After the Horological Society of New York appointed its former president Nicholas Manousos to a new position as the Society’s Executive Director (succeeding Edwin Hydeman), and with the addition of actor and horological designer Aldis Hodge as its newest Trustee, we thought it might be a good time to catch up on the latest news from the Society.
Below you’ll find our recent interviews with both Manousos and Hodge.
Nicholas Manousos, Horological Society of New York Executive Director
What issues have been the most challenging for the Horological Society of New York during the COVID 19 pandemic?
The necessary cancellation of all our in-person events has definitely been the biggest challenge for HSNY. HSNY has a reputation for holding standing-room-only lectures, sold-out watchmaking classes, and a packed annual gala. Very quickly, COVID-19 made our consistent ability to attract large crowds into a problem.
Our annual Gala & Charity Auction was canceled, as well as our May and June lectures and all of our watchmaking classes. Although our Gala was canceled, HSNY still awarded its Henry B. Fried Scholarships, Howard Robbins Awards, and Working Watchmakers Grants ($155,000 in total).
Even with these difficult cancellations, HSNY remains a resilient organization. Looking back at history gives some context. HSNY was founded in 1866 and has survived through the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression and both World Wars. HSNY will continue to serve watchmakers, clockmakers, and the interested public during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.
How has HSNY been keeping in touch with its members?
HSNY has an amazing marketing and Public Relations director (Carolina Navarro) who has been doing a great job communicating with our members and the public, even through the most difficult part of New York’s lockdown. Our monthly newsletter, The Horologist’s Loupe — which began publishing in 1936 and is one of the oldest continuously running horological publications in the world — has continued publishing throughout the pandemic, keeping everyone up to date on HSNY’s activities. HSNY maintains an archive of vintage copies on our website offering a fascinating look back at watchmaking history in New York.
Are the virtual tutoring classes working out for HSNY?
HSNY’s new Virtual Horological Tutoring classes are working out really well! Our instructors are all professional watchmakers who teach for HSNY on a part-time basis, and all of them had their day jobs affected by the lockdown. This left a lot of time for our traditional in-person class curriculum to be adapted to online classes.
The multi-camera setup that the instructors use is impressive. It allows for students to look at the instructors as they explain certain topics and also get a close-up view of the movement as it is being worked on. The Virtual Horological Tutoring classes complement our in-person New York classes and Traveling Education initiative allowing HSNY to reach anyone in the world with an internet connection who wants to learn what makes a mechanical watch tick.
Our instructors are based throughout North America allowing us to accommodate people in different time zones and we even offer courses in French upon request.
Can you tell our readers about the Working Watchmaker’s Grant program?
In April, when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak in New York, I began hearing stories of watchmakers around the country who had been furloughed or lost their jobs, and it made me think about the origins of HSNY. HSNY was founded as a guild by and for watchmakers, similar to what we today call a union. Benefits were offered to help colleagues in times of need, and no one was turned away.
With this in mind, I approached HSNY’s donor network with the idea of giving grants directly to working watchmakers in the U.S. who were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In just a few days, $100,000 was raised, and the program was announced. In one day, all grants were reserved, and HSNY staff began the large project of issuing one hundred $1,000 checks to working watchmakers.
Today, HSNY has evolved into a non-profit organization that welcomes enthusiasts and collectors, but the spirit of generosity and support of professional watchmakers from our early years is still there. The Working Watchmakers Grant is today’s version of the altruism that led to the founding of the Society in 1866.
Are the newest goals of the HSNY based on necessary evolution?
I think of it more as an accelerated evolution. For example, we had been looking into offering virtual classes and live-streaming lectures for quite a while as we now have members from all corners of the world.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the timeline for these now very important projects. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of financial assistance HSNY distributed in 2020 was over five times what it was in 2019 ($155,000 in 2020, versus $30,000 in 2019).
Behind the scenes, HSNY is working on a number of other projects that have also been accelerated due to the pandemic, and I look forward to sharing them with everyone soon.
When do you expect to start scheduling events again?
Luckily, HSNY has only experienced one true month of inactivity. On March 2, we held our last lecture before lockdown with François-Paul Journe and Osama Sendi lecturing on the Phenomenon of Resonance.
I remember that night vividly; it was a great lecture and a good note to pause on as New York entered lockdown later in March. In late April, HSNY started offering its Virtual Horological Tutoring classes and on September 9, our world-famous lecture series will resume in an online format.
