Chronopassion is the Parisian retailer making watch appreciation cool
Bringing expertise, experience and a rockstar attitude to horology, Chronopassion is undoubtedly powered by passion.
It says a lot about a single-boutique retailer when it is placed on the same pedestal as the giants of the industry. Founded and based in Paris, Chronopassion is one such retailer, known — and long admired — for its small but dynamic presence in the luxury watch scene.
Decked out in a fresh, modern aesthetic, the store located on swanky Rue Saint-Honoré doesn’t scream for attention at all, but anyone who has a keen eye for luxury will immediately be drawn to its intriguing window display where revolving carousel cabinets tote the season’s most desirable contemporary timepieces. Whether you’re looking from outside in or standing on the inside looking out, it’s obvious that Chronopassion is no ordinary luxury watch boutique, with a reputation for always doing things differently than others.
It’s been this way since the very beginning and if you’ve met its founder, Laurent Picciotto, you would be able to immediately discern why. His office resembles much more a recording studio for a rock band than the working space of a luxury watch chief executive. The entire space is swathed in posters and paintings of art of all genres, many of which are from the watch industry.
Says Picciotto, “When people come into my office, their eyes are always looking all around because there is so much going on. It took me a long time to accumulate this much stuff, there are a lot of souvenirs, stories… It’s all the memories past and present.”
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Indeed, since its establishment, Chronopassion has been a powerhouse in the retail scene. Running the business for more than 36 years, there is nothing that Picciotto has not already seen, experienced and mastered in luxury watch retail.
He has a big personality and a ton of enthusiasm for horology — to say nothing yet of his phenomenal sense of style, which has undoubtedly led him to cultivate an incredible acumen for watches. And it is this unbridled passion for watches and being in the watch business, surrounded by other like-minded individuals who love watches and who are bringing interesting things to the watchmaking landscape, that distinguishes Picciotto and Chronopassion from your run-of-the-mill retailers capable of little beyond the regurgitation of SKUs and RRPs.
He shares, “This comes from the DNA of Chronopassion. Most retailers want to sell what people ask for.
“Of course, there are exceptions and generally most do support some independents, because they have a lot of institutional brands to lean on. For us, year after year, we work less and less with institutional brands and more through the independents.
“It is our philosophy and our mode always to start a new thing if we love it.”
Picciotto and his team of passionate watch enthusiasts are the primary reason why Chronopassion is a luxury watch destination unto itself, where aficionados gather and freely indulge in their love for horology on all levels.
Where Chronopassion really stands apart from its peers is in the portfolio of brands available here, which focuses less on the mainstream institutional players and more on the alternative segments. What happens then is that the environment is naturally acclimatized to spotlight fine watchmaking from an artisan’s perspective.
Chronopassion’s core range thus includes a plethora of names from haut de gamme independents to emerging microbrands with a unique point of view to offer. As a matter of fact, the store has always been a hotbed of rising star independents as far back as the late ’80s when brands like Audemars Piguet, Daniel Roth and Gérald Genta were just re-entering the luxury conversation.
And now with the LVMH Group looking actively to revive the latter two brands in the contemporary context, Chronopassion’s strong reputation as a retailer that actively supports the work of independent watchmakers positions it perfectly to play a pivotal role in the rebirth of these legendary names. Watch director of Louis Vuitton Jean Arnault came by the store on one occasion to discuss the project and asked if Picciotto had any archive materials to share.
Picciotto smiles as he recalls the meeting, “I said no, we don’t have any pictures in the computers, but there are about four or five kilos of paper documents from the past you’re welcome to look at.”
Picciotto strongly believes in the importance of speaking from the heart about all kinds of watches, whether or not the brand is retailing in his store. For someone who is constantly consulted on watch purchases and as a passionate observer of the industry for decades, he prides himself on always sharing his true opinion on any subject. He says, “Some retail businesses take a corporate approach to retail sales and this is, in my opinion, sometimes kind of dry. For example, at mono-brand stores, most of the time you are quickly made to feel that only that brand is superior, all others are not.
