Hot on the heels of the news that a Rolex Daytona, owned by Paul Newman, has shattered the world record for the highest price ever paid for a wristwatch, Mike Hudson, Rolex boutique manager on Old Bond Street, has come forward to give the industry an insight into the running of one of the UK’s most high-profile showrooms.
Who is your customer?
We have a 50/50 split between UK and international customers. Before we started collecting data on this I would have expected it to be 80% international but that’s not the case. However, the shopping habits do differ. UK customers tend to have a lower average selling price and want the more traditional styles, such as a Date Just in steel. International customers want 18ct gold and diamonds, and that’s just the men. Our Arabian clients want a much more “look at me” style. It’s part of the culture.
Have you noticed a difference in the way people shop thanks to online resources?
Internet research has meant that more people coming into the store have a good grasp on what watch they want and know more about it, and that’s not just the purists. A watch is a luxury purchase. You wouldn’t spend £10,000 on a car and not know anything about it before you go to the dealership and it’s the same here.
What kind of experience can a customer expect at your boutique?
We treat everyone the same, whether they know everything or nothing and if they are spending £3,000 or £30,000. I do have to remind my staff that we are very privileged to get to handle these luxury items every day, but some of the people coming into the store will have thought about this purchase for months, they will have saved up and finally made a decision to come to our boutique. They will have probably planned this trip, maybe even taken a day off work, it will be an event. It’s their first day as part of the Rolex family and we have a duty to make that special. We’ve even decorated the upstairs area with balloons for a 21st birthday purchase in order to deliver that one-in-a-lifetime experience.
What environment have you created within the store?
We are a standalone boutique, so people come to us because we are experts in retailing Rolex. All our staff are trained through Rolex Kings Hill and we have hundreds of years experience between us. Ivan has 30 years alone and the minimum is about 10 years.
I’m incredibly lucky to have such a good team. They are all so committed to delivering that luxury Rolex experience. We employ the best, but we’ve also made sure we employ vibrant, lively personalities. There is a perception that the combination of Rolex and Old Bond Street equals a stuffy retail environment but that isn’t the case here.
We like to give people a good time. Of course there’s the type of security you’d expect from a store carrying the type of product we do, but that side of the business should be invisible. From the top of Oxford Street to here, there are six places you could buy your Rolex from, so we’ve got to offer an experience you can’t get anywhere else – we offer champagne, we tailor the shopping experience to you, we do what we can to stand out. And people do come back to us and sometimes not even to buy watches – they just pop by for a cup of tea and a chat. And I love that. The other advantage we have is that, because we are a standalone boutique we get all the “firsts”. So we got the Sea and Sky Dwellers first and we were also the first Rolex boutique to have all the prototypes from Basel this year.
And what about other services that you offer?
As with all Aurum stores, the real point of difference is that all our servicing is done in-house. Jimmy Sheridan is our watchmaker and he’s recognised as one of the greatest watchmakers around today. Thanks to having him here, we don’t have to send watches away, which means we can attempt to get our turnaround on repairs or servicing down to just four weeks. We also get to tell our customers that from start to finish only one man will work on your watch, which is the type of watchmaking that only happens on grand complications. I think this is also the reason why repair customers are one of our most loyal. The majority of Rolex watches are given as gifts or as a reward to the buyer for something momentous like promotion. There’s always a story attached to the watch and when they leave a watch with us, they are essentially leaving a memory behind, so it’s reassuring to know that it won’t be leaving this store. When they come to collect it we do go in for a bit of theatre – it’s presented in a lovely pouch, we get the gloves out and show them a watch that looks as pristine as the day they bought it. We like to think of it as giving them back a shiny new memory.