A household name in Australia, J Farren-Price has risen from its humble origins in 1942 to its current status as one of the finest luxury boutiques.
Hours & Minutes in conversation with Julian Farren Price – Director (J Farren Price)..
My father started this business in 1942. His brother trained him as a watchmaker. He was listed in the army and then he was discharged. He was a great entrepreneur and his heart definitely ticked for clocks! He was responsible for bringing a number of important watch brands into the country in the forties and was probably one of the first French entrepreneurs in Australia. At one point we had about hundred outlets in the country! We were selling what I would call medium quality Swiss watches and clocks that he had harnessed through his promotions. We have many people who would call their first watch a J Farren-Price watch.
The business changed with the quartz watch coming in the seventies and eighties, which caused a lot of pain to the Swiss watch industry. We changed our model. We saw that business off and instead established one very high-end store at Castlereagh Street where we still are today. We have many brands and today we present ten very important watchbrands. In addition, a very important part of our business is jewellery. Fifty percent of our stock is jewellery. So we are a one-stop shop for our customers and probably very unique in Australia for having high-end watches and jewellery in one store.
The J Farren-Price experience
Well, I think in this day and age where everything is becoming so impersonal with computers, we are trying to make this organization help people feel like a part of the club. We have well-trained and knowledgeable staff. We are not a hard pressure organization. We like to be more advisory and try to find out what the customer’s needs are and what they are looking for. We have rebuilt our store into what I think is one of the most beautiful jewellery stores in Australia. We are very good at keeping in touch with our customers through direct communication and like to think of customers as being a part of the J Farren-Price family, just the way we would like to be treated ourselves. This will be the defining point in the future as we gravitate towards less and less personal experiences.
We are a family-run company. We are very hands on. Both Mrs. Farren-Price and myself are here everyday. The attention to detail is very important and the customers notice that. We have picked up very considerable styles of watches that do not compete with each other and they are all very highly sought after. We run a very ethical business. Ethics is the most important thing to us. We work very hard and I believe this comes back in terms of the support you get by the various companies you deal with. I know that with a trusted company, if something special comes along, we tend to be offered that first. We are a role model for retail businesses in Australia and I believe that’s the success we have had.
It is an interesting thing to observe. I have been twenty-five years in this business. I would say that fifteen years ago it was quite unusual to see someone wearing a good quality Swiss watch. And that was very disappointing. But in Australia we haven’t had the exposure to the promotions of the brands. In Europe, you can’t go anywhere without having the brands in your face! However, our colleagues in the industry and us, have promoted more watches and jewellery and made them more visible and we have seen the increase in response from core customers for a good quality watch. That has been a pleasing trend!
People now understand the quality and feel that you get in wearing a prestigious product that has been handcrafted by one of the top most watchmakers in the world and that gives you pride to put that watch on. I think its something very important to pass down the family. I think Patek Philippe in particular has done a great job of spreading that message that it’s not just something for you but also a keep sake for the family. I also know that from personal experience when I come across my fathers watches.
Your customer profile
Our customer profile is very mixed. Some people spend an inordinate amount of money on a fine Swiss watch compared to their income because the product fascinates them. We have a very good clientele from financial markets and many self-made people. You get a very wide range of clientele. As I mentioned, there has been a lot of promotion in the market so people are aware. So our customer has a very broad base.
We represent ten fantastic brands and there are watches in each of those that I want to wear and it is hard to single out one particular watch. I think Vacheron Constantin has some beautiful retro inspired pieces, which I appreciate very much. On the other hand, one of the watches I covet at the moment is a beautiful annual calendar in rose gold with a black dial from Patek Philippe. I love the Panerai brand too. My daily wear is a Rolex GMT and what I like about it is that I can do anything I like while I wear it travel, go sailing or play golf. The glass is bullet proof too so it is tough.