Summer has finally arrived in London so I took the opportunity to have a more meandering Sunday stroll through Mayfair and along New Bond Street rather than the usual fast-paced, head down rush between meetings.
That gave me time to take in the sheer size of the, soon to be opened, flagship Breitling store on the corner of New Bond Street and Grosvenor Street.
I'm in two minds about this rapid "retailification' of the luxury watch industry - this is not borne out of a disregard for watches, I'm a fan of everything under £100 and everything over £10,000 ! It is, however a concern that a lot of watchmakers are, sooner or later, going to be caught out through an over expansion of the own retail space. For many it has been an effective way of securing a share of the almighty Chinese Yuan and building awareness eschewing a reliance on multi-brand specialist and department stores. As the spaces have become larger and larger with ever more costly leases it raises the question how profitable they will be when sales growth lessens, as it has done already for some brands.
On the plus side brands which attempt to build a cathedral to their product, creating environments which imbue their values, (a good example of this is the excellent IWC store on Madison Avenue) and that of their target customer, have less to worry about and this store should do that for Breitling. To quote their news release "The shop will carry Breitling's regular watch collections as well as limited-edition timepieces, and there will be a watchmaker installed in the store whose workshop will be visible to customers."
Installing a watch-maker, bringing the craftsman into the retail environment - up close and personal - is a savvy move. It is a reason for the space and brings a new function and theater to the experience. Luxury brands, especially those with long heritage, need to underpin their price points without overly justifying. Bringing the atelier to the customer when you cannot bring the customer to the atelier is a winner.