Keeping Time with Gray & Sons Owner
In 1980, while studying to be a veterinarian at the University of Florida, Keith Gray seized upon the opportunity of historically high gold and silver prices by opening a temporary store on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach. Gold was selling for $800 an ounce (as compared to $35 just five years prior) and everyone was parting with their estate jewelry, vintage watches and heirloom trinkets. “Incredible pieces came out of people’s drawers, closets and safety deposit boxes,” Gray recalls. “Most shops had no understanding or appreciation of these pieces. They were taking them to the refinery and melting it down. Jewelry and watches with historical significance and designer excellence were destroyed forever during that time.”
"Buy it, try it, love it or leave it."
Instead of melting down this glittering history, however, Gray learned about watches and estate jewelry and became a player in the vintage sector with stores in Miami Beach, Coconut Grove and Bal Harbour. “When I first got into the business, there was great interest in pocket watches and very little interest in wristwatches,” Gray notes. “The first wristwatches that became popular were throwback fashion pieces. Trends began to change and brands like Patek Philippe, Rolex, Vacheron Constantin and Audemars Piguet started becoming more attractive to people globally. Art Deco wristwatches from the 1920s through the 1940s became a fashion statement, selling in boutique stores like Ralph Lauren and Barneys.”
During this ascendancy of wristwatches, Gray experimented with advertising in the luxury men’s magazine Robb Report, and in the Wall Street Journal, which quickly generated clients for Gray & Sons from all over America. That was the “aha” moment that revolutionized the company’s business model into catalogue sales and, eventually, e-commerce. “Our clients order products from us, sight unseen,” Gray describes. “We give them a 10-day, no questions asked return policy. We encourage them to wear the item, whether it’s jewelry or a watch. Buy it, try it, love it or leave it. And if they don’t love it, we give back all of their money, even the shipping.”
Gray & Sons now retains its landmark storefront, located across the street from the Bal Harbour Shops, and clients flock to this stylish emporium in search of beautiful pre-owned watches, jewelry and diamonds. And more often than not, after a few minutes in the presence of Keith Gray, they leave loving it.