A TimeZone Interview with Maria & Richard Habring
about the Habring² Kaliber A11
An interview in November 2014 by William Massena
TimeZone (TZ): Maria & Richard, you have recently launched your in-house movement. What has driven you to become completely independent?
Maria & Richard Habring (H²): Well – it has never been a secret that we were using in the beginning ETA-movements (the 6498-1) and later ETA-components (from the 7750) to create our watches. With the years we started to do more and more on the movements ourselves including developing functional modules on the ETA-train gear which we’ve been supplied with since 2009. In 2011 we received a letter from ETA stating that they do not supply any parts to us anymore based on their mother companies (Swatchgroup) former and well known strategically decision.
TZ: How was the feeling in this moment?
H²: One would have been very naive by thinking that ETA will not move forward with their groups strategy but it was obviously quite interesting to see that they did not only have those bigger brands (Mr. Hayek called them the opportunists) in focus but as well the very tiny ones which can never compete with SG’s own brands. The question for us in this very special moment in 2011 was: What to do with Habring²? Going completely independent or letting it die?
TZ: So you decided to survive?
H²: Right! And not only to survive, to survive without any dependence to a major supplier like Sellita. Our strategy in the past 3 years was to found a network of small family owned companies in Austria, German and Switzerland to supply single components produced after the drawings we provide. It took us about 2.000 hours – a lot of weekends and holidays – to have everything ready this year 2014 to start production of components
TZ: What is the difference between „movements“ and „components“?
H²: If we say „movement” we mean the entire and functioning motor of a watch. In case of ETA-movements entirely produced and assembled at ETA, sold to one of their customer brands. When talking about „components“ we mean all the single parts inside a watch movements, the wheels, the levers, the barrel, the escapement, the balance wheel etc. which are in addition a group of parts with need for separate assembly before being used inside the movement.
TZ: Just for our understanding: You bought wheels, escapements, balance wheels etc. at ETA before they stopped supplying and integrated those parts inside your movements?
H²: Correct! This strategy was necessary to allow us to further develop our watches the way we wanted to. About 80% of our watches are non-chronographs. It does not make sense to buy a chrono-movement, taking it completely apart, and putting the wheels back into own plates and bridges. It’s a waste of time and material. The funny aspect was that the single components out of the 7750 been in total more expensive than a completed movement with 4 times the number of parts inside. So ETA made good profit by this strategy while we had fully flexibility.
TZ: There is this still pending case at Swiss COMCO/WEKO (competition commission) which sentenced ETA and Nivarox to supply further movements and parts. Why did this not include your interests?
H²: Simple reason. The main case turns around completed movements, when it comes to single components than this means the escapement parts from Nivarox. We bought single components from ETA and have never been customers at Nivarox. So our interests are just simply not part of the case. To be involved party in this case one has to file approach with lawyers etc. This costs much more in the end than it brings benefits. ETA and Nivarox are sentenced to supply their former customers at least some percentage of the past volume but they are not obliged to accept new customers.
TZ: But this all is history now. How would you explain the difference between the movement based on the 7750-parts and the A11, your in-house movement?
H²: Some critics say the A11 is a copy or a clone of the 7750 but this is not right. The 7750 is and remains a chrono-movement while A11 is a mainly manual wound rather basic tractor to build our well known attractively priced starter models or our dead beat seconds. Of course the A11 has some design similarity to the basic train gear of the 7750 but this has been necessary to maintain the majority of our production while implementing the new basic movement into the entire existing line. Take our dead beat second or our foudroyante as examples, or at the chrono side our COS, the Doppel both ideally with in-house 60-minutes counter from the center. All those functional modules have to be driven from several links to the basic movement.
TZ: So your approach was rather pragmatic than artistic?
H²: By creating something completely new we would have lost all those functional modules we were working on since 2007. It’s tough enough for a small family company like ours (7 persons including the two founders and three apprentices) to be confronted with such a problem, but it can’t be that a group like SG influences the strategy of a private company and small brand. In addition we do not have the guarantee in the future that ETA further continues to provide spare parts for the movements build with their components in the past years. By being rather near at the former base we will be able to produce our own spares and further guarantee 30 years spare parts supply if necessery.
TZ: Coming back to the question: Copy or clone?
H²: Evolution! The 7750 has been and is one of the most accurate and reliable watch movements but it’s mainly industrial in it’s approach even though Edmond Capt, the man behind the 7750 did an incredible job. The A11 is developed further, in several details as well as in the making. It‘s optimized to be produced and assembled in smaller quantities with even higher quality. Some parts can be exchanged between 7750 and A11 but far not all. Let it be father and son, mother and daughter rather than being twins. We are using different mainsprings, shock absorbers, dial fixation, fine timing device. Our finishing is much more refined even though not being on very highest level. Let’s say it’s on a Volkswagen-level rather than Bentley.
