Archive for November, 2009

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Amazing New Tag Heuer: Monaco V4

November 19, 2009

When we were at the Basel Watch Fair in Switzerland in 2004, Tag Heuer CEO Jean-Christophe Babin was excited to show us the latest “concept watch” from their laboratories. The watch he showed us, the Monaco V4, was revolutionary in its design.

Inspired by automotive engineering, the movement featured transmission belts in place of traditional wheels and pinions and micro ball bearings in place of rubies. The oscillating circular winding mechanism found in most automatic watches is replaced in the Monaco V4 with a linear winding system that moves up and down like a piston. Four barrels, visible from the back of the watch, provide the watch’s 52 hour power reserve.

Technically it was astonishing and visually it was arresting. Unlike any watch I had ever seen, it was a true reinvention of the mechanical timepiece. It was a fitting piece for Tag Heuer, a company deeply associated with motor racing and whose very name connotes the cutting edge. (TAG was originally an acronym that stood for Techniques d’Avant Garde).

It took five years of painstaking development, but the production watch has finally been released. I say it is now a “production” piece to differentiate it from the “concept” watch we saw five years before.

It will remain extraordinarily limited as only 150 examples of the watch will be made.

The revolutionary movement is housed in a platinum Monaco case and it will sell for 80,000 US dollars.

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Proposal in our Northgate store!

November 18, 2009

We are fortunate in our business to get to play a part in people’s special moments. Usually we just get to witness the before and after: the selection of the ring followed by a chance to meet the recipient and admire the new treasure. In this case, associates in our store played host to the actual proposal!

Jill Berndsen in our Northgate store played an integral role in this wonderful story. I asked her to share the details of this special event. The following are her words:

Sean Schwender & Allison Holm came into our Northgate store looking for an engagement ring. Allison wanted an Aquamarine center instead of a diamond. I let her know I believed she should have the ring she wants and talked with them about the characteristics and care of the stone considering she would be wearing it daily. They told me that everywhere else they had shopped told them “no” to an engagement ring with an Aquamarine. I brought in three different Aquamarine stones for them to see. Once they decided on the stone we went about the task of designing a custom platinum mounting with the Aquamarine center and VS side diamonds. We put the estimate together and they said everything was perfect!

When Sean came in to pick up the ring, I asked him about his plans for proposing and surprising her. He had no idea what he was going to do. We discussed a few possible scenarios to consider and he left still unsure what he would do. He came to see me a few days later and asked me if he could possibly propose right in my store! I of course was thrilled as was everyone else working here that evening. He told me what he was thinking and we set the plan in motion…

Brianna brought in red rose petals which we scattered in one of the cases. That evening, Sean took Allison to dinner at a restaurant here in the mall near our store. As they left the restaurant, he said to her “let’s go by and see Jill at Ben Bridge”. She was very hesitant, embarrassed that they had put me though all the work for the ring and then did not buy it. But Sean finally talked her into it.

It was just before closing and the store was empty. As they entered the store, we dimmed the lights and Sean walked Allison over to the case with the red rose petals and an open, empty ring box in the center. He said to me, “Jill, where is the ring for that box?” And I replied, as planned, “well Sean, check your pockets!” He brought the ring out, turned to Allison and went down on one knee and asked her to be his wife and share his life…” It was so amazing! She was teary eyed with joy and we all sipped sparkling cider in champagne glasses which Brianna had also provided.

Congratulations Sean and Allison!

We are honored to have been a part of your engagement!

-Marc

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Community Involvement: Breast Cancer Angels

November 6, 2009

Pink Sapphire Ribbon Pin

Benita Jensen of our store at the Glendale Galleria in the Los Angeles area has been active with an organization called Breast Cancer Angels after losing 2 aunts to the disease.

The organization was founded in 2000 to provide financial assistance to women (and men) in treatment for breast cancer. They provide help with food costs, housing, and provide clothing and Christmas gifts to families in need. In 2008, Breast Cancer Angels purchased a 5 bedroom home in Orange County where women can live rent free while they are in treatment in an effort to keep women from being homeless and alone while they fight their breast cancer battle.

We are pleased to support Benita and the Breast Cancer Angels by donating a 14K gold and pink sapphire breast cancer ribbon pin to their Holiday Luncheon on Sunday, November 15th. The pin will be raffled off with all the proceeds going directly to women in treatment.

