By Craig Patterson
Canada’s first boutique for UK-based diamond retailer Graff has opened at 1018 West Georgia Street, and Swiss luxury watch retailer Patek Philippe has opened next to it. Both are operated by Montreal-based jewellery retailer Birks and feature separate street-facing entrances, further enhancing downtown Vancouver’s ‘Luxury Zone’.
The Birks partnership marks the first time that Graff has had a retail presence in Canada. Graff launched at Birks’ store in Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre in November, temporarily, while the Vancouver store was still under construction. The Patek Philippe boutique is the first storefront for the brand in Canada, and selected retailers also carry the pricey pieces.
The Graff and Patek Philippe boutiques are connected internally with the same cashiers while from the outside, they have their own entrances and retail signage. The Graff boutique features signage over the door saying ‘Graff’, while the Patek entrance is a bit more subtle with a Birks logo over the entrance doorway, and Patek Philippe branding in the windows.
The 575 square foot Graff salon features a selection of Graff jewellery, engagement rings and timepieces. The impressive interior includes brushed- gold vitrines showcasing one-of-a-kind high jewellery suites, fine jewellery collections and timepieces. As it becomes more established, some pieces on display in the Vancouver Graff salon will be one-of-a-kind and some will be priced in excess of $1-million — though it also has some less costly items with prices beginning at about $6,000. Graff was founded by Lawrence Graff in London in 1960, and the brand’s boutiques can be found in major cities globally. In the United States, Graff operates six standalone stores in New York City, Bal Harbour FL, Chicago, Las Vegas, Palm Beach and San Francisco, as well as concessions at Saks Fifth Avenue stores in New York City, Beverly Hills, Greenwich CT, Houston, and at Tyson’s Corner in suburban Washington DC.
The similarly-sized Patek Philippe salon features a subdued and luxurious interior with beige walls and furniture that contrasts with dark trim. The boutique features a range of pricey Patek Philippe timepieces, some which can be priced into the six figures. Geneva, Switzerland-based Patek Philippe was founded in 1851, and it designs and manufactures timepieces and movements, including some of the world’s most complicated watches. The company has been owned by the Stern family since 1932, and it has distribution in more than 400 retailers globally. The company operates only a handful of storefronts globally and Vancouver is one of few cities in the world to have a standalone space dedicated to the brand.
Both boutiques are expected to do well in Vancouver — both are popular with an affluent Asian demographic, and Vancouver is known to be a significant target for Asian tourists as well as residents who have chosen to live in the city either full-time or part-time.
Vancouver is seeing an unprecedented number of luxury brands moving into its downtown core, many of which focus on jewellery and watches as well as leather goods and other accessories. West Georgia street is now finding itself becoming a luxury retail address of its own, located a short block north of the Alberni Street ‘Luxury Zone’ that has been undergoing a transformation for the past several years. Several more luxury brands will be moving into the area — Hermès is building a two-level flagship adjacent to Graff and Patek Philippe facing the corner on Burrard Street, Montblanc and Vacheron Constantin will open in the former Blubird retail space on Alberni Street, and Cartier will relocate to the space currently occupied by Hermès at 755 Burrard Street which also fronts onto Alberni Street, and others are said to be in the works.
*All photos in this article are courtesy of George Pimentel.