Kartel watch building: Christmas shopping with a difference at Edinburgh's St James Quarter - Liam Rudden

With Christmas coming, unique gifts for loved one are always in demand and, as I discovered, the Kartel Watch Building Experience, in the St James’ Quarter could prove just the thing for the hard to please in your life.
Kartel Watch Building ExperienceKartel Watch Building Experience
Kartel Watch Building Experience

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To be honest, I'm still getting my head around the rebranding of the St James' area - Quarter not Centre. It will sink in eventually.

If any part of Edinburgh epitomises the ever changing nature of the city, it's Leith Street. In my lifetime I can recall three very different incarnations; the first, circa 1967, was a split level build that fascinated me as a kid. Even then, though, the area was in flux, the old triangle of tenements where the roundabout at the top 'o the Walk is today would soon be gone as would those on the Playhouse side of the street.

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Then came the St James' Centre, of it's time but latterly claustrophobic, tired and unloved. Still, it was a great short cut when cutting from town to Leith.

The same can be said for the new St James' Quarter, albeit a more spacious, eye-catching shortcut.

Working from home, opportunities to visit the Quarter have been few and far between, so I was delighted to accept an invitation from tour guide, actor and old friend Eric Murdoch, also known as the Tartan Viking (you might have seen him in Outlaw King or Game of Thrones), when he asked me to accompany him to 'make a watch' at Kartel, one of the inhabitants of the new mall.

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Now, it's been a while since I last wore a watch. Somewhere, after the novelty of carrying a mobile phone wore off and the device evolved into a handheld all in one, the need for wrist watch was lost.

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Kartel turned out to be a shopping experience unlike any other. Their Watch Building Experience, in which you build your own timepiece while enjoying tea, coffee or a choice of around 40 drams along with tablet, fresh berries and shortbread, finds proprietor Dale Morrison taking you through the process and choices available.

Thankfully, all the fiddly bits, the cogs, hands and wheels, are already assembled and the 'building' involves matching straps, buckles and case. With more than 1,200 combinations available, finding the right one for you can take time.

Each style of case has a deliberately Scottish name, there's the Shetland, Cuillin, retro Sinclair, Knoydart, Cameron, Morris and Hume.

It was the classic Morris I eventually settled on, the simplicity of a white face with black numerals and case winning out over more expressive designs. Matching it with a tartan strap briefly crossed my mind but again, a cleaner leather-backed grey/black Harris tweed strap won the day, along with a chunky square buckle.

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Deciding on that combination took the best part of an hour as Dale as minds changed again and again.

The moment of truth came when the parts had to be put together. Faced with a tray of tools we quickly discovered there's a knack to it. It took us three minutes to assemble all the pieces, which seemed okay until Dale did it in around 20 seconds. That said, shopping will never be the same.

Book a Kartel Watch Building Experience at www.kartel.co.uk

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