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A Home to Exclusive Watch Stores That Offer Experiences Available Nowhere Else

篠田 哲生

GINZA SIX EDITORS Vol.51

Ginza is among the world’s rare watch districts. In addition to luxury maisons and brand boutiques, it’s home to official watch retailers who carry the finest timepieces and stores renowned for antique watches. While the district itself offers every kind of watch imaginable, GINZA SIX has a different flavor: It’s home to unique watch stores that choose to emphasize timepieces as experience and enjoyment. The world is said to be shifting from the consumption of things to the consumption of experiences. GINZA SIX offers both.

The first store I visit is located on the sixth floor, where the renowned Ginza Tsutaya Books is located. Watch aficionados will make a beeline to one particular part of this bookstore, the RICHARD MILLE LIFESTYLE LABORATORY. Richard Mille is a high-end watch brand that produces exclusively timepieces priced in the tens of millions of yen. This store is a promotional location for the brand; it’s not an actual store, as such, selling watches. Rather, it’s the only place anywhere dedicated to announcing Richard Mille events and activities around the world.

Richard Mille’s sponsorships in sports like tennis, athletics, F1, and golf are characterized by the concept of family relationship with athletes. The brand also promotes automotive events and modern art. The role of the Lifestyle Laboratory is to spread the word about the brand’s diverse activities in these and other spheres. On the day of my visit, I see a display for the Le Mans Classic, a classic car race hosted by the brand and for which it serves as the principal sponsor. The event goes back to M. Richard Mille, the founder of the brand and a world-renowned collector of classic cars. I’ve actually visited his home in France, where he has several dozen famous cars stored in barn converted into a garage. Perhaps what surprised me most was that he drove a Lancia Stratos, a really well-known car, to go buy bread. The helmet box in the door, he remarked, had the perfect dimensions for storing a baguette. The luxury and exclusiveness of this lifestyle stunned me.

This display, apparently, was scheduled to give way to one on golf in a few days. This is the ideal place to get a feel for the brand’s energy and the frontlines of its activities. If you should actually want to buy a watch, you can head to the two boutiques nearby (I heard some have actually purchased a watch in this way.)

My next stop is the CITIZEN FLAGSHIP STORE TOKYO, back on the first floor. The store is located at the intersection of Mihara Street and Kojunsha Street. Its layout is such that it can’t be accessed directly from inside GINZA SIX. But this actually gives the spacious store a relaxed atmosphere. A big draw of this location is that visitors are welcome to get leisurely accounts of the watches.

The store sells not just Citizen-branded watches, but foreign watch brands owned by the company. Growing increasingly global, the Citizen Group in fact offers a wide range of watches, including well-respected Swiss and American brands.

What catches my eye is Arnold & Son. In fact, this is the marque’s only brand boutique in the world. With roots in England at the end of the 18th century, the brand inherits the watch-making knowhow acquired by John Arnold and his son, who established a lucrative enterprise mass-producing high-precision maritime watches for use on board ships.

A unique characteristic of Arnold & Son is that each model has its own specially-designed movement. The mechanism and design are in perfect harmony. My love for details like this is what makes me a devoted timepiece fan. And because the watches are rare, with only 700-800 produced each year, the opportunity to handle and examine them in this way is priceless.

This is the Globetrotter, a new product for this year (1,780,000 yen; all prices listed before tax). It features a half-globe that rotates once every 24 hours and displays the current time at different locations around the world. It incorporates a unique and creative mechanism. It’s really satisfying.

I take the elevator next to Citizen to the second floor to my final destination: FRANCK MULLER GENEVE. Among those who don’t know that much about watches, Franck Muller is known as a watch brand associated with exquisite designs. For watch enthusiasts, the brand is known for its numerous complications. For me, it’s a brand that lets me enjoy time. On certain watches, the hands jump or stop. Others replicate a roulette wheel. The brand is based on a positive philosophy: to mark and enjoy the passage of time and to celebrate life.

Here I’d like to draw your attention to the home collection corner (Franck Muller Future Form) at the back of the store.

Franck Muller promotes its philosophy of enjoying time while focusing on its home collection (a range of products for use in the home) as a means of enhancing time spent relaxing at home. The products can also be purchased online, but here you can view almost the entire collection. It’s the only place anywhere in the world where you can do so.

The items feature the iconic Byzantine numerals featured on the watches, allowing anyone to tell they’re from Franck Muller. This is apparently also making them popular gifts. Since I’m on the lookout for something to give to a friend who just got married, I checked out this champagne glass (17,000 yen). The numerals are sandblasted into the glass.

There are, of course, many men’s and ladies’ watches here. But also on display are valuable watches of complications you would never encounter at an ordinary watch store.

This Giga Tourbillon I spot sells for a cool 31 million yen! The Tourbillon mechanism involves the revolution of all the escapement parts to cancel out the effects of gravity, something quite a few people find endlessly fascinating. This model is of the skeleton type, in which the entire movement is visible, a design choice that makes production and assembly incredibly challenging. A glimpse of such a rare watch is yet another special experience. Handling watches at this stratospheric level takes place in a VIP room at the back. I take advantage of the perks of being on assignment to take a look inside this VIP room, where I’m served the brand’s famous marrons glacés and champagne.

At the end of my visit, I did some shopping at the Franck Muller patisserie, which is attached to the store. I will give what I buy as a gift for the people I meet for business purposes, much to their delight, as always.

Mechanical watches use gears and springs to track the passage of time, the sense of which emerges for us from the movements of the sun and the moon. They are perhaps the most important devices devised by humankind and provide enjoyment not just as fashion articles, but as a source of knowledge. GINZA SIX is the place to go to satisfy intellectual curiosity about timepieces—a place to find still more answers to the question, “What is time?”

Text: Tetsuo Shinoda Photos: Yoshinori Eto Edit: Yuka Okada

editors_shinoda

篠田 哲生

“青少年のバイブル”こと講談社『Hot Dog・PRESS』を経て独立。時計専門誌からファッション誌、ビジネス誌など、40を超える媒体で時計記事を企画・執筆する。時計専門学校を修了した実践派でもあり、年に数回のスイス取材も行う。著書に『成功者はなぜウブロの時計に惹かれるのか』がある。
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2018.08.03 UP