Welcome back to an aBlogtoWatch original series, where we discuss important stores that sell watches all over the world. Each store we profile has an interesting story to tell about where they operate and who they sell to. Whether you buy watches from brick and mortar retailers or prefer to buy watches online, these are the stores that help shape our watch culture around the globe. There is a long list of stores to cover, but if there is a retail location in your favorite city that we simply can’t miss, let us know in the comments below. Here is a map of stores we have covered so far.
Where to buy watches in Honolulu, Hawaii?
Today, we are finally covering a watch store in Hawai’i ne (which means “Hawaii here,” or “this Hawaii”) – a term you only use when you are in Hawaii. You might think it’s all grass shacks and beach goers out here, but the reality is that Honolulu is a city of nearly a million as well as a world-class tourist destination. So there is a strong local and tourist watch market here in paradise. And what better place to serve both client bases than from Ala Moana Center (located between downtown and Waikiki in Honolulu)? The newly opened Ewa wing of the world’s largest open air shopping center is home to the relocated and expanded Ben Bridge Timeworks.
Ben Bridge (the company) began in 1912 in downtown Seattle. Founder Samuel Silverman, a fine guild watchmaker, sold the business to Ben Bridge in 1927 and moved to California. By then, Ben had married Sam’s daughter and was already a partner in the business. Five generations later, the direct descendants are still actively operating the company, which became part of Berkshire Hathaway in 2000. Today, Ben Bridge Jeweler has over 70 stores in 11 states across the Western United States and Canada but their only dedicated timepiece store is Timeworks in Honolulu.
I spoke with Ben Bridge Timeworks manager Lisa White who has been with Ben Bridge since 1974. Which is hard to believe – she must have started when she was 5. But seriously, she has been selling watches for over 40 years with Ben Bridge which came to Hawaii in 1987 and opened their first Timeworks boutique in 1997.aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): What types of watches are popular in your market? What makes Honolulu a unique place to buy watches?
Ben Bridge Timeworks: Our clients like sophisticated watches they can wear as part of their everyday lives. Hawaii is a very informal place where pretty much everyone (including our politicians and leading business people) wear aloha shirts. I love that our clients wear their Patek Grand Complications and Platinum Rolexes with shorts and slippers (flip-flops). They appreciate quality and uniqueness, but they aren’t ostentatious. At the same time, we are on an island surrounded by water so dive watches and sports watches that people can wear while playing outside do very well here.
Many people buy fine timepieces to mark special moments in their lives. Honolulu is a great place to buy a watch because people often travel here with their loved ones to celebrate important milestones: honeymoons, anniversaries, and professional achievements. People lead such busy lives that couples rarely have a chance to spend quality time together, let alone shop together. When they are in Hawaii, they love to buy each other special gifts to remember their trip. Watches are the perfect way to mark moments in time. Properly cared for, they can last a lifetime and often become family heirlooms. Buying it in Hawaii also adds to the story of their watch and allows them to remember that memory for years to come.
ABTW: What would you tell watch lovers in other cities about the tastes of watch lovers in Honolulu?
Ben Bridge Timeworks: Watch lovers in Honolulu care about many of the same things as watch lovers elsewhere. They demand the utmost quality from the most desirable brands in the world. It is our job to continue to find new things that will excite and delight them. Our clients are very knowledgeable and travel widely, so we have to provide them with the best selection anywhere and back it up with the warmest personal service.
While our customers are very cosmopolitan, they like to buy from people they know, like, and trust. It is our job to continually go above and beyond to be worthy of the trust they place in us. Purchasing a timepiece is just the beginning of our relationship. We hope our clients will enjoy their watches for decades (if not generations) so it is our job to be there to take care of the piece. We think it is critical if you are going to buy a lifetime product to buy it from a lifetime jeweler. Ben Bridge is a lifetime jeweler. The company is still run by its founding family 104 years and five generations later. We have one of the largest groups of Swiss-certified watchmakers of anyone in North America to care for the long-term quality of your watch, and our in-house watchmaker carries out a lot of repairs inside the store!
