Jeweler Berghoff – right in the center

At the heart of Cologne’s bustling city center, the Berghoff family gives both regular and casual customers sound advice.

Cologne’s Schildergasse is what shopping specialists would call the high street – a lively pedestrian zone in the middle of the city, surrounded by department stores and major fashion chain stores. Founded in the city back in 1896, the Berghoff family jewelry shop is situated at 44 Schildergasse, opposite well-known German stores like Karstadt, Kaufhof, and Douglas. Built in 1894 and listed as a monument, “Haus Schierenberg” is a fitting address, as the business is located in one of the few distinctive old buildings in a city center otherwise filled with gray concrete edifices. “We opened our branch here 25 years ago,” says Rainer Berghoff, who manages the shop together with his brother Guido. His mother runs the original store in Herzogstraße and Stephan, the third brother, manages a further branch in Neuss.

Believes in traditional values: jeweler Rainer Berghoff

First aid for watches

“Several other traditional businesses have moved out of the neighborhood in the last few years,” says Rainer Berghoff with regret. The fact that Apple’s smartwatches are on display on the other side of the street doesn’t bother him and he sees it as more of an incentive, as Berghoff counters with tradition and longevity. In the building with the richly decorated façade, which he already knew and loved as a child because of its former toyshop, a glass elevator leads to the upper floor of the business, where the furnishings are conservative with muted colors and wooden showcases. Above all, Berghoff focuses on high-quality timepieces that include Glashütte Original, Omega, Breitling, Nomos, and the single-hand MeisterSinger watches. He is happy to see that some manufacturers have rediscovered the topic of vintage watches and are drawing on the history of watchmaking. Sometimes, casual customers come in, initially needing first aid for their watches: “It fell into the pool; I hope it’s not too late,” says a lady anxiously. “We’ll have a look at it right now,” Berghoff promises, and informs the in-house service watchmaker. He has noticed that although watch buyers these days know a lot more about the product via the internet, they still appreciate in-depth advice: “Customers want to be convinced of the product’s quality and are interested in the history of the watch. And, before deciding to purchase, they want to be advised as to whether we know of an alternative that suits the person and their needs.” Ultimately, Cologne’s clientele is open-minded and ready to listen.

25 years ago the branch was opened in the Schildergasse.

Never unpunctual again

And, of course, customers have their own stories to tell, such as the one about the MeisterSinger No 01, which was offered for 18 euros at an auction in Frankfurt because it was marked as “defective, only one hand”. “And the buyer was even happier when I explained that he doesn’t need a new battery because the watch can be wound by hand,” says Rainer Berghoff, reminiscing. The watches made in Münster can also be a cause of misunderstanding, as people have often asked for the watch “with the big date at the top” – meaning the Salthora. Indeed, MeisterSinger watches are designed for people looking for something unusual. “One particular customer is still delighted by the fact that he no longer needs to feel so unpunctual, thanks to the large time display.”

Rainer Berghoff doesn’t experience the typical MeisterSinger buyer, nor are they of any particular age – and the collection is always good for surprises: “I sold the first Lunascope to a female collector. The same goes for the masculine Salthora Black Line.” By contrast, the younger models, i.e. the Urban and the Metris, have not aroused a great deal of interest so far, says Berghoff. But he isn’t about to give up on attracting those young customers: “There are still families that have an affinity to watches, where both parents still wear good mechanical watches and the children are given high-quality timepieces on graduation day.”

However, to ensure the next generation continues to be interested in good watches, it is important that manufacturers address their needs – at major trade shows, for example. One watch enthusiast complained that although admission tickets were expensive, visitors were offered neither watches to pick up nor fascinating stories. “I would like to see that change,” says Rainer Berghoff – even if the trade show venues become as crowded as the Schildergasse in Cologne.

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