For global nomads with a watch on their shopping list, these are among the top retailers in the world offering the best customer experience.

Les Ambassadeurs: Offering the Best

The history of one of the world’s best retailers starts with a café called Les Ambassadeurs (French for “The Ambassadors”) in Geneva, where all the diplomats would meet in the 1950s. The Les Ambassadeurs (LA) retail store was founded in 1954 in exactly the same spot as the café. LA represents the promise that the stores offer the best brands that watchmaking has to offer. Today, LA has stores in Geneva, Zurich, Lucerne, Lugano and St. Moritz. Revolution talked with Joachim Ziegler, LA’s CEO.

Joachim Ziegler
Joachim Ziegler
What makes your store special?

Our claim is “The Leading House of Leading Names” and this states what we offer. We are proud to be a prime address for watches and jewelry. With over 30 brands, LA has a unique portfolio with watches starting from CHF 1,000 and going up to one million and more – nearly guaranteeing that everyone interested in beautiful watches will find their personal match.

How open are you to considering carrying new watch brands?

Today we have a very well-balanced portfolio with more than 30 brands. Our priority lies in further enhancing and developing existing partnerships, but of course we are always open for new brands if they fit our mission and the mix of our brands.

Les Ambassadeurs, Geneva
Les Ambassadeurs, Geneva
Given all the places people can shop for watches, why should Revolution readers shop with you?

First of all, at LA you will find the biggest selection of watches within a very broad price range, including very rare watches. Secondly, our service is impeccable: the sales staff has a very in-depth knowledge of the collections and most importantly a very friendly as well as charming nature. Of course, our sales staff speak German, Italian, French, English, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Japanese, Spanish and Portuguese. And for those who are looking for the true Swiss experience: try Swiss German! Thirdly, we offer a unique after sales service with our watchmaker specialists and special workshops for our clients.

Is your market different from other countries? How?

Being situated in the Swiss market means we are right in the center of the watchmaking industry. This means that we have the great opportunity to work very closely with our partners, also located in Switzerland. Due to the close proximity of their production and headquarters as well as our long-standing partnerships, we can offer our clients very unique experiences, such as a visit of a watch manufacture.

Les Ambassadeurs, Zurich
Les Ambassadeurs, Zurich
What are the most important considerations for your customers when buying a watch?

Based on my experience I would say the brand, the price and the design. But above all, it is most important that the watch fits the character and style of the owner. That being said, when a customer is looking for a rare watch or very special and precious jewelry, offering competence, a friendly service as well as high standing after sales services are very important to us — offline and online.

How does the future look for your store and watch retail in general?

We have just expanded and opened a new boutique in Lucerne, so we strongly believe in the bricks. At the same time, we just launched our e-commerce with the largest selection of brands and watches in Switzerland and its very own concierge service. It was very important for us to offer our clients the same choice online as they find in our boutiques — “brick and click” have to go hand in hand. It is not one against the other, but one completing the other.

Les Ambassadeurs, Lucerne
Les Ambassadeurs, Lucerne
Why do you love the watch industry?

As I am a trained goldsmith myself, I possess a huge passion for superior craftsmanship, design and innovation. Being part of the watchmaking industry, here in Switzerland, means to me being a part of the rich history our country holds.

The Hour Glass and Malmaison: Emphasizing the Luxury Experience

The Hour Glass was co-founded by Dr. Henry Tay and Dr. Jannie Chan. One a medical doctor, the other, a pharmacologist and physiologist. Today, they have an established presence of 40 boutiques in 11 key cities in the Asia Pacific region, all strategically located in prime retail corridors in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia.
2019 marks the 40th anniversary of The Hour Glass and for the past four decades they have pursued the mission of cultivating the enthusiasm and desire for watch appreciation and collecting. Revolution talked with Michael Tay, Group Managing Director, The Hour Glass Limited.

Michael Tay
Michael Tay
What makes your store special?

We advance watch culture by building communities, empowering its constituents with the sharing of specialist knowledge and at the same time engaging them with tailored experiences that enrich their lives with passion. We also seek to contextualize the wristwatch in different universes and hence, have developed differentiated retail experience with our thematic salons. One of our most important boutiques is Malmaison by The Hour Glass where we unite the world of authentic luxury and design, inspired by Château de Malmaison, the 19th century abode of Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte, prominent tastemakers and committed purveyors of luxury. In addition to works of high watchmaking, there is a wide spectrum of refined objets d’art, and bespoke services including sartorial wear for the gentleman, fragrances and collectible literature under one roof.