TZ: You write that „A11 sets new benchmarks in watch business when it comes to the hand work involved“. What does that mean?
H²: Therefore, we have to go a little deeper into watch industry: A watch in our usual price range between Euro 4K to 6K is usually industrial made which means high volume, quite some automatisation, of course hand assembled but the production of the parts is high-tech. Take, for example, a single pallet fork or the balance wheel which are produced by machines, assembled by machine, and – at the balance – poised and timed by machines including bending the terminal curve at the hairspring. The parts for our pallet forks and balance wheels are crafted by machines too but then the entire assembly, adjusting etc. is made by hand. Every single hairspring at the A11 is entirely hand finished. Every pallet in our A11 is manually positioned to ensure perfect performance. Much, much more production steps are handmade , as well the central drilling of our train wheels and the final riveting on the axles.
TZ: There are watches on the market using the argumant „hand made“ but compared with yours they are usually much more expensive. How come?
H²: The manu facta (Latin for „handmade”) like we call it at Habring² is not made on purpose to increase the prestige of our products. It’s a simple need in order to survive as company and brand in the global competition. We do of course not dare to be compared with the premium handmade pieces like a Philippe Dufour or a Roger Smith. This is complete different league. We do hand work to safe costs and investments. But our understanding of the word „manufactory“ is more influenced by the „manu“ than the „factory“.
TZ: How to finance an in-house movement?
H²: If one is situated in Glashütte and wants to invest in machines for the industrial finishing of balance wheels he asks the government for public support and/or co-financing. Why has Glashütte grown so quick and so prosperous? Because the government and the European community pumps huge money into the local economy, mainly watch industry. We don’t have such possibilities her in Austria. We do have in addition no investor in the background. We are working with our very own capital, we do not own a villa or apartment. Our company car (we call it director’s limousine) is a Smart-car. Both – our home and the company – is rented to have the opportunity to work with our own limited money. Our pension fund lies in watch parts on our stock. We are working with the limited resources we have and try to make the very best out of it.
TZ: How do you produce all the parts and in which quantities?
H²: Our bridges and plates are CNC-machined like others as well. The difference comes in the details where, for example, the circumference of our main-plates are again reshaped, the drilling for the winding stem is made and all the rubies and pins are set, all by hand. A usual series of plates and bridges with us contains 50 to max. 100 pieces. Turning parts like wheels, pinions, axles are made on common machinery in lots of max. 500 pieces but again finished and assembled by hand. All this reduces the necessary pre-investment for parts. The highest quantity we have in screws since we managed to limit the number of different screws inside A11 to only 3 different sizes. Our shock absorbers are made by KIF because they supply small quantities too differently to Incabloc. Of our fine-timing device we had to buy 2.000 pieces at once, so we have enough for the next ten years. Why? The producer belongs to Swatchgroup and we’ve been forced to buy that quantity or refrain, but we did not have an alternative. This is the only part of the entire 99 in our A11 which is from Swatchgroup-origin.
TZ: But in small quantities the parts are always more expensive?
H²: Yes of course and this dramatically! We are facing costs between three times and eight times compared with similar ETA-components without counting the hand work yet. The positive fact is that quality wise our small series production is on higher level than the standard ETA-production. Our parts are more precise, better in finishing and they are creating jobs for human beings.
TZ: The higher costs and quality will probably lead to price increase on several of your products?
H²: Unfortunately yes. The costs of the movement are too high to be compensated with minor annual increases. We will have to increase the prices of all our existing non-chrono models with the use of our in-house movement for about 40%. The current starter model (Time-Only) costs Euro 2.850,– (about US$ 3.550,–) By beginning of 2015 recently introduced „Felix“ will be our new starter model for Euro 4.450,– (US$ 5.550,–). Over the last ten years Habring² has generated an image as „affordable independent“, we will try to maintain this even though on a higher price level with more exclusivity due to the in-house movement. We would love to continue our strategy with moderately priced pieces but we can’t under these circumstances inside the industry.
TZ: What about the Chrono’s in your range?
H²: The Chrono’s will remain for the time being on ETA-wheelwork. As mentioned: only about 20% of our production are chronographs so we are able to reach out a little longer with the movements on stock. Later – in the coming years – we will use the A11 train gear as well for our COS and Doppel’s. Step by step.
TZ: Higher production volume would decrease the prices for your movement and it’s components probably?
