Edinburgh fine jeweller Hamilton & Inches has finally been permitted to open its doors to the public after it underwent an extensive five-storey renovation project during the latest lockdown.
The listed building on the Scottish capital’s George Street has a new shopfront clad in Scottish Whintone, and has brought back its original design, installing curved glass panels set in an antique bronze, with jewellery displayed on a carved breccia marble plinth topped in silk.
Inside, upgrades have also taken place in the showroom and throughout the three floors above, which continue to be occupied by the team’s master craftspeople and their apprentices, who handcraft bespoke jewellery and silver designs onsite.
Specialist facilities for watch technicians and valuers at ground and lower level have also seen upgrades, including a Rolex-accredited workshop, as well as an expanded Rolex and Patek Philippe presence across the showroom.
Speaking with WatchPro’s sister publication, Professional Jeweller, CEO Victoria Houghton told Sam Lewis more about the reopening this week, which was dictated by the lifting of the Scottish Government’s ban on non-essential retail: “I shouldn’t complain but we’ve had a lot of customers in.
“The first day was noticeably more people dropping off items for repairs, and then yesterday we had really good sales. Today we’ve had lots of couples enjoying a glass of champagne. I guess people are just really up for treating themselves.”
Houghton added: “It is a great building, but it was very tired before and hadn’t really been updated since the 1980s. Now the whole thing has been really looked at, from the lighting to the cabinetry to the way we lay everything out. It’s quite a transformation.”
On whether the lockdown interfered with the construction plans, the CEO explained: “The work was planned in for January, and we proposed six weeks of work. Then the lockdown happened, which actually was a bit of a silver lining for us.
“There was a moment we weren’t sure if we were allowed to carry on. And thank goodness, the construction industry was allowed to carry on.
“But in reality it took longer than six weeks, so the lockdown sort of played into our favour.”
Going into more detail about the layout of the redesigned space, beginning with the jewellery space, she continued: “There’s that big central diamond bar at the beginning, which we never had. Now there’s much more of a customer journey. Then you find Georg Jensen and Fope.
“And then from a watch point of view, we’ve doubled the size of Patek Philippe and the Rolex room, although it isn’t larger in square footage. We removed the Rolex bar and have three points of sale. We’ve also allocated more space to pre-owned watches.”
Professional Jeweller’s Sam Lewis spoke with Houghton back in December about the upcoming renovation project, but in actuality the process has been much longer than just a few months’ work.
“It started off as a shop frontage project that I realised wasn’t really going to change the experience enough. So then it was the whole store. Then it was the back VIP rooms. Then it was the staff room, and the new Rolex-accredited workshop.
“So the whole project started two and a half years ago, and then we realised that it all needed to be done.”
So where does the iconic Edinburgh store go from here? “I think it’s all about growth now,” said Houghton. “Growing our customer base. I’ve noticed in just the past few days different people looking in the window.
“We still have the same building, and it’s still the same strong brand and essentially the same collections.
“But we’ve upgraded that into a more contemporary feel in the terms of our branding, the packaging, the props, the store. So now it’s the time to really realise that growth. And see now how it converts.”
View a timelapse video of the shop’s transformation below: