Perfect timing for Waterford watch festival as Ireland becomes third fastest-growing market
The International Festival of Time will draw some of the leading independent watchmakers and provides a rare chance to see six-figure sum watches that already have growing waiting lists
Wristwatch enthusiasts and collectors will make their way to Waterford over the weekend of September 22 to 24 to meet some of the world’s greatest independent master watchmakers, getting a rare chance to see their often unique and rare creations in person.
This is the second year of the Waterford Festival of Time which takes place at the Medieval Museum in the Viking Triangle in the centre of Waterford city. The festival is organised in conjunction with the Irish Museum of Time, one of a number of museums that make up the Waterford Treasures Museums collection, which is worth a visit on its own.
The Festival of Time is a rare chance to meet some of the superstars of the high horology world such as Kari Voutilainen, Andreas Strehler, Paul Gerber and Irishman John McGonigle – and with it comes the opportunity to see their watches up close and personal.
Paul Gerber (sometimes described as the father of independent watchmaking) is creating a one-off timepiece in collaboration with young watchmaker Anny Weber which he is donating to the event and is due to be auctioned in Geneva next May by Phillips Auction House. The proceeds will be split between the Festival of Time, the charity Join Our Boys which raises awareness of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and to help further the career of Anny Weber.
What sets independent watchmaking apart is the handcrafted elements, especially hand-decorated dials and movements – options not generally offered by the big Swiss manufacturers. Many of the best-known Swiss watches are almost entirely machine-made. Independent watchmakers on the other hand are offering something much more personal and bespoke.
Ireland has made its own contribution to the world of haute horologerie in recent years through the work of Athlone’s John and Stephen McGonigle of McGonigle and Oilean Watches, and Belfast-based Stephen McDonnell who has created movements for MB&F among others.
Other notable names at the event include Stefan Kudoke of Kudoke Watches from Dresden, Garrick Watches from Norfolk in England and Bryan Leech of Carlow’s Sidereus Watches. Look out also for Zeitwinkel, Cyril Brivet-Naudot, Luc Monnet, Simon Brette, Patrik Sjögren, and Bastien Vuilliomenet of Lundis Bleus with more names due to be added to the list.
Some of the watches that will be on display sell for six-figure sums and have long waiting lists, but there will also be hand-crafted pieces that sell for less than the cheapest Rolex. Rolex makes an estimated one million watches yearly while some of the watchmakers at Waterford make less than 100.
Sales of luxury watches in Ireland have taken a significant upturn in the last couple of years and we now rank 24th in the world for Swiss watch sales, ahead of countries like Belgium and Portugal. Sales increased by 26 per cent in the first six months of 2023 and 60 per cent over two years, making us the third fastest-growing market worldwide.
At least some of this is attributable to the new watch boutiques operated by Paul Sheeran on Chatham Street and it is believed there may be at least one more luxury brand boutique opening on Wicklow Street.
Waterford’s International Festival of Time 2023 takes place in the Viking Triangle at Waterford Treasures in Waterford City September 22-24 and is open to the public 10am-5pm Friday and Saturday, 11am-4pm Sunday.
Admission is available from waterfordtreasures.com, tickets are €15 per adult with free admission on offer to current friends of Waterford Treasures Museums. The Festival Lecture on Saturday September 23 takes place at 1pm. Admission is free but places must be pre-booked by emailing email@example.com.
‘The Music of Time – a Talk with Fun Experiments’ takes place on Saturday September 23 at 3pm. Admission is free but places must be pre-booked by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.