An Italian Outpost in Hong Kong ; an Established Business in Milan Works to Bring Its Expertise to Asia

By Au, Desiree | International New York Times, January 21, 2014 | Go to article overview

An Italian Outpost in Hong Kong ; an Established Business in Milan Works to Bring Its Expertise to Asia


Au, Desiree, International New York Times


Max Bernardini, who inherited a well-reputed business in Italy in high-end timepieces from his father, has now brought his formula to Hong Kong.

Since 2005, collectors looking for rare vintage watches have been making their way to the Via Caradosso in Milan. There, near the Santa Maria delle Grazie convent, where Leonardo painted his Last Supper, Max Bernardini has turned a used jewelry business started by his father, Franco, into a mecca for lovers of early 20th-century horology, from rare Patek Philippes to Rolex Daytonas to antique clocks from the Art Deco period.

The store, now known as Bernardini Luxury Vintage, or BLV, is kitted out like a stylish gentleman's club, filled with antique furniture and elegant steamer trunks. It even offers an in-house bartender, a thoughtful touch that has helped it to become an in place for Milan's high society and savvy travelers.

Noting the appetite that China's wealthy elite has developed for the latest novelties in Swiss watches, Mr. Bernardini, 44, has now brought his formula to Hong Kong, in hopes of encouraging a similar passion for classic pieces.

"European and American clients are a little bit ahead in knowing this market," said Mr. Bernardini. "We have had many Asian customers purchasing collector's watches in our Milan store. My personal experience with Chinese customers is that if they have the chance to live the BLV moment, they will fall in love with the bygone era we celebrate."

The Hong Kong boutique opened late last year in partnership with Adrienne Ma, a loyal customer who is the daughter of Joyce Ma, a legendary Hong Kong fashionista who set up Joyce Boutique in the 1970s and brought designers like Giorgio Armani and Prada to the enclave's fashion-hungry elite.

The boutique, nestled on a narrow street in the central business district, is a few steps from the luxurious flagship stores of Cartier, Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe. Its signature style of gentlemanly discretion offers a quiet challenge to the ostentatious consumption that marks its surroundings. …

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