Used to the more snug confines of downtown boîtes, The Observer approached the hulking Park Avenue Armory with trepidation last Wednesday.
We were there for what turned out to be a very manly party celebrating the birthday of a watch: the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak (starting price $10,500) was 40 years old, and some real guys were there to make sure the timepiece did not feel slighted on the momentous occasion.
Now, the nature of time is a subject we contemplate often—particularly as the sun creeps up over the ragged eastern edge of the city’s skyline—but never have we been confronted with it quite so literally.
Upon entry, we noticed that everyone, truly everyone, was wearing a conspicuous timepiece. And while they weren’t actually looking at the time, the crowd gawked at their watches often enough to give the impression of a room full of Mad Hatters: Were we late, late for the very important next party?
But no, it was soon clear that this was the place.
We first ran across the Cheshire grinning ex-pro running back Tiki Barber, whose gleaming pate caught our eye. With his blonde-bombshell companion, Traci Johnson, in tow, he smiled through the crowd, an umpteen-thousand-dollar hunk of Swiss machinery toggled to his wrist.
We asked the retiree about the recent NFL scandal in which players for the New Orleans Saints were offered bonuses for injuring opposing players.
“Tiki, do you reckon you could afford that watch with some of the bounties that used to be placed on your head?” we asked.
“Oh, man, I should certainly hope so,” he answered gamely.
We spied über-producer and Alicia Keys soulmate Swizz Beatz, wearing what we assumed was a minor Transformers character on his wrist.
What had he been up to? we asked.
“I’ve been up to some fun stuff lately man,” came the response.
Sounds fun lately, Mr. Beatz, really.
(Meanwhile, hockey player, ex-Vogue intern and LGBT activist Sean Avery, whom we later saw inside, slipped past us in much the same stealthy way he slipped out of the NHL.)
Making a lap of the room, we felt a strange force, a kind of glowing magnetism of masculinity pulling us ever closer to some as-yet-unknown source—until we found ourselves face to face with the Caucasian column of dude that is Tom Brady. As we shook his massive mitt, we could nearly hear the collective Sméagol of every postpubescent woman in America whispering in our ear, “My precious!”
“Look at you all dressed up,” he remarked. “Who said press shouldn’t look dapper at these things?”
We didn’t know who had said that.
What of the bounties on his handsome head? we asked the three-time Super Bowl champion.
“Look, it’s a bummer to think of anyone purposely trying to put anyone else in a wheelchair,” he said.
We nodded in agreement, as we gazed into his Tahitian blue eyes.
“These club bounties have been getting a lot of press lately—which is good, to expose them for what they are—but if you’re asking if you could buy a five-figure watch with some of the bounties placed on my head, “I’d like to think so,” he said with a seven-figure smile.
Struggling to escape Mr. Brady’s gravitational pull, we had barely enough time to dive out of the way as the most famous living Austrian barreled down the red carpet: Arnold Schwarzenegger had arrived.
Patrick McMullan, the Shetland sheepdog of party photographers, immediately began plying his trade and managed to corral the Governator into a pose.
Soon enough, Mr. Schwarzenegger spied Mr. Beatz, and implored him for some face time.
“Swizz, get ova heeuh!” he commanded. “I vant to see vhat vatch you are vearing!”
Mr. Beatz obliged.
The Meat from Mitteleuropa then meandered over to Mr. Brady, whom he congratulated on his new dwelling, the proud new owner of a modest 22,000-square-foot Brentwood bungalow, directly across from Mr. Olympia’s hideaway.
“Nice house,” offered Mr. Schwarzenegger, in the understated, nuanced parlance for which he has become known.
The party spilled over into the main room, where cocktails were doled out and floor-length evening dresses shuffled about the floor. On hand were two horologists, laboring away in a miniature Audemars workshop. Next to a reflecting pool, we contemplated a 60-foot-tall morphing projection of Michelangelo’s statue of David. (More manhood!)
Soon enough, president and CEO of Audemars North America François-Henry Bennahmias took the stage. All we heard was, “To break the rules, first you must master them,” before we began checking our own watch.
“And to drink the wine, first you must pour it,” remarked one of our tablemates, seemingly more interested in Dionysian pleasures.
Another fellow reveler was inordinately taken with the furniture. “The last time I was at a table this long, it was at a wedding in Versailles. I shit you not,” remarked the private-equity looking guy.
Fascinated, we turned away; Mr. Schwarzenegger was taking the stage.
In something of an odd reverie, he brought The Observer’s mind back, once again, to matters temporal.
Addressing the topic of 1972, the year of the Royal Oak watch’s origin, he strayed into familial matters—to our surprise, considering the news of late.
“I’m a little bit concerned when you talk about celebrating 1972. My in-law [Sargent] Shriver lost to Agnew. Watergate was a mess,” he remarked.
“But, oh, yes, that’s right,” he quickly added. “I won my 10th Mr. Olympia title.”
As the aging beefcake finished up, dessert was served. We indulged in the chocolate delight, wondering if Tom Brady was enjoying it as much as we were.