Recording the Rebirth and Transition of the Bulova Watchcase Factory

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A fully decorated unit in the Watchcase Condomininium, above, and the space as it was when renovation was beginning, below left. Michael Heller photos
A fully decorated unit in the Watchcase Condomininium, above, and the space as it was when renovation was beginning, below left. Michael Heller photos
A fully decorated unit in the Watchcase Condomininium, above, and the space as it was when renovation was beginning, below right. Michael Heller photos

Capturing the transformation of a derelict factory building that was once the industrial heart of Sag Harbor into a luxury condominium

The project to renovate the old Bulova Watchcase Factory by Sag Development Partners/Cape Advisors LLC. Photographed on November 15th, 2011
The project to renovate the old Bulova Watchcase Factory by Sag Development Partners/Cape Advisors LLC. Photographed on November 15th, 2011

complex was an opportunity photographer Michael Heller pounced on over four years ago as one of the largest development projects in village history began.

The passion project for Mr. Heller resulted in almost 10,000 photographs, taken during 115 visits to the Division Street site over the course of four and a half years. Mr. Heller whittled that down to 200 images, which he crafted into the book “Watchcase: A Story of Rebirth,” which details the history of the historic Bulova Watchcase Factory and its renovation into a luxury condominium property marketed to some of the South Fork’s wealthiest residents.

“What photographer doesn’t want to photograph the inside of a cool abandoned building,” said Mr. Heller. “I just thought it was a great opportunity to watch something transform.”

The third generation East Hampton resident now calls Sag Harbor home — another reason he was drawn to the project.

“I moved here to work for the newspaper,” said Mr. Heller, who is the staff photographer at The Sag Harbor Express. “But like many people I am very proud and fond of the fact that Sag Harbor has held onto its roots. The sense of community here is immense.”

“Sag Harbor is now my home. It’s my family.”

Mr. Heller’s book was presented to the Sag Harbor Village Board this winter, with digital copies available at the John Jermain Memorial Library and the Sag Harbor Historical Society. Harbor Books on Main Street in Sag Harbor also has a copy for those interested in seeing the finished product, as will Canio’s Books, also on Main Street. It is available for purchase at blurb.com/b/6909516-watchcase-the-story-of-a-rebirth.

The finished entry way into the Watchcase complex.
The finished entry way into the Watchcase complex.
The space when workers began to demolish and rebuild the property.
The space when workers began to demolish and rebuild the property.

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