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1, Park Street

Christopher Ward’s Maidenhead showroom brings the philosophy of bespoke tailoring to watch-buying.




Interesting things happen behind closed doors.

That’s certainly the case at No 1 Park Street, Maidenhead, Berkshire; the company’s HQ, self-deprecatingly known as Christopher Ward Towers, where the brand’s only showroom is tucked away.

“We opened the showroom in March 2013,” says CW co-founder Peter Ellis. “It had been an ambition for a while to have a physical presence and the refurbishment of our Head Office gave us the impetus to create a retail space on the ground floor.”

The purpose of the showroom is simple: to let Christopher Ward customers test drive watches before they buy, something that’s not usually possible because of the nature of the company’s internet-based sales strategy. Guiding customers through the process is the welcoming (and very dapper) Showroom Manager, Declan Strange.

“I try to make buying a watch as enjoyable as possible,” says Declan, who’s worked for Christopher Ward for 8 years. “Once customers make an appointment, I’ll get in touch before their visit to find out what they’re interested in seeing. I’ll then prepare a selection of watches with a few carefully chosen wildcards thrown in. On the day, we have plenty of time for browsing, trying on and comparing; a coffee and a chat often helps to make sure customers walk away having chosen the right model for them.”

Coming to Park Street is a real treat for many CW customers. Unlike most high-end jewellers the products aren’t displayed in glass boxes – they’re all there in the metal, to touch, feel and try on – and there’s a distinct lack of snooty sales staff around. Here, people are welcomed, as CW co-founder Mike France says.

“Guests can get as close as they wish to our watches and try as many as they like – we can make recommendations and fit straps and bracelets as required during the visit. It’s very much this hands-on approach, combined with Declan and his team’s knowledge of the collection, that people appreciate. There’s an unhurried, unpretentious atmosphere in the showroom that really defines the experience.”



 
Customers make an appointment, turn up and knock on our door. Usually we’ve had a chat beforehand so I know what they’re interested in. I’ll then give them a selection of watches with a few wildcards thrown in. We have a coffee and a chat to make sure we get them the right model. It’s all very informal. ”

Declan Strange


The key to getting the most out the visit, says Declan, is to come with an open mind. “Have an idea of what you want the watch for; is it for the boardroom, or diving, or for wearing with jeans, or all three? But also allow me to introduce other styles and colourways you may not have considered. In some instances, people come for one watch, and end up with two or three. Others arrive thinking they’ll be spending a few thousand pounds, but are pleasantly surprised at the value of our pieces.”

The showroom has been enormously popular with Christopher Ward’s customers and has sparked genuine friendships between staff and customers, but it’s unlikely this ‘front room’ will be transformed into regular high-street store any time soon. As Mike France says, “If you mean by a regular shop a highly-rented boutique in an expensive street staffed by people who barely have a clue about the difference between a quartz watch and a mechanical one – well no, we won’t be going down that route. However, we do see CW having an increased physical presence in the future.”

“It’s not easy to buy a watch, particularly after a long consideration and a lot of research, so I try to make it as pleasant as possible” says Declan. “People also enjoy coming back for an inside scoop on new models, you can’t get that from looking online – a quiet word with Chris perhaps, to drop off a timepiece for servicing, or if you’re really lucky, an inside scoop on new models.””

Well worth a visit, if you’re within striking distance. If you’d like to make a reservation at the Christopher Ward showroom, just go to christopherward.co.uk/showroom