With a diverse portfolio of fine jewellery, internationally renowned watch brands and accessories consistently setting the bar for style and exceptional service, Gregory Jewellers is all set to change the game in traditional luxury watchmaking. In our recent visit, to their Bondi Junction boutique (Highly Recommended !!), we caught up with Co-CEO’s, Helen Gregory and Edward Gregory for a little Tête-à-Tête.
The journey continues…
HG: Gregory Bros was initially established in 1967 in Europe, specialising in wedding ring manufacture. From 1976 to 1978, my father Chris, his brother Lahdo, and their uncles Abraham & Isak, migrated to Sydney. As they established their business in Sydney, their focus shifted to casting production, so they would make a jewellery model, cast the metal, and sell to retailers across the country.
Shortly after, we started working with a diamond broker from India, a lovely man, with whom we still work with today. Slowly the business started growing. By 1988 we had 1500 accounts, but as we headed for recession and things were shaky, Gregory Bros. started searching for a store to begin retailing directly to the public. As migrant retail-rookies, with virtually no English, it took sometime before they got an opportunity and someone was willing to have a conversation!
Eventually, in 1989 we opened the first store in Blacktown. When we opened, we opened with TAG Heuer as a watch brand partner. We just sold one or two watches in the first nine months of trading, so we gave up our agency for the brand. Within 2 years, TAG Heuer became the brand to have and everyone was asking for it! We tried hard to get the brand back and of course it wasn’t as easy as the first time! From 1989 till date we opened several stores. We were in Blacktown, Liverpool, Bankstown & Sydney’s MLC Centre etc. We also introduced other watch brands as the business was growing. In the mid 90’s one of the founders, our late Uncle Abraham left the business, so it was my father Chris, his brother Lahdo, and my Uncle Isak who continued.
Today, although retired, Uncle Isak is still involved in the business, and my father & Uncle Lahdo are still very active in the day to day running of Gregory Jewellers. In fact, the entire family has a part to play. Lahdo’s sons Simon, manages our workshop, Edward is our co-chief executive and Robert does our diamond buying and looks after general operations. My sister Suellen works alongside me in Bondi Junction, and Sara manages our merchandising. We may have many stores and a bustling head office but we are still very much a family business.
Alesandro Ljubicic and Monika Radulovic
EG: I first met Alesandro at an event we hosted with IWC Schaffhausen, but as an ex-colleague of our marketing manager, I had been introduced to his incredible work before. Alesandro is a gentleman, an incredible artist, and we were thrilled to support his recent showing, The Scent of Painting – the show was mind blowing. It was at this showing we were first introduced to Monika, current reigning Miss Universe Australia, who happens to be Alesandro’s fiancé. Surprisingly it was Monika’s charisma that drew us in, not only her beauty. She is a wonderful ambassador for Australia on the world stage, and equally wonderful in her support of our brand. We’re honoured to work with her.
You have chosen to work with some of the most renowned brands in the industry. How do you choose which brands you would like to work with?
HG: We have many relationships and we invest both time and money into these partnerships to keep them strong. We try not to favour one brand over another and prefer to use our business savvy rather than personal preference when making decisions about the brands we choose to work with.
The core values of our business are honesty & integrity which is always key in our dealings with brands. We have this same, open and honest approach with our staff, which creates a very comfortable environment for all concerned.
What we are seeing recently is avid watch enthusiasts and collectors turning to their superannuation fund savings to invest in luxury watches with the expectation that these assets will ultimately assist to fund their retirement. Should people consider watches as an investment? What are your thoughts?
EG: We had been discussing that internally. It is a good way to expose people to the luxury watch market. Usually when people have a taste for luxury, they don’t just buy one. Having a watch on the wrist is the best way to market it. I’d like to think that we would be able to come out and offer clients something.
What are your views on the importance of service but also education?
HG: Knowledge is power. Whether we are presenting a watch or a piece of jewellery, we strive to ensure that our teams communicate well and ensure a positive experience and tell the story of the brand, and not just focus on the sell. We have customers that come up to see how much we know! If you are talking to someone who knows the product it makes a difference. From an after-sales perspective, we are talking about the magnetism in watches and doing our best to make customers aware of some of the issues they may experience with mechanical watches; which really helps us maintain close relationships with clients as time goes by.
What do you enjoy most about the world of watchmaking?
HG: Personally, I love the heritage of watchmaking. It’s very easy to consider it as product bought and sold, but it really is a whole other world of incredible artistry that has been carried on & carefully taught for generations.Sure there are technical advances in the production of watches nowadays, but the heritage of watchmaking is always at the core of every brand, and that’s really what makes owning a Swiss watch special.
What are your thoughts on the argument of exclusivity. In other words, keeping the volume low to preserve exclusivity.
EG: Australia is a very small market – so when you’re talking about the top end of fine watchmaking, it makes sense to have limited distribution doesn’t it? We’re proud partners of 21 brands. Our integrity as a retailer in this business is widely acknowledged, which really makes us a go-to when considering acquiring a fine timepiece.
Watchmaking and jewellery…
EG: I think they are very different worlds. We are first and foremost a jewellery brand, and our strength is in adaptability. Being able to modify and accommodate every client’s needs has been key to our success. The core values of our brand, and strict standards when it comes to quality are present in each and every piece we create, regardless of the items value.
How open are Australian’s to independent watchmakers; for example Arnold & Son?
HG: When it comes to a brand like Arnold & Son, I think it’s a story that Australian’s will love and appreciate – the product is absolutely incredible, and their history as a watchmaker is truly special. The Australian client is very well read. Independent brands may be new to market, but there are certainly clients on our shores.
EG: I think the biggest obstacle with after-sales service in this country is Geography. When talking about highly complicated, valuable pieces, those with the skills to service are just as rare as the timepieces themselves. Having to send pieces abroad for service does seem a little archaic, so hopefully the watchmaking trade will continue to blossom in Australia to service the demand.