Much of the Fine Watch Room at Harrods is now behind construction hoardings as a major refurbishment gets underway.
The luxury watch destination will partially re-open ahead of the key Christmas trading period, Harrods says, but the full reveal of an expanded two level luxury watch department connected by a striking spiral staircase will be in 2018.
The Fine Watch Room will occupy its current ground floor position, and a lower ground space of similar size.
Watch brands are jostling for the best locations in the expanded space, but WatchPro understands that talks have currently broken down between Harrods and Swatch Group over the allocation of boutiques.
Inevitably, all leading brands are fighting for ground floor boutiques, rather than lower ground, positions, particularly as the ground floor of the Fine Watch Room will have its own new entrance directly from the street.
Richemont watch brands look like being the big winner, with Vacheron Constantin and Jaeger-LeCoultre securing boutiques on the ground floor. Cartier will double the size of its jewellery and watch boutique, which will act as a bridge between the Fine Watch Room and the Fine Jewellery Room.
Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet, both with close ties to Richemont, are also expected to be on the ground floor, according to sources close to the discussions.
Rolex is the only other brand expected to have its own boutique on the ground floor.
Unless the current impasse in negotiations is resolved, Swatch Group brands Omega, Longines, Breguet, Rado, Glashütte Original and Blancpain, which were all present in the Fine Watch Room before the refurbishment began, will be absent when it re-opens.
Swatch Group’s fine jewellery and watch brand Harry Winston, located in the Harrods Fine Jewellery Room, is not thought to be affected.
Signage around the Fine Watch Room last week listed 19 luxury watch brands, all of which are independents or from LVMH, Richemont or Rolex/Tudor.
Harrods has not confirmed the final line up of brands that will occupy the ten boutiques and the multibrand concession space when the Fine Watch Room reopens.
A statement from the company in response to questions from WatchPro says: “The Fine Watch Room at Harrods is currently under development. Harrods cannot comment on specific brands within the department until it opens”.
Swatch Group has not responded to questions sent by WatchPro last week.
If the group’s brands do not appear in the Harrods Fine Watch Room, it will be the second time that disagreements over placement have led Swatch negotiators to walk away from talks.
In 2010, Swatch Group pulled all of its watches out of The Wonder Room at Selfridges when it felt it was not being given the same opportunities as other brands. Longines, Rado, Blancpain and Tissot have since returned to the department store, but Omega is still absent.