Despite the timeless quality of their downtown Colorado Springs shop, the Knight family is obsessed with helping its customers keep on tickin’ — with precision.
Walking into Knight Watch and Jewelry Co. at 19 E. Kiowa St. is like visiting a history museum: The furniture and display cases are all from long-shuttered downtown businesses; the mirrors once adorned the walls of The Broadmoor; the chairs sat guests in the old Burns Opera House; and the 110-year-old cash register once belonged to the Tutt family.
“There’s a little bit of everything from a little bit of everyone in here,” said owner Michael Knight. “We surround ourselves with the history of this city.”
Then there are the timepieces. The displays, the drawers — every nook and cranny — are full of them: Hamilton railroad watches, vintage Omegas and Longines, and high-value Rolexes and Patek Phillippes (one 24-karat gold model recently sold for nearly $20,000) are just a few of the 100 to 150 for sale at a given time.
The shop is evidence of the Knight family’s dedication to selling and servicing the world’s finest watches, which has been its business model for more than a half-century.
After returning home from World War II, Walter Knight (Michael’s father) wanted to start a career that would challenge his mechanically inclined brain. So he attended the American Academy of Horology in Denver to become a watchmaker and started the business on Tejon Street in 1951.
Just a toddler when the shop opened, Michael Knight was primed to follow in his father’s footsteps. He began working on old clocks at 7 years old, repaired his first watch at 11, and at 13 he became a watchmaker for Zales.
“I was horsing around in the basement when I got interested in watches and clocks,” he said. “I started charging customers when I was 10. By the time I was 16, I was rocking.”
After that, he said there was never a time he didn’t think of watchmaking as his career of choice. He was even a watchmaker during his military service for the U.S. Navy.
“It’s a great occupation — and a respectable one,” he said. “And a good watchmaker is hard to find.”
But that wasn’t always the case.
When Michael bought the business from his father in 1976, he was just 27 and Colorado Springs was full of fierce competitors.
Knight said the few years after he purchased the business were the hardest, as the industry was shifting from a demand for automatic Swiss-made pieces to the popularity of cheap, battery-powered watches mass-produced in Asia.
But Knight said he attributes his success to loyalty — to himself, to his father, to his customers and to the craft of watchmaking.
“I never changed,” he said. “I never deviated from what I wanted to do and what I wanted to work on. … You’ve just got to toe the line and keep doing what you believe in.”
Of course, a few things have changed over the years. To interest new customers and stay current with modern trends — within reason — his daughter Ecko (who has worked at the shop since age 14) started EckoCo, an arm of Knight that specializes in servicing battery-powered watches.
“It felt like the next step,” she said.
In the years since Ecko came on board, the shop has started offering more services to attract younger clientele. Among those services are converting old pocket watches into wristwatches and transforming old mechanical timepieces into battery-powered wearables.
“We’re still learning,” she said. “All these decades later, we’re still trying new things.”
That mentality has helped the business weather the hard times. And eventually, it paid off.
There isn’t much competition remaining in the region, according to Michael Knight, which is why the shop gets business from across the country. And in recent years, the Knights say they’ve started to see a shift in clientele to younger generations becoming interested in heirloom timepieces passed down through the family.
“People are starting to pull grandpa’s old watches out of the drawer, and some of them we recognize,” he said. “It’s amazing when you think about it.”
[su_box title=”Knight Watch and Jewelry Co.” box_color=”#005ac3″]Years in business: 65
Contact: knightwatchonline.com, 719-633-3628
Location: 19 E. Kiowa St.[/su_box]