This week, we focus on retailers at the power center of two nations: Liljenquist & Beckstead Jewelers in McLean, VA, part of the greater Washington D.C. area, and Projekt8 in Manama, Bahrain, a small island state in the Persian Gulf. The former was established in 1978, when Jimmy Carter was occupying the White House down the road. The latter is much younger and comes from founder Ali Mudara’s commitment to following a vision after leaving a “safe” career at a French Bank to step into the world of horology.
I spoke with Paul Witchie, the Vice President of Liljenquist & Beckstead Jewelers and Mudara, a founding partner of Projekt8, to get an idea of the two retailers’ backgrounds and what they’re doing in response to the global pandemic. The similarities in the challenges they both face are particularly interesting. Liljenquist & Beckstead Jewelers is at the heart of the place that makes the national decisions that steer the destiny of the USA. Meanwhile, in a place that most Americans are most likely unfamiliar with in the Persian Gulf, the same challenges are being faced, both on a national scale and in the world of horology.
Since our inception in 1978, Liljenquist & Beckstead Jewelers has demonstrated a commitment to excellence, a passion for prestige, and a pledge to provide extraordinary service. We are a local, family-owned and operated business that takes great pride in being able to serve our community. Our company remains D.C.’s premier and luxury destination for many of the world’s most sought after brands, including such esteemed ones as Rolex and Patek Philippe.
With humble beginnings as a 16-year-old entrepreneurial pushcart vendor, Tom Liljenquist sold handmade spoon rings in Georgetown. Over a 40-year period with his friend turned business partner Sidney Beckstead, the duo expanded the business into what has become the Washington Metropolitan area’s premier luxury watch retailer.
Today, Liljenquist & Beckstead’s epicenter is in Tysons Corner, Virginia within Washington D.C.’s luxury shopping destinations: The Tysons Galleria and The Shops at Fairfax Square. Our other locations include boutiques in Bethesda and Annapolis, Maryland.
Our clients span all forms of the Swiss watch enthusiast, from a sophisticated collector with a deep understanding of the industry to the first-time buyer seeking the guidance and knowledge of a highly trained professional who can objectively guide them throughout the entire buying experience. Our associates take great pride in being of service to clients on every level.
To ensure their preparedness to meet the needs and horological interests of the company’s sophisticated clientele, Liljenquist & Beckstead’s 60 dedicated associates are extensively trained, well-read, and fluent in the intricate language of the industry. In addition to partaking in many brand-held trainings, the company appoints brand ambassadors to facilitate routine updates for fellow sales professionals, underscoring the premium placed on a well-educated team.
The company’s decades of success can be attributed to the unique corporate culture set in place by the partners, Tom Liljenquist and Sidney Beckstead. We believe in a number of principles that drive us to excellence: trust, quality, customer service, product knowledge, and the connection to our community.
In addition, Liljenquist & Beckstead actively supports, hosts, and sponsors many special events in our area, and our watch specialists have attended and been part of the watch industry’s most important shows and trainings for more than a quarter-century.
Everyone has different motivations when purchasing a timepiece. Whether as a gift for a personal collection or to celebrate an achievement, there is an emotional connection to wearing a watch. Timepieces are practical in function and can become part of a daily routine or a reminder of a special moment in time. Right now is a very exciting time to be a watch enthusiast as many of our brands are in the process of releasing new product for 2020. The sharing of new innovations amongst watch manufacturers in Switzerland has made timepieces more robust than ever before and collectible at every price point. Most of our staff have been in the industry for over 20 years, so we can inform and guide you, pointing you in the right direction based on your personal tastes and preferences. There is something out there for everyone.
Liljenquist & Beckstead specializes in the sale and after-sale service of 16 of the world’s finest Swiss watch brands. Our goal is to not only offer an unparalleled selection of exquisite timepieces, but also to provide the uncompromising service required to maintain what we sell for generations to come. Our company also specializes in the sale of fine jewelry as well as curated preowned and vintage timepieces.
