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“Beyer is ushering in a new era”

A major refurbishment is underway at Beyer Watches & Jewellery. Pleased as he is with the temporary pop-up pavilion, René Beyer looks forward much more to the possibilities thereafter.

Beyer Chronometrie

Mr Beyer, you’re putting enormous effort into refurbishing the store. Why?
I’m 56 years old, an age at which you start to worry about what will happen when you can’t lead the company yourself. When the time comes, I don’t want to hand it over in dire need of restructuring, but as a modern business well equipped for the future, both up front and behind the scenes. We’ve only made cosmetic improvements since the last refurbishment, which was back in 1971.

What will be different?
Everything, actually! The shop will be unrec- ognisable: much more airy, flooded with light. The central cash desk and the huge safe in the background are going. The service department is being upgraded; the Rolex Corner is taking shape in the gallery and a stylish Beyer World on the ground floor.

What will be different for customers?
We’ll be able to cater to our guests even more individually. One little example: our tables will be adjustable to let us adapt not only to the needs of people in wheelchairs, but just as well to young people who prefer casual bar stools. Also there will be almost no more cables or catalogues anywhere: we’ll work digitally – but with no less sensu- ality. And there’ll be less waiting because we’re eliminating a lot of complicated walk patterns.

For the duration of the five-month refurbish- ment, next to the shop you’ve set up not just a cheap makeshift solution in metal, but a work of art made of wood....
Yes, the pop-up character is important to us: the pavilion marks the start of a new era that’ll be younger and more modern, with a more feminine atmosphere. Characteristics like premium quality and sustainability will be as important as ever. 100 percent of the wood for the pavilion can be reused. And the same volume of wood regrows in Swit- zerland in 15 minutes. Windows were also important to me, which is unusual in this kind of building. It goes without saying that we have excellent air conditioning to ensure the comfort of our customers.

Will the legendary Beyer service be scaled back during the transition period?
Of course not! There’ll always be a watch- maker on hand to provide various services. If desired, we can also take care of parking guests’ cars for them.

They deserve the credit for the new boutique: André Hauser (interior design), René Beyer, Sandro Palmieri (architecture), Martin Tobler (head of sales) and Dejan Todosijevic (security) discussing the next steps.

A promotional campaign is being planned to accompany the reopening. What’s behind the new slogan “As long as time exists – Beyer Watches & Jewellery”?
Beyer has always been there, Beyer will always be there. We’ve been selling watch- es since 1760, which means we’ve been around longer than the United States, for instance, so it’s fair to say that, without sound- ing corny. We simply belong here – and hopefully for as long as there is time. To do justice to this claim, however, it’s not enough to rest on your laurels. You have to keep on rejuvenating and reinventing yourself. At the moment we’re like a caterpillar turning into a chrysalis. Once the refurbishment is com- pleted, it will be like the butterfly emerging.

Is the refurbishment impacting any other areas of Beyer Watches & Jewellery?
Regrettably, we had to close the Museum for duration of the refurbishment. At least the corona crisis is preventing tourists, who often travel specially to visit the Clock and Watch Museum, from turning up only to find it closed. Apart from that, neither the Patek Philippe boutique nor the watch and goldsmith work- shops, or the offices, are affected.

You’re working with two architectural firms. Why?
Sandro Palmieri from Palmieri Baumanage- ment AG has been with us for about thirty years. He knows the situation inside-out and is responsible for the hardware. André Haus- er from Hauser & Partner AG is creating the interior, the atmosphere. He’s known for his incomparable Sprüngli shop-window dis- plays. I have rarely met someone with such outstanding taste.

What are you looking forward to most?
With a project like this, you’re happiest if it runs to schedule (laughs). There’s likely to be a slight delay because some elements for the interior decoration are being delivered from abroad. I can’t wait to see how the all pieces of the puzzle will look when it’s fin-

The refurbishment will be your legacy. But you’re not planning to retire quite yet, are you?
I certainly don’t intend to stop working to- morrow. But as I said at the beginning: I’m 56, so it would be irresponsible not to plan for when I’m no longer around. What will happen then has not yet been decided. We’re currently playing through five possible serious scenarios, none of which is urgent.

Making good use of the time during the lockdown: this exclusive pop-up pavilion was built in Bärengasse.

They all emphasise the increasingly difficult circumstances of many watch retailers. Why not look for a quick, lucrative solution?
IBecause we don’t have to. We have the right range of brands, the right clientele, the right staff, the right niche – and plenty of time. Many of our brand partners are not interested in internet business or direct sales, but rely on us and our know-how. We have analysed the situation very carefully and are approaching the future confidently as an independent, traditional company, otherwise I would never have agreed to this complex refurbishment. As for the corona crisis, we’ll make it through. We’re anticipating a fifty percent drop in sales, but we’ll cope with that. Now I’m simply looking forward to the reopening – especially as it marks the 260th anniversary of Beyer Chronometrie.

Text: Matthias Mächler