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You might wonder why a store like Tourneau would feel the need to open a new concept store only four blocks from its huge "Time Machine" on East 57th Street. After all, that three level watch extravaganza would appear to sell every watch brand on the planet, but the new store actually replaces a long standing unit that used to be at the other end of the block of Madison Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets. While the "Time Machine" serves as an all-encompassing flagship meant just as much for browsing as for buying, this satellite has always catered to serious and, as far as we can tell, mostly male* watch buyers. The focus at this store is clearly on higher end brands and their connoisseur customers, but what is really new about the store is its design by San Francisco based architectural firm 8 Inc., who also happen to be reponsible for designing Apple's stores.

8 and Tourneau have jettisoned the traditional watch and jewelry store set-up of long counters snaking around the store's perimeter in favor of a grid of glass-topped tables containing a dizzying array watches. The new arrangement allows customers to walk all the way around what used to be counters, and not incidentally, seems to give the store an opportunity to show even more of its merchandise in less space. Though the design scheme is different, the concept is not unlike an Apple store, where floor models are displayed on tables for customers to test without having to ask a staff member. At this new Tourneau, sales staff can pull trays and other supplies from underneath the tables, and when the store's website is revamped this fall, they will be able to create a "digital tray" off your favorite watches to consider that can be emailed to you along with links for product information. Conversely, customers will be able to go online in advance of a visit to the store and choose particular watches that they want to see which will be ready for them upon their arrival.

While the store is designed for maximum sales potential, when The Shophound visited recently, the staff was friendly and helpful enough to take a look at a vintage watch that we brought along from a not particularly well-known maker, and give us some advice on its value and special features. No charge.

Of course, all this is only half of what's new at the concept store. On the other side of a dividing wall is a flully fledged Rolex boutique —the city's first, as far as we can tell. While the format there is more traditional, it does a remarkable job of showing off more variation on the classic Rolex Oyster than you could ever have thought possible. For fans of the most iconic watch brand, that's really all you need.

The Times told us last weekend that people are wearing watches again (they stopped?), and —there's really no way to express this without a painfully obvious pun— Tourneau has shown excellent timing in discovering new ways to serve a newly energized customer.

Tourneau Concept Store/Rolex Boutique 510 Madison Avenue at 53rd Street, Midtown

*The Shophound is making this observation based on what appears to be an overwhelming number of men's watches on display at the store. While there are women's styles available as well, and many styles could be seen as appealing to both genders, the overall impression based on displays is that men's watches outnumber women's by a substantial margin at the store. Must be a guys and gadgets kind of thing, no?


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