Let’s go ten years back in time, to the year 2000. I remember fairly well that a friend of mine was in the process of purchasing a new Omega Speedmaster Professional ‘Moonwatch’. After he did his homework, reading articles about this watch on TimeZone and corresponding with Speedmaster collector Chuck Maddox, we went out on a trip to the local jewelers to examine this watch in person.
The thing that stands out vividly from this trip was the sales lady who took the watch out of its display case and asked us, “Does it run on battery or have an automatic movement?” and she went on to vigorously shake the watch! Not only was I surprised, it also scared the hell out of me. How could a sales person be so ignorant as to the expensive luxury goods she was selling?
It is just one example from those days, where sales personnel did not necessarily have the knowledge or know how, yet continued to ply their trade. How hard can it be to learn about your products or ask help from a colleague? On the other hand, if you don’t know the ins and outs of this classic time piece that didn’t change from 1968 onwards, your rep is very questionable.
Unfortunately, this was not the only store where they didn’t seem to take knowledge of their trade very seriously. Forums and blogs (watch blogs came to life around 2004) were not common and certainly not participated in by brands and watch sales people.
Flash forward to 2010. Things have changed drastically. Today you’ll find it a challenge to seek out a jeweler who is not informed about his products, including classics pieces, and about the latest in blog and forum happenings. In fact a lot of jewelers have begun our conversation with “you probably know more about this watch than I do” before I have even introduced myself. The modern jeweler has an eye for what’s happening on-line, can compete with grey internet dealers, knows his collection and requires his staff to keep themselves informed as well. Brands have product knowledge meetings (although I can’t imagine that they didn’t have this ten years ago) for their dealer network and in most cases attending these are mandatory.
When I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, I visited a large watch store and was surprised to see them have the Patek Philippe Nautilus in stock. The sales lady noticed my Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Jumbo and asked me to try on the Nautilus and Nautilus chronograph. She knew about the movements, the availability (or lack thereof) and the fact that Royal Oak and Nautilus were designed by the same person, Gérald Genta. I either finally found someone who knows her stuff or things have really changed since 2000.
In the end, my friend bought his Speedmaster Professional from a shop specialized in mechanical watches. The store (it was a chain of stores actually) we visited in 2000 is now only selling fashion watches and Omega left the collection a few years ago.