Ruediger Albers, president at Wempe Jewelers
A remarkable 35-year career is celebrated by Ruediger “Rudy” Albers at Wempe’s famed New York City store.
For many watch aficionados, the relationship with their salesperson is the secret to a great collection. The genuine, long-lasting friendships between merchant and client are often equally important as the watches purchased. Working closely with clients while procuring watches to mark important milestones and special occasions, these business transactions develop into deeply personal relationships. Many times, the dealer becomes family. In many cases, the relationship spans multiple familial generations. For Ruediger “Rudy” Albers, these special connections are essential to his 35 years serving as the U.S. president of the world-renowned Fifth Avenue timepiece retailer Wempe (wempe.com).
On a busy weekday morning, Watches International chatted with Albers in Wempe’s Buben & Zörweg bespoke safe room to unlock the secrets to his success.
What are some special elements of Wempe, perhaps unique to the store?
I think a great deal of Wempe, first and foremost, it’s a family-owned company, and that can be felt in so many different ways. And one of them is the longevity of the people. I’m not a typical example at 35 years, but I have three people here who have been here for 20 years, and then the rest of them have been here for 10 years. People generally don’t leave unless circumstances change. And that makes such a difference when the customer comes in. I think the overall quality of the experience makes it different over here. Aside from chocolate and Champagne, of course, which is free-flowing!
Wempe Rolex New York
Can you tell me about maintaining the loyalty of your customers?
Our store has a familiar feeling of home. Many people told me it often feels like a cocktail party. It’s like a safe place in New York, a home where they come and hang out, and we have people who come to destress from their work in finance and during their lunch hour and play with watches. It puts their mind at ease.
One of my favorite advantages is that my office is right in the center of the store. So I have my eyes and ears on everything. I’m accessible to the salespeople as well as to customers. This is sometimes also a challenge because I don’t get my work done, but the customer always comes first. Paperwork and everything can wait. And people don’t make appointments. Clients always pop in, ‘Hi, I’m in town. Is Rudy here?’
Ruediger Albers, Jason Rembert and Laura Lapitino
Can you name a personal favorite watch? Do you own a sentimental timepiece with a great backstory?
My story begins with a very passionate client. He was young, just like I was when I first came to Wempe. And for probably 10 years, we’d talk watches every time he came to town. But he wasn’t purchasing because he didn’t have the funds. But we had a great time. Eventually, he started making it in business and buying watches over and over. His company went public, so he began to purchase high complications and whatever he liked across the board.
And then, one day, he came and said, ‘Rudy, what’s your favorite watch so far?’ I replied, ‘I have two kids in college. I’m not really thinking about a watch, but I think the new Patek World Timer Ref. 5110G checks all the boxes.’ So he pops up one day with his daughter, and she hands me a box, and he says, ‘For the 10 years that I only took your time and I really couldn’t buy, I would love for you to have this if you can accept it.’ And I was like, ‘I think I can accept it.’ I deeply treasure this Patek and our friendship.
Wempe fine jewelry and watch exhibition
What is the secret to your longevity?
I mean, consistency is the key. Honesty, consistency, integrity. Those characteristics serve everybody well. And especially when it comes to buying fine watches or jewelry, trust is an important issue. You can never sacrifice trust in any shape or form.
Jake Deutsch, Marjorie Gubelmann and Brian Atwood
Can you offer some advice for the novice collector?
Ask a lot of questions. It’s like, what do you expect a watch to be able to do? What is it, a purpose-driven watch? Is there a brand that you have researched? Customers will probably tell you, ‘I’ve been on the internet. I see what speaks to me.’ And so our people are driven to help you find a watch that has those qualities, not sell you necessarily what we want to sell you, but leave you walking out of here feeling like a million dollars and coming back. Most people who buy one watch are interested in buying more watches!