With the health and safety of our staff and community as our highest priority, all of our boutiques remain closed indefinitely for in-person consultations. However, we are working closely with several courier services to make local deliveries to our clientele. We remain on call and at your service 24/7 through our contact page on our website. In addition, customers interested in purchasing a new timepiece are invited to view our online selection.
8075 Leesburg Pike
Vienna, VA 22182
2001 International Drive Suite 1798M
McLean, VA 22102
1660 Annapolis Mall
Annapolis, MD 21401
7101 Democracy Blvd
2412 Westfield Montgomery Mall
Bethesda, MD 20817
As a finance major, my dream was to follow my father’s footsteps and become a banker, which I did for 10 years as a money market trader in a top French Bank, first in Bahrain and later in Dubai. Similar to HODINKEE’s Ben Clymer, I got bored after the subprime crisis and Lehman’s collapse circa 2007-08 and found myself online reading more and more about watches and cars.
Fast forward a few years, Instagram was born, and I stumbled on this fresh new brand called SEVENFRIDAY whose owner agreed to hand over distribution in a few countries in our region. I realized that SEVENFRIDAY had an attitude that was different, and the approach to life was more enjoyable than a boring desk job.
By the end of 2016, business was good, and I found myself getting more intertwined into the industry with the yearly pilgrimage to Baselworld and later SIHH, meeting new and interesting people and learning more about a crazy bunch of brands who did not conform to the norms: the indies or independent watchmakers. It was a life less serious and more fun, and it was all about innovating and creating timepieces out of love and passion for the art form. Not having proper representation, I quit my bank job, and with my brother, decided to open a concept store called Projekt8 to cater to the indies in Bahrain and try to educate the masses about these little known brands. The reason for the name was simple: a fun project, spelled in the German form as an homage to the brand from Zurich that started it all and “8” for the number of years it took from the time I started learning until the time we opened.
Our portfolio includes MB&F, Ressence, H. Moser & Cie, Urwerk, HYT, Laurent Ferrier, Armin Strom, SEVENFRIDAY, Gorilla, and The Electricianz.
Projekt8 is all about passion for unique watchmaking, so we make sure that our doors are open for anyone who wishes to talk watches. Our staff are enthusiasts and welcome a chat over a coffee and some fun watch viewing. We have hosted numerous events over the years, notably a watchmaking class for enthusiasts with Armin Strom’s creative director, a track day behind the wheel of a race car with HYT’s CEO, and watch talk with MB&F’s very own Max Busser. We have even hosted friends of the store at Baselworld and SIHH to have first-hand experience with the brands and their creations.
A difficult question because everything we carry has a beautiful story.
MB&F: The company has really changed the way people look at watches and brings together the best minds not shying away from anything. The Bulldog, released in April, is a great example of how crazy yet beautiful the art of watchmaking can be.
H. Moser & Cie: The mavericks that can sell a watch without the logo on the dial – a brand that does not mind having some fun and creating beautiful timepieces for the modern world, yet keeping the quality and integrity of the old. The Streamliner (launched in January) is a new chapter that only proves the Moser team are true mavericks.
Ressence: The Type-2 is bringing technology into a centuries-old idea and having the world take notice.
HYT: For centuries watchmakers were making sure to keep liquid out of a watch, but HYT does the opposite – bringing liquid inside the watch and using it to tell the time with help from scientists, chemists, and the space industry.
Urwerk: Considered one of the earliest independent brands and with one of the lowest yearly productions, it is always difficult to have stock available for enthusiasts to see in store. Case in point: the latest UR-100.
We specialize in providing the most unique and limited watches in the world. Exclusivity is the goal: a client can ask for a bespoke unique piece, and we are able to arrange it with certain brands we carry.
Having learned so much about watches online, it was very important for me and absolutely essential to have an online presence with an e-commerce platform. We can proudly say that we are the only regional watch store that has the ability to sell (certain brands) online regionally and internationally at www.projekt-8.com
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