October 12, 2014
by Mark Carson
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.
You have probably seen photos of Laurent Picciotto and may have wondered who that “wild and crazy guy” was. His passion for life comes through in everything he does, including his company Chronopassion in Paris. In his words, it started like this:
In 1988, when I was thinking about the opening a store, one of the most important things had to be its name, because it needed to have a soul. The idea was to find a name with the immediate image of the activity. At that time, most of the jewelers or watch retailers were using their own name. The name of Chronopassion was found by my father as a literal translation of why I threw myself into the business: the passion of time. And that was it! Also, it was a good idea, because the meaning could be understood internationally and pronounced (so remembered) easily!
Laurent opened Chronopassion in Paris, aka “La ville lumière” (The City of Lights) in 1988. At the time, he was a monobrand retailer, selling only Gerald Genta. It stayed like that for two years, until he started widening the spectrum of brands to serve more of his potential clients. He went from being a monobrand to a multi-brand retailer and increased his offerings from 1 to approximately 15 brands.aBlogtoWatch: What types of watches are popular in your market?
Chronopassion: All the ones that the majority of my competitors don’t sell. In the last two decades, my reputation has been set around the brands I chose to represent, and the risk I am, or was, happy to take, when others didn’t believe in a new brand or a new project. MB&F and Richard Mille are great examples of who turned out to be real success stories.
ABTW: What makes Paris a unique place to buy watches?
Chronopassion: Our customers are mostly tourists or foreigners. They have time to spend time looking for timepieces, time to understand them, which adds time to desire them! Not only because Chronopassion is located Rue St Honore (which makes it a unique place to buy watches), but also because of our unique selection in a single place.
About 85% of our clientele are from abroad. As I said, most of our brands aren’t mainstream, and the model pieces I manage to get can hardly be found elsewhere, hence a visit to Chronopassion.
ABTW: Also, what percentage of your customers would you call “knowledgeable watch collectors?”
Chronopassion: 75% of our clients know what they are talking about, and even if they aren’t able to assemble a watch movement or repair their own timepieces, they don’t look at you with wide open surprised eyes when you mention a QP, a flying-tourbillon or a moon-phase. As the timepiece provider, it is pleasant to talk with someone who knows why he wants this piece and does not ask how much it costs before asking about anything else.
ABTW: What is Paris best known for?
Chronopassion: Should I really get into this? Well, Paris has first developed its reputation for its history and beauty. Nowadays, Paris is being visited by millions of tourists, French or foreigners, for the art museums and art galleries, for the shopping districts, and of course, the restaurant and boulangeries experiences!
ABTW: What do visitors have to do, see, or eat while there?
Chronopassion: Hop in a cab to see the famous Place de la Concorde with the obelisque and the Hotel de Crillon, get a box of macarons at Laduree, or drink a hot chocolate at Angelina’s, then walk just a few minutes away to enter the world of Chronopassion.
ABTW: As a business do you sponsor or participate in any local events, watch-related or otherwise?
Chronopassion: None – because our customers are, for the majority, foreigners. Nonetheless, as cosmopolitan as Paris is, there aren’t as many watch related events to sponsor. There are more in the US or Singapore, for example.
ABTW: What are some of the watch brands you are known for carrying?
Chronopassion: Richard Mille, Hublot, MB&F, Urwerk, Audemars Piguet, and most of the other brands that most people have never, or barely, heard of, such as Fiona Kruger, Valbray, Greubel Forsey, Mazzuoli, Strom, etc.
ABTW: If you could pick a watch brand or model that epitomizes the culture or style of Paris, what would it be?
Chronopassion: Richard Mille – for having been part of the brand as a co-founder and shareholder of the brand company, which allows me to be knowledgeable in depth on the brand and its watches. chronopassion.fr