When planning a new watch purchase, it is all too easy to get lost in tracking design updates, deciphering movement specifications, and evaluating competing brands — so much so that watch-lovers all over the world are often led to forget: The manner in which an important watch is purchased is an essential and often defining factor of wristwatch ownership. Today, we pay a visit to the experience-focused Watches Of Switzerland boutique in SoHo, New York City to discover the WoS recipe to a positively unforgettable watch-buying experience.
Founded in 1924, the Watches of Switzerland Group is not only familiar with the importance of the quality of the buying experience but has also clearly mastered the ins and outs of crafting it, as well — on its way to becoming a globally recognized group of brick-and-mortar luxury watch boutiques that is now valued at $650 million. Today, the group operates multi-brand, as well as dedicated mono-brand, boutiques: 15 in the United Kingdom and three in the U.S.
There are two Watches of Switzerland boutiques in New York City — the SoHo store on Greene Street 60 in a rather more historic setting, and the shiny-new Hudson Yards store in the impressive city-within-a-city Hudson Yards complex. Today we visit SoHo and shall return to Hudson Yards at another time soon. When approaching New York City, Watches of Switzerland established and adhered to a strategy of creating two distinctly different stores, with a layout, design, experience, and selection of modern brands and vintage watches tailored for their respective locations and customer bases.
Newly opened in 2018, the 8,000-square-foot, two-story SoHo store is a perfect match for its location, where remainders of late 19th-century New York, like the cobbled streets and charmingly detailed architecture, meet the creatively furnished á la mode window installations of top-tier luxury brands. Leave the narrow streets behind and enter the SoHo store to be greeted by a team of watch-lover-at-heart staff, trained to share with you the full particulars of high-end wristwatches — and help you navigate in what, as we shall soon discover, is a remarkably diverse world of fine watchmaking.
Moments after entering it is this aforementioned very SoHo combination of new and old, daring and traditional, world-renowned and niche that begins to crystallize from the selection of timepieces presented on the ground floor of Watches of Switzerland SoHo. To the left, the virtually scratch-proof, bold, and cutting-edge creations of Hublot are placed right next to Jaeger-LeCoultre and its deservedly iconic and rather more traditional watches, such as the Reverso and the Polaris. Purpose-built sports watches by IWC Schaffhausen and Breitling are on display, ready to be measured up against each other — an especially interesting task for any sports watch enthusiast, as the latter is now run by the same Georges Kern who directed IWC from 2002 to 2017.
A few steps toward the back is where one gets to sit in Omega’s dedicated space to learn all there is to be learned about the latest novelties from the Bienne-based brand — and to discover what hides in the wall of hidden treasures that encapsulates some truly special Omega references… Meanwhile, in a series of windows directly across, rather more bold creations are displayed from Ulysse Nardin and Armin Strom, as well as a number of the most popular limited editions from British brand Bremont.
To be able to discover these lesser-known brands while surrounded by the powerhouses of the luxury watch industry is a truly rare opportunity; and with the guidance and assistance of the Watches of Switzerland SoHo staff, navigating these opposing forces, as well as making sense of their nuances, becomes a defining part of one’s watch buying experience. It is easy to see: the world of fine watches is incredibly diverse, and it is this diversity that results in an exceptional opportunity to find a hidden gem — something that is just right, the perfect match for one’s watch tastes, requirements, and ideals.
Despite the high probability of finding something you love here, identifying this perfect match is no easy task, and that is where Watches of Switzerland really shines. To quickly and accurately identify one’s personal preferences requires immense experience and talent, while matching said preferences with one of the many pieces available requires a deep and thorough understanding of a vast inventory. Every member of the Watches of Switzerland staff is required to possess these rare skills and academic knowledge, making for another strong reason that watch buyers trust their assistance when it comes to choosing the one.
Rolex, Cartier, and Patek Philippe all have their own galaxies within this colorful universe of contemporary watchmaking. Every detail is up-to-date, from the most current interior design codes of these remarkable companies to the knowledge base of the staff and the inventory of the crystal-clear glass cabinets. These three historic companies have earned their privileged positions through their tireless creative and engineering work that now arcs over at least a century. This means that the modern Rolex, Cartier, and Patek Philippe all offer an overwhelming variety of watch models and collections — for him, as well as for her. To be presented with every major collection in such a welcoming and specially designed environment is essential on the road to selecting and purchasing one’s next favorite watch.
Just across the capsules of Rolex and Cartier is a window that displays a bespoke selection of vintage watches, as curated by Manhattan-based vintage watch specialist Analog/Shift. From the most popular and hard-to-find pieces to exciting and tempting under-the-radar finds, this small display of great vintage watches is the go-to place at Watches of Switzerland SoHo for unforeseen, love-at-first-sight watch purchases. Seeing these select vintage references online is one thing — but trying them on and falling under their vintage spell is the unique experience to be discovered here. The gravitas of the idea of taking the baton and carrying these beautiful watches into the next chapter of your life will, by every chance, prove to be very difficult to resist.
Downstairs, a new dimension of Watches of Switzerland SoHo welcomes every visitor. It is here that guests of the boutique can enjoy the hospitality of the WoS Bar, with a full-time bartender to prepare your favorite drink, including a special selection of cocktails specially created by Death & Co, the “cocktail institution” of Manhattan’s East Village. The wingback bar stools — with upholstery in a familiar shade of green and gold — will allow one to get comfortable by the bar, making for the ideal place to spend time discussing the ins and outs of fine watches.
Or how about settling down for a drink in one hand, with any of the many beautifully presented books, encyclopedias, or watch catalogs in the other? This really is the place where learning about watches becomes an experience — catapulting the traditional brick-and-mortar watch store experience into the oblivion of forgetting.
The finest of Japanese watchmaking — Grand Seiko and Credor — have their designated area downstairs. An exceptionally wide range of Grand Seiko watches, as well as a handful of the elusive, extremely hard-to-find Credor pieces, are on display here. From Grand Seiko’s highly refined quartz pieces to their revered mechanical 9S and Spring Drive 9R-powered watches, one gets to discover, compare, and understand the entire spectrum of GS watches. Once again, the Watches of Switzerland SoHo team is highly trained and experienced in both Grand Seiko and Credor, allowing for a special look inside the countless curious and impressive details of Japanese watchmaking.
Beyond Grand Seiko and Credor, the basement is the place where Tudor and TAG Heuer watches can be scrutinized. It is also here that a wide variety of straps can be chosen for your new or old timepiece, to refresh its looks and update the wearing experience to the current season. In New York, as we know, wisely choosing between straps and bracelets will make a big difference on the ice-cold winter days and during the scorching moments of our summers.
Between the two floors and 8,000 square feet of space, there is so much a watch-lover can discover at Watches of Switzerland SoHo. In this very special setting, in the heart of SoHo in a century-old building, there is a unique variety of major players and under-the-radar brands, as well as fine watches from every price segment, waiting to be found. The highly trained WoS staff is ready to welcome you to this special multi-brand watch store and let you experience the remarkable ways in which the watch-buying process can affect your ownership experience. Come in, ask away, enjoy your favorite drink and a conversation that will help you pick the perfect piece. Learn more about Watches of Switzerland and the watches on offer at watchesofswitzerland.com.