Tourneau (Est. 1900 – ) Despite its current name, the Tourneau Company was originally established in Europe by the Wexler family in 1900. During 1924 – 1925, the family emigrated from Paris to New York where Peter opened a dressmaking shop in the Berkshire Place Hotel that also included a watch counter. The location subsequently became the future site of the “Tourneau Corner” store at 500 Madison Avenue.
In 1930, the Wexler (Tourneau) brothers opened their first store devoted to selling watches at Madison Avenue and 49th Street. During the 1930s, the brand became recognized as a watch innovator, developing and popularizing many new models. In 1940, Tourneau expanded and opened a second location in the Pennsylvania Hotel across from Penn Station.
Over its nearly six score history, the company has sold men’s, women’s, and certified pre-owned timepieces. In 1975 the Wexler family acquired Tourneau and adopted its name as its own. Further expansion came in 1979 when the company established its first location outside New York with a store in Bal Harbour, Florida.
The first West Coast store opened during the 1990s in the South Coast Plaza Mall in Costa Mesa. In 1997, the company opened the Tourneau TimeMachine on 57th Street in New York City. At the time, it was recognized as the “World’s Largest Watch Store” by the Guinness Book of World Records. In 2005, the Tourneau Time Dome in Las Vegas took over the Guinness World Record.
Today, in addition to manufacturing its own brand of timepieces, Tourneau arguably has the world’s largest selection of certified pre-owned watches and offers a trade-in program for upgrading watch styles. Tourneau claims it can be the point-of-purchase for both regular collections of timepiece brands as well as limited edition lines available only at Tourneau stores.
In 2011 Tourneau began selling a contemporary collection of watches called the TNY Series inspired by New York City’s architecture and design. In 2012, Tourneau partnered with Product Red to produce Tourneau (Product) Red Special Edition watches. Fifteen percent of the retail price of each of the watches was donated to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
In March 2015, a third New York City store was opened in Bryant Park and added.to the brand’s multi-location presence. By 2015 the company had 33 stores across 13 states including the flagship stores in Las Vegas and New York. Tourneau is currently the largest authorized retailer of timepieces in the United States offering about 8,000 watches and 100 brands including Rolex®, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Breitling, Vacheron Constantin, and Jaeger-LeCoultre and many others.
Perhaps Tourneau’s most significant contribution to the watchmaking industry came in 2006 when the company opened the 10,000-square foot Tourneau Service Center in Long Island City, New York. Since then, it has been home to one of the largest teams of watchmakers in the world. Modeled after manufactures like those operated by Swiss watchmakers, the service center features advanced, state-of-the-art machines and technology where it can refurbish every certified pre-owned watch the company acquires.
As the world moved into the new millennium, Tourneau saw a decline in experienced watchmakers: veterans of the industry began to age and the numbers of new talent began to wane. To keep up with the influx of watches arriving for service and repair, the company decided to invest in the next generation of American watchmakers. In 2013, it partnered with the Manhattan Comprehensive Night & Day School to create the Watchmaker Program.
The eight-week vocational course is held at the Long Island City facility and teaches aspiring New York City students the skills they need to become professional watchmakers in an industry eager to accept young apprentices. Since its opening, the Watchmaker Program has completed four courses and graduated forty students. Today, two are employed by Tourneau as watch technicians.
They are part of Tourneau’s company of 30 watchmakers comprised of twenty-nine men and one woman. According to the company’s official website, they are among the most experienced and talented technicians in the industry.
The company’s staff comes from all over the world and is aged from 19 to over 70. Each watchmaker has completed five years of apprenticeship. Some have practiced for over 40 years. Experienced watchmakers new to Tourneau go through a year of training involving dexterity, oiling techniques, and watch dis-assembly tests.
Inside the facility, the watchmakers are stationed at individual benches in an open room where they work with their hands and custom tools on only one watch at a time. They each specialize in one brand and movement (quartz or mechanical) and are expected to be fluent in all intricate parts. Over 55,000 watches go through these watchmakers’ hands every year spanning new to century-old pieces with values from $250 to over $250,000.
In 2013, Tourneau released The Watch Book. Its comprehensive features include insights, interviews, history, and information to satisfy knowledgeable connoisseurs and collectors. The book is filled with spectacular photos of watches that range in price from $1,000 to $1 million.
When it released The Watch Book, Tourneau’s CEO, Ira Melnitsky, said, “It pays homage to the storied history of the timepiece, but also takes a look into the exciting future of the industry.”
The book belongs on every watch-enthusiast’s bookshelf and is on sale at Tourneau locations across the United States.
Acknowledged throughout the industry as, The Watch Authority, Tourneau claims to have the largest certified pre-owned watch collections. It also offers first-rate watchmaking craft plus expert service and repair.