The Tourneau Watch Company Lives On


Since the year 1900, Tourneau has been one of the most trusted and recognized names in the watch business. With humble beginnings and much determination, the Tourneau family found their niche. A Tourneau watch comes with a long history of perseverance and dedication.

Tourneau Watch Beginnings

The beginning of the Tourneau watch story cannot be told without the introduction of the Wexler family. Back around the year 1900, the Wexler family owned a watch retailer in Eastern Europe. In 1925 the family decided to leave Europe and head to New York City to open M. Wexler Watchmakers & Jewelers in Manhattan. A few years later, in 1930, the Tourneau family emigrated to Manhattan from Paris. When they arrived, they opened a watch counter in the Berkshire Place Hotel at 500 Madison Avenue. Nobody would have believed at the time this exact spot would later be known as the “Tourneau Corner.”

So in 1930, the Tourneau brothers opened their very first official Tourneau watch selling store. The location was 49th Street and Madison Avenue. Through hard work and trusted watch service, the Tourneau watch store was quickly recognized. It was the go-to shop for the latest models of the ’30s and ’40s. Steady growth enabled the brothers to open a second store. The newest location would be inside the Pennsylvania Hotel. This happened to be just a few steps across the street from a bustling Penn Station.

The Tourneau brothers open their first watch store at 49th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan. Image credit – Tourneau

Tourneau Watch Growth

The family spent many decades growing a trusted brand name in the New York City watch scene. In 1975, Tourneau was purchased by the Wexler family. With a strong brand name intact, the Wexler family decides to adopt the Tourneau name. New ownership and motivation to expand to new markets saw a store open in Bal Harbour, Florida. Later, the Tourneau watch company would open its first store on the West Coast. They found a home at the South Coast Plaza mall in Orange County, California.

Nowadays, there are nearly 30 Tourneau retail stores across the United States. This makes it one of the largest watch retailers in the country. In 1997 their flagship store on 57th Street and Madison Avenue set a Guinness World Record for “World’s Largest Watch store.” Named the “Tourneau Time Machine,” the store features over 16,000 square feet. Tourneau would go on to break their own Guinness World Record in 2005 when they opened an even larger store in Las Vegas. It was called the “Tourneau Time Dome” and has been a must-see for many Vegas visitors.

Tourneau watch
Tourneau Valjoux 88 from the 1950’s. Recently sold for $4,700. Image credit – watchcharts

Exceptional Service

Over one hundred years of Tourneau watch sales made the brand recognizable throughout North America. Also, one of the most trusted names in luxury watchmaking service and repair. In 2006 the company opened a state-of-the-art watch service and repair facility in Long Island, New York. The Tourneau watch brand consisted of selling top of the line, new watches from basically all of the luxury brands in the world. It also continued to focus and invest in service and repair.

Over the years, the pre-owned business grew to represent a large portion of sales. Watch owners could sell their watches and purchase quality serviced and inspected used watches. As counterfeiting started to grow over the years, one of the biggest concerns for pre-owned watch buyers became the certification and inspection process. Over the last 20 years, internet sales have exploded for used watches. It’s never been more important to buy from a trusted retailer like Tourneau.

The Bucherer Deal

In early 2018, The Bucherer Group purchased the Tourneau watch business for an undisclosed sum. Tourneau had been family owned for 76 years until it sold to Leonard Green & Partners, a private equity fund, in 2006 for $355 million. Some industry experts had blamed the private equity fund of mismanagement over their 12 years of ownership. The opinion was that the brand had been suffering after the family sale in 2006. Many were concerned the company was getting away from its roots that made it great. The new combination of Tourneau and a name such as Bucherer, one of the oldest and most respected names in the watch business, has many people in the industry optimistic for a Tourneau comeback.

Bucherer watch
The Bucherer Group has been located in Lucerne, Switzerland since 1888. Image credit – Bucherer.com

Bucherer has roots dating back to 1888 when Carl Friedrich Bucherer opened his first watch store in Lucerne, Switzerland. Since that time, the brand has been family owned and operated. Over time the company has done well to preserve its rich history. Through steady growth and wise acquisitions, Bucherer has grown to become a worldwide industry leader in the watchmaking and retailing business.

Tourneau watch Bucherer watch
2017 Watch retailers sales volume prior to the Bucherer purchase of Tourneau.

In the 1920s, two Bucherer sons Ernst and Carl Eduard entered the family business. A few of their early contributions proved to be valuable to the company. In 1924, Ernst Bucherer began a partnership with Hans Wilsdorf, who was the founder of Rolex. At the time, Rolex was virtually unknown and still small watch manufacture. The Bucherer’s wisely added the Rolex brand to their portfolio and began selling the watches in their store.

Almost one hundred years later, Rolex is possibly the most recognizable brands in the world and is still a dependable partner to the Bucherer company.

Bucherer watch
Carl F. Bucherer watches, a brand rich in watch history dating back to 1888 with roots in Lucerne, Switzerland. The company began their own in-house watchmaking in 1919.

Watches and Trust

If you’re a watch collector, you already know the importance of buying from someone you can trust. The proliferation of scams and counterfeiting will continue to grow, no question. With the combined forces of Bucherer and Tourneau watches, the industry now has two of the oldest and most respected names under one roof. I’m sure the business landscape will see increased consolidation and change in the future. It’s nice to see two family names come together to focus on delivering exceptional service and building trust with their customers. They’ve both been doing it for over 100 years, and hopefully, they can continue to do it for 100 more.