One of a small handful of truly meaningful watch stores in the U.S.SEPTEMBER 30, 2014
There are just a small handful of truly meaningful watch stores in the United States. This group of forward-thinking, daring, and creative jewelers are, in some cases, responsible for breeding the generation of watch buyers that kept the entire industry afloat during some of its hardest times, and built it into the period of development and innovation that we are currently enjoying. Without these select watch retailers, there would be no industry to enjoy. Roberto Chiappelloni's Manfredi Jewels in Greenwich, CT, is at the forefront of this group, and today, we take an inside look at this amazing bastion of watchmaking.
Chiappelloni is a believer in the great American dream. He came to the United States from Italy as a young man of 24. He believed he would spend six months at NYU and then return to Italy, but opportunity knocked and he answered. He built a name for himself as an entrepreneur – not as a watch man, but actually a restauranteur. His success with his Forest Hills restaurant Alberto (celebrating its 40th year!) allowed Chiappelloni to begin to collect watches. And in the late 1970s, he was one of just a few who still had a passion for these mechanical wonders. As such, the local dealers and pawn shops in the area would call him any time they would receive a good watch on trade, and he began to buy pieces for his own collection – because if he didn't buy them, they'd simply be melted down for scrap.
In the 1980s, with a little bit of success under his belt, Chiappelloni opened Manfredi Jewels in Greenwich, CT, with the goal of simply having a little fun. His first and only brand back then was IWC, and it was with them, and then Piaget, that he began to build a name for himself as someone who would take a chance on new, innovative brands and help to build a fan base in the U.S. For example, Manfredi Jewel's was the first authorized dealer for Franck Muller, and they still carry the brand over two decades later.
One must remember what it is like to take on a new, unproven brand like Franck Muller was back then. There is a tremendous amount of capital required to place your first order, and without a name like Rolex or Patek Philippe on the dial, the average consumer simply isn't programmed to spend serious money. But Chiappelloni always had vision, and he saw what Muller would become, and later on, what incredible independents like Richard Mille, Urwerk, and F.P. Journe had in store. Manfredi was one of the first in the country to carry all three of this incredible brands, and they retain the accounts today (Manfredi is one of the largest F.P. Journe authorized dealers in the country outside the factory-owned boutiques).
But it isn't just those names that would become brands that interest Chiappelloni and his team at Manfredi – he gets just as much of a thrill supporting individual artisans that have little ambition to be a brand, yet simply make incredible timepieces. For example, Manfredi Jewels is an authorized dealer of Peter Speake-Marin, Laurent Ferrier, Maîtres du Temps, Ressence, and Kari Voutilainen (yes, seriously). Can you believe that? We kind of can't, but it's true. Where else can you see all these incredible brands under one roof? Literally nowhere.
But what makes Manfredi even more interesting is that though Chaippelloni and his team truly love the independent spirit of the folks we just mentioned, they would never deny the importance of some wonderful larger brands. That means in the same space that you'd find, say, the first Laurent Ferrier Micro-Rotor in the country for sale (last year), you'll also find an incredible selection of rare pieces from Audemars Piguet, Breguet, Blancpain, Montblanc, Chopard, Glashütte Original, Ulysse Nardin, and Vacheron Constantin. They also stock the likes of IWC, Zenith, and Omega if you're looking for something sporty.
But, Manfredi also carries a great array of less expensive (relatively speaking, of course) mechanical watches like those from Longines, Hamilton, and, in fact, the new Pan-Europ is currently one of their best sellers.
Manfredi Jewels is really a special place to us watch collectors on the East Coast. There isn't another watch store that has the range or expertise, let alone the access to the truly wonderful high-end pieces like you'll see above in the our video and in the gallery below. Where else can you compare the finishing on a Voutilainen to a Ferrier in the metal, while then checking the oscillation of a Breguet tourbillon versus a Richard Mille? Not into tourbillons? Compare an A.P. perpetual calendar with a Vacheron perpetual. Want something more versatile? Try the Portuguese versus the Seamaster. Manfredi Jewels simply offers so much to watch consumers under one roof, it's almost difficult to describe in one post. So, instead of trying to, we'll just show you some of the watches Manfredi Jewels had in stock on the random Tuesday we stopped by to film.
Like I said earlier, there really isn't another store like this anywhere – it is absolutely worth the drive to Greenwich to pay them a visit. Shoot 'em a note if there is anything you're looking for and tell 'em HODINKEE sent you.
121 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich, CT 06830
HODINKEE will be hosting a special celebration of Manfredi Jewels in the coming weeks. If you would like to be invited, please fill out this form and we will contact you with further information.