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 Kiev, Ukraine?
We depart a bit today from just our standard questions and answers and will provide a more in-depth look at how the watch market in Ukraine differs from Western markets. The following insights come from Mr. Dmintriy Berdyanskyy who is the president of Crystal Group Ukraine. Founded in 1996, the Crystal Group has stores in the Ukrainian cities of Kiev, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk, and Donetsk. On a personal level, Mr. Berdyanskyy is an avid collector and possesses various watches from Casios to piece unique masterpieces. However, he says, it’s hard to choose a favorite as it depends on a combination of factors: the place, the occasion, and the mode of dress.
Crystal Group: From early childhood, I was fond of the secrets concealed within watches. I cannot even remember how many of them I have “repaired” – but still, arrows on the dial have never disappointed me, only aroused my further interest. I could spend hours admiring wheels, springs, buttons, and engravings on the cases. I think I was born with an appreciation of a watch’s true value and beauty. My next step was defined by a thirst for knowledge of micro-mechanical art, with the help of hundreds of scientific books. The idea of starting my own business came when we discovered the whole world of watches when the Iron Curtain fell, making it possible to travel to different countries.
ABTW: Ukraine and Russia have been mentioned in the news quite often recently, how are the politics in the region affecting your business and customers?
Crystal Group: The complicated political and economic situation in the country has stirred up the luxury market with the decline of sales of “white” products, while the black market has intensified. More and more people are selling entire collections of watches and unique jewelry to “gray” dealers for nothing, and those buyers, trying to pass the things off as new. They restore, repair, polish the goods, provide them with fake documents and certificates, and then sell.ABTW: How do you feel the concept of luxury is different in Eastern Europe versus Western Europe or America?
Crystal Group: Actually, in Eastern Europe, material assets are considered luxury: cars, real estate, precious stones, and watches – and their quantity is the main indicator. At the same time, Western civilization mostly considers freedom, personal time and space luxuries, although they possess great love for beautiful and expensive things – after all, they do create them.
ABTW: In your experience, how do the tastes of “new money” customers differ from more established wealthy consumers in your markets?
Crystal Group: People who have gained their wealth recently buy a watch not for themselves, but to show off. They aim to emphasize their new status and prefer well-known brands. Brand is the main canon of their choice. Mature customers choose a watch for themselves, they are true gourmets. Individuality and technical components are important for them.
ABTW: We’ve been told that after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian people and their neighbors went a bit wild for luxury because they were deprived of it for so long. Is that still going on? What effect does that phenomenon currently have on the market?
Crystal Group: A taste for luxury has only started to form in Ukraine. My company makes great efforts to provide proper education for the national market. The shift in customers’ minds so that they could value the artistic or technical uniqueness of things first, and only then their material equivalent is a long and difficult process.
ABTW: Is it important for successful people in Eastern Europe to have a fine watch?
Crystal Group: Certainly, in Eastern Europe they are still prone to judge a book by its cover, and the watch is one of the most important accessories, that emphasizes the status of its owner.
ABTW: Social networks in Eastern Europe are often keen to point out and discuss the luxury watches worn by politicians and civic leaders of their countries. Does this have a positive or negative effect on sales? Considering this, which brands do people buy the most?
Crystal Group: Any mention of the brand raises its popularity and recognition. I think many will want to know about the watches worn by the top officials.
ABTW: Are there luxury watches that work well in other parts of the world but simply don’t do very well in your markets?
Crystal Group: As a rule, a brand’s success in a country depends on a proper representative partner. Rolex and Omega are competing severely worldwide, and often, the first of them leads. But at the same time, in Ukraine, Omega was one of our first partners and is ten times more successful than Rolex. Sometimes, the popularity and interest in the brand emerges from local clients. It is just what has happened to Bovet, which we are promoting actively in Ukraine. Coming in contact with these unusual watches in our stores, our fellow citizens have begun to look for them in the other boutiques all over the world.
ABTW: What types of watches are popular in your market? What makes Kiev a unique place to buy watches?
Crystal Group: In recent years, Swiss company Hublot beats all the records. They have managed to unite traditional horlogerie art with high-tech innovations, using a combination of ceramics, gold, carbon, tantalum, osmium, special alloys of gold and other rare metals in their watchmaking. It distinguishes Hublot watches from others. By the way, I note with pride that for the fifteenth anniversary of Crystal Group Ukraine, Hublot has released a special limited edition. This was a boon for connoisseurs of haute horlogerie.
We try to hire only professionals in our boutiques, so we are very attentive to the constant training of our sales people, who participate in challenges and regularly win awards. Not many companies can boast that brands create limited editions especially for them. Our company is lucky – brands queue up to present us their products. Probably, it may indicate that we have earned some respect in the market and are able to satisfy the most unimaginable requests, surprise and delight our customers.
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?”
Crystal Group: All of our buyers are locals; tourism, unfortunately, is underdeveloped in our country, and the offered level of tourist services can hardly satisfy our potential buyers. I have never had “clients.” People who I deal with are highly educated, intelligent personalities, who need to learn some information about the specific watch, its history, to understand its true value. And they are, of course, constant buyers, well-versed in the art of horlogerie and jewelry.ABTW: What is Kiev best known for? What do visitors have to do, see, or eat while there?
Crystal Group: Check up the answer to this question in the tour guides. Kievan Rus’ is the mother of Russian cities. Orthodox churches, etc.
ABTW: As a business, do you sponsor or participate in any local events, watch-related or otherwise?
Crystal Group: It’s charity. We have organized auctions, the proceeds of which were granted for children’s needs.
Crystal Group: All the brands presented in the showcases of Crystal Group Ukraine have been thoroughly studied and selected for many years. This is a portfolio to be proud of. We collaborate with the brands that are always in demand. crystalgroup.ua