Dallas-based jeweler de Boulle has opened a stunning boutique in Houston’s River Oaks District, with a full Patek Philippe Showroom, the only such treasury in Texas, stocking a full assemblage of these exquisite handmade timepieces.
Both de Boulle and Patek Philippe are family-owned; Patek Philippe was founded in Geneva in 1839 and remains that city’s oldest independent watch manufacturer; de Boulle, which was opened in Dallas in 1983 by husband and wife Denis and Karen Boulle, continues its legacy via their son, Nick Boulle, who has taken a more active role in the business since the Houston debut. Denis was born on the island of Mauritius and raised in South Africa and England; Karen, whose father was in the English military, lived all over Asia as a child.
It’s no surprise, then, that when Patek Philippe sought its first Patek Philippe Showroom in Houston, it called upon the well-heeled, well-traveled Boulles. It was kismet, as the family had serendipitously been eyeing Houston for their first foray out of Dallas. “That’s what excites us,” Denis says. “Houston is such an international city.”
The result of the Patek Philippe and de Boulle partnership is exquisite. One salon, formally called the Patek Philippe Showroom, is dedicated to a massive array of the inimitable Swiss timepieces. The other is anchored by de Boulle’s collection of fine jewelry, including its namesake collection of precious baubles. International design firm Gensler and its Houston–based designer, Lisa Pope-Westerman, did wonders with the interior. Details are as precious as the wares: display cases wrapped in leather, walls of onyx and artisan plaster, Baldinger chandeliers and oak floors in classic herringbone pattern.
It’s what rests inside those leather-clad cases, though, that begs the most attention. “The Patek pieces,” Denis says, “truly are works of art as fine as any man can make.” In celebration of the watchmaker’s 175th anniversary, de Boulle will house one of four special-edition Calatrava timepieces, featuring a marquetry dial inspired by vintage postcards of Lake Geneva and its traditional sailing vessels.
The de Boulle Collection, designed by Karen Boulle, is carried en masse in Houston. “Over the years,” says Nick, “she has designed small pieces here and there, but she is shy about it. Finally, with pressure from us, she was able to take ownership.” The collection allows Karen full creative control, from the stones she employs to the craftsmen sourced to cut them. Each, in turn, has a story. A stunning new pair of earrings is the result of a discovery. “We found a rare block of turquoise from a mine that no longer produces,” Denis says. “It was probably the finest turquoise I’ve ever seen.” From that one block came 18 pieces, each one of a kind and cut by German artisans.
De Boulle also stocks a remarkable collection of David Webb, unique to its Houston store. “David Webb is probably one of the greatest American designers that has ever lived,” Denis says, “and Houston used to be their number one market.” The stunning statement pieces, with Webb’s signature animal elements — lions, tigers, elephants, etc… — are at once larger-than-life, luxurious and striking.
Similar in many ways to that talented Boulle family, no?