Why Cellini Jewelers reigns supreme for New York’s elite

In the sophisticated realm of high watchmaking and lavish jewelry, one name stands out amidst New York City’s glitterati: Cellini Jewelers. Established in 1977, Cellini today perpetuates a legacy of singular luxury, reaffirming its reign as the premier jeweler and purveyor of haute horlogerie in North America.

Those in the know will tell you that Cellini Jewelers stands out as the quintessential embodiment of New York City’s luxury scene. The origins of this esteemed establishment harks back to the halcyon days of 1977 — within the storied walls of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel — where founder Leon Adams’ dream materialized.


Then a 21-year-old fresh college graduate, Adams had always been fascinated by gemstones and haute horology. As luck would have it, his dad, who owned an antiques business, chanced upon an available store location within the famed establishment’s lobby that he thought would be suitable for a jewelry business for Leon.

Cellini Jeweler's founder, Leon Adams (Image: Industry Magazine)

Cellini Jewelers was soon established and within a short period, gained the reputation of being one of the country’s most important retailers that stocked rare gems and sought-after haute horlogerie watches.


Cellini launched during the Quartz Crisis, when the mechanical watch industry was overshadowed by the growing popularity and demand of mass-produced quartz watches. In fact, quartz watches reportedly outsold their mechanical counterparts for the first time in 1978, just a year after Adams opened the boutique.

Leon Adams: The horological trendspotter

Initially launching Cellini with Audemars Piguet and Omega, Adams sold both quartz and mechanical watches. However, he quickly realized that there were clients who still appreciated the craftsmanship and artistry of traditional watchmaking.


Ever the savvy businessman, Adams decided that since no other retailer was catering to these clients’ needs, he would focus on mechanical watches instead. Cellini was one of the first to introduce brands such as A. Lange & Söhne, Blancpain, Breitling, De Bethune, FP Journe and Franck Muller to the American market.


These maisons have since gained global iconic status, attracting widespread demand.

The end of the 1980s started to see a number of high-end watch brands turn away from quartz movements. Adams elaborates, “Our Madison Avenue boutique debuted in 1987, just as the mechanical watch’s popularity began to soar.


“Both stores became known as the places to see not only the best- known brands, but also up-and-coming independents.”

At the same time, Adams cemented his position as an influential tastemaker, who had the uncanny knack for staying ahead of trends. “We’re really known for establishing a solid track record, for spotting talented brands early on and providing a showcase for their craftsmanship,” he says.


The shift in the horological world paved the way for its renaissance between the 1990s and early 2000s. As appreciation for fine watchmaking grew, so did the demand for high complications pieces like tourbillons and minute repeaters.

While those kinds of timepieces were typically special orders with long waiting times, Cellini was one of the first retailers to have those kinds of watches in stock. This offered even the most seasoned collector a rare opportunity to see something totally new.

Cellini’s Jewelers opens a new home on Midtown

After being a fixture in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel for over 40 years, the building was purchased and all leases, including Cellini’s, were terminated. While Adams moved as much of its huge inventory to the smaller Madison Avenue boutique, it was evident that a larger space was needed.


In May 2018, after extensive renovations over a year, Cellini officially opened its new flagship store at 430 Park Avenue (56th and Park Avenue). On his new boutique’s location, Adams says, “I wanted to be in the area of my old main store on 50th and Park, and I didn’t want to be too far from my other store.

“I also didn’t want to be too near the other watch boutiques which were flooding upper Madison Avenue.” Adams closed Cellini’s 31-year-old Madison Avenue boutique that same year.


Boasting over 4,000 square feet, the sophisticated midtown boutique marked a new era for Cellini. Beyond watches, Cellini’s jewelry collections are known to be as diverse as they are magnificent. Catering to every taste, they range from the old-world artisanship of Carrera y Carrera, Fabergé and Wellendorff, to the modern craftsmanship of Pippo Perez, Sutra and Victor Velyan.

“Quality is foremost in everything we do at Cellini. Our goal is to offer the very best in one location, so our patrons can compare and discover jewelry and watches that they simply can’t get anywhere else,” Adams affirms.


