In the midst of a crisis we’re all suffering to polarised extents, the sentiment of that ever-hashtagged ‘first-world problems’ has never resonated more poignantly in so many quarters. But, in spite of COVID-19’s best efforts, life and livelihoods must go on – and yes that still includes the world of highfalutin luxury watchmaking.
Thanks to plenty of people reading this now (even you, perhaps) ROX has continued to trade, despite furloughing the vast majority of its staff. “Our online sales are up by a factor of three or four, in fact,” reveals co-founder Kyron Keogh, “for which we can thank our loyal and local client base!”
But ROX is a business that was built on two particularly prescient pillars: aforementioned e-commerce, yes, but also the ‘experiential’ approach to customer engagement. Parties, in other words. For which, as any ROX devotee knows all too well, Kyron et al. have a notorious knack for throwing.
“Coming out of all this, people will still crave newness and beautiful, lasting things – so I’m positive overall,” he says. “Things will bounce back if customers are feeling confident.
“But I’m also a businessman,” he adds, “so I have to be realistic; how do we engage, if people are still cautious about coming into town, let alone rubbing shoulders, breaking bread and shaking hands? How to keep up the whole ‘ROX’ experience?”
Unlike the more traditional jewellers, now having to think fast about aisle widths and point-of-sale placement, ROX’s decadent ‘lounge’ set-up won’t need much of a rejig. But for anyone who’s already missing their fix of Moët upstairs at the Argyll Arcade, Kyron and Grant are already hatching plans – unsurprisingly capitalising on the new age of Zoom sociability that coronavirus has catalysed.
“I’ve been watching with awe how America’s Haute Living platform has mobilised about 70 luxury-focused webinars online over the past four weeks alone,” says Kyron. “Jean-Claude Biver and Swiss Beatz’ session was a lesson for all of us. As Giles English mentions below, Bremont is already adapting in a similarly successful fashion.”
Speaking of which, how are the watchmakers themselves reacting? Will we continue to see the sort of innovation that Zenith, TAG Heuer and Hublot have been bringing with high-frequency timing, carbon components and materials science? This year’s launches have been in the the pipeline for 2 or 3 years, so we’re still enjoying confident blockbusters like Zenith’s new Chronomaster Revival Shadow, Hublot’s first-ever Big Bang with an integrated bracelet or Bremont’s challenge to go your own way configure an MBII to your personal specs. But will we see a widespread return to simpler three-handed watches, and comfortingly nostalgic vintage reissues, just as we did after the 2008 crash?
To be fair, the cleaner-cut retro vibes are still being felt (no bad thing after all the hyper-horological largesse of the mid-Noughties) but there was a sense, pre-COVID, that Switzerland was finally getting its groove back, into the here, now and beyond. Will the brakes be back on?
Let’s hear from four of the industry’s top dogs on how ROX’s nine shop windows will be stocked over the next couple of years and what you can buy now from the comfort of your living room…