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The Royal Exchange – A Brief History

Officially opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth I in 1571, The Royal Exchange was the creation of renowned merchant Thomas Gresham. Soon after opening it became a centre for the capital’s commerce, bringing together both brokers and merchants.

Trading continued for the next four centuries, despite being interrupted by fires, war and construction work, before coming to a halt in 1991. Then in 2001, an extensive redevelopment by architects Aukett Fitzroy Robinson transformed The Royal Exchange courtyard, reviving its trading legacy by giving it a new role housing the world’s most desired retailers and placing it, once again, in the thriving centre of commerce.

The Royal Exchange is home to a special collection of contemporary luxury brands, and is where the City converges to meet, eat and shop. Ape recently visited to asses the plethora of diverse and unique selection of brands ranging from art, accessories, male grooming, dining, style, homewares, watches and jewellery.

A Story of Trading

Stylish surroundings at The Royal Exchange shopping experience

The Royal Exchange is trapezoidal masterpiece of a building situated almost at the entrance of Bank tube station, opposite the Bank of England (postcode: EC3V 3LR). The Royal Exchange has long been associated with trading and today it’s no different – located in the heart of the City, it’s easily accessible for professionals to visit during a well-earned lunch break or post-office shopping trip (most retailers are open 9am-6pm). Pick up a new pair of Crockett & Jones Oxford shoes or replenish your bathroom supplies with a trip to Bamford Grooming Department. Better yet, spend your bonus on a new luxury timepiece from Watchfinder, a quality tie from Hermès or simply grab something to eat at the Fortnum and Mason Bar & Restaurant. Whether or not you work in the City – any excuse to visit The Royal Exchange is a good one.

What to Expect

Royal Exchange Grind – espresso bar by day and cocktail bar by night in the heart of the City

You can expect exquisite levels of service, in-depth staff knowledge, a welcome greeting and a truly stunning shopping location. There’s really nothing quite like it in the UK. For a full list of stores click here, but to give you an idea of what’s on offer, you’ll find Ape’s Top 10 Essentials from the Royal Exchange below.

What to Buy

Bamford Grooming Department

The modern man’s grooming regime extends beyond toothpaste and soap. Look your best every day with the finest skincare and hair care from one of the world’s most exclusive brands. Staff at The Royal Exchange store are well trained in what the brand has to offer, and what will suit your specific skin type and concerns.

What to Buy: Bamford Edition 1 Travel Kit (£70) – perfect for travel, this kit contains everything you need for looking your best for that overnight business trip and gives a nice intro to the brand’s best-selling products.

Bamford also manufactures its own watches at extremely reasonable prices. Be warned: leaving without one isn’t an easy task.

Bremont

Founded by British brothers Nick and Giles English in 2002, the Bremont store delivers first-class watches inspired by aviation. Each one is crafted in specialist workshops, with scratch-resistant Sapphire crystal and hardened steel ensuring precision and durability. The customer service and staff knowledge at the Bremont Royal Exchange store is, quite frankly, staggeringly impressive.

What to Buy: Despite Bremont earning a strong reputation for quality wares in an established market place, the brand have managed to maintain this reputation whilst keeping one eye on affordability. Our pick, the Bremont Martin Baker MBII watch in black (a variant of the watch photographed above) is available for £3,995, or from £332.92 per month (interest free).

Martin-Baker is a British aviation company responsible for supplying 70% of the world’s air-forces with fighter ejection seat technology. But don’t worry, there’s no ejection gadgets on this watch – just a first class timepiece suitable for wearing on any occasion.

Crockett & Jones

Regular readers of Ape to Gentleman will know of our long-term love affair with Crockett & Jones footwear. Therefore, learning of a brand store within The Royal Exchange was music to our ears. Makers of the finest English shoes since 1879 – in the world’s shoemaking capital, Northampton, England – it’s difficult to choose a single item to recommend, so let’s stick with classic.

What to Buy: Anything from the cabinet above – essentially, this contains Crockett & Jones’ main collection of timeless classics and staple footwear. The Connaught, for example, is the brand’s original straight cap Oxford, made from the finest calf leather and single leather soles. Priced at £430, it is built to last a lifetime. Also available in Dark Brown Burnished Calf. Want our advice? Buy both pairs.

Leica

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Leica is a German company that manufactures industry-leading cameras and lenses. The company was founded by Ernst Leitz in 1914, with the name Leica deriving from the first three letters of his surname and the first two of the word camera: Lei-ca. You’ll see paparazzi and sports photographers snapping away with Canon or Nikon equipment but Leica are true artisans of photography – the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Joel Meyerowitz shot/shoot with the brand’s cameras.

What to Buy: The latest Leica M10 (£6,000) is the pinnacle of the brand’s offering. You won’t regret investing – it’s a rangefinder camera (manual focus) that renders images so characterful you’ll eBay your Canon or Nikon in a heartbeat. Pair it with an Elmarit-M 28mm (same focal length as an iPhone) f/2.8 ASPH (£1,900) for street photography and landscapes. It’s a superb, walk-around lens that delivers razor-sharp images.

For those of you on a tighter budget, a Leica Q2 is essentially the autofocus M, and comes with a great lens for £4,250. At The Royal Exchange Leica store they offer a variety of high-quality used Leica cameras and lenses to choose from, at prices much less that retail.

Whatever your budget, expectations or requirements the staff at The Royal Exchange Leica store are all photography and photographic equipment enthusiasts. This, coupled with expert Leica knowledge and training, means you can be sure you’ll walk away with exactly what you need to take your craft to the next level.

Watchfinder

The rise of the pre-owned watch market knows no bounds. Vintage, one-of-a-kind pieces with character are more desirable than ever. And no one owns the pre-owned market as well as Watchfinder. The company has decades of experience, a manufacturer-certified service centre and a product catalogue that reads like a who’s who of horology. The Royal Exchange store is a decidedly pleasant environment, with plenty of expert and knowledgable staff on hand to guide you through their magnificent array of timepieces.

What to Buy: Incredibly, Watchfinder have stock of the “impossible” to find Patek Philippe Nautilus. Created by Gerald Genta, and like many of his famous watches, the Nautilus (ref. 5711/1A-011) is a horological legend. It retails new at £23,440 but given its scarcity Watchfinder sell this 1-year old example at £62,750. Given the demand, the Nautilus should only increase in value, if you look after it.

It’s a similar story with the Rolex Daytona – named after the race circuit in Florida that hosts the Rolex 24-hour race, it is widely considered the ultimate driver’s watch. You may have heard Paul Newman’s version recently sold for $17,800,000 (yes, 17.8 million US dollars). The bad news is that there are now waiting lists just to get on the waiting list for any new Daytona model. The good news, however, is that Watchfinder have limited stock available right now at £25,750 (ref. 116500 LN). It’s another watch that should only appreciate in value as time goes by.

Summary

The Royal Exchange is a gem of the City. It surely has to be one of, if not ‘the’, most pleasant shopping environments in London and beyond. A mix of some of the world’s finest brands, artisanal creators and first class customer service.

Other brands likely of interest to Ape readers: Aspinal of London, Church’s footwear, Hermès, Jo Malone, Montblanc, Omega, Penhaligon’s and Watches of Switzerland, amongst others.

And as if the above wasn’t enough of a reason to make a visit to The Royal Exchange, then coffee and lunch at Fortnum and Mason is as good a reason as any. For more information, click the link below.

theroyalexchange.co.uk