Why Did Watchmakers Fall In Love With Place Vendôme?
One of the added pleasures of shopping for watches at Place Vendôme in the heart of Paris (besides tax refunds for visitors) is the feeling of luxury and history entwined. Predestined with its octagonal shape cut like a precious gemstone, the Place Vendôme is a jewelry and watch shopper’s dream. Originally built to showcase an equestrian statue of Louis XIV that was toppled during the French Revolution, it became the site of a bronze victory column in honor of Napoléon I whose statue was placed on top in 1810. In turn toppled, then later rebuilt, it is still there today. During that same period, Abraham-Louis Breguet invented the tourbillon during his residence in Paris, which he presented to the public in 1806. In 1810, he made his first watch for a wrist that he sold two years later to Caroline Murat, youngest sister of Napoléon I, and Reine Consort of Naples.
Today, Breguet has a boutique on Place Vendôme with collections that include the Reine de Naples line. Piaget, Officine Panerai, Rolex, Blancpain, Tag Heuer, Vacheron Constantin, Montblanc, Jaquet Droz, Chopard, Breitling, A. Lange & Söhne, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Dior, and many more now occupy the 18th century façades classified as historic monuments on the Place Vendôme and adjoining rue de la Paix, composing the most luxurious shopping window in France.
It started with jewelers Mellerio dits Meller. Granted a royal decree by Marie de Medecis in 1613 to sell their creations in France, they established themselves in 1815 at 9 rue de la Paix. Frédéric Boucheron was the first jeweler / watchmaker to install his company on the Place itself, at N°26 on the corner of the rue de la Paix, a site he chose in 1893 for its exceptional light. In 1898, Alfred Cartier and son Louis chose N° 13 rue de la Paix, next to the Westminster Hotel that enjoyed a clientele of visiting royalty. Chaumet, who had been official suppliers to Napoléon and Joséphine, opened at N° 12 Place Vendôme in 1902, followed by Van Cleef & Arpels at N° 22 in 1906.
Relative newcomers Chanel Joaillerie opened their boutique at N° 18 in 1991, although the company has a long history with the Place Vendôme, as Mademoiselle herself lived for many years at the Ritz Hotel facing today’s boutique. It was the octagonal shape of the Place Vendôme that inspired her design of the famous bottle stopper for Chanel N° 5, and later, the shape of Chanel’s first wristwatch, the “Première” launched in 1987.
While Patek Philippe since 2009 and Hublot since 2010 share the same address: N° 10 Place Vendôme, they have two very distinct shops with ambiances reflecting their very different personalities. Jaeger-LeCoultre opened at N° 7 in 2012.
If you want to stay nearby, the Hôtel de Vendôme, Le Meurice, the Park Hyatt Paris, the Mandarin Oriental and more are there. For the famous Ritz Hotel where Coco Chanel lived and Marcel Proust and Ernest Hemingway were” regulars”, you will have to wait until next March. Closed in 2012 for renovations, owner Mohamed Al-Fayed is investing 200 million Euros to install ‘facilities’ that will bring it up to the standards expected by Louis XIV, Napoléon I, and yourself.
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