Power List: The Most Influential RetailersBy Andre Frois
Start your year off right with the leaders, the wonders, the visionaries and all the people in watchmaking who have made it such an incredible, fascinating industry. These are Power Lists.
Retailers are influential middlemen who make an impact on the popularity and distribution of watch brands, and they have been constantly evolving their operations to further incentivize brands and end consumers. Singapore-based global retailers like Sincere Fine Watches and The Hour Glass, for example, have contributed invaluably to the public’s education of independent brands, while Cortina Watch has heightened the retail experiences of historical brands and added to their brand equity.
In other continents, Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons has organized watch fairs that have been increasing in scale every year, first in Dubai and now in New York City. Noting the burgeoning secondary market, Bucherer has invested its expertise in acquiring, certifying and promoting secondhand luxury watches, while Westime has been intrepidly championing young independent watch brands in North America, to great success.
Like New World wines, these New World watch retailers, through decades of diligence, have inserted themselves in many a watch conversation. Although making pilgrimages to your favorite manufactures should still be on your bucket list, the variety of festivities and exclusive limited edition launches organized by these retailers are incentivizing connoisseurs to visit and purchase from them. Thanks to these movers and shakers, the experience of buying a watch has become much more memorable and gratifying.
Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons
One cannot discuss global watch distributors without mentioning the Seddiqi name. If we were to draw a map of the mechanical watchmaking world, which cities would you prominently point out? While many Swiss cities and towns like Geneva, Basel and La Chaux-de-Fonds are a given, we’ve been wowed by the impressive watch fairs recently held in Dubai and New York City by Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons.
2022 marks the eighth year of Dubai Watch Week. Started in 2015, this international fair had begun as an annual event, but over the years, its format has been updated to better engage the watch community. Currently, the watch fair itself is held on alternate years, while its dedicated Horology Forum continues during the gap years to engage the watch community. The Seddiqis’ commitment to the forum was evident when, during the height of the pandemic in 2020, they did not cancel the discussions, but deftly redesigned it as a virtual presentation. Since the inaugural fair in 2015, the brainchild of the Seddiqi family has started many memorable conversations and hosted numerous insightful masterclasses themed on traditional and avant-garde watchmaking.
“Our goal is to create an educational, experiential, and networking event like no other,” explains Hind Seddiqi, director-general of Dubai Watch Week.
When Dubai Watch Week started, it was attended by a handful of independent watch brands and around 2,500 visitors. In 2021, the fair boasted over 16,000 attendees with over 45 participating luxury watch brands. This year, the Dubai Watch Week Horology Forum was held in New York City, to the delight of collectors who live in the Five Boroughs and East Coast. The Horology Forum NYC Edition comprised a series of eye-opening discussion panels, debates and seminars that facilitated meaningful discourse between artisans, brand principals, collectors and creative minds from a range of industries.
“Channeling the incredible diversity of talent, interests, cultures and people of New York City, this edition of our Horology Forum has been purposefully curated to focus on our overarching objective of providing an educational platform for all attendees and fostering connections,” Hind remarks. “We look forward to welcoming new and existing watch lovers to an experience designed to celebrate the passion of our community.”
Bucherer has been making waves in the luxury watch industry and reveals that it has enjoyed significant growth in recent years, especially in the haute horlogerie category and in its Certified Pre-Owned Business division. The privately owned retailer also has its own timepiece brand, which recently launched three Bucherer Blue creations, each limited to 18 pieces worldwide.
Founded in 1888 and headquartered in Lucerne, Bucherer has been run by its namesake family for three generations. Bucherer shares that it has enjoyed a strong partnership with Rolex, its first retail partner, since the 1920s. The retailer ambitiously expanded across Europe in the mid-1970s. The 2010s was a milestone decade for Bucherer too, which comprised its 125th anniversary; opening of the world’s largest watch and jewelry store in Paris in 2013; acquisition of Tourneau, the biggest luxury watch retailer in the U.S., in 2018; and opening of the first Bucherer Gallery in Geneva and launch of the Certified Pre-Owned Business in 2019. Bucherer has rapidly expanded its Certified Pre-Owned Business across Europe and the U.S., where it now has over 60 points of sales. Over the past two years, the company has opened several major boutiques in New York, Switzerland and Germany. In October 2022, Bucherer acquired Leeds & Son, a luxury retailer of fine watches and jewelry located in California.
