When Peter Tourneau immigrated to New York in 1925 to open a small dressmaking shop, he couldn’t have imagined that the watch counter he set up in the corner as an afterthought would evolve to become the largest authorized luxury watch retailer in the US.

Yet that’s what Tourneau, which since 1997 has also held the distinction of world’s largest watch store, is today – a luxury retailer of new and pre-owned timepieces spanning 100 brands and 33 locations serving more than four million visitors annually.

Tourneau’s roots in brick and mortar retail run very deep – the above photo is from an early 1920s-era Tourneau store – mainly because its long tenured, highly incentivized associates have well-established relationships with affluent horology enthusiasts. With a high-touch store experience at the forefront, digital commerce was less of a strategic priority.

That changed in October 2013 when Tourneau named Ira Melnitsky its Chief Executive. With a career spent in high-end retail, including a stint as Chief Merchandising Officer of online pure-play Rue La La, Melnitsky was progressive, tech-savvy and willing to make investments in digital.

Earlier this year Tourneau re-launched its website on the Demandware Commerce Cloud, in partnership with Lyons Consulting Group. The site features better navigation, glossy photography and detailed product filters and sorting, all of which Chief Marketing Officer Katherine Bahamonde describes as “night and day” compared with its previous site. (see the new site below)


In revamping its digital presence, Tourneau sought to maintain the same high-touch relationship with its online customers as it has in stores.

“That is the future of commerce,” says Bahamonde. “Where you don’t know where one channel ends and another begins.”

To that end, Tourneau is leveraging its new website to drive engagement online and off.  Some examples:

Additional brands: The company has expanded its online SKU assortment by more than 50% post launch. Currently several of the higher-end premier watch brands do not allow ecommerce in the US. Tourneau is actively courting them to improve the customer experience through either pick up in-store or conversation to online selling.

Digital Store: Tourneau sales associates in all stores now use iPads to search its companywide inventory for Certified Pre-Owned timepieces. This is a big deal, since a “meaningful” chunk of its business comes from CPO items, says Bahamonde. This gives associates real-time information about sought-after products anywhere in the Tourneau supply chain. Additionally, the iPads provide pictures of the CPO items; previously, the buyer had only a description, which left Tourneau to hope that the customer actually liked the item upon arrival. “With store transfers, buyers are under no obligation to purchase once we receive the item,” says Bahamonde. “Now it’s a much more compelling proposition with a greater likelihood they will complete the sale.”

Buy Online/Pick up in Store: This is, of course, becoming a must-have for omni-channel retailers, and Bahamonde says many buyers prefer to consummate their watch sale in-store to finalize warranties and to size the timepiece. In fact, Tourneau fulfilled more in-store pickups orders in the months after launch than the entire year prior.

Compensate Associates for Web Sales/Online Appointments: Attribution can be a thorny and complex issue for omni-channel retailers, but Tourneau helped get store associates on board with its digital initiatives by compensating them for online sales – whether shipped to the customer’s home or picked up in store. At the same time, Tourneau’s “schedule an appointment” feature on its site drives browsers into the store where, more often than not, they make multiple trips before making a purchase.

Tourneau does not disclose sales or growth statistics, but Bahamonde says the company’s digital efforts are expected to drive higher overall growth. In fact, online conversion rate rose 14% post launch (113% on mobile). Average order value is up 40%. That’s no easy feat when you consider that, with a clock built into everything from phones and Fitbits to toasters and treadmills, nobody actually needs a dedicated timepiece to tell the time.

Tourneau’s efforts to expand its market by leveraging digital technologies are transforming the 115-year old company into a bona fide omni-channel innovator. At the same time, it has maintained its status as the premiere luxury watch retailer for store-only and online-only buyers.

Case in point: the company recently celebrated its biggest digital sale ever – a $75,000 transaction which included a $67,000 pre-owned Rolex and an $8,000 pre-owned Cartier.

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