Thank you Benita for your work on this important cause!

http://breastcancerangels.org/

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Ben Bridge Stories: Marc Bridge

November 4, 2009

We hope to share with you some of the stories of the people in the Ben Bridge family who make the company so unique. I wanted to start with someone more interesting, but since everyone else has real work to do, I figured I could start with myself.

With luck this will be the start of a series, stay tuned and please let me know what you think.

-Marc

marc

At the opening of our University Village store, Seattle, Summer 2008

 “Hi, my name is Marc Bridge.”

Often when I introduce myself to customers they do a momentary double-take.

“Bridge, as in Ben Bridge?” they ask.

Yes, I reply, and explain that along with my sister Lisa and cousin Rebecca, I am a member of the fifth generation of our family to work in the company.

“I never realized there really were any Bridges,” they often reply.

This used to surprise me. Of course there are Bridges, I thought; just take a look around the store: my Grandfather Bob and Uncle Herb are up on the wall over there and next to them there is a picture of Ben (my great-grandfather) standing in the store on Pike Street in Seattle.

As I grew up, I came to realize the response was perfectly understandable. In a world where so much is impersonal it is easy to assume store names are little more than marketing slogans. So many of the other jewelers have family names above their doors but the families are long gone. There is no Tiffany at Tiffany and there hasn’t been for generations. No Zale at Zales, Kay at Kay, nor Cartier at…well, I think you get the picture.

I suppose in our family we just never got the memo.

Not everyone in our family has been directly involved in the business, certainly. Some of my uncles and cousins became lawyers, rabbis, doctors, and filmmakers. But in my case, I couldn’t imagine anything better.

My first job was working in our office on Saturdays as a little kid. When our mom needed a break from what I am sure was the ceaseless joy of raising Lisa and me, she would send us to work with dad. He paid us 25 cents an hour to go through old job envelopes to make sure there weren’t bits of scrap metal or stones left behind. If we found something (and it only happened once or twice) we got a 25 cent bonus.

We loved coming to the office because it meant running around the halls, playing hide and seek under all the desks, and racing up and down the ramp where all the office supplies were kept. To a five-year old, nothing is cooler than a gold embossing sticker and a four foot tall stack of manila file folders. (I suppose some things never change).

Vacations in the Bridge family often meant a week in Southern California. We are big fans of Disneyland, so a day riding Splash Mountain and the Matterhorn would be the reward after six days criss-crossing LA freeways visiting stores. We learned to clean the glass and make popcorn and Italian sodas for Diamond Shows. I was surprised when I got back to school and learned my fourth-grade friends hadn’t spent most of their spring breaks in shopping centers too.

I started working in the store formally before I had my driver’s license. It still amazes me that anyone bought anything from 15 year-old munchkin Marc. Dad had to fill out a form like the one they use for kids working on family farms: Marc won’t work during school hours, he will be supervised, he won’t operate heavy machinery, etc.

I spent almost every summer and school holiday from then on in the stores. Mostly in the Downtown Seattle flagship store with sojourns to Bellevue Square on Seattle’s Eastside and Ala Moana Center in Honolulu (great gig, but that’s another story).

It was the best education I could have hoped to receive. I realized what my dad had always said—sharing special moments in people’s lives is fun. To be able to help a young man pick out the perfect engagement ring or to assist a couple celebrating a special birthday or anniversary is the best job in the world. We get to play with beautiful things and make people happy all day long. What could be better?

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I strayed (temporarily) from Seattle for school, first for college at Washington University in St. Louis and then for graduate school at the London School of Economics.

I came home to attend law school at the University of Washington and momentarily entertained the notion of becoming a lawyer. I worked for a summer during law school at one of the oldest and largest law firms in Seattle and really enjoyed pretending to be a transactional attorney.

As great an intellectual challenge as that would have been, I realized what on some level I knew all along: my heart was at Ben Bridge.

I graduated from law school in June, took the bar exam in July, and started at Ben Bridge in August. (My dad gives me a bad time because he claims to have graduated from college on a Friday and started work the next Monday. I guess the work ethic is slipping around here!). Today I assist my cousin Jon (Co-CEO with Ed, my dad) with the legal work and get to try out new ventures like this “internet” thing.

As much fun as it is to sit behind a desk, there is still nothing I like to do more than help a customer find a wonderful piece of jewelry. A fine jewelry purchase is so much more fun and fulfilling in person than in the abstract. Dealing with figures, leases and technology are necessary and important, but ultimately it is the diamond that is forever and the customer that is our reason for being.

I am so blessed to have been able to grow up in such a wonderful company surrounded by incredibly dedicated and talented people.

I look forward to the journey ahead.