H²: Definitely! But we do neither have the intention to go for mass production nor see serious potential for selling our movement to other companies. A11 might be industrialize able if somebody would be interested by doing so, but we don’t. The reason is simple: In watch business everything gets compared with ETA. To provide same prices for movements like ETA did in the past you need to produce same quantities otherwise you will always be more expensive. And then again investment in machines might be necessary and we would need to change our company structure entirely. And at the end of the day each movement buyer would ask why the movement is more expensive than an equivalent ETA. If you argue „because of the lower volume“ everybody will say: „Produce more!“ So you end up with the economic risk. Another option would be to move to China at least for the production of several components like it is common use in watch business. But this is no option for us since we feel a need to safe jobs here in Austria and it’s surrounding and we need the full control about the quality of our components. Even our boxes are made locally here by a carpenter in the neighborhood. It costs a fortune – compared with the common “made in China” – but it’s worth every single cent since we have a social role as entrepreneurs here in our region.
TZ: There are ideas around to offer watch movements “open source”, what about that?
H²: The basic idea behind “open source” is great but we are too far already since we have are able to produce now everything under our direction. If we would open our drawings to others and name our suppliers others would benefit by saving the development costs we had to invest in the past three years plus the investments for tooling. We would not have a benefit aside buying some components a littler cheaper, maybe. Open-source might make more sense for specialized parts producers who do only concentrate on their very own domain. Somebody who makes balance wheels, for example, like it’s been decades ago in Switzerland.
TZ: You are currently producing about 150 pcs. a year with your team and structure. Where is the ceiling in annual production for Habring²?
H²: We are not sure yet but we think the possible maximum will be somewhere between 200 and 300 pcs. This includes that the both of us are part of the production and assembly process, every single watch goes through our hands. Of course more might be possible but then again we would need to reorganize our company aside the growth and giving up jobs we like to do ourselves. The maximum of 300 comes from the past experience, however since we started to assemble our own pallet forks and producing our own balance wheels it is more likely that we will remain on our current level rather than growing in the coming years. And finally we want to keep Habring² being something special and rare. It’s an affordable, but still exclusive, mainly handmade watch from a small independent family owned company.
Richard & Maria Habring
See also Independent Horology Forum Habring2 Felix 10th Anniversary – The Workshop Tour
Photos: Stefan (Barge)
© Timezone. All rights reserved.
A Conversation with Shinji Hattori, President & CEO of Seiko
A conversation in March 2014 by Jessica
During Baselworld 2014, TimeZone met with Shinji Hattori, President & CEO of Seiko Watch Corporation (Seiko). Mr. Hattori is the great-grandson of Kintaro Hattori, who founded Seiko in 1881. From an early age, Mr. Hattori’s commitment focused exclusively on Seiko. This is different from the typical Fortune 500 CEO whose average tenure at a company is a few years. Mr. Hattori’s steady and continuous commitment to Seiko is certainly reflected in its success. Today, one-third of the world’s watches use Seiko components and demand for high-grade Seiko watches continues to increase worldwide with sales seeing double-digit growth.
Mr. Hattori shares his personal values and insight into how Japan’s oldest watch and clock manufacturer continues to stay one step ahead of the competition. He discusses his involvement in developing the Astron GPS, the significance of the Grand Seiko Historical Collection, the first US Seiko Boutique that opens in August, as well as the the company’s long-term plans to expand its US service center.
Shinji Hattori, President & CEO of Seiko
TimeZone (TZ): Were you involved in the development and design of the Astron GPS?
Shinji Hattori (SH): Yes. Astron is a project that is very close to my heart and I was involved in every aspect of its development.
TZ: How did you conceive of the Astron GPS?
SH: We’re now experiencing rapid globalisation and I felt we needed to develop watches that were also borderless. I had been thinking for a while that a watch that adjusted to the exact time anywhere on Earth could be very convenient and popular. In 2005, we began a brainstorming project to envision our future watches. Everyone agreed our biggest dream was making a watch with a GPS function. The GPS watch provides exact local time anywhere, even in the middle of the Pacific Ocean or on top of Mt. Everest.
TZ: From 2005 until 2012, that’s seven years from the time the Astron GPS was conceived until it came to market. That seems like a long-term commitment to the project?
SH: Our engineers are given a lot of freedom to pursue whatever they think is innovative, and they’re given the time and resources to do it.
TZ: It seems like Seiko’s commitment paid off.
SH: The first technical revolution was the first quartz watch [the original Seiko Astron of 1969]. We introduced the new Astron in 2012 as the second technical revolution. The new Astron will be as important as the first quartz watch in terms of its impact on the watch industry. Many tens of thousands of customers are now wearing the new Astron. We expect that with the addition of the new Caliber 8X82, the growth will extend into 2014.
As for the long-term, please think of this. Astron is not just a watch. It is a platform on which the future of Seiko’s watch business will be built. That means that the Astron may be the de facto standard in the watch industry.
TZ: Can you describe the typical Astron customer?
SH: Private customers for Astron are young people, successful people, the international business community and the world business traveller. These people want watches that are distinctive, and they want a watch that shows the world that they have a strong sense of style. So we were careful to make Astron’s design different and to reflect in the design the functions of the watch.
TZ: This year, the Astron GPS Chronograph has a smaller case dimension and is thinner.
SH: Yes, the new Astron is 30% smaller than the existing one. It’s also lighter and the operation is easier and more intuitive.
TZ: The original Astron GPS seems more sporty. It seems with the new Astron GPS Chronograph, the design has taken a turn towards elegance?
SH: Yes, we are adding 11 new models this year for a total of over 20 models with two calibers. We’re making more design variations for wider appeal. For example, we’ll have a luxury version.
For example, and this is just an idea, but if a very wealthy person like a King or Sheikh commissions 100 million Japanese Yen [~$1 million], we could organise a unique jewellery version.
TZ: A high jewellery Astron GPS?
SH: That’s just an example of an idea we’re considering. [Earlier,] I explained about one new model with a resort concept. We have existing models that are appropriate for the office. Now we have a new version that anyone can wear, including ladies, to the resort.
Astron GPS Chronograph is 30% smaller, thinner & lighter with more styles, including a “resort” concept
TZ: I really liked last year’s Kintaro Hattori Astron. In a very subtle way, the design details communicate so much about the Seiko brand as a whole. In particular, the case back is engraved, “One Step Ahead of the Rest”. Can you explain the meaning of this ideal?
SH: Kintaro always said, ‘With no hurry or rest, always stay one step ahead of the rest. Not two or three steps. Taking too many steps ahead would distance you from the public. One step ahead is important.’
TZ: So, today, how does Seiko stay one step ahead of the competition?
SH: Seiko is famous for its cutting edge technology. Seiko has always sought advanced technologies. In our 100-year history of wristwatches, we have made so many of the world’s firsts. At the same time, we also have a long history of fine craftsmanship in making mechanical watches. So I think our strength is that we have both. Astron is the symbol of hi-tech. Grand Seiko is the symbol of Seiko’s craftsmanship.
Until five or six years ago, Grand Seiko was kept within Japan and it was popular within Asia. Then, ever since we announced Grand Seiko as an international brand, it’s been growing in popularity in Europe and, of course, it’s growing in popularity in the USA. I’m sure in the future, Grand Seiko will be recognised as an international luxury brand.
TZ: Last year, we saw the Grand Seiko 44GS Tribute as the first introduction in the Historical Collection. This year, we see the Grand Seiko Self-Dater Tribute as the second addition to the Historical Collection. Is the Historical Collection a permanent collection and are there plans to reissue other historical Grand Seiko models?
SH: Yes. The answer is yes. We will always bring to market models that show the new international audience that Grand Seiko is a brand with a long history and rich heritage.
Grand Seiko combines innovation with a sense of our history. That is why the new caliber hi-beat GMT [Caliber 9S86] and our most advanced caliber, the Spring Drive, are reserved exclusively for Grand Seiko.
Today, you see a wider Grand Seiko collection than you have ever seen before. But Grand Seiko is not a nostalgia brand. Grand Seiko will always look to the future more than it looks to the past.
Grand Seiko will always look to the future more than it looks to the past – Shinji Hattori
TZ: Is Seiko planning to open its first US boutique on Madison Avenue?
SH: Yes, the new Seiko Boutique opening party will be held on August 19, 2014. Also, at the opening will be the announcement of a new Astron.
TZ: Will the new US boutique be managed by Seiko?
SH: Yes, it’s managed by Seiko USA.
TZ: Are there future plans to service Grand Seiko in the US?
SH: Yes, in the future we have plans to service Grand Seiko in the USA. For now, most of the Grand Seiko servicing is done in Japan. Some parts, like the bracelet or case parts, can be serviced now in the USA. But with the growth of Grand Seiko, we plan to be able to service Grand Seiko entirely in the United States.
TZ: Is Credor going to be available in the US?
SH: At the present moment, we do not have plans for Credor in the USA. In the future, it may be possible. But for now, we’re sticking with Astron and Grand Seiko as the most important international brands.
TZ: Then, another big announcement this year is that PROSPEX is going international. Seiko’s sports segment seems to be growing, along with the increasing number of athlete sponsorships?