The founder’s commitment to unrivaled service and impeccable quality remains unfaltering, offering a personalized experience where patrons can lounge in the seating area or relax at the bar as they discover or create customized jewelry pieces using the rarest gems and colored diamonds available. This dedication to a bespoke service is undoubtedly one of Cellini’s many strengths because here, shopping becomes an intimate, creative collaboration between jeweler and client.

Leon Adams on the streets of New York City

“This flagship store is set to make a distinctive mark for various reasons. We stand as one of a few boutiques in NYC offering an extensive array of both watches and jewelry, ranging from affordable to exceptionally precious gemstones.


“However, what truly sets us apart is our expansive collection of independent watch brands, a unique and diverse selection not found elsewhere in the United States,” elaborates Adams.

Enduring partnerships with watchmakers

Indeed, Cellini has embraced the undercurrent of change within the industry to become a sanctuary for independent watchmaking. Within the boutique is a dedicated section that provides a stage for the unique narratives of over 30 independent watch brands, including Ferdinand Berthoud, Kari Voutilainen, Krayon, MB&F, Romain Gauthier, and Urwerk, among others.


By recognizing the potential of independent watchmakers, Adams has redefined what a modern retailer can be, offering something beyond the conventional brand lineup. But independent brands and watchmakers are part of Cellini’s DNA, as Adams explains, “Partnering with independents enables us to have a direct relationship with the watchmaker.

“This allows for a more personalized experience, opening the door for customizable options. In terms of the timepieces themselves, they are more exclusive as fewer are produced.


“The majority of our independents produce around 12 to 200 timepieces a year. Given the low production count, this usually means the quality and finishing of these timepieces are far superior to that of big brands.

“The independents try to preserve the art of traditional watchmaking as much as possible, such as Kari Voutilainen, who still uses centuries-old rose lathes to engine turn his dials. Finally, the after-sales service is much more efficient with quicker turnaround times and better customer service.”


More than a retailer, Cellini is a curator of rare horological art, inviting collectors and aficionados to partake in an unparalleled retail experience. Housing around 40 fine watch brands, it’s a space where horological dreams are realized, and the beauty of craftsmanship is celebrated.

Leon Adams (second from left) with Rémi Maillat (left) and Bernhard Lederer (third from left) at Cellini's Meet the Watchmakers event

From hosting events with renowned watchmakers to stocking limited edition pieces, Adams has created an environment where horology enthusiasts can engage directly with the craft. Most recently, Cellini hosted its annual Meet the Watchmakers event in October, featuring five of today’s greats in the independent watch world.


Held over two days at the boutique, aficionados, who gathered to see the latest novelties by David Candaux, Greubel Forsey, Krayon (founded by Rémi Maillat), Bernhard Lederer and MB&F, rubbed shoulders with the talented watchmakers themselves.

A testament to Cellini’s clout and close ties with independent watch brands are the Cellini exclusive limited editions. Its recent collaboration with Laurent Ferrier resulted in the Classic Origin with an exclusive green California-style dial.


Encased in stainless steel for the first time in the U.S., this timepiece is a limited edition of 18 pieces, with the majority set for delivery in 2024.

Grönefeld Principia 12-piece limited edition Cellini-exclusive in steel with a meteorite dial

Previous launches include a Grönefeld 1941 Principia reference in steel with a meteorite dial that’s limited to 12 pieces, as well as collaboration pieces with Moritz Grossmann and Kari Voutilainen. The steel Moritz Grossmann Central Second Dial by Voutilainen was available in green, salmon and blue variants in six pieces each.


Special details include “Dial by Voutilainen” at 6 o’clock, and a movement featuring triple-band sailing on the ratchet wheel that is usually not found on this particular movement. “All our collaboration pieces are highly sought-after by collectors.

“In the past we’ve collaborated with Ludovic Ballouard, Romain Gauthier, IWC, A. Lange & Söhne and others,” Adams adds.


The essence of Cellini Jewelers is crystal clear: it is a destination for all who appreciate the intricacy and artistry of fine watchmaking and jewelry design. With a focus on innovation and a deep understanding of the collector’s psyche, Cellini is and will remain a well-beloved chapter in New York City’s luxury landscape.


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