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The Big Story: Study Abroad






Leaving the United States to scour the rest of
the world for its coolest jewelry and watch stores
isn’t the easiest task. In fact, most stores across the
globe conform to a corporate identity, which makes
them way more mainstream and way less cool. But,
just as America has its innovative independent
retailers, so too does the rest of the world — and
they can even be found, if one takes the time to do
some digging. So, INDESIGN looked high and low
for stores that step outside the norm, that are willing
to take risks and make mistakes, all in the name of
providing a different customer experience. What
we found were retailers whose stores will spark
ideas and whose thought-provoking concepts will
be just as inspirational — if not more so — as their
“cool” American counterparts.

Story by Keith W. Strandberg




Geneva, Switzerland; Taipei, Taiwan

The idea for the M.A.D. Gallery grew out of a need for
the watch brand MB&F (Max Büsser & Friends) to have
a showcase in its hometown of Geneva.

“The concept was developed very intuitively and,
in fact, we did absolutely no research and no thorough
planning,” explains chief communications officer Charris
Yadigaroglou. “A few days before the 2011 BaselWorld
show, an opportunity for the space popped up, it was
reasonable and available, and we had to decide within
a week. We needed a space to show our timepieces here
in Geneva; we didn’t even have a retail partner. The idea
of having a mechanical art gallery rather than a conventional
watch store came up. Max Büsser had a crazy idea
about a year before to retail his watches in art galleries
and he just about got thrown out of these galleries, so if
the art galleries wouldn’t take us, we thought we’d create
our own gallery.”

The storefront of the M.A.D.
Gallery in Geneva’s Old Town.

That loose concept allows the gallery to showcase just
about anything — from watches to motorcycles to flying
cars, and just about anything in between.

The gallery has been, in spite of itself, quite successful.
“We had no idea what we were doing; no one had ever
managed a boutique or had any retail experience,” Yadigaroglou
admits. “But we had a willingness to present
our timepieces in a context that made sense to us. For us,
mechanical watchmaking is a contemporary art form, so
it makes sense to display them here.”

Having the M.A.D. Gallery, which stands for Mechanical
Art Devices, allows MB&F to sell to its customers
directly, and the space is paid for by the watch sales they
make. “When we started this concept, we didn’t expect
to sell the gallery items, but to our surprise, things have
sold,” Yadigaroglou says, adding that the gallery has seen
about 18,000 visitors since opening and has sold about
1,500 items over the last three years.


“I think the success is because there has been no retail
planning, no measured approach,” says Yadigaroglou. “In
today’s world, everything is researched and planned, so
most concepts you see are predictable. Because we didn’t
do this and the choices we make are intuitive, it’s always
surprising what we present, and our customers like that.”

Another M.A.D. Gallery opened in Taiwan recently,
and a third is coming to Dubai in September.

“We don’t expect to have 20 or 30 M.A.D. Galleries
around the world, but a few in the right spaces would be
great,” Yadigaroglou adds.





Celebrating 150 years this
year, Printemps is a Paris

Printemps is unquestionably one of the
coolest stores in the world and, surprisingly,
one of the oldest as well. Celebrating
150 years this year, Printemps constantly
reinvents itself to keep the customer experience
fresh and novel. Over 70 million visitors
pass through the doors of Printemps’
18 stores throughout France every year,
with the Boulevard Haussmann store, the
flagship, accounting for 28 million of these. “Everything
has changed in 150 years and in today’s constantly evolving
world, longevity is an undeniable asset,” says CEO
Paolo De Cesare. “Our founder, Jules Jaluzot, wanted
everything to be new, fresh and beautiful. His vision and
positioning were groundbreaking and were the foundation
for his success. The most remarkable thing is that
this vision, this commitment to constant innovation, to
offering the extraordinary every day, has endured and
continues to guide us in everything we do and propose.”

Printemps is not afraid to shake up the status quo,
especially when it comes to jewelry and watches. The
jewelry and watch area, on the first floor, is designed to
be open, allowing customers to flow freely from maison
to maison, with the “weightless” furniture contributing
to the feeling of openness.

Printemps has become famous for its “active” window
displays. “In 2000, the artist Artus even transported his
bedroom to one and slept there overnight,” says artistic
director Franck Banchet. “Tom Ford was the first to
launch fashion marketing in the 2000s and brands then
became aware that a window display was a medium in
its own right. Since then, we have started many highly
creative partnerships with labels such as Lanvin, Chanel,
Dior, Prada and Burberry.

