The retail boss on his love of Rolexes and why steel watches are hot.
Laings of Glasgow and Houlden Group boss Stuart Laing shares with Rachael Taylor his love of Rolexes, his surprise at stainless steel timepieces and gives us his tips on hot and cold watch sectors.
As Laings of Glasgow owner and Houlden Group boss Stuart Laing drops memories of driving in his inexorably expensive sports car to a second home in sunnier climes into conversation, it is clear to see that he enjoys the good things in life.
And when WatchPro comments that he has set an unusually fancy location for our meet to and he humorously retorts “Well, that’s because I’m a pretty posh guy!”, it seems these assumptions are now fact.
So which brand would be the watch of choice for a pretty posh guy? “Rolex is a wonderful company, it will always reign high in the industry,” enthuses the always charming Laing. He goes on to say that the new 31mm ladies Rolex with a scattered diamond bezel has enjoyed “a phenomenal launch” at his luxury jewellery store in Glasgow.
Laings of Glasgow has been enjoying a boom period in the watch sector with Laing describing business as being “through the roof”. He substantiates with figures, revealing that watch sales over the festive period were up 5.5 percent on the year before, with the comparative 2009 figures described as having been strong.
As well as running his retail empire in Glasgow and coordinating the Houlden buying group, Laing also runs an online club for watch enthusiasts called Laings Watch Club at laingswatchclub.com. While Laing manages to get favourites Rolex in the first paragraph of his opening welcome on the site, he is keen that the forum should be just that, and not an output for his personal tastes or an advertising platform for brands sold at his shop. To ensure that impartiality succeeds he has employed friend and fellow watch collector Stephen Cosh to manage the site.
The site is a clubhouse for watch fans where they can meet online and chat about their favourite new bezels and trash the latest tourbillions. But the club also connects with the real world, organising Laings Watch Club trips to SIHH and BaselWorld, and extending invites to instore events at Laings of Glasgow. The response to the club has been described as “unbelievable”.
Another unbelievable moment for Laing has been the entrance of stainless steel watches into the higher end of the market, with Laing estimating that such models have doubled in price over the past decade.
“I would never have believed that I would be able to sell a stainless steel watch for more than £7,000,” he says with amazement, but he has. Laing sold a stainless steel IWC model for £7,950, and rather than being faced with a hard sell, he had three customers fighting over it.
Needless to say, Laing is adding an IWC stainless steel watch or two to his shopping list, but much to his disappointment, and no doubt that of the two shoppers who missed out, he can’t get his hands on another until May.
What to do? Well, we don’t doubt that a spin in a nice sports car and a trip to the Rolex cabinet should go some way to set the world at right.
Playing the watch market
Stuart Laing’s tip of the moment is mid-sized watches with case sizes of 30mm to 31mm, which he describes as “a huge growth area”. “Before it was mainly for men with small wrists or ladies with larger writsts, but now the mid size is becoming a cult,” he says.
Laing says that there has been a serious decline in purchasing in the 18ct gold watch sector. “Rising gold prices have priced some watches out of the market, but there is still some good sales at the Patek Philippe level,” he says.