Jewellery and watch businesses that can trace their history back to the 19th century are a rare breed in this country. Fewer still are owned and run by executives who are direct descendents of their founders.
Oliver Rapport is therefore almost unique. His family name hangs above the door of Rapport London, and he can trace his ancestry back to 1898, when his great grandfather, Maurice A. Rapport founded the company.
Rapport London began life as a maker of quality clocks, but has evolved over more than a century into a specialist in luxury watch accessories including cabinets, decorative safes and watch winders.
“Over time the high end clock market became increasingly difficult as technology became more advanced and style became more modern. We were already producing clocks, so it felt like a natural step for us to introduce a luxury range of watch accessories,” Oliver Rapport explains to WatchPro.com. “We were the first company to develop watch winders within the UK,” he adds.
Rapport London brings its historic expertise, links to the horological world, and the close bonds of a family business to its business today.
“We have built a long-standing reputation. Rapport London is a fourth generation family company still run by the same family. There are many advantages in that we are like one big family, where we look after all aspects of the business from employees, customer satisfaction and as always special attention to detail on all our products. Of course keeping this tradition going is a big responsibility but a great honour to carry on,” claims Mr. Rapport.
The UK is currently in the grip of a love affair with vintage watches, and Rapport London’s retailer customers are offering the company’s watch winders and other storage accessories alongside pre-owned mechanical timepieces.
Mr. Rapport is not convinced that this love affair with pre-owned watches will last forever, but believes it will fuel a more enduring passion for mechanical watches that need to be handled with greater care. “The jeweller recognises that for the watch collector this is an item of great interest. Whilst I am not sure on the strength of sales for pre-owned watches, the automatic watch has become a must have accessory for both men and women and Rapport has been able to be a part of this growth,” says Mr. Rapport.
It has also broadened Rapport London’s appeal beyond hard core watch collectors, and the brand is now popular with customers that own just one or two mechanical timepieces.
“We have a vast collection of watch winders suitable to hold only one watch, all the way up to the cabinets that hold twelve watches,” states Mr. Rapport.
Much of the company’s output is now created for export. “In Russia we sell more traditional pieces, where as in Japan they favour compact and contemporary such as our Evolution range. We also do receive some special commissions. Most recently we were commissioned to create two cabinets that hold sixteen watches in different finishes for a client based in Abu Dhabi. The great thing about our range is we have something to suit all tastes,” Mr. Rapport suggests.
Rapport London’s primary route to market is high street jewellers whose customers appreciate the quality and luxury finishes of the winders and other accessories just as much as they value their watches.
“Retail jewellers do like to stock a selection, as it is only really in person that you can appreciate the quality and finish of our products. The larger items such as the safes and cabinets are more like pieces of furniture, and with the limited space in store they tend to be by special order. We have well illustrated catalogues and together with our website and online store these items are very much accessible to our customers,” says Mr. Rapport.
Rapport London’s range was refreshed in time for Baselworld in March, and includes new watch collector boxes in its exclusive leather Portman range. The company has also added a feminine touch to its Evolution cube watch winders, which are now available in pastel pink.