It took Swiss luxury watchmaker Jaeger-LeCoultre four years to make the move into its new Rodeo Drive store in Beverly Hills.
During normal times, there are a lot of elements to coordinate, but the COVID-19 pandemic added a few challenges.
“It’s not a quick project,” said Catherine Rénier, the company’s chief executive officer, who was in town for the store’s grand opening last week.
A guests-only evening event at 430 North Rodeo Drive saw the 1,500-square-foot outpost packed with Champagne-sipping attendees who were face-to-face with a lot of expensive watches.
“We didn’t want to rush the opening. It had to feel right,” said Rénier, the first female CEO of a major luxury watch brand. “In a way we feel lucky opening today, which is probably better than opening two years ago.”
Jaeger-LeCoultre has had a Beverly Hills presence for more than a decade with a 500-square-foot boutique on Brighton Way. But a better shopping street and triple the amount of space seemed like the next logical step. “We thought we deserved a new location,” Rénier explained.
The facade of the new store was inspired by Jaeger-LeCoultre’s celebrated Reverso watch with its Art Deco design, first developed in the 1930s at the request of polo players who wanted a durable timepiece that had a swiveling case to protect their watches from being shattered by a swinging mallet.
The store’s interior is decorated in natural colors of beige and off white for a peaceful setting. “We want it to be a homey feeling when you visit,” the CEO said.
Visitors enter an area dedicated to the Reverso, where there is a display of limited editions and high-complication models as well as ways to personalize the case back. The next area has an interactive strap wall where clients can discover the best strap material, color and stitching for them.
With tourism still not back to where it was on Beverly Hills, it is even more important to reach out to locals who are fans of the brand. Europe is still the company’s strongest market, with the timepieces very popular in France and Italy. “Italy has had a love story with the Reverso since the 1970s,” Rénier noted.
Asia is the second-largest market, followed by the U.S. and the Middle East.
In recent years, the company has also been organizing periodic exhibitions in major cities around the world to educate the public about watchmaking and the unique character of Jaeger-LeCoultre’s collection.
Last fall, an exhibition in Paris on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré was organized to mark 90 years since the birth of the Reverso. It included Spacetime, a 3D installation by U.S. sculptor Michael Murphy that had 69 suspended components to create the internal mechanisms of the Reverso Tribute Nonanthième.
Last September, the company organized a two-week exhibition in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan that highlighted the company’s chiming watches, such as the minute repeater that tells time through a series of musical notes.
“The U.S. has always been a market of local clients but the idea behind the exhibitions is that we felt people were traveling less,” Rénier said. “The idea of these exhibitions is to be very educative. It is not about a watch collector’s club, but for anyone who wants to understand a little more about watch keeping.”
The exhibitions include a history of craftsmanship, demonstrations of products and an artistic interpretation of watch design. Jaeger-LeCoultre, which is owned by Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, is planning another watchmaking exhibition in New York City next fall to highlight the company’s history since it was founded in 1833.
“This has been a way for us to reach out to the public at large and tell them where we come from,” Rénier said. “Our exhibition next fall in New York will be much bigger.”