The Less-Glamorous Side of the Watch Business: Repair Centers

At the luxurious watch boutiques on refined buying streets like London’s Bond Street, the Ginza in Tokyo or Paris’s Rue du Faubourg St.-Honoré, the environment is intentionally upscale.

But the websites the place many of these timepieces are repaired are usually not almost as glamorous.

Take Hublot’s U.S. service heart, positioned on an higher flooring in an workplace constructing in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The facility, the place a dozen watchmakers tinker with the model’s timepieces, is a couple of 45-minute drive from its boutique in the upscale Bal Harbour neighborhood of Miami Beach. Instead of fancy flagships, there’s a mall throughout the avenue with retailers like H & M and Free People, and an all-you-can-eat steakhouse on the constructing’s floor flooring.

“In terms of representation, definitely the office in Fort Lauderdale doesn’t compare to a flagship like we can have on Fifth Avenue, or a beautiful boutique that we can have in Bal Harbour,” stated Jean-François Sberro, the model’s North American president. “It’s more supposed to be a service center. People don’t necessarily go there.”

One cause, maybe, is that they can’t discover it. There is not any Hublot brand outdoors, he stated, “on purpose.”

The cause? “To keep it all discreet.”

Presumably with theft prevention as a lot as positioning in thoughts, most Swiss manufacturers have comparable practices: Their salesrooms occupy prime retail actual property and are adorned with costly furnishings and floral preparations, whereas restore facilities are in the less-expensive suburbs, in buildings that aren’t as grand. As some business observers have famous, the association helps keep the mystique of luxurious whereas additionally serving to the backside line.

Patek Philippe, definitely no stranger to mystique, companies its watches in Britain in an unadorned constructing in Gerrards Cross, a small city in Buckinghamshire that’s about an hour’s drive northwest from its London boutique on New Bond Street. It additionally has facilities in cities like Taipei and Barcelona.

Breitling’s British service heart is in a cluster of no-frills buildings not removed from the recycling web site in Tunbridge Wells, a city that was one of Queen Victoria’s favourite vacation locations and is a couple of 90-minute drive from London. The firm additionally has two American services for after-sales, the watch business’s time period for post-purchase upkeep: a custom-built construction with floor-to-ceiling glass home windows that’s adjoining to its U.S. headquarters in Wilton, Conn., a city about 50 miles from its Midtown Manhattan boutique, and a smaller operation in the village of Lombard, Ill., outdoors Chicago.

And Audemars Piguet’s U.S. service operation is in Clearwater, Fla., close to Tampa on the Gulf of Mexico.

Some firms that personal a number of watch manufacturers hold their regional service facilities below one roof. The Swatch Group, for instance, handles service for its manufacturers, together with Longines and Omega, in areas like Xi’an, the Chinese metropolis greatest often called residence of the terra cotta warriors, and Bangalore, India’s know-how hub. It additionally has 5 watchmaking faculties in 4 international locations — the United States, China, Malaysia and Germany — which may present suitably skilled job candidates. It additionally has a partnership with the British School of Watchmaking in Britain.

Richemont, the Swiss luxurious group that owns labels together with IWC Schaffhausen and Jaeger-LeCoultre, has an identical after-sales construction. Its technicians are housed in the similar constructing, however devoted to particular manufacturers. (At the Swatch Group’s facilities, some watchmakers give attention to particular person labels whereas others work on a number of manufacturers.) And some of its services, like the one in Fort Worth, are close to the group’s watchmaking faculties in Dallas, Hong Kong and Beijing.

Luxury watch manufacturers usually delight themselves on dealing with after-sales in-house, which may embrace something from routine upkeep to intensive repairs. And whereas there’s nothing barring an proprietor from utilizing an unbiased native enterprise — a horny choice when repairs develop into prolonged ordeals, particularly given pandemic-related mail delays — the work may invalidate a watch’s guarantee.

“We want to take care of the service locally to avoid sending watches to Switzerland,” stated François-Xavier Hotier, president of the Americas for Ulysse Nardin. He stated the turnaround time at the model’s U.S. after-sales heart — positioned, together with its U.S. headquarters, in Boca Raton, a metropolis about 45 miles north of Miami — was sometimes 4 to 6 weeks.

And, though watch firms typically tout their Swiss heritage, regional servicing is a sensible side of doing enterprise. “There’s the client who says, ‘It comes from Switzerland so it needs to be done in Switzerland to have the job made seriously,’ but it doesn’t work like that,” stated Marc André Deschoux, founder of Watchestv, a Geneva-based web site that creates movies about timepieces.

And inserting regional craftspeople outdoors of posh boutiques, he added, makes financial sense: “It’s just a question of cost. It’s as simple as that.”

Watchmaking benches would take costly house in luxurious shops — for example, the business actual property company Cushman & Wakefield stated some floor flooring retail areas alongside Fifth Avenue have been now greater than $three,000 a sq. foot a month — and most luxurious manufacturers have a quantity of watchmakers on their regional staffs. Breitling has 30 in its Connecticut headquarters, for instance, with 15 extra in Illinois.

There are also logistical necessities that could be troublesome to fulfill in a small house, like particular air flow to accommodate cleansing equipment, which makes use of robust chemical compounds, and sharpening tools, which generates heaps of mud. Sufficient lighting is necessary as properly.

“Light is one of the key elements when you build a watchmaker’s workshop,” stated Thierry Prissert, Breitling’s U.S. president. “You have to remember that these people spend eight hours at a bench a day, with their eyes stuck on a very small watch they’ll repair, with a lot of spare parts. It’s a very meticulous and very difficult job.”

Even although they’re extra utilitarian than luxe, service facilities can, in their very own method, reinforce a model’s picture of opulence. “As long as the brand steers the messaging right, and people understand that it’s a master craftsman working on their watch, whether they’re in a suburb, whether they’re in the country, out of the country, I don’t think really matters to the best customer, as long as they know they’re getting the best service possible,” stated Christopher Olshan, chief govt of the Luxury Marketing Council Worldwide, a company that promotes luxurious manufacturers.

And if that buyer can get his watch returned promptly from servicing, Mr. Olshan added,that’s an enormous constructive.”

“That really will be something that moves the needle long term for a brand,” he stated.