Watches of Switzerland, the U.K.’s largest retailer of luxury timepieces, makes its stateside debut at Wynn.
The Watches of Switzerland showroom's boutique-in-boutique areas are dedicated to some of the world's most prestigious watch brands.
Everyone has heard of watches from Switzerland, but fewer people know about Watches of Switzerland. That may be because the U.K.-based company, widely regarded as one of the world’s largest retailers of Swiss timepieces, has, for nearly a century, stuck close to its continental source.
“We believe Swiss watches appeal to the American psyche,” says Brian Duffy, CEO of Aurum Holdings, the Leicester-based group that acquired Watches of Switzerland in 2005 and has big plans for the retailer in the U.S.—beginning with its recent takeover of the Wynn & Company watch store at Wynn Las Vegas.
“I call it rational indulgence,” Duffy continues. “Because you’re buying a product that maintains value, that’s functional, that’s one of the few products that you can indulge and enjoy. A product that’s technically wonderful, from a pure mechanics standpoint, and aesthetically gorgeous. These are amazing stories. And we want to tell them.”
The brand's VIP program includes priority appointments for bracelet adjustments, among many other benefits.
Duffy’s bullish approach to the American market reflects something that is readily acknowledged by watch industry insiders: “Watches of Switzerland is a top, top retailer,” says François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of the prestige watchmaker Audemars Piguet. “If you see their stores in London, they’re very high-end. I couldn’t name 10 stores like this in the U.S. that have the same quality of ambience and professionalism.”
Founded in 1924 as a mail-order watch business on Ludgate Hill in the city of London, the company comprises 13 locations in the U.K., stretching from Brighton to Glasgow. Each one offers a wide selection of timepieces from high-end brands such as Cartier, Rolex and Omega. Even as the proliferation of mono-brand boutiques renders multi-brand retailers an increasingly rare breed, Duffy is convinced that watch buyers still value seasoned third-party perspectives in their search for the perfect timepiece.
“The majority of people, particularly in the area of Swiss watches, appreciate what a multi-brand offers. It’s choice, it’s expertise and it’s independence,” Duffy says. “We call ourselves the Sephora of luxury watches. We make sure we have the best presentation of luxury brands and that we don’t compromise the image of the brand we’re selling.” That said, Duffy understands that clients looking for a deep selection from a certain watchmaker will be drawn to the single-brand concept. Which helps explain why, in addition to its robust offering of multiple brands, Watches of Switzerland also owns and operates Rolex brand boutiques both in the U.K. and, as of December, in the U.S., with its acquisition of the Rolex store at Wynn. At just over 4,000 square feet, the showroom clocks in as the largest Rolex boutique in the U.S., and among the largest in the world.
The Calibre room at Watches of Switzerland 's Regent Street store
In addition, two more brand boutiques—Breitling and Omega, both owned and operated by Watches of Switzerland—will open at Wynn Plaza later this year.
As Watches of Switzerland prepares to expand its footprint in the U.S.—the company is opening a 7,000-square-foot store in Manhattan’s Hudson Yards in 2019 and is eyeing additional locations in Florida and California—the four Wynn properties (the multi-brand showroom plus the Rolex, Breitling and Omega boutiques) will together serve as its deluxe calling card.
Although the company took over the Wynn & Company and Rolex spaces this past December, the real unveiling will take place in September, when Watches of Switzerland moves a short walk along the Wynn Esplanade to its new 3,800-square-foot location adjacent to Rolex.
Watches of Switzerland's 155 Regent Street flagship, in London, is Europe's largest luxury watch showroom.
“We really believe in presenting a very open environment, one that feels accessible and inviting, so we like to have big open windows,” Duffy says. “It’s all about having an environment that people will feel very comfortable entering. We like to encourage browsing. Customers will engage with salespeople when they choose—or not.”
The renovated store will showcase a combination of brand cases and shop-in-shops for the as many as 12 brands Watches of Switzerland sells at Wynn, including Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Officine Panerai, Hublot, Roger Dubuis, Tudor, Omega and Breitling (which returns to Wynn following a seven-year hiatus). The selection will begin around $1,000, for a TAG Heuer timepiece, though clients can also expect to find plenty of offerings priced north of $100,000. The bulk of transactions, however, are expected to fall within the Watches of Switzerland sweet spot of $5,000 to $15,000, according to Duffy.
For Watches of Switzerland Vice President Michael Ryan, a veteran of the Las Vegas watch retail scene—he began working at Bellagio in 1998 and joined the Wynn team in 2009—the British invasion is welcome news.
“Wynn is a five-star property and the service level is impeccable, but Watches of Switzerland may go deeper—they really want it to be an unforgettable experience for the client,” Ryan says. “So whatever watch need you may have, the first thing you’ll think of is Watches of Switzerland. We have so much competition in Vegas—Bellagio, Tourneau, independents—that we’re going to need to stand out, and service is where we’ll do it.”
That commitment applies just as much, if not more so, online. Unlike so many luxury retailers, who’ve been reluctant to embrace digital sales, Watches of Switzerland maintains a thriving e-commerce operation. To that end, the company offers a VIP concierge service to clients who spend more than £5,000 (about $7,000) on a single watch. The offer includes premium delivery options, priority appointments for bracelet adjustments (if necessary), lessons on how to use and care for your watch, priority access to an instore luxury brand ambassador and exclusive access to VIP brand events, product updates and promotions.
“We’ve got to be where the consumer wants to shop,” says Duffy. “We try to give the equivalent of what we’ve done for over 100 years in today’s life, which includes the internet.”