SWISS AU­THOR­ITY

Wynn Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Vic­to­ria Gomel­sky

Watches of Switzer­land, the U.K.’S largest re­tailer of lux­ury time­pieces, makes its state­side de­but at Wynn.

Watches of Switzer­land, the U.K.’S largest re­tailer of lux­ury time­pieces, makes its state­side de­but at Wynn.

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. Un­til now. “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.” 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. 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 multi­brand 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. “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 shopin-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.”

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