Putting Out the Watch Welcome Mat

Breitling applied the same thinking: Plan ahead for better times; focus on local. In April 2020, “we started right at the beginning of the pandemic to put a restart plan in place,” Georges Kern, its chief executive, wrote in an email. “The objective was to get customers back in our boutiques.”

The brand, he wrote, hosted “local small intimate events throughout the entire boutique network” and offered appointments to what he described as “touch-and-try sessions.”

Partnering with charities continued to be a popular customer draw. Leonid Khankin, chief executive of the watch company Ernst Benz, which has a brand boutique in a tony suburb of Detroit, wrote: “We produce limited editions in order to donate a portion of proceeds,” choosing charitable partners that have “special ties and relevance to Ernst Benz. Our good will projects bring great joy both to us and our customers, and they offered a motivation to get back out and into the retail environment as Covid restrictions lifted.” In June, for example, it donated the creation of a custom-designed watch to a charity auction for the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Foundation.

The watch maker Maximilian Büsser and his team at MB & F had another approach to attracting customers back to their stores: renovation. “We used the break imposed by the Covid pandemic to totally rethink the architecture and interior design of our M.A.D. Galleries, and we will gradually roll out the same look and feel to other points of sale in the following months,” said Charris Yadigaroglou, the brand’s chief communications officer. “The first gallery we are modifying is the M.A.D. Gallery in Dubai, taking cues from the golden age of science fiction and furniture design of the ‘50s and ’60s. We hope to reopen in November.”

One of the more inventive enticements came from Jared Silver, president of Stephen Silver, a watches and jewelry retailer in Menlo Park, Calif. “We are inside the Rosewood hotel so we had to go completely dark for two months,” he said, referring to spring 2020. “When the hotel reopened in July, we thought, ‘How can we inspire people to come back in a safe way?’ This is when the government was sending out stimulus checks.”

Adapting the idea, “we sent care packages to our top 100 customers, with a nice bottle of wine, a face mask embroidered with ‘S.S.’ and a cedar-wood check, laser engraved with our logo and the expiration date 12/31/2020.” Amounts ranged from $500 to $5,000.