A. Lange & Sohne and Audemars Piguet are no longer offered at Pragnell’s Stratford-Upon-Avon showroom, despite additional space being devoted to luxury Swiss watches at the recently extended store.
Blancpain watches are now on sale in the boutique for the first time.
Pragnell now stretches from number 5 to number 7 on Wood Street in the heart of the historic town; number 7 is the new addition.
Patek Philippe has its own area in the centre of the store in number 6, the centre of the store. The Rolex space stretches from number 6 into the new number 7 space which is a multibrand area housing Omega, Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Blancpain, Panerai, Longines, Reservoir and Breitling.
“Blancpain is new, but we have said goodbye to Lange this year and finished working with Audemars Piguet, which has been a gradual process,” says managing director Charlie Pragnell.
He stresses that the business remains on good terms with all watch brands, but is sending a clear message that watchmakers favouring more direct sales to consumers through their own stores and ecommerce efforts are being questioned.
A. Lange & Sohne opened a boutique in partnership with Wempe on London’s Bond Street earlier this year. Audemars Piguet is opening an AP House, also on Bond Street, in September.
“Their strategies change from time-to-time, but I do believe that the brands that first started out with a strategy that favours their direct distribution channel are now recognising and acknowledging that in some parts of the world, that is not the most effective way. I believe those watch brands that have not yet recognised this, soon will,” Mr Pragnell says.
“The decisions that brands make with their strategies inevitably affect our choices when it comes to working out which we want to work with. The brands that do not favour their direct distribution channel seem to be the most successful across the industry. So QED,” he adds.
Authorized dealers are also struggling to profit from stocking watches that are being sold on the secondary market at significant discounts. Demand for AP’s Royal Oak is so strong that the watches trade online at above recommended retail prices, but secondary market prices for AP Milenary and Royal Oak Offshore models are far softer.
A. Lange & Sohne prices on the secondary market are commonly below the prices an authorised dealer must offer. A 2019 rose gold Lange 1 with a retail price of £29,450 at authorised dealers can be bought online at Watchfinder today for just £23,750. Interestingly, both A. Lange & Sohne and Watchfinder are owned by Richemont.
Given the transparency of prices on secondary market websites and the instant availability of models from across the world, authorized dealers can find themselves pouring money into supporting brands only to endure customers browsing in their stores then shopping online for watches that they know are being discounted.
The expansion of Pragnell’s Stratford-Upon-Avon showroom was underway at the same time the business opened a boutique in London’s Mayfair and rebranded Tarratt Jewellers in Leicester, which it acquired in 1996, as a Pragnell store. And, for now, Mr Pragnell says that he will pause on further expansion for now.
“One has to be very careful when developing a business like ours that we maintain that personal feeling and high quality of service,” he tells WatchPro.