An Interview with Julian Farren-Price

Learn about the history of J Farren-Price, the watch industry, and how to choose your own luxury timepiece with our esteemed proprietor, Julian Farren-Price.

Julian Farren-Price Quote

Starting as a chartered accountant, Julian has now worked in the business for 35 years. The company was originally founded by his father, John, in 1942. It was then continued by his mother, Krysten, with whom Julian worked alongside for 27 years.

Since his mother's passing in 2018, Julian has been the sole owner of J Farren-Price. With his wealth of knowledge and experience in the business, Julian brings expertise, dedication, and passion to his luxury boutique every day. 

What inspired your father, John Farren-Price, to start his business in watches in 1942?

My father was trained before the war by his brother to be a watchmaker. In the war effort he worked on instruments but was discharged early. He was obviously an entrepreneurial mind, and he had a love for timepieces. Therefore he started to look at getting import licenses for watches after the war, which was not easy to do!

He started very small with a few brands, and he eventually grew the company into an empire with 100 branches around Australia.

John Farren-Price

(Archival Images of Founder John Farren-Price)

Do you remember the first watch you ever had?

Indeed I do, and in fact I still have it.

When I was about 14, my parents gave me a steel J Farren-Price watch on a rubber strap with a rotating bezel. They also gave the same watch to my best friend at the time. I still have that watch. It has had almost no servicing and it still works perfectly, with a lovely Swiss movement. I cherish owning that timepiece and it’s a great memory from my parents.

Original J Farren-Price Timepieces

(Original J Farren-Price Timepieces)

How has the watch industry changed over the years?

The change in the environment of luxury watches in Australia has been something to behold.

Since the year 2000, we have had an explosion of luxury and Australians have become more aware of international watch brands. Prior to this time, it was really only travellers going overseas who were exposed to some of the rarer brands like Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin. Now the Australians have embraced luxury watches and the demand for these pieces is unprecedented, to the point where demand exceeds supply.

J Farren-Price 1983 Store

(The J Farren-Price Boutique on Castlereagh Street in 1983)

Can you explain the key differences between Swiss and Japanese timepieces?

The change in Japanese timepieces has been quite a journey. Initially a disruptor in the market in the 70s with the quartz watch, they focused on the new quartz technology which was novel at the time but also relatively inexpensive compared to traditional mechanical watches. This caused the Swiss watch industry great pain in the 70s and 80s as people adopted this new technology, and this is still relevant today in a certain segment of the market.

But the pendulum has swung and people now enjoy mechanical watches and appreciate them because they are one of the few things we have in life of lasting value which are not disposable.

Having said that, some of the Japanese manufacturers have now moved into high-end watchmaking. Here I’m thinking of a brand like Grand Seiko, which makes watches of extreme complexity and very very high quality and finish. It’s interesting to note that it’s not unusual for a customer of Patek Philippe to also own a Grand Seiko.

1950s Watch Factory in Switzerland

(1950s Watch Factory, Switzerland. Visited by Founder John Farren-Price)

What do you love about beautiful timepieces? What makes them so special?

A quality timepiece is really a work of art, and having visited many of the factories I never leave without being fascinated by the level of detail and finish that goes into making a beautiful timepiece.

As mentioned, one of the significant things about a wristwatch is that it will last for generations. Patek Philippe have said you don’t own a Patek Philippe, you merely look after it for the next generation. It’s one of the few things you can hand down to a family member and it’s very special. I can even look at the case where sadly my mother passed away in 2018, and left some of her watches to my daughters who are currently wearing these pieces. They are great memories for my girls to have of their grandmother.

There are not many things in life you can hand on like a beautiful wristwatch. It has great meaning and great heritage.  

Krysten Farren-Price

(The Late Krysten Farren-Price, Speaking at the J Farren-Price 75th Anniversary Gala)

When choosing a timepiece, what do you think are the most important elements for someone to consider?

We all have different tastes, and hence why there’s not just one variety of car and one variety of fridge. There are brands that have a history that is important to us. There are also functions of timepieces that are important, whether you want a waterproof watch, a watch on a bracelet, a split-second chronograph, or a perpetual calendar. Also, whether we are looking for a piece that we can have for decades and pass down to the next generation. There are many aspects to selecting a quality timepiece. The brand’s story can be very important too. But I think ultimately, you will find something that just appeals to you, for instance from Patek Philippe it could be a classic Calatrava on a strap – a very elegant dress watch. Or it could be a Rolex sports watch which is a great daily wearer whether you are going to the gym or playing golf or swimming.

And then there is the beauty of the piece, whether it appeals to you or not. We can compare, for instance, a Vacheron Constantin Patrimony and a Patek Philippe Calatrava. Both classic dress watches but one will draw you in more than the other.

There are many elements to picking a watch and there is no right or wrong answer. It just depends on what speaks to you and what you identify most with.

Julian Farren-Price

(J Farren-Price Owner, Julian Farren-Price)

Experience the J Farren-Price Magic

If you are feeling inspired to experience the magic of luxury watches yourself, the team at J Farren-Price are always here to assist you. The salon is located in Sydney at 80 Castlereagh Street, open from Monday - Saturday. 

 We warmly welcome you to visit the boutique. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by a member of our professional sales staff, who are here to ensure that your luxury experience exceeds all your expectations. 

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