TAG Heuer's the One to Watch
Mairi Beautyman -- Interior Design, 4/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
Four years ago, a catchy ad campaign with the tag line "Success. It's a Mind Game" inspired architect Gwenael Nicolas to approach TAG Heuer about potential collaborations. Turns out his timing was perfect. The luxury timepiece brand, recently acquired by LVMH and in the midst of expanding an established line of sports watches and chronographs, was looking for an interior designer—solicited or otherwise—to help rejuvenate its retail identity.
"The idea was to modernize and make a very strong impact," says French-born Nicolas, who launched the Tokyo firm Curiosity with partner Reiko Miyamoto in 1998. Regarding specific design direction, the client was rather ambiguous. "They talked about a look that was masculine yet feminine, classic yet avant-garde," Nicolas explains with a laugh. "I told them I'd have to think about it."
Recently unveiled in TAG Heuer's 1,300-square-foot New York boutique—the first U.S. location—Curiosity's scheme manages to reconcile those seemingly contradictory ideas. Flooring of aluminum and glass and panels of glass counterbalance walnut millwork. And although the materials are fairly traditional, their treatment is not. For the walls, Nicolas layered planes of tinted, reflective glass to create an illusion of depth. Slicing through the space is a voluptuous curve of walnut sourced from a single 100-year-old tree. "You can actually see the tree grow bigger and bigger as you walk through," explains the architect, who placed the panels so that the rings become successively wider toward the rear.
Nicolas placed a pair of monolithic walnut cases in the center of the space, he says, to make a deliberate break from the jewellike displays prevalent in standard watch boutiques. Both fixtures are fronted by two 10-foot-high glass panels that slide apart to allow access to the merchandise. The tempered-glass planes descend from rails hidden in the ceiling's lighting troughs. Mind game? Sure. But who needs mechanical distractions when valves and counters are the gadgets on show?