SH: Yes, Seiko served as official timekeeper to the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. The Olympics made Seiko famous in sports. Today, the [selection of] Seiko sports watches is getting bigger and wider.
In Europe, we sponsored FC Barcelona, 49er Yachting and [Russian professional long jumper] Darya Klishina . We also sponsor Hope Solo and Landon Donovan, who help promote our strength in sports, official timing activities and athletics. This year, we announced that we sponsor Novak Djokovik. He will also help promote PROSPEX, our elite collection of professional sports watches that is opening to the international market. You will see a new and very different campaign for PROSPEX with Novak Djokovik.
TZ: How relevant do you consider the Internet to Seiko?
SH: Yes. The Internet is relevant in terms of marketing, sales and then PR in the most major way.
When you think about Grand Seiko, it’s been a secret for 50 years. What changed is the Internet. The Internet, TimeZone and many others, have put the reputation of Grand Seiko out there and we had to internationalise Grand Seiko. And now, the reputation of Grand Seiko is growing primarily because of the Internet. If we look at the coverage in the media of Grand Seiko, it’s disproportionate to its sales or its retail distribution. The power of the Internet is best expressed by Grand Seiko.
It’s strange that a traditional watch would be so susceptible to the most modern of communication media. In large part, in the USA especially, thanks to TimeZone.
TZ: Mr. Hattori, thank you very much for your time and this rare opportunity to speak with you. In following a tradition on TimeZone, may I ask what timepiece are you wearing?
SH: Yes, thank you very much. I’m wearing the Astron GPS Solar Chronograph Limited Edition.
Shinji Hattori wearing the new Astron GPS Solar Chronograph LE
Astron GPS Solar Chronograph LE, SSE001
See also Seiko Forum Basel 2014: A Look at the Seiko Novelties
See also Seiko Forum A Conversation with Shinji Hattori, President & CEO of Seiko
Photos: Paul Boutros
© Timezone. All rights reserved.
Oliver Ike founded Ikepod twenty years ago. After leaving Ikepod in 2003, he consulted for a number of watch companies until he founded his second Swiss watch company and revived the A. Manzoni & Fils brand name. The company’s first watch is the Canopus Weekplanner, a mechanical watch that features a 52-week indication, day, date and moon phase.
Those familiar with Ikepod recall that in the early 1990s, Oliver Ike partnered with industrial designer Marc Newson with the idea to merge Swiss mechanical watchmaking with contemporary design. At the time, Ikepod was entirely original with compelling designs and attention to detail. The monocoque cases had no lugs and were fitted with domed sapphire crystals and integrated straps. The chronometre-grade movements were available in complications such as a split-seconds chronograph (rattraprante), dual time, GMT, worldtimer, weekplanner and even a flying tourbillon.
Oliver Ike continues the same language with A. Manzoni & Fils and realises industrial design directly into his dials, cases, bracelets and mechanical movements. Oliver Ike provides TimeZone with some insight into his new company, its first watch and where the company is headed.
The Canopus Weekplanner with a 52-week indication
TimeZone (TZ): Why launch through Kickstarter?
Oliver Ike (Ike): To give people a chance to get in on the ground floor. It’s definitely not a popular idea here in Switzerland because I’m not going through normal distribution channels. Plus, I’m showing how much markup there is for distribution and advertising. But this way, people have a chance to get the watch without the standard markup.
TZ: Kickstarter is such a brief window of time. Are you well capitalised after Kickstarter?
Ike: Oh yes. This project is much bigger than Kickstarter. I started [direct sales] because it keeps the price accessible. But we’re capitalised and the watch will go into production along with other models. But when we go through normal distribution, then we can’t do direct sales because we would compete with our own distributors and I would never do that.
TZ: I noticed your Kickstarter page is also written in Japanese. Do you anticipate a strong following in Japan?
Ike: Yes, very strong in Japan. Ikepod was selling 80% in Japan.
TZ: How did you choose the brand name “A.Manzoni & Fils”?
Ike: I discovered an abandoned factory building here in Lugano. I found it belonged to a brand called, “A. Manzoni & Fils” and they produced watch movements from 1888 to 1978. So this really gave me the true inspiration to revive this old luxury brand. And I have also talked to the building owners about plans to use this as a future premises.
TZ: What makes A.Manzoni & Fils different?
Ike: There’s no original contemporary design in watchmaking. That’s because the worlds of design and watchmaking don’t normally meet, even though there’s a market demand for this.
The last important watch designer was Gerald Genta. We all recognise his icons – the Royal Oak, Pasha, Nautilus. And he’s been copied over and over again.
