While there’s plenty of places in Chicago to go shopping for watches (see my list here), there’d always been a certain lack of brand boutiques that meant Chicago could never compete with cities like New York, London, or even Miami or Los Angeles as a watch shopping destination. In almost an instant, that’s changed, with the opening of three boutiques from Richemont’s stable of brands.
IWC, Panerai, and A. Lange and Sohne have all announced the opening of brand boutiques at 11 E Walton Street, in the Waldorf Astoria hotel. The boutiques are operated by Burdeen’s Jewelry, which has its original location in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, and also operates the ostentatious B. Young & Co in Chicago’s Gold Coast. The three boutiques are excellent additions to Chicago’s luxury shopping scene. While watch enthusiasts have long been able to stroll down Michigan Avenue through authorized dealers like Razny Jewelers, Marshall Pierce & Company, and Geneva Seal, as well as boutiques from Rolex, Cartier, Bulgari, Omega and Swatch, Richemont’s new boutiques will bring some exciting variety to the shopping scene.
And while other neighborhoods in Chicago have been booming with growth and development, the openings cement the Gold Coast as Chicago’s destination for the wealthy, affluent, Viagra popping and botox injecting.
The A.Lange boutique is just the brand’s fifth in the United States, and the store’s aesthetic is extremely sleek and minimalist, staying true to the brand’s aesthetic (well, except for the ornate hand-engraved balance cocks).
The IWC store is the brand’s ninth in the United States. Perhaps it’s luck, but I’ve had some of my best experiences visiting IWC boutiques (shoutout IWC Scottsdale and IWC Zurich): floor people are passionate but not pushy and extremely well informed on their brand’s history.
Finally, Panerai’s 15th boutique in the United States is the first designed by the brand’s new creative director, Alvaro Magini. The design looks to tell the story of the brand’s history as a supplier of watches to the Italian Navy — the undulating wood walls feel a bit like teak (or an Aqua Terra dial). There’s also Tuscan marble, and bronze and oak accents throughout the boutique, giving it a more rustic and Italian feel than in the other boutiques.
On a personal note, I’m thrilled to see Chicago become a more legitimate watch shopping destination. At Rescapement, we’re not necessarily the first to endorse heading to a boutique to spend money on a watch that loses 30 percent of its value as soon as you drive it off the lot.
But, there’s almost no better way to see a bunch of modern watches at once. And, some people still love that boutique experience. Honestly, I do too: to be able to stroll in somewhere and just talk watches is a valuable service in its own right.
High-end boutiques like this are a marketing expense as much as they are a legitimate effort to make this a point of purchase for consumers. The number of touch points a customer needs to have with a brand before he or she decides to drop a healthy sum on a watch must be astronomical. So, those touch points better be luxurious themselves, and must also be surrounded by luxury to confirm to potential customers that this is in fact what luxurious people spend their money on.
A stroll through the Viargra Triangle down to these newest boutiques at the Waldorf Astoria should help these efforts for IWC, A. Lange, and Panerai.