Swiss watch industry executives at this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) in Geneva were cautiously optimistic about the recovery of the watchmaking industry after two tough years. As a result the mood was positive and SIHH was buzzing. As the sole retail agents for Roger Dubuis in South Africa, it was great for us at The Vault to see them celebrate news of their best month ever in December 2017.
I’ve been a petrolhead since I was a teenager, and the brand’s partnerships with Lamborghini and Pirelli resonate with me personally and with the business. Most car collectors are watch collectors and vice versa – and Daytona, of which The Vault forms a part, focuses on ‘one customer’ for the niche luxury brands in the group. Daytona was established as a luxury car importer and distributor, whereas the first Vault store was really for pre-owned watches. It started more as a hobby, but the plan always was to open more around the country.
Pirelli and Roger Dubuis partner up
On the Roger Dubuis side, there are new watches coming out of their Lamborghini Squadra Corse partnership but, for me, probably more exciting is their Pirelli partnership. (Pirelli is our tyre supplier for Aston Martin and McLaren). The prices of the Lamborghini watches are out of reach for most South Africans whereas the Excalibur Spider Pirelli models are more affordable (in Roger Dubuis terms).
Roger Dubuis is one of the main fine watchmaking exhibitors at SIHH while HYT, for which the Vault is also the South African agent, features in the Carré des Horlogers for contemporary watchmakers. Their watches are not cheap pieces – but their customers obviously want something more bespoke. Designed to tell time by the movement of coloured liquid via a piston system, these watches are highly exclusive and supercool. We ordered four pieces from the HYT H1 collection, which sold within a month.
Sold in South Africa
The South African market is worth taking seriously. The top end of the market is not nearly as affected as the rest within the current economic climate. It’s still quite a buoyant market – both in cars and watches. I’m talking McLaren, Rolls-Royce and so forth, and top-end watches such as Rolex and A. Lange & Söhne.
Our stores are located in the upmarket Melrose Arch precinct, Menlyn Park Shopping Centre and Sandton City. We’ve aligned themwith the international trend towards the boutique-oriented, store-within-a-store concept, with interiors featuring bespoke furniture designed by the brands and made in Switzerland.
A. Lange & Söhne in The Vault
Exciting news for The Vault is the addition of the A. Lange & Söhne boutique area in Melrose Arch, which is a first for Africa, and
the inclusion of a Rolex boutique area at Menlyn Park. The latter, our second Vault store, is now the premier Rolex location in the country, with a full range in stock. It also has Omega and Montblanc boutique areas. And we’ve opened a standalone Breitling concept store at Sandton City, which is another first for the continent.
Our A. Lange & Söhne sales have exceeded expectations. These are arguably the finest watches in the world, and the Triple Split chronograph is the most exciting watch for us this year. CEO Wilhelm Schmid came out for our launch in March 2018, which was fantastic. He recognises that the market’s strong here. And I love showing the world what South Africa is about, showing people that this isn’t some irrelevant place.
This article first appeared in Issue 39 of Private Edition. It has been edited for length.