June 29, 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.
Cigars, watches, shaving cream? You will find them all at Arizona Fine Time in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, Arizona. They do business globally and locally as “Cigar King,” “Arizona Fine Time,” and “Shaving Creams” online, via phone orders, and in their literally brick and mortar store. Mitchell Hirsh opened the store as Cigar King in 1994 and expanded into selling watches in 1996.
Arizona Fine Time: For us, our most popular brands in the $4,000+ range are Grand Seiko, JEANRICHARD, and Eberhard & Co. In the sub $4,000 price range, Citizen, and Casio. We certainly excel with the high-end Japanese products, but also have some great and unique Swiss brands too.
ABTW: What would you tell watch lovers in other cities that watch lovers in Phoenix like?
AZ Fine Time: We have a pretty broad spectrum of customers, but to describe it best, I would say our customers are educated. We have a lot of scientists, engineers, avid high-end collectors (who collect Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Jaeger LeCoultre, F.P.Journe, etc.), and then of course, the technology guys. We’re really into mechanics, craftsmanship, and technology, and I can easily say our customers are exactly the same.
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?”
AZ Fine Time: We have a great amount of local customers who come by the store to buy, check out the new products, and chat about watches. At the same time, we also have a lot of tourists. Our store is not on a main street out in a high traffic area, but we have people who visit town and make it a point to come visit our store. We even have guys who don’t live in this state, but visit Arizona frequently and come to hang out in our store in their free time. As I mentioned previously, our customers are highly educated when it comes to watches. I would say over 90%.
ABTW: What is Phoenix best known for? What do visitors have to do, see, or eat while there?
AZ Fine Time: I’d say the weather. It’s gorgeous here pretty much 9 months of the year. It does get hot in the summer, but not as bad as you’d think. As they say, “it’s a dry heat.” There’s plenty to do. Golf is a huge draw. The Barrett-Jackson and Russo & Steele car shows are great when in town. Same with MLB (Major League Baseball) Spring Training. Of course, a lot of people like to see the Grand Canyon, go hiking, swimming and the shopping here isn’t bad either. It is just overall a great vacation spot, especially if you’re looking to escape the winter months.
ABTW: As a business, do you sponsor or participate in any local events, watch-related or otherwise?
AZ Fine Time: Absolutely. We sponsor a huge variety of events. We do events for watches, cigars, various restaurants, car and motorcycle dealerships, and resorts. Our biggest watch event (as Ariel knows first hand) is our Grand Seiko Roadshow. We have had 300-400 people attend, and literally fly in from all over the country (as well as other parts of the world) to see one of Grand Seiko’s top craftsmen build a movement here in store. For example, last year, the watchmaker built the 416 part 9R86 caliber, which is most impressive, to say the least. aBlogtoWatch is always invited to our store for the events and has done some great coverage on them for the last 3 years.
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 Phoenix what would it be?
AZ Fine Time: Grand Seiko is certainly our flagship brand. It is our number one brand and we are their biggest dealer in the States. We excel with all of Seiko’s luxury products, which has expanded tremendously over the years with the Astron GPS collection, a handful of the Galante series, and even very small amounts of Credor. We’ve been doing business with Seiko for many years now, pretty much since they introduced the Seiko Spring Drive series. We can easily say that they make some of the most innovative, accurate, unique and beautifully crafted watches in the industry. We’re very proud to be a part of their expansion in luxury products in the USA.
While we’re very well known for having the more premium Japanese products (from all of Seiko, Citizen, and Casio), we have also specialized in finding great, boutique, Swiss brands. In the last year of carrying JEANRICHARD, we have been extremely successful with them. I would say that they could very well climb to the top as another flagship brand for us. They make an excellent quality product for the money, and the designs are stunning. We carry close to 20 different brands, and they are each hand chosen because we find them beautiful, unique, and great values.
If we were to chose one watch to epitomize the culture of the Scottsdale/Phoenix area, it would have to ironically be the Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA011 aka the “Snowflake.” While we never see snow in the valley, this timepiece expresses the love that Seiko’s staff has for their hometown’s winters at the Shinshu Watch Studio where Spring Drive is made. In our town, we love the winters. It’s why people come here, live here, and appreciate AZ in general. azfinetime.com