How does the future look like for your store and watch retail in general?

Whilst I’m a believer in the marriage of digital content and commerce, I’m an even bigger believer in the sector for new, primary market, specialty watch retailing. At the furthest end of the equation, this sales channel will continue to contribute up to 80 percent or more of any brand’s business. Underlining our view that retail is still important, the value we can add as a specialist luxury watch retailer is our expertise in this specific domain and creating physical built environments where consumers can engage with a human being on the other end. Individuals who can provide them with specialist consultations, comparing and contrasting one to several watches for them. For traditional specialist watch retailers to thrive, us included, there has to be a wholesale review and reorganization in the manner in which we approach our prospects and clients.

Malmaison by The Hour Glass
Malmaison by The Hour Glass
Why do you love the watch industry?

When your entire familial heritage is encapsulated into an object, it is next to impossible to distinguish yourself from any part of what makes it – the industry, the people, the watches. It forms the very core of my essence, my being.

What is the biggest challenge facing the watch industry right now?

In an age of digital disruption, specialty watch retail organizations can no longer be content with living in a transactional world and need to adapt themselves to what shape or form they must morph into or be faced with the prospect of fading into extinction. What is the transformation required and where to devote their limited resources in enhancing our offline engagement and client experiences? This is where the real business of selling watches continues to be conducted.

Malmaison by The Hour Glass
What are you most excited about?

The future — with all its limitations and abundance of opportunities and possibilities!

Wako: In the Heart of Ginza

Wako is located at the intersection of Ginza 4-Chome, in the center of Ginza, an area that features long-established specialty shops. The landmark Wako building with its clock tower was constructed in 1932 and Wako has witnessed the development of Ginza. Wako began as a retail division of Hattori Tokeiten (currently Seiko Holdings). The retail division was renamed Wako and started full-scale operation in 1952. Revolution talked with Mr. Tatsuhiko Adachi, president of Wako.

Tatsuhiko Adachi
Tatsuhiko Adachi
What makes your store special?

We welcome and entertain everyone who comes to Ginza with our building, clock tower and display windows. We handle quality merchandise: originally developed products and goods that are carefully selected from domestic and overseas markets, such as watches, jewelry, men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, interior decorations and food. We try to provide hospitality to satisfy customers with our sales and all staff are employed by Wako.

How open are you to considering carrying new watch brands?

We try to proactively introduce brands that are suitable and satisfactory for our customers, while mainly handling traditional Swiss brands.

Given all the places people can shop for watches, why should Revolution readers shop with you?

Our Seiko Flagship Salon has the world’s largest-scale, high-end Seiko product line, in particular, a full line-up of Grand Seiko. Our salespeople can put products on the same tray so that customers can compare different domestic and overseas brands simultaneously. Our relationship with customers continues even after purchase.

What are the most important considerations for your customers when buying a watch?

The assurance about and reliance on quality and maintenance is most important. In fact, many customers tell us that they feel assured and safe if they buy a watch at Wako, no matter which brand they choose. In addition, we try to make time and space for comfortable and exciting shopping to provide feelings of magic and inspiration for our customers

Waco, Tokyo
Waco, Tokyo
How does the future look like for your store and watch retail in general?

We do not think that online shopping has affected us a great deal as far as relatively pricey watches are concerned. Customers may feel more assured about face-to-face sales at Wako, which handles many expensive products.

What trends are you watching closely?

Watches are becoming a tool for expressing the personality and individuality of the wearer, rather than just for measuring time. I am interested in watches that serve as fashion items, in such colors as green and red (Hublot and Piaget).

How important is the pre-owned market in your area and how are you involved?

Ginza is characterized by the constant presentation of new products and the continued provision of new value. I think it is more important to offer new products, rather than play in the used watch market. At Wako, we concentrate on the distribution of new products.

What is the biggest challenge facing the watch industry right now?

Functional, low-priced products are very popular, such as smartphones and the Apple Watch, while some consumers have high awareness of and affinity for luxury watches. There is an increasing bipolarization between luxury and functionality. The biggest problem is that not everyone wears a watch anymore, unlike in the past. I think it is necessary for us to make efforts toward promoting education about watches (in particular, mechanical watches) to young consumers, such as their history and function.