“These days, everyone can travel,” he continues. “To
generate surprise and appeal, department stores must
present a showcase, an intention and enchantment, obviously
related to its values but also to the city that it
represents. Christian Lacroix creating couture dresses,
but in black denim, Karl Lagerfeld sitting in a window
display … We like to give the general public something
that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see.”

With a history of 150 years and a mandate to innovate,
Printemps is well positioned for the future. “In a
world that is becoming increasingly digital, specialized
and particularly attentive to efficiency, I believe that the
need for discovery, pleasure and emotion — which are,
after all, human nature — is even more important,” De
Cesare says. “Consequently, I am convinced that Printemps
is more relevant than ever. I am sure that emotion
and surprise are in Printemps’ future.”




Joachim Ziegler, CEO of
Les Ambassadeurs, caters
to collectors with
high-end service.

Located in the heart of the luxury watch industry, Les
Ambassadeurs has four stores in Switzerland (Geneva,
Zurich, St. Moritz, Lugano), and promotes itself as the
“Leading House of Leading Names.”

Les Ambassadeurs focuses on the customer experience,
creating environments that match the luxury
watches they showcase.

“We offer our customers a wide and unique range of
different brands, giving them the best and neutral advice
in a beautiful, modern and truly luxurious setting,”
says CEO Joachim Ziegler. “On
the second floor of our stores,
you will find the most soughtafter
collectible pieces exhibited
in our custom made watch
winder-wall — a true heaven for
watch enthusiasts. It is here, in
the Espace Connaisseur, where
we organize gatherings for watch
collectors and special exhibitions
about various topics, and
where we treat our VIP clients
to a personal but discreet service
they find nowhere else.”

The four Les Ambassadeurs
stores are decorated in a style
befitting their environment. For
example, in the St. Moritz store,
the store is fitted with mountain
stone and wood, matching the
high-end resort itself. In Geneva, the inside of the store
complements Geneva’s mixture of old and new.

“A multi-brand retailer is kind of like a living thing,
where the total is more important than any single piece,
but the total can’t exist without the single pieces,” Ziegler
says. “It’s the team, it’s the mixture of brands, it’s the
amount of brands, and it’s the philosophy of our company.
We are not just selling watches; we are living and
breathing watches. We are not just exposing brands, but
it is the way they are exposed. I can’t sell watches in an
environment that is not up to the level of products we
are selling.”




The Hour Glass is the leading retailer in Singapore specializing
in high-end watches, special limited editions
and unique timepieces from the finest brands. Back in
2011, The Hour Glass executive director Michael Tay
came up with the idea to create a showcase space that
could present special watches, jewelry and other high
end products.

The result is Malmaison.
Inspired by Château de Malmaison, the famous 19th
century home of Napoleon and Josephine Bonaparte,
Malmaison in Singapore is a space where The Hour Glass
can display virtually anything that fits into the luxury

“Malmaison has not only fulfilled our
enduring desire to create a unique luxury
emporium concept in the global retail landscape,
it also fuels our long term vision to
be the world’s leading cultural enterprise,”
explains Tay. “Malmaison is about celebrating
the ingenuity of the human mind — that
man has progressed so far as to create, simply
with an idea and his hands, an object of
such impassioned refinement. Malmaison is designed
to be the ultimate temple of luxury with its carefully curated
collections of the finest of each category, be it in
jewelry, horology, clothing or fragrances.”

Some of the brands showcased at Malmaison include
French jewelry designer Aurélie Bidermann; Pierre Corthay,
French bespoke shoemaker; Rubinacci custom tailors;
Frédéric Malle fragrances; Shamballa
jewelry; Taschen Books; Mawi Keivom; Audrey
Savransky’s AS29; and Marjana Von

The design of Malmaison is crafted to
evoke a private home or museum, where
customers can feel comfortable spending
time chatting or just relaxing. “We wanted
to create an atmosphere of coffee and conversation,
in a setting that evokes a sense of nostalgia, yet is not steeped in the traditional, as we are
principally a contemporary culture,” explains Tay. “Here,
you will find 300 year-old restored antique clocks from
Charles Le Roy, master clockmaker to Napoleon, ticking
alongside some of the world’s finest and most progressive
timepieces; underscoring the fact that an object of real
craftsmanship has perpetual value, even over centuries.
More than just a retail space, Malmaison is an exploratory
space to wander in, be intrigued by and discover.