ABTW: Do you serve mostly locals or tourists, or is it a good mix? Also, what percentage of your customers would you call “knowledgeable watch collectors?”
Ben Bridge Timeworks: We have a good mixture of locals and visitors. Many of our most passionate collectors spend at least part of the year in Hawaii, and we love nothing more than when they drop in to “talk watches.” We recently expanded our store to over 5,000 square feet to make the environment more welcoming and comfortable. We have a coffee bar and a “living room,” so our friends always feel welcome to come hang out. We want to be the place “where everyone knows your name.” Our store team is very experienced, with an average tenure of nearly 15 years, and we have clients who have been with us since we opened.
Ala Moana Center receives more visitors every year than Disneyland, so travelers make up a key group for us as well. We have visitors from Asia, Australia, the South Pacific, and the Mainland United States. They love watches and are always in search of the exclusive brands we are fortunate to present. Often, we have special and limited edition watches that are challenging for them to find at home. Many of our customers from the Western United States know Ben Bridge because we have stores where they live. They can buy with more confidence knowing that their local Ben Bridge store will be able to take are of them when they get home.
ABTW: What is Honolulu best known for? What do visitors have to do, see, or eat while there?
Ben Bridge Timeworks: Honolulu is best known for its crystal clear blue water, year-round sun, amazing surfing, and iconic scenery. Over the last couple decades, it has also become a real culinary destination with a number of amazingly creative chefs using fresh local ingredients and combining Hawaiian, Asian, and Continental flavors. Honolulu was doing fusion before anyone knew what fusion was!
Some of the must-dos include taking a surf lesson on Waikiki Beach, visiting the moving Pearl Harbor Memorial, and snorkeling at Hanauma Bay. The perfect day would begin with a drive around the island, stopping at one of our amazing shrimp shacks and pineapple stands. Head to the North Shore to watch some world class surfing and have lunch in old Hale’iwa town. Go hang out on Lanikai Beach, one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world, according to Conde Nast.
And, oh the shopping! Ala Moana Center, our home, is the largest open air shopping center in the world. Home to many haute couture global fashion boutiques and local merchants, we also have the only Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, and Bloomingdale’s in the Hawaiian Islands.
When it comes time for dinner, be sure to try one of our acclaimed local chefs including Alan Wong, Chef Mavro, Roy’s, or one of the more casual, edgy downtown restaurants like Livestock Tavern, The Pig & The Lady, or Lucky Belly.
ABTW: Or my favorite: Michels Restarurant.
Ben Bridge Timeworks: Hawaii is blessed by both its natural beauty and remarkably consistent climate. Our soft, sandy beaches and clear blue waters are enhanced by soft trade winds that keep daytime temperatures in the 70s and 80s year round. It is rarely too hot or too cold. It surprises many people that Hawaii is the only state in the country where the temperature has never reached 100!
ABTW: As a business, do you sponsor or participate in any local events, watch-related or otherwise?
Ben Bridge Timeworks: For decades, Ben Bridge has been actively involved in the Rotary Foundation, and I have been a member of Metropolitan Rotary Club of Honolulu since 1992. We also participate and donate auction items for many local schools and charities.
ABTW: What are some of the watch brands you are known for carrying? If you could pick a watch brand or model that epitomizes the culture or style of Honolulu what would it be?
Ben Bridge Timeworks: We are proud to feature some of the best known and most desirable watchmakers in the world – including Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Cartier. I think the new Rolex Yacht-Master in Everose Gold epitomizes the culture and style of Hawaii and our collectors. It is luxuriously crafted out of 18kt gold, amazingly technical, and, presented on an Oysterflex bracelet, surprisingly casual. It says, “I might have been doing million dollar deals this morning, but now I’m headed to the beach.” benbridge.com