Professional Jeweler Archive: Glass Eye-Opener Sells Time

September 2002

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Glass Eye-Opener Sells Time

New watch store's modern look breaks boundaries of a small space


Walking along First Avenue near 54th Street in New York City, you turn your head and look into Tempus. You can’t help it. The entire storefront is clear glass, offering a full view inside. Above the door, the metallic store name shimmers in a sea of blue – bathed in neon during the evening.

Three large globe lights hover like beacons over the center of the store, which is illuminated also by rows of halogen spotlights.

On the back wall, silvery op-art wallpaper echoes the metal links of a watchband and slyly camouflages a small storage area and tiny office.

Tempus is not a traditional timepiece store.

Know Thy Neighbor

Perched in a prime residential neighborhood in Manhattan, where loyalty to local businesses is a tradition, Tempus opened during the uncertain times of October 2001. Owner Robert Bedi and business partner Mike Narula, who operate several wireless telephone retail stores nearby, know the area and many of its habits, businesses and residents.

When an empty space across the street from one of their stores went on the market two years ago, they did some research and found no retailers nearby who sold and serviced a full line of fine watches.

Bedi, who had his own modest collection of watches, then spent much of last year speaking with watch vendors. Most were convinced the paucity of fine watch stores in the vicinity would give Tempus a competitive edge. The nearest competitors – on Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue – are geared to workday and tourist crowds. Tempus, meanwhile, is a neighborhood store close to home rather than work. “Most of our sales are made after 5 p.m. until we close at 8 p.m.,” says Bedi. Today, the store carries 11 brands: Oris, Omega, Citizen, Hamilton, Maurice Lacroix, Gucci, Raymond Weil, Longines, Tissot, Technomarine and Fortis.

Design Attraction

Watch brands were impressed also by the store’s design, as were local businesses and competitors from Midtown. Sandwiched between a hair salon and a florist, the sleek store draws double-takes on a block filled with traditional awning-topped stores with signs in their windows.

With only 300 square feet, Bedir and Narula wanted a modern gallery feel. Architects Mark Oller and Victoria Kirk of MOVK, New York City, responded by choosing wall-mounted glass boxes with walnut bases. “We approached the design as a unique opportunity to redefine the environment in which finely crafted timepieces are sold,” says Oller. “The current retail spectrum runs from jump-out MTV to boardroom banal. Instead, we wanted to introduce accessible elegance but with an edge – luxury for the 21st century.”

With a $90,000 budget and only seven weeks allotted to the project, MOVK divided the space into display cubes that focus shoppers’ attention from the moment they enter. Made by ALU, New York City, the Box Collection of rectangular and square glass cubes are lighted inside with elongated lamps.

Passersby can see watches in the same type of cubes mounted on shelves connected to ALU’s tension-mounted Pylon System at the front of the store. “Our goal was to blur the lines between sidewalk and store,” says Oller. The result went beyond that goal, drawing interest from further afield. “It’s satisfying to watch people cross the street to look inside,” he says.

• Tempus, New York City; (646) 497-0900.
• MOVK, New York City; (212) 631-0891, www.movk.com.
• ALU, New York City; (212) 924-8713, www.alu.com.

– by Michael Thompson

The facade of Tempus stands out boldly on its traditional city block on Manhattan’s First Avenue.
Three large light globes and a pop-art design that evokes watch straps create an open, modern environment inside.
Elongated wall showcases were chosen to make good use of Tempus’ small space.

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications