Ultra-luxury CT jewelry and watch store closing its doors after nearly 50 years Armstrong Rockwell Jewelers set to close after Christmas Armstrong Rockwell Watches & Fine Jewelry owner Al Armstrong talks about the details on an Arnold & Son watch at his store on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. The watch and jewelry store will be closing their doors after 47 years in business in Hartford. (Aaron Flaum/Hartford Courant) Hartford's Armstrong Rockwell Jewelers, a staple along the city's iconic Trumbull Street, is set to close its doors after nearly a half-century in business. Known as a destination for high-end watches and jewelry, Armstrong Rockwell sells designer Swiss watches and jewelry from several ultra-luxury brands, including Omega, Carl F. Bucherer, IWC, Arnold & Son, and Hearts & Arrows Diamonds. "It's not a store that people just drive by and walk in, it's a destination place," Armstrong said. "We have people from all over come here. But you can wait a while for someone to walk in." But it wasn't always that way for store owner Al Armstrong. "I came from humble beginnings," Armstrong said. "I was the guy that would run around to the pawn shops on Park Street and try to see what they picked up. I would then run little ads that would say I'm buying vintage watches in newspapers. In those days, I had a parade of people walking by and coming in." Armstrong started his business in 1976 on Asylum Avenue, right next door to the Brownstone. In the nearly five decades since, the well-known jewelry store owner said he has seen great change in both the industry and the city. "There were 6,000 people a day walking by my window on average back in those days," Armstrong said. "There were shops, shoe stores, clothing stores. We even had a haberdashery. Steinway pianos were sold on the corner of Ann Street. We had a Huntington's bookstore. It was really the place to be back then. Little by little, stores began to leave. I was proud to stay in Hartford." Through the 1990s, Armstrong began to tailor his business towards a high-end market, making the little jewelry store on Trumbull Street an international destination for those looking for ultra luxury. By the mid-19905, Armstrong Rockwell Jewelers was selling the most expensive watches on the market. Armstrong Rockwell Watches & Fine Jewelry owner Al Armstrong talks about the details on a Roger Dubuis watch at his store on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. The watch and jewelry store will be closing their doors after 47 years in business in Hartford. (Aaron Flaum/Hartford Courant) "My store became known as a safe place to trust and send insane amounts of money," Armstrong said. "Customers were assured that we would deliver the right product for the exact condition we said it would be in. We never had one single complaint in all of our years in business." Among the more notable watches to pass through the shop was then the most expensive watch ever sold at $1 million. The Blancpain 1735, released in 1991, pioneered the minute-repeater. The technology, which remains cutting edge, strikes out three different mechanical sounds for hours, quarters, and minutes. The watch, with more than 700 individual components, remains the world's most complicated produced automatic winding wristwatch. Minute-repeater watches are among the most expensive in the world. "I've had an incredible career and I've been able to meet all sorts of people," Armstrong said. In his store, surrounded by millions in merchandise, Armstrong points to two items of which he's most proud: a map of the world with pins on every continent showing his customers over the decades and a 70-year-old "dollar watch" that sits inside a heavy safe. "I was 5 years old when I got my first watch," Armstrong said. "It's an Ingersoll movement pin-lever escapement that was called a dollar watch back then. My brother and I were each given one by a man that worked at the bank my mom used to work at. His name was Eddie Jordan. That watch now sits in my safe next to some of the most amazing mechanical watches in the world. It really spoke to me back then. It's what started all of this." The store, which also sells fine cut diamonds from Hearts and Arrows and FOPE gold bracelets, will be selling several of its luxury pieces at a discounted rate over the next month to clear out merchandise. Armstrong said that he expects customers to come from all over the area to view his inventory. The store is just one of two Omega authorized dealers in the state, the other being in Greenwich. Armstrong said he intends to maintain a presence with an online e-commerce site and plans to have a small private office in Hartford for those looking for a curated selection of inventory by appointment only. The 75-year-old jeweler said that Hartford remains his home. "I've met the most interesting and amazing people from industry experts to well-known celebrities. I've represented and sold the most exclusive timepieces and diamonds in the world. I'm ready for new endeavors." Longtime customer Jeffrey Bodeau, who has purchased several timepieces from the store over the years, said the announcement is a huge loss to the industry. "I've been a customer since I was 28 years old," Bodeau said. "He's always been good to me. His knowledge is off the charts. It just blows me away. He knows so many people and he was really the focal point of the industry in central Connecticut right in downtown Hartford. It's sad to see him close his doors but I completely understand it. The fact that the store has been around for 50 years in business, it's monumental."
A few years ago while on a factory tour of Vaucher, I stumbled upon this sign that in my opinion, represents the future. I thought… a dual-time watch?! This is exactly what watchmakers need to be thinking about as technology advances. As I’m standing there in shock, I’m told that the man behind this brilliant idea is in the building and that is who you see standing on my right. This was back in 2019 and four years later we’re hearing a lot about going to Mars someday soon. Would you buy a dual-time Mars-Earth Watch?
Jean Claude Biver and his son Pierre are debuting their new watch brand in Geneva at this time. JCB has worked with us about three decades… all the way back to his Blancpain days. Wishing them every success with the new venture!
Francois-Henry Bennahmias, the current CEO of Audemars Piguet is the dynamic man behind the company breaking the billon dollar barrier. I love my 3 decades with the brand and watching what he accomplished! Thank you FHB and the AP team! Best wishes going forward. (Francois is the one with the hair!)
Meet our team! All the way to my left is Yuliana, who helps us with our new website and oversees our social media and communications. Immediately to my left is Mary, my wife, whose also our store secretary😊. Last but not least is Grace, our newest member. Yuliana and Grace are both students at UCONN and are studying Marketing and Finance, respectively. We’re so happy to have them on our team. Here’s a picture of us at the Red Dress Gala from November in support of Women’s Heart Health and the Alpha Phi Foundation. Yuli & Grace invited us to be their guests and we all had a great time together.
On my left is Mr. Michael Goldstein. We met at the end of the 90’s when he walked into my store as my new Audemars Piguet Sales Representative, and we’re friends to this day. Michael is an industry veteran and all around amazing guy! This holiday season I’m feeling very grateful for the relationships I’ve been able to build thanks to loving watches. #throwbackthursday #storytime #legend
Two watch industry vets on my right. Taken in a Basel restaurant. Armen Darakjian and Hartmut Kraft! Two great members of the watch community!
On my left is Vincent Calabrese, a self taught Italian Watch Genius. The creator of so many patents it boggles the mind. Just to mention a few, we have the Corum Golden Bridge, the Blancpain Flying Tourbillon and the Carousel. This only scratches the surface of his contributions to the art of watchmaking. It was my pleasure to spend time with this Legendary Watchmaker!
On January 15th, 2009, a flock of birds forced an airliner down into the Hudson River. The pilot of that flight is the hero on my right in this photo. Not one person died. His cool, calm, decisive actions are now LEGENDARY. I was so lucky to be invited to join Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger for dinner when he was a brand ambassador for Jean Richard Watches!! #legend #armstrongrockwell #sully #storytime