When a vintage furniture store in the Marais in Paris starts selling watches, you’d expect no less than an affordable, varied and quirky selection. And that’s what we found.
- Violette Milteau, store manager Chez Maman
Chez Maman in the centre of Paris embodies the spirit of this article perhaps better than any other shop. On the wall is a big bow tie in homage to Michael Jackson and vintage posters advertising old Casios; the window display features retro portraits of 1980s kids in jeans, and a Buddha by the till gazes benignly down on peace and love trinkets, specialist magazines and badges.
Chez Maman is a chain of three shops in the Marais district which sells some of the more retro- chic newcomer brands in the entry-level segment, as well as original designs from more well-established brands, to an urban clientele with a sharp nose for both originality and authenticity. Its portfolio includes brands such as Vestal, Komono, Knut Gadd, Triwa, Shore Projects, Tokyoflash and Mr. Jones alongside Junghans, Casio and Nixon.
“At Chez Maman we don’t come to work in a suit, and we share the same passion for design, music and retro style; we’re all trained stylists, and we particularly like the minimalist Bauhaus aesthetic,” explains store manager Violette Milteau. Chez Maman was founded by Eva Juge, originally from Sweden, who opened a vintage furniture shop with one corner set aside for watches. The watch section was so successful that it became a shop in its own right, and in 2006 the businesswoman dropped the furniture to focus exclusively on watches.
FOMO – FEAR OF MAINSTREAM OVERLOAD
“The idea was to stand out from the crowd, and create a lifestyle shop that was completely different from your traditional watchmaker- jeweller,” continues Violette Milteau. “Our clients are interested in the kinds of watches that you don’t see every-where. More than anything, we like to discover small, original brands on the internet. We are not chasing high volumes: what we want is exclusivity, but at a reasonable price.” The latest brand to hit their shelves – “the only brand at Baselworld that interested us” – is Renard, which you probably won’t have heard of. Another favourite of the moment is London-based designer Olivia Burton, who makes watches exclusively for women.
Chez Maman was one of Daniel Wellington’s first retailers in France, but the brand has apparently become “almost too mainstream” and is losing its appeal with the shop’s customers. “Ice-Watch is too mass-market for us. Where Casio is concerned, we are very selective: we only like their reissues of 1980s models. Sometimes we fall in love with certain models of über-mainstream brands such as Swatch or Flik Flak, but we’d have to take their entire range!”
NEITHER SWISS MADE, NOR SMART
And what about the Swiss made label? Not interested. “Apart from Mondaine we have very few Swiss brands. Our clients don’t particularly care whether or not they are Swiss made: they never ask what type of movement they have, but they are interested in what type of leather the strap is made of, and the design of the watch. However, we do like to promote French watches from companies such as Lip, La Trotteuse & Compagnie, and Les Partisanes.” What about smartwatches? “No demand for those either.”
A small second-hand area is set aside for old Casio, Orient and Citizen watches, and even some Ingersoll Mickey Mouse tickers. “Our vintage spirit is not limited to watches. We also buy our clothes in charity shops, and we try to promote sustainability. We will always offer to change the strap, rather than throwing the watch away, and we make an effort to stock organic and fair trade products.”