The Trafalgar: Fine Watches and Much More

The Trafalgar was founded in 1972 in Kuwait by the parents of Amer Alansari, the current Managing Partner. It was initially intended as a hobby, and was never expected to become the main source of income for the family. However, with the oil boom in the ’70s, Kuwait was flush with cash, which in turn created a growing demand for luxury products. This one-store operation quickly became the Alansari family’s main business. In 1990, there was the devastating invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, in which the Trafalgar retail store was completely looted. However, the family picked back up and began its expansion in 1993. Today, Trafalgar has nearly 40 points of sale around the region in both mono and multi-brand stores.

Amer Alansari
Amer Alansari
What makes your store special?

To an onlooking customer, our stores are modern, uncluttered, and designed to take our customer on a journey from start to finish. Our attention to lighting creates a hospitable atmosphere, and due to Kuwait being extremely safe, we are able to create large entrances that are open and welcoming. However, there is even more happening behind the scenes which the customers don’t see. We have Kuwait’s largest after-sales workshop, trained by some of the best brands in the world. Recently, we invested heavily on a CRM system that we hope will ultimately result in superior customer service. Our eight-person strong marketing department is continuously finding innovative ways to send the right message to the client, and we have dedicated trainers to constantly keep our staff informed about products and customer service. These are just some of the notable qualities of our stores.

Given all the places people can shop for watches, why should Revolution readers shop with you?

We believe that we offer something for everyone in the family. Women can shop for the hottest in Bulgari while trying out this season’s latest collections of Versace clothing and accessories. Men can experience our fantastic new Patek Philippe or TAG Heuer boutique while also having a made-to-measure suit by Zegna. And let us not forget a visit to our Apple Premium Retailer store, where one can buy the latest from the brand while being served by a team of experts.

Is your market different from other countries? How?

There are a few things that differentiate Kuwait from other markets, including: no sales tax or VAT, almost no tourism, extremely high disposable income, very high acceptance of latest products, price consciousness, as Kuwaitis travel a lot and know how our prices compare to other markets, and most importantly, it is a market where women dominate luxury purchases.

The Trafalgar, Kuwait
The Trafalgar, Kuwait
What are the most important considerations for your customers when buying a watch?

It depends on the gender. Men are more conservative and purchase with long-term vision, while for women, the deciding factor is usually whether the product is trendy and in fashion.

People everywhere are talking about the death of brick-and-mortar retail. How does the future look for your store and watch retail in general?

We are blessed in that traditional “brick-and-mortar” stores in Kuwait continue to be as important as they were in the past. Saying that, we cannot ignore the online experience as being a potential threat to us. This is why we have taken the step to embrace e-commerce while working hard to attract the new generation through our social media activities. We see a future where traditional stores work in harmony with digital platforms.

What trends are you watching closely?

More men are being attracted to complications in watches, which is something rather new for Kuwait. For women, we see brands that offer categories other than just watches as being the secret to a successful model for Kuwait.

The Trafalgar, Kuwait
Why do you love the watch industry?

At the end of the day, it’s the people. We have developed countless genuine friendships, whether it is from the suppliers, end consumers or even the colleagues in our company. On a personal note, I myself grew up with my parents traveling to Basel every spring. Today I am experiencing this myself. Whoever has gone to Baselworld year in year out knows the feeling of the early morning tram ride to the first day of the fair. It’s pure magic. In addition, had it not been for my partner’s love of luxury watches, we would have never collaborated together!

About what are you most excited?

The young generation. The inquisitiveness and appreciation for individuality in today’s youth will hopefully push our industry to a new chapter of innovation.

Ace Jewelers: Ace is the Place

Founded in 1975, Amsterdam’s Ace Jewelers is still family owned and run. Today, Ace Jewelers owns the oldest jewelry boutique in Amsterdam, which was founded in 1721, and back in 2007, Ace became an omni-channel retailer. So, Ace has one foot in the traditional world and one foot in the fast-paced economy. Revolution caught up Alon Ben Joseph, the CEO of Ace Jewelers, in his Amsterdam offices.

Alon Ben Joseph
Alon Ben Joseph
What makes your store special?

The most important thing is the people. Every single member of our team has a genuine passion for watches and jewelry. We love the products we sell and we love what we do. We try to share that passion 24/7 — in-store, online, and wherever we can. Then there’s our collection of brands, which we have carefully selected and curated. Last but not least are the boutique’s locations. Our flagship boutique is located in a beautiful Art Deco building right in the middle of town. It’s at the corner of the Flower Market on one of Amsterdam’s famous canals. We could not have dreamt of a  nicer location. Truly stunning.

