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Start Your Business Success Stories

How I've Carried On My Family's 101-Year-Old Watch Legacy with New Technology

How I've Carried On My Family's 101-Year-Old Watch Legacy with New Technology Credit: Govberg Jewelers

My grandfather started Govberg Jewelers in 1916 as a Philadelphia jewelry store. Following my father's footsteps, I entered the business in the 1980s and accepted my father's challenge to make selling watches a profitable business.

At the time, the Swiss watch industry was undergoing what is known as the "Quartz crisis," where Asian manufacturers were releasing battery-powered quartz watches at substantially cheaper prices than Swiss watches. It became difficult for jewelry stores to persuade customers to buy a $2,000 watch when a $20 watch told the exact same time. My father didn't see a future in this, but I did.

I not only succeed in the challenge he gave me, I also added two more Govberg Jewelers locations in the process – one in the Philadelphia suburb of Ardmore and another in Cleveland, Ohio.

Govberg has been part of the Philadelphia retail landscape for 101 years, yet a tour through our new headquarters would have you convinced that it was a tech startup, electronic trading floor – or maybe both. You'd be right with whatever your conclusion is.

The Swiss watch industry is currently undergoing a new crisis, as is the retail industry. Where others have been challenged with how to sell more watches, or how to acquire new customers or how to attract millennials, we've seen technology as the future of retail and have embraced this into our business model.

We've invested over $1 million in creating the mobile app, WatchBox by Govberg, to make it convenient for customers to buy, sell or trade their watch with us from the convenience of their smartphone. We've built a strong, social media infrastructure that connects with millennials on their favorite platforms. YouTube has become one of our greatest tools, as we use it to showcase educational watch videos developed through our in-house studio.

We've also strengthened our ecommerce division with a sales team we call "traders," who are each empowered to serve customers with the highest level of personal service. Using technology, our highly trained and knowledgeable traders service customers anywhere in the world, seven days a week, day or night.

Our biggest challenge will always be staying innovative. What we've done with Govberg rests entirely on being able to predict where the market is headed and developing strategies that meet these upcoming demands long before they become problematic. An example of this is our early expansion into ecommerce during a time retailer didn't understand how significant ecommerce would become.

We consider ourselves a 100-year-old startup, operating with the same startup energy and mentality that celebrates innovation while being nimble enough to course correct when something isn't quite right. We will continue this way as we enter our second century in business.

Edited for brevity and clarity by Nicole Fallon.