How Hotels Are Innovating the Jewelry and Watch Retail Experience

My friend Amit Dev Handa called me last week with some exciting and interesting news: He’s just been named the official luxury timepiece concierge of the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas.

I’ve known Amit for years—we met in 2005, when he was working at a retail store on the East Coast, and reconnected when he and I both found ourselves living in Los Angeles a few years later. Last I heard, he was based in Las Vegas, where he’d moved in late 2010 to help the celebrity jeweler Jason of Beverly Hills open a boutique in the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

Amit Dev Handa

Amit and I would chat from time to time so I knew he had an active side gig helping private clients procure luxury timepieces. Before he moved to Las Vegas, for example, he worked the bar at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, using his irreverent charm and extensive watch knowledge to persuade affluent visitors to use him as a resource when buying their next watch.

Now he’s doing the same thing with an official endorsement from the Mandarin Oriental, which last week issued a press release touting Amit’s “20 years of experience in the luxury timepiece industry.”

Said general manager Clifford Atkinson in a statement: “He has an incredible background and will be able to offer our guests a unique service that they can’t get anywhere in Las Vegas.”

The release went on to say that Amit’s “services can be engaged whether it is for acquisition, advice, or consultancy.”

According to Amit, he acts as something of a relationship broker between private clients and authorized retailers around the country.

“I work with authorized retailers directly, process everything with the retailer, and have the retailer ship directly to the customer,” he says. “So the customer gets the benefit of certain discounts and avoiding sales tax in some cases, and the retailer gets the sale.

“I have access to 50 watch brands and 15 to 20 brands of jewelry, with the exception of very highly complicated Pateks and Langes,” Amit says, referring to the most coveted timepieces from Patek Philippe and A. Lange & Söhne. “For retailers, this is a win-win. They’re not paying my medical, they’re not paying my dental, they’re not paying me an hourly wage, and I’m bringing them a client they wouldn’t otherwise have. They love it.”

The Panerai Luminor on Amit’s wrist (photo courtesy of Amit Dev Handa)

Kudos to the Mandarin Oriental for being at the cutting edge of an emerging trend. Its new timepiece concierge service is the latest example of how hotels are experimenting with new takes on luxury watch and jewelry selling. To wit: The New York Times’ “In Transit” blog featured a post two weeks ago about a Manhattan hotel, The Quin, with a radical new minibar offering:

“In addition to a traditional fridge with snacks and drinks, the 208 rooms have a ‘provisions cabinet’ selling high-end items like jewelry, handbags and cuff links,” the Times wrote, noting that much of the merchandise sold by The Quin will come from Bergdorf Goodman.

Pair that with the story of Beverly Hills jeweler Martin Katz’s unique collaboration with the New York Palace Hotel, for whom he’s designed a $25,000-per-night Jewel Suite, and it’s clear that the luxury jewelry and watch retail landscape has become more heated—and more interesting—than ever.