Tick Tock: Inside a New York Boutique for a Swiss Watchmaker
Stepping into AP House in New York is like entering the intricately detailed mechanism of an Audemars Piguet timepiece: Each part placed just so creates something truly out of the ordinary. Here, in the city’s Meatpacking District, a former industrial area turned high-style shopping district, the expectation is yet another luxury boutique. However, what Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture has instead formulated for the Swiss watch company is a showroom that redefines the traditional bounds—and experience—of retail.
“We started with a question: What if Jules Louis Audemars and Edward Auguste Piguet had an apartment, and you could go visit?” architect Enrico Bonetti recalls of the concept for the 5,100-square-foot boutique, one of 13 AP Houses around the world. That home, as Bonetti and cofounder Dominic Kozerski have envisioned it, would be open-plan, relaxed, and dedicated to indoor-outdoor entertaining. It also would be an ideal environment to admire and showcase their craft: men’s and women’s watches, which sell for between four and six figures.
AP House Melds Retail and Hospitality Design
Occupying the second floor of a landmarked 19th-century brick building, AP House feels like the spacious living quarters of a lounge-loving friend. Dinner parties can be imagined with guests gathered around the nearly 17-foot-long solid-sapele dining table, a custom piece by Bonetti/Kozerski that was installed by New York City firemen, sitting on an equally impressive bench or supple armchairs by Umberto Asnago. Gossip could be swapped over coffee at the quartz-topped bar or while sunk back deep into the semicircular sofas set around the 1970’s Charlotte Perriand cocktail table, while someone fingers the keys of the Steinway & Sons baby grand piano in the corner. On a sunny summer day, alfresco entertaining would be an easy sell on the 2,800-square-foot terrace that is furnished with outdoor pieces by Bonetti/Kozerski’s collection for Sutherland.
In all these locations at AP House, such activities are possible. To give the client the flexibility to offer multidisciplinary hospitality experiences, the firm equipped the space with a state-of-the-art chef’s kitchen and all the necessary back-of-house functions for special events. In all these locations, too, watches are sold.
The Design Reflects the Inner Workings of Watches
Watches are, after all, the stars of this shop, and visitors are surrounded by them, whether at first obvious or not. Bonetti and Kozerski tapped their expertise in gallery design (a few blocks north is the Pace Gallery headquarters, the architects’ most recent effort), and partnered with an Italian exhibition-case specialist to create museum-quality displays for Audemars and Piguet’s raison d’etre. From the oak-paneled entry-cum-gallery, curated with rotating artwork, one steps into an oval, golden jewel box where historic Audemars Piguet timepieces (the brand was founded in 1875) loaned from its dedicated museum in Le Brassus, Switzerland, are on view in a series of sleek half-dome vitrines. They all stand to attention around a central installation of an exploded watch caliber.
In the main space, the drama continues: Custom individual timepiece vitrines set into the walls have been cleverly devised as two-way mirrors. “When the lights inside the box are off, the vitrine is a mirror. When the lights in the box are on, the watch is revealed,” Kozerski explains of the unique glass displays, each with a curving upholstered backdrop and individual spotlights. It is rare that all the boxes are full, as demand often outsells supply, and the effect is an intriguing checkerboard of the precious products on offer.
This solution was inspired by Audemars Piguet’s headquarters. “In Switzerland, the watches are kept in a vault and displayed individually in open boxes,” says Bonetti. “This is a variation on that idea,” designed to a more intimate context, with the security of digitally activated keys.
Lighting is also a crucial element throughout AP House because, as Bonetti continues, timepieces are best seen in both warm and cool tones. While natural illumination streams in from the glass-faced terrace doors that span the length of the main room’s back wall, the recessed overhead fixtures were a careful collaboration with specialist L’Observatoire International to ensure that potential buyers could view the watches and their precious details optimally.
Elsewhere, above the communal table is a run of dual-glass pendant fixtures, both decorative and functional, and a statement chandelier sets the conversation sofas aglow well into the night. Hidden LEDs glimmer softly around the perimeter, where brick walls hung with Audemars Piguet–curated art are an homage to the street-front facade.
“When we first visited the site, we were struck by the historical brick facade and the overall horizontality that flowed out to the terrace,” Kozerski says of the former industrial space that once played host to a market. “So, our initial approach was to take those elements and amplify them.” Some exposed steel H-beams have been lacquered black, and the front wall’s original arched windows add a handsome, quirky sense of proportion. Like any good New York loft, hints of former grit are visible among the glamour. Here that glamour just happens to be a work of art one wears on their wrist.
Walkthrough AP House by Bonetti/Kozerski Architecture
- archstone builders
- Audemars Piguet
- bonetti/kozerski architecture
- craz woodworking
- derive engineers
- Elizabeth Fazzare
- Eric Laignel
- gandia blasco
- i 4 mariani
- ik studios
- L’Observatoire International
- marc phillips
- ozone light
- pureedge; viabizzuno
- Retail Design
- sacco carpet
- secco sistemi
- sutherland furniture
- thomas hayes studio
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