Talking watches with Ronald and Ellen Lee, of Chong Hing Jewelers

 

Once upon a time, two Hong Kong jewelry store veterans met in Los Angeles. Sparks flew, and Chong Hing Jewelers was born. And everyone lived luxuriously ever after.

Since Ronald and Ellen Lee opened Chong Hing Jewelers in 1970, it’s been a California sanctuary for high-end jewelry and top-of-the-line timepieces. Such great success comes with years of experience and practice on both ends.

“My father had a jewelry store and her father had a jewelry store,” said Mr. Lee. “So we opened one on our own and developed the name Chong Hing.”

Mrs. Lee elaborates, “Chong Hing means good luck. It means always good, always going strong.”

And what good luck they’ve had. Chong Hing Jewelers has been carrying luxury brands since before people owned multiple watches of such caliber. The store opened during a period of strong Japanese influence in the watch industry, a time where brands like Casio and Seiko were dominating.

Business was booming for the Lees then, but the changes that transformed the watch industry took Chong Hing Jewelers beyond. Mr. Lee credits the late Nicolas Hayek of Swatch Group, a man he truly admires, for bringing Swiss watches to prominence in the market. “He put Omega and Breguet on the map. He’s a legend,” said Mr. Lee. For over 35 years, Chong Hing Jewelers has been proud to carry and have the support of Swiss Watch brands.

 

Today, Chong Hing Jewelers carries almost 40 luxury watch brands, including Hublot, Jaeger LeCoultre and Patek Philippe. Perhaps the reason they have flourished is their respect for classics: it’s never just a fad watch or a trendy piece. Everything is branded and everything is unique. This is the place to shop for limited edition and exclusive pieces that can’t be found anywhere else.

“[Wealthy] people can buy whatever they want; you have to give them the product that they really want. In California, you can always get limited edition pieces that people in other areas can’t get,” explained the Lees’ daughter and Chong Hing Jewelers operative, Valerie. “Some people might only have 5 Panerai options, but we have 20 other choices. That’s why those people want to come to us, because we have different selections.”

Mr. and Mrs. Lee’s passion for their business clearly runs in the family, as the couple has been educating their children on the business from a young age. It’s no wonder, then, that their company continues to cultivate.

“We started them when they were very young…under 10 years old,” said Mr. Lee. “I am very fortunate. Some jewelers have kids that become lawyers or doctors, and the business is just no longer there.”

“It’s because they want it. They have a passion to make it bigger to take it to the next level for the next generation,” added Mrs. Lee.

Along with adding to the list of high-end brands they carry and developing their team, the Lee family has grown from a single flagship store to five boutiques across the state of California. To foster their business, the Lees have put a strong emphasis on creating a familial atmosphere in their stores, from the moment you enter the door to the second you leave. “It’s how we treat and greet the customer—it’s not just a one-time sale,” said Lee. The result is a service ethic that is truly unmatched.

“We give [customers] the best service—we know what they like and what they don’t like. They can totally rely on us,” said Valerie. “That’s why we are so successful; some people try to sell, sell, sell, but we just want to give the best suggestion.”

It’s not unusual for a Chong Hing Jewelers employee to know your birthday or your anniversary date, and don’t be surprised when they’ve already chosen the perfect celebratory gift.

“We have customers that have been with us since we opened the store, like a customer that first came in the 1970s. Now she is a grandma, and she brings her daughter-in-law to the store,” said Valerie.

But with Rodeo Drive nearby, branded boutiques growing more popular and the Internet offering countless retail outlets, the Lees could be facing a challenge, but they’re not. “Boutiques [carry] only one brand, but if I come here I can get a Patek or a Piaget, I have different choices. It gives our customers a better shopping environment,” adds Valerie.

The Chong Hing Jewelers buyer gets a feel for the customers’ needs and caters to their tastes. She tells us that right now, clients are asking for big-faced watches and sleek, skinny pieces, so the timepiece cases reflect the trend.

 

And the same goes for their jewelry selection. Chong Hing Jewelers carries everything from the simplest to the most extravagant pieces by high-end jewelry houses including Bulgari, Chopard and Roberto Coin. For custom pieces, the store’s buyer keeps a full stock of variously cut and colored diamonds and gems, an inventory tailored to match any customer’s desires.

The Internet doesn’t stand a chance against Chong Hing Jewelers, either. No matter how many eBay-type sites are born, the only technology that 72-year-old Mr. Lee is really concerned about is his iPhone.  “I don’t think the Internet affects us because we stand behind our products and the factories stand behind us,” said Lee.  “[We provide a] warranty and the guarantee that everything is brand new.”

How are the Lees able to keep replenishing such an upscale and extensive stock? By treating their partners the way they treat their customers—with Guanxi.

“Guanxi, meaning friendship and partnership, is how the Chinese do business. It’s all about family values,” explained Valerie. “We treat all the brands and partners like family. When they know we have an event, they will fly over to support us because our guanxi is very strong.”

Regardless of who the competition is, Mr. Lee merely considers them motivation. “Competition is challenging when selling a $100,000 plus watch. But when you succeed you feel good, you feel like you accomplished something.”

The Lees invite you to Chong Hing Jewelers for a truly personal shopping experience and a world of options. Clearly, the competition doesn’t stand a chance.

 

Luxury Watch Trends 2016 - Baselworld SIHH Watch News

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