My horns were shining a bright green on that first sunny morning, arriving to work at Hal Martin’s Watch & Jewelry Co. A million questions and scenarios were caressing my mind, only to be shocked back to reality at the sound of the buzzer, and the sight of my own hand tentatively pulling open the front door as my feet took me into a wonderland I had waited many years to experience, and had made many costume changes, in unknown anticipation of this very day. Walter Mitty once again entering stage right. For our younger readers, of course you can Google Walter Mitty and then you will fully understand my ode to good ole Walter.
But of all the questions running through my mind, everything from, how to operate the functions on a Rolex GMT Master II, to how to operate the credit card machine, there was one question that kept cutting in line to get to the front of my memory. Who are these people that come in a place such as this? In reality, it was the only question to which I had no investigatory evidence to form any kind of opinion, mostly, because from the beginning, I took money out of the equation, to be able to get clearer picture of the person and not the possession. Plus acquiring a Rolex, or anything that appears beyond you is, a lot of times, just a question of self-discipline. Ouch, I know, I hate that.
My first impression was, the watches all look so small. I owned watches at the time, I had a sense of reality, but these are watches that I have seen, mainly, in those beautiful clear as crystal, in your face, fill the page photos, always looking larger than life. The real thing was, well the real thing. It only took an hour and I was quite pleased with the size of each and every Swiss watch in the case, from the tremendous stock of Rolex magnificence, to a case full of Patek Philippe history and Brequet engineering, and the list, and the cases went on and on.
As I wandered the store in childlike amazement and familiarized myself with the products and procedures of this friendly little enclave, I later found it to be, I knew that the Rolex Daytona wall clock kept speeding faster past 9AM, and with that fact in place, an encounter with a live human client was inching ever closer towards me, at what I felt was lightning speed. I was far from being rattled by nerves, I had after all worked retail before, even though Action Sports Surf and Skate Shop might have been 180 degrees from this place, and over 25 years ago, that being said, we will label me apprehensive for the first few hours. What were these people thinking when they hired me I mused to myself?
Well that first encounter came and went with me coming out of it quite unscathed and feeling pretty good about myself. No sale, but neither did I have to use up all my knowledge on the first customer, it might be a long day. I won’t get too far off track and bore you with the minutest of details, but before lunch I had sold my first watch, a lady’s stainless-steel Rolex Datejust. This was amazing, nothing at all how I imagined the events of my first day would transpire. In all honesty though, I must say the watch pretty much sold itself. The customer knew Rolex, he knew what his wife liked and he knew her birthdate. Homerun for both us. Nonetheless I told everyone, I quit because I have to go out on top. I’m still around, I didn’t go anywhere. So, there it was, the first type of customer to add to the survey. He knows the product, knows what he wants, and doesn’t need, or want, to talk that much about it. Good way for the new kid on the block to get his feet wet.
From that point on, as my knowledge expanded, the amazing type of clients this store has bred, were revealed to me and the stories they carried along with them.
As I mentioned earlier I took money out of the equation to learn who the person is as a client. Perhaps I was a bit hasty, as we all know, for some money is not a question and they may be as whimsical as they care to be and I am all for it, it looks like a lot of fun. And point number two of course we at Hal Martin’s cannot gift watches 6 days a week, as much as we would love to. So yes, money is involved in this story. Maybe it’s just a question of the amount of time it takes to conserve enough of it. But I have a couple of stories to demonstrate the diversity of people and their reasons for coming to see us with said resources. One thing I should mention before I go any further is that almost 100 percent of the people coming through the door, have a love of the micro engineering and centuries of history behind it, from brands that still produce such marvels of mechanics. I had a young 30’s something couple come in together one day looking for a watch for the husband, after the wife’s incessant requests broke his will. Already the story is unusual, right. Well after spending some time with them and hearing their amazing story, I was startled and warmed by it all. It turned out that they always wanted to open a gardening store and as life went on it seemed to him that the dream would never come to fruition. He was already working 2 jobs and it seemed as if life was still a bit of a struggle, and it was, as it turns out, for a very good reason. The wife had been putting every single penny of his second salary into a separate savings account and one day she had accumulated enough money to open their dream store, much, as you can imagine, to his welcome surprise. So, there they stood in front of me, having succeeded sufficiently, to be looking at a yellow gold Rolex President. But wait! The story isn’t over yet, this guy was stubborn, and still much to her dismay, quite tight with their money. Well after 2 or 3 visits with him still thinking, the time is on my cell phone, why do I need this expenditure. I finally said to him, surely by some divine intervention, that really none of these watches had much, if anything, to do with the time. It was about having a bad day and by chance glancing down at that sign of struggle and success on your wrist and from that glance remembering you can do anything you put your mind to. I sold a yellow gold Rolex President and learned more about myself and the customers than I thought was possible.
Blue collar people buy Rolex. And some of them don’t just wear them to the Texans games any longer, they work in them, and some of those work in the oils fields, every day, with a two-tone Rolex Submariner, and after a few years it shows, and then they come in to buy a newer one. This guy I loved. He wasn’t my customer but I overheard Tarang Patel, watch encyclopedia and resident diamond expert, ask this customer why he didn’t buy a bit lower priced watch to wear to work and preserve his Rolex a bit longer. This man looked amazed at Tarang’s words, as if they were from a language he had no knowledge of, but without hesitation he answered anyway. He stated, I love it, and I can afford it, so I work in it. This man knew a quality tool when he saw one and tools in his mind, were to be used.
The good, humorous and heartwarming moments abound, I saw more good than the daily world average allows you outside of this establishment. I could light a campfire and go all night, but the constraints of this type of forum prevents that. But you may be as amazed as I was, at this small, but telling example of exactly who these watch aficionados really are and why they continue to come here. Who are these people? Well it turns out they are just about anybody and everybody with the same discipline to fulfill a desire burning inside them. Mainstreet U.S.A. used to be lined with stores like Hal Martin’s in every field of endeavor and it is incredible when one of those such establishments hangs on to the past, much the same as the fine Swiss watch holds on to the mechanics of the past inside her movement. But there is one thread that holds these past practices in place, and that is each and every customer who graces us with their presence, and in turn, helps that past shine on. Thank you all for the education.