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Like Clockwork

Watches of Switzerland’s London flagship is one well-oiled, luxuriously designed machine

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Say you want a glass of water while slipping designer timepieces on and off, deciding which one you like best during a shopping excursion in London. A glass is quickly whisked your way, except you’ll never see where it’s being poured. Those behind-the-scenes service elements – getting the glassware, pouring the water from a chilled carafe, storing the carafe – are all tucked away from customer view. Intentionally.

“There is a series of hidden service corridors throughout the space,” says Tom Pulk, creative director for Callison’s New York office, which handled the design and architecture of the 17,000-square-foot Watches of Switzerland (Leicester, U.K.) flagship. The Seattle-based architecture and design firm’s London outpost oversaw the construction. “The service is seamless; you’ll never see people making sales or running around with product.”

The high level of customer service is part of the retailer’s ultimate luxury experience (selling $200,000-plus Patek Philippe timepieces doesn’t hurt, either). But luxury means different things to different people: Typically, customers from the Middle East expect a very high level of privacy and attention while shopping, Pulk notes, while Americans prefer not to be bothered. Thus, the design team devised a way to cater to each client while still delivering that discreet service. It’s called the “one door, three stores” concept.

Each floor of the expansive three-story flagship caters to a different set of clientele, with a proprietary look and feel.

On the ground level, designed with the watch connoisseur in mind, six showrooms line the perimeter walls and display fine timepieces from the likes of Rolex to Cartier. Multiple video screens are seamlessly integrated to highlight news, in-store events and other brand-specific information. The medium-tone marble flooring contrasts against dark walls, while several narrow fixtures span the middle of the floor, giving the space an airy feel. Pulk notes that this level has an average dwell time of more than one hour.

A spiral staircase, designed to resemble a watch’s internal mechanisms with its bronze and glass walls and stainless steel railings, descends to the Calibre Room, which houses a variety of watch brands for the international traveler. Here, you’ll find a customer lounge, service area for repairs and cleaning, and more technology, including an oversized interactive screen that can accommodate up to 20 people at once browsing product, learning about the company’s history and more. “Technology is important to the watch buyer,” Pulk says. “[They’re] savvy purchasers, so we integrated simple technology and layered [it] with content.” (The design team also toyed with incorporating RFID technology into the store, but Pulk notes that the technology is not yet at a place where it can be implemented without a large investment.)

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Catering to avid watch collectors, the top floor houses a more private area with five elite watch brand boutiques and a VIP lounge. This level is darker and more masculine via hefty leather armchairs and smoky marble flooring.       

“When a customer walks in I want [them] to experience wonder and amazement at the intricacy of the space,” Pulk says. “It’s very active at every level and passersby are compelled to come in and explore.”

Elements of this Regent Street flagship will be rolled out to other locations, and notably, the Calibre Room – with its 45-minute dwell time – is being incorporated into airport retail. Consider that time well spent.

Click here to learn more about the interactive Time Wheel in the Calibre Room.

Click here to watch a video created by Callison about Watches of Switzerland's flagship.

PROJECT SUPPLIERS

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Retailer
Watches of Switzerland, Leicester, U.K.

Design and Architecture
Callison, New York: Tom Pulk, creative director; Leslie Ann Chiu, lead designer; Jules Gim, lighting
Callison, London: Gerald Allbury, PIC and PM; Lynda Murray, project architect; Trevor Holmes, project architect
Aurum Holdings Ltd., Braunstone, Leicester, U.K.: Richard Gerrard, programme director; Tony Broderick, chief operating officer; Ajeet Chauhan, project coordination manager

Audio/Visual
Box Technologies, Oxfordshire, U.K.

Props/Decoratives
Aurum Holdings Ltd., Braunstone, Leicester, U.K.

Flooring
Reed Harris Architectural, London

Furniture
Minotti, Meda, Italy

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Lighting
Lucent Lighting, London
Rosco Lighting, London

Signage/Graphics
John Anthony Signs, Rayleigh, Essex, U.K.

Materials/Wallcoverings
Mundy Veneers, Wellington, Somerset, U.K.
Protech Composites, Vancouver, Wash.
Cortina Leathers, New York

Glass Elevator
GBH Design, Vierkirchen, Germany

Stonework
Reed Harris Architectural, London

Photography: Courtesy of Callison LLC, Seattle
 

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