How open are you to considering carrying new watch brands?

We are always on the look-out to scout new watch brands. We love watches and love to discover new brands. Both for ourselves as well as to share them with our customers!

Given all the places people can shop for watches, why should Revolution readers shop with you?

We are always honored when people choose Ace Jewelers to buy their timepieces as they can shop anywhere in the world and online 24/7. We like to think that people choose to do business with us as we are super laid back, passionate, never pushy and give truly honest advice and feedback. We also present a big and broad collection for each brand we carry. We try to cater to every need of watch fanatics out there, both online as well as offline.

Is your market different from other countries? How?

Amsterdam is a very international city. The city is home to over 170 nationalities and attracts millions of tourists from all over the world. Combine this with our eBoutique — which ships worldwide — and I think it’s fair to say that our scope goes way beyond our beautiful country alone.

Ace Jewelers, Amsterdam
Ace Jewelers, Amsterdam
What trends are you watching closely?

One thing I’m very excited to see is that more and more brands are embracing non-traditional, sustainable materials for things such as straps and packaging, like Breitling did with the Superocean Outerknown and Oris with their Divers Sixty-Five strap made of recycled polymers. I feel that many brands are also looking for more sincere partnerships and sponsorship deals, which I think is a good thing. Today’s audience is not that easily tricked into believing that some random celebrity truly is a big fan of your brand! Other things that I’m keeping an eye on are the shift towards smaller and thinner cases, the influence of the vintage scene and auction business, the hype surrounding certain watches and the sustainability of that business model, micro brands and indie watchmakers — I could go on and on!

Ace & Dik Jewelers, Amsterdam
Ace & Dik Jewelers, Amsterdam
Why do you love the watch industry?

I guess I was blessed to be born into a jeweler’s family with a dad who loved watches and design. So, he always had the most cutting-edge timepieces of those days on his hands. Our dad is definitely not a watch snob and loves any kind and type of watch. I am lucky to have this pedigree and my collection spans Swatch watches and G-Shocks to complicated mechanical perpetual calendars in precious metals. What I love about the industry specifically is the level of creativity and artisanal handcraft.

EMWA: The Right Brands for Mexico

EMWA was started 70 years ago, when the founder, Mr. Emmanuel Wapinski, started selling diamonds and jewelry from house to house in Monterrey, Mexico, a city that then had a population of 250,000, and today has over five million. Although EMWA is a national jewelry chain, operating with 17 stores in 10 different cities of the country, the main store was opened in 1985. Revolution talked with Mauricio Wapinski, CEO of EMWA.

Mauricio Wapinski
Mauricio Wapinski
What makes your store special?

We have a great selection of exclusive watch brands that complement a great value proposition for our customers, as well as generic fine jewelry that has always been one of our specialties. Our staff makes us really special, with incredible dedication to service based on passion and a quest for excellence.

How open are you to carrying new watch brands?

We’ve learned through time that what really matters is not the number of brands you carry, but carrying the right ones. We are very selective when it comes to partnering with a new brand, analyzing if it really generates value to our portfolio and most importantly, to our customers.

Given all the places people can shop for watches, why should Revolution readers shop with you?

Our mission, as a company, is to be part of our customers’ most cherished and most important moments in their lives; doing our job with empathy, passion and devotion to our customers, is what gives meaning to our existence. We have the privilege to carry the world’s leading brands and we offer direct credit to our customers, something that is not common in our business. We believe that all of the reasons above complete a great value proposition to anyone interested.

EMWA, Mexico
EMWA, Mexico
Is your market different from other countries? How?

The Mexican consumer is a knowledgeable, and therefore, highly demanding customer, who likes to be treated very special, and when you achieve that through your service, as we have done, you gain their loyalty forever.

What does the future look like for your store and watch retail in general?

I believe, that specifically for our business, it is almost impossible to create a digital experience that can be better than the very special atmosphere that you can develop at a physical retailer. The special moment that a customer can experience in terms of personal care, and the physical touch of the product, if you create that environment, it cannot be replaced digitally. For the future, we have to be very careful in always pursuing excellence in all the aspects mentioned above as the basis to justify the existence of brick and mortar retail.

Why do you love the watch industry?

