It will take a few more weeks for many people to overcome the fear of leaving their homes and venturing out into the world to enjoy visiting non-essential shops.
Four months of one-sided media coverage has flipped the brain’s fight or flight instinct into a near fixed state of terror that will take time and a dramatic change in tone from the government and the press to unwind, WatchPro’s editor Rob Corder writes.
But the statistics speak for themselves. New Cases and deaths have been halving every 2-3 weeks since mid-April, prompting even this timid government to ease restrictions and encourage retailers back to work.
Having followed the ruinous lock down rules throughout, I was not going to miss the opportunity to get back out to shops on the day they reopened and thought I would record a quick tour of the key Central London retail areas of Oxford Street, Regent Street and Knightsbridge.
The experience, as I hope the video shows, is concerning from a business perspective, because the watch shops I visit were seeing very few customers on their first day back, but deeply reassuring because every store felt safe, well-organised and — importantly — just as pleasurable as always to spend time in.
Remarkably, I even found some brand new watches that were launched during lock down and have found their way into stores already.
Trying on a 2020 Breitling Chronomat and discovering Oris’s limited edition Holstein Diver 65 in bronze on the day it was unveiled were particular highlights.
There is nothing new from Rolex, but that did not prevent the brand attracting more customers than any other on the tour of London. I found customers strapping into Rolex watches in Watches of Switzerland on Regent Street, Selfridges, Harrods, the Knightsbridge monobrand store run by Bucherer and the WOSG-run boutique on Bond Street.
The key conclusion is that shopping for watches feels safe for customer and staff, and the security measures in place do not spoil the look and feel of the stores or the fun of sitting down with consultants to try stuff on.
My experience was that the train was safe, the tube was fine, walking the streets was entirely comfortable and the shops and their staff are just as enjoyable as ever.