“To me, this is not clever.”
His open advice has always enlightened customers to see things from a new perspective, and occasionally that has meant a change in decision — sometimes to a brand he doesn’t carry. But that’s perfectly acceptable for Picciotto because it brings him something else instead that money cannot buy: trust.
“We want that long-term trust with our customers. We want that long-term relationship. To have that, one way is to speak the truth, speak from our heart, and say what we honestly feel,” he continues.
And the corollary of that is a strong following of loyal customers who recognize that if a brand is good enough for Laurent Picciotto, it is definitely good on all counts. The Parisian retailer has never been one to wait passively for opportunities.
Rather it is quite the opposite, as Chronopassion has been working very closely with key brand partners in creating exclusive limited edition watches that express its unique philosophy and vibrant identity while also strengthening the partnership and, most importantly, creating added value to its customers.
Throughout these 30-plus years, Picciotto has actively co-designed special limited edition timepieces with selected brands, both as a creative exercise and a powerful message of solidarity between partners. After all, Chronopassion and many of today’s greatest independents go way back. It has been a trusted retail partner of MB&F since its earliest years and was, in fact, the first point of-sale in the world that sold the very first Horological Machine No. 1.
That was in 2007 and interest in independents was far less fervent than it is today, which speaks volumes about Chronopassion’s incredible score with MB&F and its unwavering belief in the brand’s timepieces.
Last year, the two entities jointly opened the first MB&F Lab in Paris, which is located right next to Chronopassion’s Rue Saint-Honoré address, and this year the chemistry continues with the special edition MB&F LMX Paris Edition watch featuring a gorgeous dual time display and breathtaking mechanics hovering over a radiant purple dial. This is a watch that catches the attention of watch enthusiasts and novices alike, while being completely artisanal in character and a rare beast even among the highly exclusive realm of MB&F watches.
Another cherished brand partner that Picciotto has been working very closely with in co-creating special editions is Bulgari, and by now everyone has been talking about the latest Bulgari, Chronopassion and Mo Coppoletta collaboration — the Octo Finissimo Tattoo Fuoco. Completely engulfed in tattoo-inspired flames, this is the third and final piece of a trilogy of watches after Aria (2021) and Acqua (2022), which are all anchored around the natural elements while evoking the beauty of body art.
Picciotto, along with Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani, product creation executive director of Bulgari, and renowned tattoo artist Mo Coppoletta, imagined these breathtaking motifs as the “skin” of the Octo Finissimo, now interpreted through the warm nuances of sandblasted rose gold. The earlier pieces had been crafted in titanium and enrobed in clouds and stars with the Aria, and crashing waves in the Acqua.
Based on such a compelling origin, coupled with alluring aesthetics, these retail exclusive editions are certainly sought after. But they also demonstrate how Chronopassion, with Picciotto at the helm, wants to play a more active role in deciding what kinds of watches it ultimately gets to sell, rather than be a mere middleman for their partners.
Says Picciotto, “I always say when it comes to creativity, there is no season for that. At some fairs there are plenty of fantastic pieces and at others, much less.” So by capitalizing on his signature rock ’n’ roll attitude to take greater control and pushing ahead to really think creatively on every aspect of the business, Picciotto has well established Chronopassion as one of the leading voices in luxury watch retail today.
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From the Shop
|Manual winding Sellita caliber AMT5100, with rose gold plating and custom bridge for Furlan Marri; 58-hour power reserve; heated blued steel screws
|Hours, minutes, small seconds and flyback chronograph
|38mm (46mm from lug to lug); stainless steel with olive-shaped pushers for Honey Blue flyback, Taupe flyback and Tasti Tondi pushers for Salmon flyback; water resistant to 50m
|Taupe, blue, or two-tone salmon and black (Revolution edition); double printed text with pulsations scale, polished applied indexes
|Italian leather with quick release system
|270 pieces per reference + 30 collector boxes (including one of each references) in addition.