Tourneau’s famous Midtown flagship, long known to shoppers as the “Time Machine,” reopens today following a two-year gut renovation. Gone are the store’s famous facade of clocks, now replaced by a high-tech video installation.
“The store is completely new, nothing about the old store that existed remains. We moved the storefront out about six feet and the iconic clocks did go but they have been replaced with a video projection that at night will run clocks, videos, any content onto the glass of the building,” said Ira Melnitsky, chief executive officer for Tourneau and president of Bucherer USA. With this additional storefront, the company has added 1,800 square feet of selling space.
The Time Machine’s reopening lifts the veil on Tourneau’s long-awaited project and its new era under the Bucherer brand name — following a 2018 acquisition by Swiss watch retailer Bucherer that is known across Europe.
The facade of the newly renovated Time Machine store says “Bucherer” rather than Tourneau. Continuing with the company’s transition plans, as outlined by WWD in June, the company will operate under the joint moniker “Tourneau Bucherer” for a year before completely pivoting to the Bucherer name. While the Time Machine’s facade only reads as “Bucherer 1888,” the joint name is included on more temporary materials like receipts, shopping bags and marketing materials.
The renovated Bucherer 1888 Time Machine will be the first point of sale in the U.S. for the retailer’s signature Bucherer Blue line of watches that is sold across Europe. Half of the store’s upper level is devoted to Bucherer Fine Jewelry, also newly available in the U.S., which includes some haute joaillerie pieces specially designed for the New York store.
While many high-end timepiece retailers dole out portions of their floor space to different vendors who design each area independently, the new Time Machine has broken with tradition and uses a new “hybrid,” model according to Melnitsky.
“It’s a hybrid design unlike most other stores, where you have shops-in-shop from different brands. We have created a common platform and went to brands — they all supported it. It creates a much more holistic and unique experience. Timepieces are a category that people are very passionate about and we don’t want to draw invisible lines on the floor. We want people to explore — there is curated decor to help tell brand stories without making a jarring transition,” he said.
The timepiece industry continues to see consumer interest skew upscale, with an eagerness to buy in at higher price points. Melnitsky said that when devising the vendor list for a renovated Time Machine store, “we did some editing. We wanted to make sure we curated for our customers. The days of being something for everyone don’t apply anymore and customers expect us to be discerning in our offering. In the case of watches, a lower price point is more accessible today in different ways than they historically were so that is less of our focus now.”
To create a more fluid shopping experience, traditional case lines have been exchanged for more social settings — marble tables and sofa seating areas where associates can have more natural social interactions with customers. A new Bucherer service center has been formatted as an “open kitchen restaurant,” said Melnitsky, so the company can “showcase the talent of our watchmakers.”
While international restrictions due to the pandemic continue to weigh on New York retail, Melnitsky said that domestic shoppers are the main source of Tourneau Bucherer’s clientele. “We shifted that focus about five years ago and in 2019, prior to COVID-19, we saw 92 percent of our sales come from domestic customers. Now that’s closer to 99 percent of the business but that’s perfectly fine, it gives us opportunity to spend time with the customers we already know,” he said.