A Vintage 1936 Luxury Catalog

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A Vintage 1936 Luxury Catalog

Postby koimaster » April 6th 2017, 10:04am

This Ebay find was only supposed to be an interesting piece of memorabilia, another of those old catalogs that vintage enthusiasts cherish as they feature the watches exactly as they were initially made, with the original dial and strap. Yet, as soon as I opened this 28-page booklet from 1936, I knew it was a very special document. The hundreds of cool items displayed told a different story: Kirby, Beard & Co. was absolutely not your average watch retailer for Rolex, Omega and Jaeger-LeCoultre. In fact, it was one of the coolest department stores you could go to in Paris, if not in the world. And everything I could find out about it since, more than confirms how important this forgotten store was – a huge monument to traditional luxury. Not bad for a company, which started in 1743 as a pin maker.

Kirby, Beard & Co. is an interesting name in itself – definitely not French despite the Paris location of the department store. A fellow named William Cowcher started pin-making operations in Gloucester, England, in 1743. His operations prospered, his children joined the business, and in the early 1800s they eventually brought some partners on, named Robert Kirby and George Beard. The company took its final name a century after its founding.

Despite its very British roots, the company always had a foot in the French market, and as such participated in the 1855 and 1878 Universal Exhibitions in Paris. It is indeed in 1878 that their iconic address in Paris, 5 rue Auber, appears officially for the first time. Historically, this Parisian address, near the Opera makes total sense: Paris was the capital of luxury (no bragging here; imagine a time when Hermès, Cartier, and the fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth all started there) and the Opera was of course, a major social center, and as such one for luxury goods as well. This helps to explain why in 1868, Tiffany & Co. had also opened its first store outside the US, in the very same area.



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