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Why Watch Sellers Are Betting Big on Brick-and-Mortar Shopping

Why everyone from Bucherer to Vacheron Constantin is putting a premium on in-store shopping.

Vacheron Constantin Liam O'Donnell

Who said in-person shopping is dead? While the pandemic may have further accelerated the trend toward buying online, a trio of bold-faced store openings suggest major brands and multibrand retailers alike are counting on a collective desire for the hands-on experience. Vacheron Constantin and Bucherer both recently opened multistory boutiques on New York City’s 57th Street, while Danny Goldsmith, a former watch salesman at Cellini, has unveiled a new outpost in Delray Beach, Florida.

Vacheron was first to the punch when it opened the doors to its largest flagship in the world this summer, starting with a soft launch for appointment-only clients. The 4,500-square-foot space at 28 E. 57th St. officially welcomes the public this month, and there’s plenty to see, including the company’s only permanent collection of its Les Collectionneurs vintage watches, a custom-strap bar and a soundproof VIP lounge. And only here can you purchase one of Vacheron’s ultra-elite, one-of-a-kind Les Cabinotiers watches in-store. (If you need a reason to persuade your family to let you drop in, there’s a stash of kids’ games on the second floor.)

A skip away at 12 E. 57th St., Bucherer is relying on its own tricks to lure crowds to its sprawling, 18,379-square-foot multibrand behemoth. (The three-story building used to house the Tourneau TimeMachine boutique; Bucherer purchased that company in 2018, and the palatial new digs are one of the crowning achievements of the merger.) Almost 40 different brands are on display, with a lounge dedicated to certified preowned watches, three separate bars offering a selection of wine from Sotheby’s and ongoing curated art exhibitions.

Carl F. Bucherer

A Carl F. Bucherer exclusive watch from the Bucherer boutique in NYC.  Carl F. Bucherer


Two hours south by plane, former New Yorker Danny Goldsmith is taking a different approach. His eponymous Goldsmith & Complications, at 411 E. Atlantic Ave. in Delray Beach, aims to be a go-to purveyor of hard-to-find independent watchmakers such as Urwerk and Purnell. Currently, the store is also the exclusive retailer for American luxury watchmaker J. N. Shapiro. On offer as well: decorative, watch-related objets, including 30 limited-edition pieces from Berd Vay’e, the Brooklyn-based artists known for their Lucite sculptures featuring rare vintage-watch components that appear to float within the structures. Each 17-inch artwork available here was created in partnership with Chicago Cubs switch-hitter Ian Happ and incorporates pieces of his record-setting bats.

Goldsmith & Complications

Goldsmith & Complications’ Berd Vay’e x Ian Happ limited-edition sculpture.  Goldsmith & Complications

Need more evidence that brick-and-mortar not only isn’t on the wane but possibly resurgent? Consider Watches of Switzerland as the bellwether. The largest multibrand retailer in the US and the UK reported a 17.5 percent increase in constant-currency sales to date, relative to the pre-pandemic days of 2019. When we dropped by its SoHo boutique in July, Rolex’s entire shop-in-shop was wiped of watches, save for four lonely Datejusts and one Day-Date model. Perhaps it should come as no surprise. If the past year has taught us anything, we should never underestimate the value of human connection.

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