A LOOK BACK IN TIME - NOVEMBER 2022 NEWS
The Year Was 1942
The year was 1942 when an ambitious young man set out on the journey that would soon become the founding of J Farren-Price.
Born in Queensland on 12th July 1915, John Hamilton Farren-Price was always an entrepreneur at heart. He had big dreams of starting his own watch wholesale business in Australia, where watches were in short supply after the war efforts. For young John, this meant a trip to Switzerland, where he soon secured the agency of multiple important names in Swiss watchmaking.
Soon after, a showroom was set up in the St James Centre on Castlereagh Street, Sydney. By the late 1940s ‘Farren Price – The Watch Specialist’ had four outlets across New South Wales, in St James, Parramatta, Wollongong and Newcastle.
We were on of Australia’s first official Rolex and Tudor agents, and to this date we still represent both of these renowned brands as their longest standing Australian retailer. One of our most prized archives is the below image of John Farren-Price with founder and Governing Director of Rolex Hans Wilsdorf in 1953.
We have also represented the iconic watch brand Longines since 1953.
At this point in time, the company had expanded interstate with branches in Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane. In fact, John had even coined his own in-house brand of watches named ‘J Farren-Price’.
With a gift for innovation and marketing strategy, John’s business success continued to soar. Many of his original ideas, like time payment to purchase a watch and insurance cover on purchase, are still in use today. For the ‘J Farren-Price’ watch collection, he devised evocative advertising and enticing product names such as ‘Sports-Proof’, ‘Spacemaster’, ‘Hydromatic’ and ‘Oceanmaster’.
Business Growth & Development
A turning point for the J Farren-Price brand was John’s relationship with Bob Dyer, the host of an extremely popular TV game show called ‘Pick-a-Box’. John approached Bob about sponsoring this show, which made for excellent business exposure and ultimately lead to the growth of more Farren Price branches. John and Bob remained great friends until Bob’s passing in 1984.
After a range of successful advertising campaigns, such as with John Laws on 2UE, the organisation continued to grow. By December of 1954, Farren Price had expanded to 20 branches and was heralded as ‘Australia’s Largest Watch Organisation’.
One iconic promotional strategy included the strapping of a Movado watch to the keel of a Sydney to Hobart yacht race entrant in 1955. The yacht, Solveig, was the winning competitor, and of course the Movado still kept perfect time afterwards…
With over 100 branches throughout Australia and New Zealand, there wasn’t a single Grace Brothers department store without a J Farren-Price boutique.
In 1951, a young girl from Tamworth named Krysten joined J Farren-Price as secretary. It wasn’t long before Krysten captured the attention of the owner John, with her diligence, financial acumen and impeccable sense of style. In 1961, Krysten and John were married, with their only child Julian born in April of 1964.
The Quartz Crisis
Mayhem descended in the 1970s with the invention of the Japanese quartz watch, which shook the entire Swiss Watchmaking industry to its core. This new and novel technology lead to the collapse of several big names in the Swiss watch industry. Around this time, John and Krysten received a call offering them a retail space in the St James Building on Castlereagh Street. Krysten encouraged John to take the opportunity, and today we still operate in this same space, although now four times expanded!
In 1976, the J Farren-Price luxury retail salon was opened, selling Girard-Perregaux – one of the few established Swiss watch makers to adopt the quartz technology. Other important brands soon followed. Their new luxury boutique also sold clocks and a small range of jewellery.
A Turning Point
A milestone for the business was around 1977, when John visited Switzerland and convinced Patek Philippe to return to the Australian market. We became one of just approximately 400 worldwide retailers of the brand.
The Patek Philippe Director of Sales Alan Banbery gave J Farren-Price huge support, which has continued to this day. In 1980, J Farren-Price held its first Patek Philippe exhibition highlighting their ‘Seven Crafts’. Many wonderful exhibitions have followed since.
In mid 1980, Krysten and John decided to embrace the Japanese quartz phenomena as they opened Australia’s first Citizen Centre, together with a clock shop. Sadly, the 1980s recession caused this boutique to close down.
In the mid 1980s, John retired to Queensland and Krysten Farren-Price took over the business. John sadly passed away in 1998.
As events unfolded, 1985 looked to be Krysten’s ‘annus horribilis’. With many of her employees resigning from the business, accompanied by a serious patella injury, Krysten was left to run the business remotely from her dining room table. With her leg propped up on a chair.
A former accountant and friend saw her very frustrating predicament and suggested he may know a Chartered Accountant with interest in helping her. In October, a young John Wardlaw came to meet Krysten and view her books and records. He was immediately impressed by her commitment to the business and her vision to take it forward. John had the perfectly thoughtful, unruffled temperament that she needed to bring this vision to life. This was the beginning of a wonderful long-term association.
The Family Tradition Continues
As the business turned around over the next four years, Krysten’s son Julian joined the company as a Chartered Accountant. Not long after, he visited Switzerland to attend a jewellers’ retail course… a course that proved to be invaluable. In the following years, he learned the retail craft under Krysten’s guidance.
Krysten, Julian and John worked tirelessly to build a highly reputable, ethical business which is respected both within Australia and internationally. Over time, the watch business would grow substantially, and the company now represents a carefully selected range of luxury brands. We have been privileged to sell some of the most valuable timepieces in Australia.
While the watch business was steadily growing, so was the jewellery business, as Krysten had always loved the finer things and the two seemed to go hand in hand. A little bit of humour always helped too, with many cheeky advertisements over the years to gain attention.
Krysten always believed in the value of exceptional jewels. In 1998, we promoted the visit of the Royal House of Asscher and featured a 10ct D colour diamond. A client stuck the advertisement on her fridge to give her husband the hint. He got the hint and the diamond. In 2011, we acquired and sold the historically significant 1.61ct Kimberley Red diamond. For our 70th Anniversary in 2012, we sold the Argyle Pink Diamond Trilogy ring. The year 2018 also saw the exciting renovations of the luxurious J Farren-Price salon that we have today.
Celebrating 80 Years in 2022
This year, we celebrate 80 years of luxury with the notable arrival of one exceptional jewellery piece, the Argyle Romantica™. This one-of-a-kind ring features the most rare and extraordinary Argyle pink diamonds, making for the perfect piece to celebrate the true luxury that the J Farren-Price brand is all about.
Over the past 80 years, we have truly experienced it all - ups and downs, highs and lows. We have loved building strong relationships with our wonderful clients and incredible suppliers, and we would like to thank everyone for constantly supporting this family company.
We are also celebrating this milestone in honour of Krysten Farren-Price, who sadly passed away in 2018. As the woman behind it all, it was her intuition, diligence and passion that built the J Farren-Price business into what it is today. Krysten is dearly missed by family, staff and customers. We know she would be very proud of J Farren-Price today.