My entire life I’ve worked with design studios, so it’s natural for me to merge beautiful design details with watchmaking. What we’re doing with A.Manzoni & Fils is bringing a clear cultural reference to every watch. In the Canopus Weekplanner, the cultural references are Brazilian. [Landscape architect] Roberto Burle Marx designed a number of public spaces throughout Brazil. The patterns from two of his signature projects are referenced in the [Canopus Weekplanner] aesthetics.
TZ: Are those the mosaic sidewalks in Copacabana and Ipanema?
Ike: Yes, exactly. The movement’s rotor is finished in a Côtes de Copacabana decoration and the same pattern continues on the dial. Then, the bracelet references Ipanema. So in this way, these references express our brand identity, “A movement of culture”.
This is our company slogan, but nowadays we can’t say “slogan” anymore so we call it a “strapline”.
TZ: So your company strapline is, “A movement of culture”?
Ike: Yes. In the future, we will use different patterns from different architects, and always our watches refer to culture.
Today, watchmakers have all the complications; there’s a watches with spinning wheels where you can’t even read the time. It’s technical genius, but there’s zero cultural reference.
With A.Manzoni, you discover that the details all refer to cultural heritage. Architecture, art, history; cultural identity is important to [A.Manzoni’s] aesthetics.
Landscape architect Roberto Burl Marx influences on the Canopus Weekplanner dial
TZ: You’re using a monocoque case, which reminds me of Ikepod.
Ike: Yes, you can see the same language in terms of merging watchmaking with industrial design. But there are distinct differences. Today, Ikepod is a completely different company from what I started 20 years ago and I don’t relate to the new timepieces.
TZ: I don’t think you ever made a quartz Ikepod that’s available now?
Ike: That’s right. It’s not the same company it was. I’m not interested in cheap watches with cheap aesthetics.
TZ: With A. Manzoni, you’re also collaborating with an industrial designer?
Ike: Yes. But now, I’m doing it differently. I’m collaborating with more than one designer. I already have three designers up the line; three designers of three different nationalities. But for our first watch, I collaborated with Ilkka Suppanen; he’s a Finnish designer. He designed the super-ellipse case, which is neither round nor square. Then the crystal is also a super-elliptic form.
Both were very complicated to make, which is why collaborating with a designer has to be more than just a briefing. It has to be a long term effort because designers don’t know watchmaking. They don’t understand how components are made or how watch movements work.
TZ: You’re using a Soprod movement?
Ike: Yes, I considered other movements, but I was really happy with using Soprod [A10 chronometre movement], and Dubois Dépraz for the complication. The movement is really good with 25 jewels. The best.
In fact, we chose the best independent suppliers for everything. They’re the most renown craftsmen of their field. The super-ellipse case is very complicated and made by RD Manufacture in the Jura. The bracelet is made by Broggioli here in Lugano. The fine regulation clasp is made by Erbas. The strap is Camille Fournet. Even the watch box is made by Pierluigi Ghianda, who is the foremost wood craftsmen.
TZ: On Kickstarter, you had some beautiful objects available at various pledge levels. Will these be available on a permanent basis?
Ike: We’ll have some applied art objects available that are made by the best craftsmen. There’s a bookmark, The first phase will all be time-related. Everything has to do with time. For example, we’ll have a table and a grandfather clock.
TZ: Will the table clock be quartz?
Ike: No! [Laughs] No, no. No quartz. The table clock will have an 8-day movement with power reserve. A.Manzoni makes the only 8-day power reserve clock movement.
TZ: Actually, that sounds really special. I’m always looking for interesting clocks.
Ike: The grandfather clock is also special. A.Manzoni will have a clock with a GMT with all the cities of the world.
Maybe in the future we will do some objects and collaborate with renown craftsmen, like Lladro or Baccarat. Contemporary craftsmen who are the best at what they do. But for now, we chose the first two items to be the table clock and grandfather clock.
TZ: It sounds promising and exciting. I’ll be keeping an eye on your new company and wish you the very best.
Ike: Thank you. And thank you to everyone at TimeZone.
Landscape architect Roberto Burl Marx influences on the bracelet
An interview in March 2013 by William Massena
TimeZone (TZ): Richard, can you tell us briefly about your life prior to joining TimeZone?
Richard Paige (RP): Being a Fourth generation watchmaker, I spent most of my life working in the watch and jewelry retail business, although I also dabbled in real estate development for a number of years alongside my retailing. Upon graduating from college in Boston, I migrated to California to attend graduate school. Having no money to pay for out-of-state tuition, I decided to work for a year or so to gain California residency and hopefully gather college funds. On a whim, I opened my own watch repair business in Mill Valley, California, and decided I liked being on my own and not in school. This small repair shop evolved into a full blown antique watch and jewelry retail store, and then into several in the San Francisco Bay Area and Hawaii. Being at “ground zero” of the Internet in the 1990s, I, of course, got swept up in the online world, and started to work with the very first online auction site: OnSale.com in 1995. After gathering online knowledge and experience, I took my retail store, Paris 1925, online in 1995. Shortly thereafter, I discovered TimeZone.com through surfing the web.
