A burgeoning watch empire is in the works. Today, WatchBox, Govberg Jewelers, Hyde Park Jewelers, and Radcliffe are joining together to form The 1916 Company. Danny Govberg, the longtime watch industry veteran and owner of Govberg Jewelers in Philadelphia (which was founded in 1916), as well as his business partners and co-founders in pre-owned e-tailer WatchBox, Justin Reis and Tay Liam Wee now have 100% ownership in Radcliffe jewelers in Maryland and Delaware and Hyde Park Jewelers in Scottsdale, Arizona; Newport Beach, California; and Denver, Colorado. The new watch conglomerate is also announcing today that it is officially a dealer of Rolex Certified Pre-Owned timepieces.
When asked whether or not the goal is to build an empire akin to Watches of Switzerland—a natural comparison since the U.K.-based retailer has been in rapid expansion mode in the U.S. buying up smaller regional retailers—co-founder, Justin Reis tells Robb Report The 1916 Company’s DNA is different as they see its mission as a full 360-degree collecting experience “surrounded by education, media experience, community, going to Switzerland [Watchbox’s multi-purpose hub in Neuchâtel]—that’s what we wanted this business to be around.” He adds that the company sees its customer experience as a global one where each client can mingle with other like-minded individuals at The 1916 Company’s locations around the world. “What we are feeding into with the customer journey are these locations around the world where you can go visit, like these mini Soho Houses, where you can go and have fun,” says Reis. And, of course, selling everything from new to pre-owned to independent timepieces (The 1916 Company also owns independent watchmaker De Bethune and has an unprecedented stock of rare pre-owned F.P. Journe’s, for example).
Its locations around the globe already encompass sleek lounges everywhere from Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Singapore to Dubai, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Boca Raton. With its newly enlarged footprint, The 1916 Company will include 8 multi-brand salons and five mono-brand boutiques in Philadelphia and Ardmore, Pennsylvania; Baltimore and Towson, Maryland; Newark, Delaware; Denver, Colorado; Newport Beach, California; and Scottsdale Arizona.
Branding will roll out slowly over time with Govberg, Radcliffe, Hyde Park, and WatchBox all changing to The 1916 Company. For now, the websites for all have both the original names and the new name to slowly introduce customers to the change with a full transition expected to happen in Q1 of next year.
Of course, for fans of pre-owned there will be plenty. WatchBox’s 200 million-plus inventory of pre-owned timepieces will still be available online, as well as at all physical locations of the 1916 Company. “We wanted to build the JP Morgan of pre owned watches, and give that customer you the assurance, on a global basis, that there was no concern,” says Reis of WatchBox’s early mission. “And at the same time we wanted to build these impenetrable relationships around the world. Customers were crazy about this new entrance of independents. Six and a half years ago it wasn’t a spotlighted category, now even my Uber driver knows what an F.P. Journe is.” As for its Rolex CPO program, the company will be building out its own Rolex service center to take care of clients needs. “Our goal is to be the leader globally of the CPO program,” says Reis. “We’re certainly committed for the long term to build this ally, we truly believe it’s going to be a game changer.” The pre-owned Rollies can be found at The 1916 company’s physical locations, as well as online at Govberg Jewelers and Radcliffe Jewelers.
The plan is to continue to develop its collector community while expanding The 1916 Company’s reach even further down the road. “If we can keep [clients] close, then we’re going to have a lot more fun and the community that we’ve built will stay tighter together,” says Reis. But the overall big idea is to “plant a flagpole and become a national player and really build the U.S. platform for this