“We are refurbishing our existing boutiques and incorporating them with new customer experience concepts,” shares Patrick Graf, chief commercial officer of Bucherer. “We have partnered with renowned auction house Sotheby’s for cross-category luxury exhibitions and retail projects. As for our unique Certified Pre-Owned concept, the ‘C’ sets us apart from the other players in this field; our watchmakers are certified by the respective watch brands and our Certified Pre-Owned watches are thoroughly serviced with original spare parts before they appear in our online or in-store portfolio.”
Cortina, a Singapore-based retailer that is present in seven countries, celebrated its 50th anniversary this year. Eight luxury watch brands have launched commemorative editions that mark this important retailer’s golden jubilee. These include five one-of-a-kind Franck Muller watches and a 10-piece limited edition TAG Heuer Carrera Chronograph with an unprecedented semi-precious stone dial.
In 2021, this mainboard-listed retailer completed its acquisition of privately owned 68-year-old retailer Sincere Fine Watches for SGD 84.7 million. Altogether, the Cortina Group with Sincere operates over 40 stores in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Australia. “In FY2022, the [Cortina] Group achieved robust results. Total revenue edged up 64.1 percent year-on-year to SGD 716.9 million, owing to additional top line from the acquisition of Sincere Watch Limited in March 2021,” founder and executive chairman Anthony Lim highlighted in Cortina’s Annual Report 2022. He also emphasized that the group would continue to refurbish and improve its existing boutiques, so as to elevate customers’ experience. In a bid to engage consumers from all walks of life, Cortina also holds pop-up events and exhibitions around the year.
Sincere Fine Watches
Sincere Fine Watches is a fervent advocate of independent watchmakers and is continually expanding its portfolio of brands, which include names like Breguet, Franck Muller, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Omega, Panerai and Vacheron Constantin. Singapore’s oldest luxury watch retailer, Sincere was founded in 1954.
Sincere Fine Watches launched its rebranded SHH boutique in September 2022, which is located in Marina Bay Sands and retails special limited editions by brands like Greubel Forsey, Laurent Ferrier and Lang & Heyne that are not available elsewhere.
“One of the main aims of Sincere Haute Horlogerie (SHH) is to decelerate the pace of retail in the watch industry, because for multibrand stores, they are always very busy and bustling with activities,” Sincere Fine Watches CEO Ong Ban explains. “For some collectors who are looking around for mechanical high-end watches, I think they take slightly longer to savor and decide what they want. If you look at the layout of our [SHH] boutique, half of it is dedicated to retail space and half is just for relaxation.”
The Hour Glass
Independent watchmakers would not be enjoying the popularity and prestige that they have today, if not for The Hour Glass, an international retailer that began as a simple store along Singapore’s Orchard Road shopping belt. Today, The Hour Glass is present in eight countries. A growing company that used to own the brands Daniel Roth and Gérald Genta, The Hour Glass has made priceless contributions to the public education and prominence of brands like MB&F and Urwerk. For this reason, MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser chose Singapore as the location for his first-ever MB&F Lab. An experiential boutique that opened in September 2022 at the Raffles Hotel, the MB&F Lab showcases the brand’s futuristic timepieces, alongside interactive kinetic art pieces that were co-created with artists around the world.
During the pandemic, The Hour Glass enjoyed high volume sales. In The Hour Glass’ Annual Report 2022, founding chairman Henry Tay highlighted that “for the financial year ended 31 March 2022, the Group recorded a robust 39 percent increase in sales to SGD 1.03 billion. This has resulted in our after-tax profit rising by 86 percent to SGD 157.0 million.”
“Westime opened a boutique on the world-famous Rodeo Drive in the early 2000s. We already had one location in West L.A. at the time, but the expansion to Beverly Hills positioned Westime in front of a new international clientele,” says Greg Simonian, president of Westime. “So many times throughout its history, Westime has been the first — or the only — point of sale in the U.S. for emerging, independent watch brands.”
Founded by Greg’s father, John Simonian, Westime has brick-and-mortar boutiques in Southern California and South Florida which, Greg shares, continually attract clients from across the United States and beyond.
In a bid to give back to the community, Westime has been hosting an annual charity event for nine years now, which raises money for the After-School All-Stars national children’s charity. These charity events have raised a total of almost USD 30 million for children of low-income families.