MILAN — When Ugo Pisa opened a small laboratory to repair and sell Rolex watches in 1940, little did he imagine his undertaking would blossom into a 4,320-square-foot flagship dedicated to the brand.

Instead, thanks to the long-standing relationship between the Swiss watchmaker and four female Pisa descendants who continued in Ugo’s footsteps — his daughters, Ileana and Maristella, and granddaughters, Stefania Bravi Pisa and Chiara Fiorentino Pisa — last month Rolex inaugurated its first European flagship on Via Montenapoleone.

“My grandfather was a pioneer when he started carrying Rolex watches and we’ve maintained a great relationship with the [firm’s] management. This new store was our idea, but it further strengthens our ties with Rolex,” said Bravi Pisa, marketing and communications director for Pisa.

The Pisa family continues to operate the store on Via Verri opened by Ugo that was a favorite of everyone from Milanese nobility to Maria Callas. Today among the brands it carries are Piaget, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin, Blancpain and IWC. Adjacent to the multibrand unit, Pisa is renovating a space that will be exclusively dedicated to Patek Philippe.

The multilevel Rolex store was designed by architect Claudio Monti and Rolex’s interior designers.

“This store reflects Rolex spaces around the world, but here the design concept is taken to extremes and it has a very Italian feeling,” said Bravi Pisa.

Neither sales projections nor the investment to refurbish the store were disclosed, though Pisa expects to sell about 2,000 watches in the first year.

Understated luxury is achieved via a muted, honey-colored palette of wood, cream-colored walls, cappuccino leather and taupe carpeting. Past the main entrance on the ground floor is a glass elevator and a custom-made 25-by-11-foot leather wall etched with the Rolex logo. A shot of color comes from the 11-foot foam green glass table with a wave-shaped etching reminiscent of the sea.

A vertical garden by French botanist Patrick Blanc, who recently lent his eco-friendly touch to the Trussardi Café, acts as a green backdrop for most of the building’s height. The first floor is dedicated to sales, while one floor up are four Rolex-trained technicians on hand for quick repairs.

This story first appeared in the June 18, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The lineup includes 200 styles in various declinations plus the $630,000 GMT Ice men’s watch entirely covered in top-quality white diamonds.

The top-floor veranda will host art installations and cultural events. “The store doesn’t only want to be a point of sale for great watches, but something new and unique,” said Bravi Pisa.

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