As far as in-person events, only time will tell. Not only are we complying with New York City and state guidelines, but we are also seeking our members’ feedback on how they envision HSNY reopening.
Are any HSNY classes nationwide (or worldwide) currently in operation?
No, all in-person classes are on hold for the foreseeable future. New York is doing well with the coronavirus at the moment and its reopening plan is moving forward. We will continue to monitor the situation and will restart our in-person classes only when it is safe.
Our traveling education classes will likely take longer to restart because of travel restrictions in place around the world. Our Virtual Horological Tutoring classes are filling in the gap quite nicely during this time.
What opportunities from HSNY are available to any International Watch reader eager to expand his or her knowledge about horology?
HSNY’s YouTube channel is a great resource for anyone interested in expanding their horological horizons. Our lecture series has been running continuously since 1866, attracting the world’s brightest minds to share their expertise.
For 150 years, the only way to experience a HSNY lecture was to attend in person. In 2016, HSNY started video recording its lectures, and we now have 33 lectures available to watch for free. Lectures cover technical, historical, collecting, business, and cultural topics so there is something for everyone.
What are the benefits of an HSNY membership?
Joining HSNY as a member shows that you care deeply about advancing the art and science of horology. HSNY’s vast membership is what allows our non-profit to offer such a wide range of educational programs and deliver its critical financial assistance every year.
In terms of tangible benefits, all HSNY members receive an exclusive lapel pin. Members also receive priority access to lectures and special events, immediate access to video-recorded lectures, and library access in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.
What have been some of the highlights of your tenure as the President of HSNY, and how does your role now change?
Every year in late March, I make a number of phone calls to watchmaking students across the country to let them know that they have been awarded the Henry B. Fried Scholarship. These phone calls are a definite highlight for me, as I know how difficult it is for students to balance studying and paying their bills.
Every year in the U.S., more watchmakers retire than graduate. HSNY will continue to do everything possible to help watchmaking students, including expanding our financial assistance programs. I also greatly enjoy meeting the lecturers that travel to New York to speak at HSNY. I have learned so much from our world-class speakers, and I am very much looking forward to restarting our lecture series in September (in an online format).
As Executive Director, my responsibilities will now include all of the operational aspects of the organization. This year has been very challenging for the entire watchmaking industry. I am looking forward to meeting those challenges with HSNY, and making a positive contribution to the art and science of horology.
Aldis Hodge, HSNY Trustee
How did you initially learn about the Horological Society of New York?
When I began teaching myself how to design watches at around nineteen years old, I sought every way to self-educate. I started studying the history of horology, which is how I stumbled upon HSNY.
I would fly back and forth to New York City often for work, and whenever I was there I’d try to attend the meetings to learn. I wanted to begin establishing my own connective community within the city so that every time I went there, I’d be able to maintain a constant state of educational growth.
I knew of Nick Manousos and his accomplishments, and as I remember it, I met him at one of the meetings. I approached him really as an admirer of his prior and current work. We kicked up a conversation, which turned into a friendship and the rest is history.
What has your involvement with the Society been up to this point?
I’ve been a proud member of HSNY since 2016. My travel schedule is demanding but luckily requires me to be in New York City often, so I attend lectures whenever possible. I remember the day I received my membership lapel pin and I still wear it proudly today.
How will that change now that you are a Trustee?
Now that I’m a Trustee, I have the opportunity and responsibility to directly impact the Society. I can use my voice to represent HSNY and contribute to its growth. I’m excited about the challenges that lie ahead and I’ve already discussed several of my ideas with the board. I’m determined to accomplish the goals set forth within the time frame of my tenure.
What do you see as the Society’s responsibility to the watchmaking industry?
Education, education, education! As a seasoned designer, I’ve realized that the primary challenge of maintaining the validity of traditional watchmaking is obtained through education.
I love having conversations with people that may spark a newfound interest in horology or a new way to appreciate our artistically mechanical world from a refreshed perspective.
I really enjoy teaching people about ways to understand value and quality regarding the many difficult techniques that we as horologists apply when creating our work. And my joy is equally matched when I get to introduce someone to the world of “independent watchmaking”.
I also see a great opportunity for HSNY’s continued efforts to be a major asset towards the resurgence of American horological manufacturing. This, I would dare to say, is the potential accomplishment I’m most ambitious about being a part of.
My mind overflows with ideas about the jobs and opportunities we could create, the horological wonders we could develop, and the history that we could establish. There was once a time when America was known for great watchmaking and that time has come yet again.