Bucherer U.S. CMO Carina Ertl on transforming watch retail giant Tourneau into a jewelry-inclusive emporium
When Swiss jewelry brand Bucherer bought American brand Tourneau in 2018, they ambitiously decided to transform the then 118-year-old watch retailer under the Bucherer 1888 umbrella, a little-known name to the American luxury consumer.
Tasked with helping make that transition is Carina Ertl, the company's chief marketing officer and chief of digital at Tourneau | Bucherer USA. As the Tourneau name lives under several monikers, rebranding and revamping 32 stores across the continental U.S. and Hawaii is no small feat. Ertl spoke to FashionNetwork.com about the brand's trajectory in reshaping the customer perception of the watch brand they have been loyal to for over a century.
Setting the pace is the New York 57th Street flagship, currently known as the Bucherer 1888 TimeMachine store, where Ertl and a handful of press agents gave a tour of the brand's future via the store open since last September.
"We want customers to feel at home and remove the barrier between a case and a sales rep on the other side. We want the experience to be an exploration of product, more like viewing a curation, where there is always something new," said Ertl, adding, "You can also discover an art exhibition, an ice cream activation, an Instagram wall downstairs, and mosaic video wall that spans three floors."
If customers aren't intimidated by the custom-made Harley-Davidson in metallic chrome blue and bedecked in watches and jewelry sitting smack dab in the middle of the store's main floor, feeling right at home is easy in the 19,000-square-foot store. There are complimentary coffee and cocktail bars serving cappuccinos with latte art, wine, soda, whiskey, and more on every floor, seemingly for the asking. On a hot summer day in early August, the lower level served custom-created Bucherer ice cream enjoyed by visitors sitting on an oversized sectional couch. Strewn about are coffee table books on design, objets d'art, and contemporary art on display from artists such as Damien Hirst and Adam Parker Smith.
As the culture of watch collecting grows, laid-back luxury environments like this are what Bucherer feels the consumer is looking for. The relaxed approach is also conducive to jewelry shopping, a message that Ertl focuses on. The executive declined to share many specifics, let alone any statistics related to the current ratio of watches to jewelry products or sales numbers. Still, she pointed out that the customer base is 65 percent male and 35 percent female.
"Women collect watches too, but there is an option through the jewelry to grow the female self-purchase client," she noted.
A particular focus will be on highlighting and telling the story of Bucherer's jewelry. Carl Friedrich-Bucherer founded the brand in 1888, whose two sons, Ernst and Carl Eduard, furthered the brand with Ernst forging an early partnership with Hans Wilsdorf, the founder of Rolex, and his brother, a goldsmith, developed the jewelry business, according to Ertl.
She plans to engage current VIP and prospective clients through cocktail parties and in-store events. One upcoming event involves one-of-a-kind high jewelry pieces brought in from Switzerland for a private showing allowing customers to get up close and personal with the jewelry.
"The impact comes when you can have them try it on and talk about the story of Bucherer," she continued. The types of pieces shown at this event rival Place Vendôme jewelry. A few examples were already in store, such as a 160 fancy yellow matching diamond necklace totaling almost 40 carats for approximately $315,000 colorful all-natural spinel stone necklace from the signature Pastello collection. Another piece featured pink diamonds from Australia's argyle mine.
Of course, aiming to cater to all levels of clients, Bucherer's jewelry has entry-level prices. For instance, the Pastello collection is made from heat-treated sapphire stones and offers earrings for less than $2,000. The B Dimension group, which takes inspiration from the art of Ellsworth Kelly, is a graphic style that also offers this price range. Classic earrings styles can also be found for less than $1,000. Another collection called the Dizzler mimics watch mechanisms. Other exclusive merch includes pieces from Bucherer Blue collections, one-of-a-kind creations from brand partners in blue, a nod to its signature hue.
Ertl's goal is to teach the U.S. market about Bucherer's quality.
"In Europe, Bucherer is known for diamonds with a strong price quality ratio and sourcing. It's the place for diamonds and engagement rings," she explained. A brief story of Bucherer is communicated on its website, but the 134-year-old brand doesn't disclose many details, perhaps an example of Swiss discretion.
The task of rebranding is further complicated due to the many incarnations Tourneau is referred to as; Tourneau, TimeMachine; Rolex Boutique Tourneau; and in San Francisco and King of Prussia, PA, there are Tourneau stores referred to as IWC Schaffhausen and Panerai.
The latter is specific watch brand names, but for simplicity's sake, one word for all is branding 101. Ertl says the decision to rebrand did not come lightly. They surveyed VIP clients and focus groups.
"They told us their connection which included stories of generations of family shopping at Tourneau," she recalled. After introducing them to the Bucherer story, a family-owned Swiss brand, they became engaged as these points connected with the Tourneau clients.
The 57th Street store was the first to bear the Bucherer 1888 name. A reopening of the Miami Bal Harbour store to a larger space in the breezy upscale mall in late July reflects the new design and branding seen at 57th Street. Another flagship in Las Vegas at the Forum shops will open in 2023.
"Tourneau is becoming Bucherer, not overnight, but we started with a few stores slowly transitioning, which began in September 2021,” she explained.
By the end of 2023, all stores will be rebranded, at least from a signage perspective, while others will also have an interior refurbishment.
“We will take a rebranding journey through the country with the last store finished on the West Coast," Ertl confirmed.
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