Patricia Chiu is the owner and founder of luxury watch retailer Monards. For over 30 years, she has been sharing her passion for watches and discovering her customers’ stories. Luxury is an emotion, for Patricia. Despite growing trends in e-commerce, she continues to believe in the importance of retail stores to engage with clients, form relationships and provide a singular emotional experience.
Where does the Monards name come from?
The name is a combination of my two sons’ names, Desmond and Bernard. When I first opened, they were five and three years old and I used to bring them and my three young girls into the shop every day. Today, there is a childcare centre at 101 Colins, which would have been better for me at the time! Now, my son’s daughters will go there. I raised my kids at 101 Collins and now my grandkids will be raised here too.
How long has Monards been in the building and what is the background as to how you got here?
When I first opened Monards, I had a 50 sqm shop inside the Grand Hyatt at 123 Collins Street. I enquired about 101 Collins Street when an opportunity came up. I didn’t expect that I’d still be here today. I waited two years just to get into 101! We started with one store in 1993 and, in 2014, we acquired the store next door. We’ve done five renovations and the store is double the size it was 30 years ago.
What made you want to open a luxury watch specialist?
I’m passionate about watches – such a small case with so many pieces inside. You have to put all the tiny little parts together to make it work. And they’re so expensive. We are in the watch business, but the most recent renovations have transformed our entire mezzanine level to include all our jewellery brands. They are obscure brands, but not if you know your watches. They’re high quality and beautifully crafted, and all with a story to tell, that’s what keeps us intrigued. Monards is a purveyor of the stories a timepiece can tell.
How important is your location?
Location is everything. 101 Collins is an iconic building in the middle of the Paris-end of Collins Street. It’s the right fit for our business. The classic and contemporary architecture doesn’t date. 30 years ago, it stood out in the skyline and it still does. The timelessness of the building compliments the timelessness of the watch industry.
What trends do you anticipate in retail?
For me, luxury is an emotion, and you need a store to provide that for the consumer. E-commerce cannot replace that. While other businesses thrive on e-commerce, sales and promotions, that’s not important for Monards. What’s important is the emotional connection with the product. E-commerce, social media and digital compliment the experience of stepping through our door, but they can’t replace it. We need to engage with our customers.
Breguet is your favourite brand, tell us why.
Breguet is unique because of the hands (its hidden signature), but also the bevelled edges. If you know watches, you can look at these features and know exactly what it is. They’re the DNA of a watch. It’s one of the most romantic brands in Swiss watchmaking, so mechanically sophisticated inside and out. Certain collections are just astounding, like the ‘Queen of Naples’ which King Napoleon commissioned Breguet to design for Queen Josephine.
What watches do you regularly recommend to people?
Watches reflect a personality, so it really depends. Once, I had a teenage boy come in when he turned 18. He had seen a watch in a newspaper ten years prior and had been saving for ten years before he came and bought it. It’s a personal journey. We need to understand the client and their lifestyle before we can start making recommendations. First and foremost, it’s about forming a relationship. We must always be very honest and professional. We have 40 luxury brands and our product knowledge must be second to none. We provide exceptional service and pride ourselves on strong and lasting relationships with our clients.