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INTERVIEW How The Camden Watch Company switched from store-only promos to using the web

Time to embrace online: how The Camden Watch Company made the shift

As all shops are forced to close, how has a niche watch seller that prides itself of customer service face-to-face around its limited edition timepieces adapted to selling online – and what can others learn? We talk to the Camden Watch Company to find out.

The Camden Watch Company, an independent British brand based in the heart of Camden founded by wife and husband team Anneke Short and Jerome Robert, is set to make a limited number of its No. 29 Horse Hospital timepiece, usually available to buy in-store only at their Camden flagship location, for purchase online.

Available on 27th March 2020, the company will upload on their website this special edition watch but when those are sold out, it will be once again in-store only, as soon as shops are able to open. 

Anneke Short says: “We know these are difficult times and while we rely a lot on foot traffic to our stores which we have temporarily closed, we know tourists cannot come to us so we’re going to them.  The Horse Hospital is one of our most popular watches and we have had customers from as far as Japan come in just to purchase it.”

“If the tourists and shoppers can’t come here – we’ll go to them,” she adds.

So what have been the challenges of getting this watch sold online as opposed to in the store? The retailer already has a web presence which accounts for some 40% of sales.

“The biggest challenge was figuring out how to sell it without making it unfair to everyone who has specifically come to our stores to buy it,” says Jerome Robert. “We believe that by heavily limiting the number and by making it available to mailing list subscribers online, we’ve struck the right balance between exclusive but available to purchase for those who can no longer come in person.”

Another challenge is shifting customers to online while the store is forced to be shut – a problem shared by many retailers. Marketing and engagement is one, while making sure the site can handle the traffic is another.

“Our website has a large capacity, and by ensuring that it goes out to only those signed up to our mailing list – as opposed to sharing it more widely on social media for example – and we’re keeping control of numbers,” says Robert. “We’ll also be monitoring the website as it goes live to see what is happening and if we need to intervene in any way.”

Going forward, the company is set to rely more on its website. “We’ve had an ecommerce presence from day one that has always been hugely important for us, so we’ll be concentrating on that a lot over the coming months, ironing out any issues and working on ways on making it better,” says Short. “We may also do a second run of making an in-store exclusive available online, but if we do, next time with our special GMT Greenwich edition.”

Robert adds: “The Horse Hospital was the building in which The Camden Watch Company had our first ever permanent retail location, and although we have now moved on to a much larger space within the Stable Market, our first shop will always hold a special place for us.”

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