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Walking in to a luxury fashion house, much like visiting your favorite watch brands’ brick-and-mortar store, feels pampering even if you aren’t buying anything. There’s something about the hospitality of a luxury boutique and the elegance of the stores’ design, with their stylish wares on display, that feels enticing. Have you ever wandered into an Armani in Milan or the Shinola in downtown Los Angeles, sighed, and thought, “Wow, I could live here.” Well, you can—or, at the very least, you now have an excuse to hang out for an extended period of time. In the last decade, the trend of fashion designers and watch brands getting into the hospitality industry has taken off in a big way. Luxury watch brands, specifically, have started launching in-store exclusive cocktail bars and branded hotels. For the fashion and watch connoisseur, these are the watch brands to keep an eye on as they move into hospitality:
Maison F.P. Journe
Luxury watchmaker F.P. Journe, known for their timepieces made in Geneva, has taken up residence in the Kimpton EPIC Miami, in a beautiful, glassed-in atrium looking out on the Miami River. This F.P. Journe branch fits perfectly into the Kimpton EPIC Miami’s chic atmosphere with a 10-seat rare spirit bar, Bar Journe. Bar Journe is the watch brand’s first foray into high-end spirits, and the bar serves big-ticket craft cocktails with hard-to-find spirits. Some of these high-end whiskeys, vodkas, gins, and much more are decades-old, sought-after spirits that few can get their hands on. Whether you’re an avid F.P. Journe watch fan, a guest at Kimpton EPIC Miami, or a downtown local, you’re welcome in to Bar Journe to browse the watches, pair your cocktail with Petrossian caviar, and choose a cigar to enjoy along the waterfront.
One of the most luxurious fashion houses for statement pieces, be it watches, jewelry, or handbags, is of course Bulgari. It stands to reason that their hospitality venture, Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, exudes the same level of luxury. The first Bulgari property to open was Milan in 2004, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property. Since their flagship Milano hotel, they’ve opened a London hotel in Knightsbridge, and Beijing and Shanghai hotels. Adding to their portfolio of five-star hotels, Bulgari now has two luxury resorts, one in Dubai and one in Bali, and plans for Bulgari hotels in Paris, Moscow, and Tokyo hotels in the works.
Watches of Switzerland
In opening their Hudson Yards and SoHo stores, Watches of Switzerland stumbled upon an important truth: Shopping high-end watch brands is best done with a drink in hand. At Hudson Yards, their 6,500-square-foot showroom sits in full view of the Vessel structure, between the Hudson Yards’ Plaza and Highline entrances. In the Watches of Switzerland showroom, guests can visit their “black granite hospitality bar” while admiring the wares from watch brands like Patek Philippe, Rolex, and Omega. The SoHo store also has a luxurious bar in their basement, created in partnership with New York cocktail institution Death & Co. “Intended as a respite for shoppers and a gathering place for enthusiasts and the local community, the bar will offer artisanal cocktails crafted exclusively for Watches of Switzerland,” says the brand on their website.
You can expect that a purveyor of luxury like Armani would, of course, bring the same level of class to their hospitality ventures. Armani opened its first five-star hotel in Dubai in 2010, with its luxury Milan property following in 2011—both American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts properties. In both cases, Armani Hotels & Resorts decided to take up residence within an exquisite building rather than building from the ground up. Armani Hotel Dubai is located within Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. And Armani Hotel Milan sits in the awe-inspiring palazzo at Via Manzoni 31.
While Shinola is perhaps best known as a luxury watch brand, they’ve really become a holistic fashion brand, with high-end bags and Shinola leather offerings. In 2018, they launched a boutique property in Detroit’s Motor City. The Shinola Hotel furnishings and accents put the tasteful brand on full display, while also showcasing made-in-Detroit wares, from the Michigan-made mattresses to the local brands stocked in the minibar. For the brand-loyalist, the in-room Shinola accents might include Shinola speakers or a luxe Runwell clock, and there’s a price list should you want to take any of your favorite pieces home.
The Versace timepieces are elegant, high-fashion, statement watches. These are not pieces that go unnoticed, they’re expensive, luxury accessories that deserve to be admired. The same holds true for Versace’s two over-the-top resorts: the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property Palazzo Versace Gold Coast, and Palazzo Versace Dubai. The five-star resorts are entirely Versace branded and feature luxe Italian decor pieces and furniture, as well as on-property Versace boutiques. In the brand’s own words, Palazzo Versace is the “world's first fashion-branded hotel, born from the desire to combine the design and spirit of Versace with a highly luxurious hotel concept.”