field trip there to see how fine equipment is supposed to be sold. You should know that B&H, like many NYC camera stores and two-thirds of the stalls on 47th St., follows the Jewish work schedule, which means they close early on Fridays and don't re-open again until Sunday.

And, for you Seinfeld fans, last Sunday I encountered--are you ready for this?--the Puerto Rican Day Parade. Zillions of people on the street and the sidewalks. So many that the overflow on 6th Ave. was a parade in itself. I jokingly told a Puerto Rican guy that I was a little bit Puerto Rican, too. He took one look at my Hungarian/Lithuanian face and said, "How, by injection?"

I had to cross 5th Ave.Having seen that Seinfeld show, I timidly asked a cop if it would be OK to cross the parade route. He said, "Sure, go ahead." So life doesn't always imitate art. (In the show, Seinfeld and friends are stuck in traffic, and they can't get home, not even walking. Lots more happens, mostly in bad taste. You won't see this one on NBC reruns... it was too insulting to Puerto Ricans.)

If my little "Buying Myself a Birthday Present" story rolled away before you had a chance to read it, click here.

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