TZ: Tell us more about Paris 1925. You were an AD for a few brands, how did you choose them? What was your taste in watches?
RP: I had opened five retail stores in the North Bay of San Francisco, but always dreamed of having a high profile San Francisco location. I knew I needed a niche to set me apart from the big, established, internationally known stores in San Francisco. So in 1987, I created a store in San Francisco in the 1920s Art Deco mode and specialized in Art Deco art, furniture, antique jewelry, and of course vintage watches. I had been collecting watches since a young teenager so, of course my “Watch Obsessive Compulsive Disorder” was fueled by now being in a high profile location and had the ability and credibility to become authorized dealers for some of the great Swiss watch companies. I had a passion for large, oversized watches with exaggerated designs so I sought out the manufacturers who were going in this direction: ChronoSwiss, Ulysse Nardin, IWC, Alain Silberstein, Ventura, IkePod, Dubey & Shaldenbrand, Bell & Ross, and my perennial favorite: Jaeger-LeCoultre. My dad carried JLC in his store in the 1950s.
Richard Paige and his father inside Paris 1925 (San Francisco, 1989)
TZ: Do you remember your early posts before you bought TZ?
RP: Yes, I certainly do! I was a very obnoxious poster because I couldn’t believe that the only topic that most posters wanted to discuss was what was a better watch: Omega or Rolex. Of course, as I “matured” as a poster, I tried so hard to really answer questions if I new the correct answer and to try to introduce some other brands into the discussions. I kind of saw myself as someone who could give an insiders viewpoint on the watch industry and history of the genre.
TZ: TZ was “bombed” in the fall of 1995. Did you immediately contact the owners in Singapore to buy it? How did it go?
RP: Well, even before the infamous “bombing of TimeZone” , I had been in touch with the owners of the site in Singapore, and had kind of hinted around that I was interested in the domain name. They really weren’t part of the TZ community, but were web designers who had created TZ to show potential clients what could be done with the Internet. When the “bombing” occurred, they had just about had enough of the chaos of TZ, so they shut down the site, and were VERY glad to hand the reigns over to me (for a price). I worked out a deal with them, and immediately took over the responsibility of trying to resurrect TZ from the ashes of the bombing. To those of you who don’t understand what the bombing was: in the old days of the Internet there was no registration nor restrictions on posting. So a malicious poster could create a silly post, keep his finger on the “post” button, and “overtake” the forum with the same repetitive post, over and over, ad nauseam. Eventually shutting down the site with “cyber overkill”.
TZ: Was the motivation to buy TZ to establish a web commerce or you saw the potential?
RP: I realized early in the game, that it would have been business suicide to try to use TimeZone.com to promote my retail watch store, Paris 1925. I needed to make a distinction between Richard Paige, the owner of a watch retail store, and Richard Paige, the owner of TimeZone.com. I think I achieved this to some degree, because most people who visited TZ didn’t know that I also was in the retail watch business. But, I would be dishonest if I didn’t state that I did, indeed, do a lot of business from the ones who did know. You must remember that at this time the “dot.com” explosion was beginning to mushroom and everyone wanted a piece of this new world, so I quickly understood that I could have something of great value if I stayed true to my philosophy. But I also realized that I had a very short window in which to achieve this goal, since things on the Internet were moving at “business light speed.”
TZ: Did you discuss the potential of TimeZone with some watch brands? What was their reaction?
RP: Oh yes, in the very beginning, I tried so hard to get the Swiss watch companies to pay attention to what I was doing with TimeZone.com, but they really didn’t want any part of it. In fact, they saw me as “the enemy”; one who was deliberately trying to undermine their established pricing structure. They were appalled that I “allowed” people to sell their brands discounted on the Sale Corner, and advised me to seek legal counsel. Before TimeZone, I was an accepted player in the Watch Industry: I was brought up in the business, I knew how to act and who to show respect to and who to Kowtow to. They couldn’t understand why someone from “the Club” could become a sort of traitor to the industry, and most threatened to take my authorized dealerships away. At the International watch shows I was treated as a pariah by most. Eventually, some companies took a more visionary approach, and began to see TimeZone and the Internet for what it was: a fantastic place to promote their products.
