“Münster is an exceptional city”

At its premises on Münster´s “Prinzipalmarkt”, the jeweler Oeding-Erdel offers “discreet luxury” and is in close touch with social change.

In the heart of Münster, the Prinzipalmarkt with its gabled houses dominates the cityscape.
In the heart of Münster, the Prinzipalmarkt with its gabled houses dominates the cityscape.

Münster is the city where MeisterSinger watches are made. They are designed in the city’s port district, the creative quarter with its repurposed warehouses and industrial buildings. In the city center, only a few minutes away, Münster presents itself as a cheerful, lively, picturesque place with street cafés in front of the sandstone facades of the old gabled houses and their arcades, which already centuries ago allowed its inhabitants to stroll between fine shops, undisturbed by the weather. Even today, there are four high-class jewelry shops within a few hundred meters of one another, including the family business Oeding-Erdel, which was established in 1906 and has been located on Prinzipalmarkt for the last 30 years. Its shop windows display the watches of well-known Swiss manufacturers such as Rolex and Patek Philippe, but also those of exquisite niche brands as well as the current MeisterSinger collection, of course.

Leads the company successfully in third generation: Thomas Oeding-Erdel.
Leads the company successfully in third generation: Thomas Oeding-Erdel.

Fine watches and jewelry designs

“Münster is an exceptional city,” explains Thomas Oeding-Erdel, a member of the third generation to run the company. “Here you will find many outstanding, high-quality retail stores with names you won’t hear anywhere else – because they’re not just branches of a chain. That’s what makes Münster such an attractive city to shop in and what gives it its far-reaching charisma. We are not competing with neighboring cities, but with Düsseldorf and Hamburg. Münster is characterized by its university, whose students make the city such a lively place to live in. And we also live from those who have studied here and come back because of the good memories they have.” Oeding-Erdel has created its own profile, which the boss calls “discreet luxury.” Our range of goods is modern, here and there perhaps even “a little wacky,” but not in the least pretentious or chichi. “In the past we have sometimes stopped displaying brands with high-quality products that we and our customers found unsuited to our business,” says Thomas Oeding-Erdel. An essential part of the luxury experience is the feeling of shopping locally in the surprisingly spacious two floors of the store behind the historical frontage, which is also the workplace for some 50 employees.

Oeding-Erdel's jewelry shop is located in the historic center of Münster.
Oeding-Erdel’s jewelry shop is located in the historic center of Münster.

Three pillars

Of course, Thomas Oeding-Erdel is also aware of how quickly his sector is changing and how digitalization is accelerating everything: “We used to make a five-year plan; now it’s a twelve-month plan and even then we modify it three times during a single year,” he says with a smile. Oeding-Erdel has had an online presence for a long time, with one member of staff professionally managing the shop’s social media channels. In keeping with the medium, the company’s Instagram presence is somewhat more casual than the elaborately produced catalog it publishes every year. On the advice of a large agency, however, they have so far repeatedly decided against opening their own online shop. “I’m not ruling out anything forever,” says Mr. Oeding-Erdel. “But I firmly believe in human communication as being the decisive factor for us. If we do decide to set up an online shop, it will be for things that only we can offer, such as our own jewelry.”

The company’s strategy is based on three pillars: Firstly, proximity and sympathy, secondly, competence – including that of the six watchmakers and ten goldsmiths who repair and maintain valuable timepieces and make the company’s own jewelry collections locally – and thirdly, “sexiness and glamour.” All the company’s activities and marketing measures must be based on at least two of these fundamentals.

For 30 years Oeding-Erdel has been offering its customers "discreet luxury" in its premises.
For 30 years Oeding-Erdel has been offering its customers “discreet luxury” in its premises.

Learning from grandchildren

Thomas Oeding-Erdel looks far ahead and sees further changes coming to the industry, both risks and opportunities: “The attitude of the various generations to luxury products is changing radically,” he says. “At one time, 35-year-olds used to begin doing what their fathers had done before them, such as wishing themselves an elegant watch to go with their best suit. Today, however, 15-year-olds explain the digital world to their grandparents – 60-year-olds learn from their grandchildren, and also look at what they like and wear. The result is that today, 60-year-olds buy only sporty watches from us, i.e. a Nautilus rather than a Calatrava. Fine goods are harder to sell.” And the influence of the younger generation should not be overlooked when it comes to other topics either. “Sustainability is a mega-topic. It is inspiring to see what the “Friday for Future” movement is initiating. It’s going to affect us all. What if gold and diamonds suddenly had the same image as fur? We can’t afford to sell things that someone somewhere on this planet has contributed to under inhuman conditions. Awareness of these facts is going to grow exponentially.” When it comes to making jewelry, his company has relied exclusively on recycled gold for many years and their diamonds originate from ethically proven sources – a fact that will be made even more transparent in the near future. “We definitely need to have the right answers when asked.” For Thomas Oeding-Erdel, this also includes the fact that, when it comes to sustainability, buyers are “always on the safe side” with durable goods such as jewelry and watches, as “the carbon footprint of a MeisterSinger, which will be passed on again in 30 years, is naturally very small.”

 MeisterSinger, as a local brand, should of course not be missing from the exquisite collection.
MeisterSinger, as a local brand, should of course not be missing from the exquisite collection.

Yes, we can

Mr. Oeding-Erdel maintains an especially close relationship with MeisterSinger because of the brand’s home advantage. After all, at least the highly patriotic local customers in Münster are well aware that the manufacturer is based in their city: “The port district is cool and modern.” Thomas Oeding-Erdel has noticed that the buyers are between 30 and 50 and believes that their choice is less about deceleration than about other qualities: “Apart from the joy of owning the product itself, it’s also about individuality. The owner of a MeisterSinger watch is saying he doesn’t need to wear a big brand to make a statement. Moreover, some connoisseurs may know that the watch comes from an owner-managed company.” And, in the end, it is a conversation piece, which he sees as an ideal reason to support young environmental activists as a brand to the extent possible. “These are the credible stories we need to get customers fascinated about a product, but that can only be delivered by a brand in which a decision-maker says: Yes, we can!”

Thomas Oeding-Erdel doesn’t yet know whether one of his four sons will say the same thing and take over the business, but he is quite calm about the future of the family enterprise: “In ten years, I’d like an indication of whether there’s any interest.” Finally, he points out, one can never say for sure whether today’s products will still be socially acceptable or relevant in the future. On the other hand: “Of course, you can always continue growing and evolving a company like this.” For Thomas Oeding-Erdel with his farsightedness, stagnation is unthinkable, not even behind a historical frontage.

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