“We want our customers to feel like they are our
houseguests; to enter Malmaison is like entering someone’s
house, or an intimate little museum,” Tay continues.

“We have spared no efforts in enhancing their
experience, be it in the scattering of personal artifacts
and curios that completely enliven the space, or the
comfortable lighting and soft furnishings like antique
rugs and settees.”



London, England

Named after its owner and founder, Marcus
Margulies, the Marcus store aims to have
the largest collections of the best brands and
the highest complications of any store in the
UK, and they certainly have succeeded.
Margulies has a long history in the watch
industry. His father was a watch importer
and distributor, and Marcus continued in the
family business, amassing a large collection
of timepieces as well as solid relationships with the best
brands. He opened the Marcus boutique in 2002.

Owner and founder
of Marcus,

“Clients who enter our store are looking for luxury
timepieces, and so the service has to match the product,”
store manager Paul Allison says. “All clients are treated
as individuals and offered the Marcus experience. Due
to the success of our social media, we get a lot of passionate
watch aficionados who cannot afford some of
the pieces, but we are not going to turn them away, and
are happy to give them a tour of the store and show off
some of our pieces.”

Unlike other watch stores, Marcus does not use the
displays from the brands, but focuses on the store as the
brand. “All the displays we use are created in-house and
bear the Marcus logo,” Allison points out.

Being located on London’s renowned Bond Street
means that Marcus has a lot of foot traffic, and the store
focuses on the windows to catch customers’ attention.

“We try to change the windows at least once a month
and as pieces are sold, or come on, they are constantly
added,” Allison details. “In addition, we have clients from
all over the world who come regularly throughout the
year to see us, so we need something different every time
that they come in. This can be difficult as some of the
brands that we stock only produce a very small amount
of pieces per year.”

As for the secret of success, Margulies credits following
his instinct and basing his final choice on knowledge
and emotion. “Emotion cannot work without knowledge
and knowledge without emotion,” Margulies says. “The
combination of both is irresistible to an individualist.

I have never been afraid to make mistakes. The Marcus
boutique is a vital part of that philosophy which has
worked very well for me.”




Founded in 1969 and based in the UAE, Dhamani
operates 15 boutiques — the flagship
store in the Dubai Mall, and 14 Dhamani boutiques
spread throughout the region. In addition,
Dhamani is the sole distributor of the 99-faceted
Dubai-cut diamond.

“We are in the people business, and our key
touch points are the personalized service and attention
to detail, not only in the product, but in
the different experience that we offer when the client
enters our boutique,” says CEO and managing director
Amit Dhamani. “Being the only vertically integrated jeweler
in the Gulf Cooperation Council market, we have
control over where our gemstones are sourced from. We
also have in-house designers who can sit down with customers
to understand their tastes and provide a bespoke
experience. Every piece of jewelry we make is bespoke,
tailored to suit the desires of our customers.

Because everything Dhamani sells is custom, the store
experience surrounds clients with only the finest quality
gems and service. “Since each of our pieces is bespoke,
and the gems sourced ourselves, we want to create the
feeling of contentment, comfort and pride when they
make a purchase. They leave knowing they have purchased
the best product with all the right documentation
with the assurance of the Dhamani seal on it.”

The layout of the Dhamani boutique reflects the
company’s approach to gemstones and jewelry and the
brand’s place in the industry. As Dhamani operates in the
high end of the jewelry business, the boutiques are set
up to allow the space and time needed by the customers.

“Customers who come for these products certainly
need more time to make their decisions,” Dhamani says.
“We have developed a segmented way of display and arrangement
of jewelry that provides customers with focused
product selections. We are constantly training our
team in various aspects and skills related to this.”

The future of Dhamani rests in the transparency of
the company in its sourcing of fine-quality gemstones
and crafting of world-class jewels, Dhamani says. “The
surprise element for a client comes from different experiences
with the Dhamani product. We personally take
care of our customers to understand their needs and ensure
that we fulfill them and more. That way when they
leave, they can be confident that what they wear is truly
something unique only for them.”




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