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.
Where to buy watches in Austin, Texas?
Originally incorporated under the name “Waterloo,” the city of Austin, Texas, has been a place of change since its origin in the 1830s. State capital? High-tech center? Live music capital? Austin is many things to many people these days. As a spread-out metropolitan area, you don’t find a concentration of watch stores in a single area like you do in New York City (or Waikiki in Honolulu, for that matter). So you have to embark on a “search and enjoy” mission to find watch retailers such as Jack Ryan Fine Jewelry + Timepieces, which opened the doors to their intimate watch boutique in West Lake Hills in 2012.
aBlogtoWatch: What types of watches are popular in your market? What makes Austin a unique place to buy watches?
Jack Ryan: We have a name for Rolex watches in Texas. We jokingly refer to them as the “Texas Timex” and they are very popular all over the state. They are ubiquitous, across all demographics. Amongst younger buyers, we see a lot of TAGs, Omegas, and Breitlings in the mid-range mix, with the occasional trendy brands like SevenFriday showing up here and there. Amongst the older, more affluent collectors, we see a wide range of high horology pieces. Complicated Patek calibres, various UN models, JLCs, various Panerai calibres, the occasional F.P. Journe; all can be encountered on a regular basis within our community. With the tremendous growth in our community, coupled by the large influx of technology folks from both coasts; our demographic is probably not much different than Silicon Valley in most respects.
Austin is somewhat unique in that it is a fairly large metropolitan area, but there is no single “high end” shopping area like Northpark or the Galleria in Dallas. And there are no chain watch stores like Tourneau here. So various brands are scattered across multiple retailers; from mom and pop stores, to larger operators like Ben Bridge and Jared. So, if you are interested in a particular brand, some research is required to find out if anyone locally carries it.ABTW: What would you tell watch lovers in other cities that watch lovers in Austin like?
Jack Ryan: Just like watch lovers anywhere else, but they are smart watch buyers and collectors. I am impressed every week with the young engineer or software developer that comes in the store looking to buy his first good watch. Most often, it is NOMOS, and they have really done their homework prior to entering the store for the first time. They know the movement calibres, they know the reference numbers, they know the history of the company; and they know what they want. The Internet has really changed the watch buyer, and you can see it reflected in this group of people. It has been said the Web has put an end to impulse shopping, and these guys make be believe it. It also appears that we may be ending the era of traditional retail “up selling.” Most of our customers know what they are looking for, in terms of functionality, brand, and price point.
Jack Ryan: The vast majority of our business is local. Tourists stick to the downtown area, or venture farther north at the Domain shopping center. One of the better-quality shopping centers, in terms of quality and brand recognition, is within a few miles of our store; but there is not a store in any of these areas that features the mix of horology that our store features. So we are really a “destination” store. “Tourist” traffic to us is the fellow who jumps off the plane from Fiji and comes to our store to purchase a Bremont watch, before he goes on to visit his local parents. We also do a substantial amount of mail and phone order watch sales.
If, by “knowledgeable watch collector,” you mean the person who has been collecting for at least five years, owns a half a dozen watches (at least), knows the brands he collects well, knows movements and movement technology, and can converse with any other experienced collector; I would say 60% of our watch customers fit the description.
Jack Ryan: Austin is best known for its reputation as the live music capital of the world. You can walk into any bar, any night of the week, and find live music. It is an integral part of our culture, and one of the largest music festivals in the world is held here each year. Anyone visiting Austin must see some live music. In addition, we have a wonderfully young and active culture that can be experienced along the running trail at Lady Bird Lake, or at Zilker Park. You will find runners, cyclists, rock climbers, disk golfers, slackliners, and usually a guitarist or two.
We can get pretty hungry after a day at the park, or an evening perusing the live music options. Luckily, Austin has grown into a foodie city. Some of the best meals we have are sold at our many food trailer parks. They offer everything from brick-oven pizzas, Thai food, donut hamburgers, and BBQ out of a trailer. If you are willing to work for your meal, Franklin’s (featured on the Food Network) is generally referred to as the best brisket in the world. However, to enjoy their BBQ, one must get in line at 6 in the morning. The doors open at 11, and by 1pm, they are sold out.
No matter what you do when you come to Austin, you will leave understanding our motto of “Keep Austin Weird.”
Jack Ryan: Corporately, we are strong supporters of The Contemporary Art Museum for Austin, and the Austin Humane Society. We donate a portion of our sales to the latter every month. We also contribute to other local charitable organizations.
Watch-wise, we sponsor a number of manufacturer’s get-togethers every year. We have, in the last year, featured Bremont, FP Journe, CORUM, and did an evening event with Seiko in December. More often than not, we try and organize these events to benefit one of the charities we support, in one way or another.
We also support the Austin WIS Society (www.austinwis.com) and our CEO is an active member of the group.
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 Austin, what would it be?
Jack Ryan: We are authorized dealers for Bremont, BRM, CORUM, Grand Seiko, Montblanc, Muhle Glashutte, NOMOS Glashutte, Parmigiani Fleurier, Seiko Astron, and Speake-Marin.