By Roberta Naas | December 24, 2015 | Watches & Jewelry
With a new Audemars Piguet boutique in Beverly Hills, the father-son team behind Westime shares what makes their family enterprise tick.
Westime moved (and expanded) its Beverly Hills location earlier this year, opening its new 2,000-square-foot luxury-watch emporium at the oh-so-chic Two Rodeo shopping plaza.
When John Simonian moved to Los Angeles from Switzerland in the mid-1980s, he could hardly have imagined the reverence and devotion his retail watch business would someday earn. Since opening his first Westime store, at the Westside Pavilion in 1987, Simonian, 59, has offered cutting-edge products and highend services, allowing him and his son, Greg, 30, to expand all the way to Florida—with 11 stores at present and more to come.
By providing a skillfully curated selection of sought-after timepieces and sponsoring megaevents— including the launch of the Devon Star Wars watch with key producers, as well as celebrity parties and more—Westime has garnered a loyal following of watch connoisseurs across the country, including Hollywood VIPs such as Daniel Craig, Nicolas Cage, and Kobe Bryant.
“At Westime, you’re not only going to find a wide range of watches at all price points, but you can also be confident in your purchase,” says Greg Simonian, who represents the family’s fourth generation in the watch business. The president of Westime, he takes pride in this family-owned and -operated company. “We are here for the long haul, and that means we want our customers to be happy shopping with us for the long haul, too.”
The DB28 Maxichrono Black Gold watch by De Bethune ($295,000) is made of 18k rose gold and elements of blackened zirconium, which makes it the perfect timepiece to wear day and night.
Greg grew up in the business, spending time at the company’s Swatch store, which opened when he was just 8 years old (it has since closed). “I loved it,” he says. “I learned all of the collections and talked with all the customers.” Despite the closing of that store in the late ’90s, he was hooked on horology. At the start of the new millennium, his father needed just the sort of assistance Greg could provide on the retail end, as the elder Simonian took on the challenge of becoming the North and South American distributor for a then-tiny Swiss watchmaker, Richard Mille. “I believed in the brand to the point that I decided to take on the distributorship,” John says, “and because I had been a retailer for so long, I knew what would be needed to be a great distributor.”
While John focused on the wholesale side of Westime, distributing Richard Mille and later Urwerk in the Americas, in 2009 Greg began overseeing management of the retail stores, then took full control of the retail business, deciding on store locations and choosing merchandise. Just as John had taken a chance early on by stocking his cases with superior watches featuring state-of-the-art complications and standing behind independent brands, Greg took risks in order to lead the business forward. His immediate challenge was weathering the recession. “Like the rest of the world, the watch industry felt many of the economic difficulties—so nothing [was] easy from day one,” recalls Greg, who nonetheless decided to continue expanding. “My father was gutsy, and I learned from him.”
Undaunted by the unsettled economy, he decided to relocate the original Westime store to Sunset Plaza in West Hollywood. In order to showcase the breadth and depth of options available from the brands the Simonians believed in, Westime also began opening single-brand boutiques: Richard Mille in 2010, Hublot in 2011, and, earlier this year, Audemars Piguet. “We can offer a full inventory level of the brand and present more product,” Greg says. In addition, he started expanding the company geographically, opening boutiques in Malibu and La Jolla as well as single-brand stores in Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Bal Harbour, Florida— all within six years.
“Greg has become a partner in every sense of the word,” says John. “He’s got opinions on marketing our business and has his own taste when it comes to what brands and watches to offer.” And the variety of offerings at Westime is truly remarkable, from the easily affordable to the very top end of the market, as well as jaw-dropping one-of-a- kind timepieces and special limited editions that are exclusive to the store. Greg’s secret? He is constantly scouting for watches he would want to add to his own collection: “I buy with my heart.” Westime, 8569 W. Sunset blvd., West Hollywood, 310-289- 0808; Westime Beverly Hills, 216 N. Rodeo Dr., Beverly Hills, 310-888-8880; Westime Malibu, 3832 Cross Creek Road, Malibu, 310-456-2555
photography by KENt WILSoN (StorE); CoUrtESy oF DE bEthUNE (WatCh)