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Mina Choi Tenison

Swatch Opens Shanghai Complex

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel makes its home in the refurbished 1908 Palace Hotel.

SHANGHAI — Swatch Group has just opened four flagships for its various timepiece brands in the lower part of a historic building here as part of a complex that will come to house a hotel and ateliers for artists in the coming months.

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel makes its home in the refurbished 1908 Palace Hotel. Located on the corner of Nanjing Road and Zhongshan Road, the historical Bund waterfront, the development is the latest addition to the growing lineup of luxury hotels and emporiums on the street. It also is the most recent example of brand-building statements occurring in this city to coincide with the World Expo. Earlier this month, Dior staged a massive fashion show on the Bund and a bevy of labels from Louis Vuitton to Uniqlo have opened new stores here.

The flagships for Swatch, Blancpain, Breguet, and Omega opened Wednesday on the ground floor of the building. The rest of the complex, including the hotel, is set to open in August. The project is a joint venture with Jin Jiang Group, China’s largest hotel management company. The facade of the old building has been restored with the original Art Deco elements kept in place.

“We’ve invested $100 million into this hotel,” said Nick Hayek, Swatch Group’s chief executive officer. “We have fantastic brands, creative artists and normal people who can come and stay here.”

The Swatch Art Peace Hotel mixes retail, art and hospitality under one roof. The ground floor houses the Swatch brand stores. The building will feature an art exhibition space, 18 separate ateliers on the third floor for visiting artists and a boutique hotel with seven different-themed luxury suites costing $6,000 a night. A restaurant will be on the top floor.

“This building is the most emotional building on the Bund. It has a soul,” Hayek said. “This was the first hotel in China; the first place where the Opium Commission met. The Swatch Art Peace Hotel will be a messenger of the past but also a vision on the future.”

Arlette-Elsa Emch, Swatch’s president, said the Swatch retail space is the largest in the world. “This store is a flagship store in the scale of New York City and Paris’ Champs-Elysées.” With 7,000 square feet of retail space, the Swatch store features Chinese motifs like the white dragon scales that are used to display the watches.

For Omega, the Shanghai boutique is the brand’s 11th store in China. According to Omega’s president, Stephen Urquhart, the Omega Shanghai flagship “will easily overtake” the sales from the brand’s top-selling location in the county, the Beijing Oriental Plaza. He said Omega’s sales in China grew 15 percent last year and he is optimistic about future prospects for growth.

“We believe strongly in the future of this market. If you look at the shoppers even on the streets of Japan, many of the shoppers carrying brand-name bags are Chinese consumers,” Urquhart said.

The only complication might come from the Fairmont Peace Hotel just across Nanjing Road, another historic hotel that is currently under renovation and due to open shortly. But Hayek brushed off any potential name confusion.

“Fairmont will be in trouble when they open because they will have so many phone calls for people trying to book our hotel,” he said.

WOMEN'S WEAR DAILY (WWD) May 27, 2010, Print & Web Edition

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