It is a fascinating business. As I have always said, this is a business that has been operating for centuries; through world wars, financial crises and many other incredible events that have happened, the industry is more alive than ever. Not many industries in the world have the same history.

EMWA, Mexico
What is the biggest challenge facing the watch industry right now?

I believe that the industry, in terms of manufacturing, will keep consolidating even more; and the same for the retail business. This can represent a challenge for both. As far as some of the brands are concerned, with their trend of becoming more retail oriented, I think that they have not seen the risks that they are facing.

About what are you most excited?

I feel very excited about my job itself. Being a CEO of a multistore, high-end watch and jewelry business, requires involvement in the commercial area, purchasing, after sales service, marketing, administration, human capital and other activities, that makes my work really exciting and I love that.

Harrods: The Destination in Britain

Harrods was established in 1824 by Charles Henry Harrod, as an East London grocery store and tea merchant, and in 1849, it relocated to Knightsbridge. Under the direction of Harrod’s son, Charles Digby Harrod, who bought the shop from his father in 1861, Harrods rapidly expanded into selling a wide range of goods, including furniture, perfumes, china and glass. Over time, the offering expanded and Harrods became the iconic emporium it is today. Watches were introduced to Harrods in the 1890s, but the elevated offering came in the 1900s and Harrods became one of the global authorities in Fine Watches. Revolution spoke with Beth Hannaway, Divisional Merchandise Manager of Fine Jewelry and Fine Watches at Harrods.

Harrods, London
Harrods, London
What makes your store special?

We are one store. We are a destination and an icon globally. Our customers know that when they step inside Harrods, they enter a world where the impossible is possible. Harrods is very British, but we have an unrivalled global perspective that speaks to every customer.

How open are you to carrying new watch brands?

We are always looking at potential new brands to add to our brand portfolio, always with a focus on a unique point-of-difference or story to add to our existing brands, as well as an element of exclusivity. Having said that however, we have also made the strategic decision to reduce the number of brands showcased in order to both elevate the environment as well as the product mix, showcasing a curated edit of brands with the best product selection from each.

Given all the places people can shop for watches, why should Revolution readers shop with you?

In the growing market of e-commerce watch shopping, Harrods remains the ultimate destination to shop horology. We provide the service, the education and the world-class product offering.

Is your market different from other countries? How?

Harrods as a store has an extremely international client base, which is mirrored in Fine Watches with clients visiting Harrods as a global destination for haute horology. As always, limited editions, one-of-a-kind pieces and exclusive styles prove popular with all Harrods’ clients, offering exclusive designs that cannot be found anywhere else. We try to ensure that our large portfolio of brands each appeal to a slightly different customer base, and in some cases nationality, so that we really can offer all of our clients something that they are looking for. We are extremely grateful to have such a high proportion of loyal customers in Fine Watches, both local and international, who visit the department frequently, so we work hard to ensure that we are always offering newness and excitement each time they visit, collaborating with our brand partners to offer an experience they cannot find elsewhere.

What are the most important considerations for your customers when buying a watch?

Luxury customers now are cash rich and time poor, so there is a need for a greater emphasis on experience, over just selling beautiful products. We strive to offer each customer a luxury experience and one that is truly unforgettable, with an unparalleled curated edit of world-renowned brands alongside more niche and exclusive brand names, within elevated and innovative environments, supported by world-class service. Customer experience is of paramount importance to us, and herein lies one of our main areas of focus, ensuring that each client enjoys a luxurious experience every time they visit Harrods.

Harrods, London
How does the future look like for your store and watch retail in general?

Harrods believes in the importance of investing in our brick-and-mortar store, and providing customers with an unrivalled retail experience — this is key to remaining at the forefront of luxury. We are currently undergoing a storewide development project “redefining luxury” and the redevelopment of our Fine Watch Room was the first phase to be unveiled. We refreshed the interiors, installed a sweeping staircase and generally provided a more elegant and refined journey for our watch customers.

How important is the pre-owned market in your area and how are you involved?

Pre-owned is undoubtedly a significant part of the watch industry. At present, Harrods heroes this category through a curated edit of vintage timepieces and clocks, in some cases offering clients the chance to buy past classics that are no longer in production.

What are you most excited about?

We are excited to see the new product launches this year! Our clients always eagerly anticipate the latest collections from Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Cartier, with our collectors and high jewelry clients vying for launches from Lange and Roger Dubuis to Graff and Bulgari.