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No bargain baubles in this basement
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Plaza 66, perhaps the ultimate shopping destination for luxury goods addicts in Shanghai, if not in China, has launched its 1,500-square-meter Watch and Jewelry Gallery.

In the "basement" lower level of the shopping complex, the new venue houses 14 freestanding stores of high-end brands including Boucheron, Chopard, Franck Muller, Gerald Genta, Buben & Zorweg, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Harry Winston and Chaumet. It was officially launched earlier this month.

The plan to launch this began two years ago, according to Roy Ho, general manager of Plaza 66.

"As one of the most prestigious shopping malls in China, Plaza 66 has become the first choice of many top luxury brands when they want to open a store in the country," he says. "However, most of them desire only the ground-floor location, which we don't have any more."

As more and more watch and jewelry makers contacted him, Ho came up with the idea of opening a space dedicated to these valuable baubles. The basement, which used to contain the building's administration office, was a natural choice.

Upmarket French jeweler Chaumet is one of the first tenants. The 84-square-meter boutique is the first Chaumet store on the Chinese mainland.

"The location is perfect," says Charles Leung, managing director of Chaumet Asia-Pacific. "We have always wanted to set up the first store in the trendiest area in China's most trend-setting city. This is it."

As a relatively late comer to the flourishing Chinese market, Chaumet doesn't enjoy high brand recognition among Chinese customers, though it is widely known as "the jeweler to Napoleon" in Europe.

"It is also great to have so many prestigious brands as our neighbors, so the customers have the opportunity to learn about more brands and the culture and history behind them within one shopping experience," Leung continues. "We're glad to find that more and more customers in China have started to recognize and shop at Chaumet in the past one month and a half."

Also in early January, Swiss watch manufacturer Jaeger-LeCoultre (JLC) celebrated the opening of its world's largest flagship store in the new gallery space. The 135-square-meter store occupies a prime location in the basement and displays a complete collection of JLC watches in a cozy, pleasing atmosphere.

"For us, the Chinese market is of much importance," says Daniel Rogger, managing director of Jaeger-LeCoultre Asia-Pacific. "We have been looking for a space in Plaza 66 for quite some time, so it didn't take us long to decide to open the boutique here."

Rogger says he is very satisfied with the daily walking traffic in the boutique since the "soft" opening of the store not too long ago. "It is far above our expectation," he says. "I believe this new area will soon be known as an iconic place for high-end watch lovers."

An ongoing JLC exhibition at Plaza 66's ground floor features more than 200 watches selected by JLC from around the world, including antique treasures, museum pieces and recent high-complication creations. It showcases the history and craftsmanship of the company that started as a small, humble workshop in 1833.

Exhibits include the rare minute repeater pocket watch made in 1895, the Master tourbillon diamond watch for 7.18 million yuan (US$980,000) and the Duometre a Chronographe of rose gold. Also on display is the well-known Atmos clock, a mechanical clock that draws energy to run from small temperature and air pressure changes in the environment. It can run for years without human intervention.

Location: Plaza 66, 1266 Nanjing Road West, Shanghai.

(Shanghai Daily January 31, 2008)

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