TZ: The word “WIS” has become somewhat of a standard in the watch forums/blogosphere, how did you get that idea? I still have my pin and I remembered that nobody dare call himself a WIS without his pin which was a big motivation to write and contribute to TZ.
RP: Actually the WIS idea came very naturally to me. As TimeZone became more and more popular and influential, it started to attract more and more watch fanatics and zealots to the site. This core group of “closet watch lovers” finally had a neighborhood that they could hang out in and feel right at home and comfortable in. Talking about “beats per minute” of watches at a diner party probably didn’t go over so well with most of us, but now we had a like minded group of people who all played well together in the playground, and we could talk about watches to our hearts content. But, as I followed the dialogues, monologues, and soliloquies each day from the TimeZoners, I became astonished at the amount of watch trivia and nuanced minutiae that the TimeZoners collectively had. And I found it very funny.
Some of them reminded me of the Dustin Hoffman character in the movie “Rain Man”, who was an idiot savant (a person who is considered to be mentally handicapped but displays brilliance in a specific area, especially one involving memory). Thus the Watch Idiot Savant was born….. One who doesn’t remember his wife’s birthday, but can rattle off the amount of jewels in Rolex Daytona. I jokingly came on the forum and stated that I had started a new club: the “Society of Watch Idiot Savants”…or “SWIS” for short. I even created and produced a “TimeZone WIS Pin”, which I gave out to the forum posters who contributed a great post or helped another TimeZone visitor…. or as a contest prize. To my amazement and amusement, it really took off, and everybody started calling themselves WISs. And to be honest with you, to this day, I still get a kick out of it when someone talks about WIS.
TZ:How did you meet Walt Odets? How did you convince him to join TZ?
RP: Walt is a story unto himself. I stumbled across Walt on TZ back in 1996 or 97. He was a constant thorn in my rump, always hypercritical of my steerage of the site, and constantly on my case for supporting the watch companies and trying not to step on their toes. I instinctively knew that I had to have the blessing, or at least the cooperation of the Swiss watch Industry, to have any credibility on the international stage that the Internet provided.
But Walt felt differently, and let me know it at each turn. We both were becoming high profile players on TZ: me, as the owner, and Walt, as the Resident Expert. Finally, since we both lived in Bay Area, we agreed to meet and have lunch. I prepared myself for the worst. But I found Walt to be fascinating. It had been such a long time since I had met a true intellectual, and Walt was the quintessential intellectual.
Here was a guy who could quote the great philosophers, understand the inner workings of the emotional brain as a Psychologist, and talk casually about weighting a balance wheel on a watch. He was truly uncanny and also had a good sense of humor. So I asked him to come onboard and work with me on TZ for a percentage of the ownership. I figured it’s better to have him on the team, [rather] than the opposing team, and he had so much to offer and contribute. He agreed to my offer, and the rest is TimeZone history. However, at the very end of my tenure, our personalities clashed again and we parted as we had started, as adversaries.
TZ: Do you consider Walt’s Rolex Explorer review a turning point in the history of TZ?
RP: Yes, it certainly was a demarcation point for TimeZone. After the infamous “TimeZone Bombing”, and I took over the reigns of TZ, I became more heavy handed and tried to steer the forum discussions towards a sort of “Watch Political Correctness” where every watch brand had an audience and a place in the world of watches. However, with the review of the Rolex Explorer, and the trashing of the Rolex “sacred cow”, many TimeZone regulars became upset, unnerved, and disturbed about this perceived negative review of the Holy Grail of watch brands and saw TimeZone as something more sinister than what it was. The Rolex Explorer review seemed to spread like wildfire throughout the watch Internet community and then into the industry players, who didn’t appreciate negativity from someone as renowned as Walt Odets. It seemed to split the community in half; those that hailed Walt’s honesty and those who saw the review as a huge blunder. It certainly added to the mystic of TimeZone, both positive and negative. But I guess in the final analysis, that old adage holds true: there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
TZ: When did you decide to sell TZ? And why?
RP: I was an early adopter of the Internet and prided myself on my foresight in buying TimeZone in 1996. However, in 1999 I really began to see the handwriting on the wall. This was at the height of the DotCom explosion, and everyone wanted a piece of the pie. The IPOs for Internet stocks were exploding and the valuations began to get very frothy. With the successful IPO of stocks like Amazon and eBay, in 1997 and 1998, all eyes were on Internet companies. At this point, I hadn’t made any money to speak of with TimeZone, and it was costing me more than I could afford. Also, my wife and I just had another baby, and I had thrown all my chips on the table with TimeZone when I closed my retail store to become a pure Internet owner.
I was starting to get approached by all sorts of players, both with money and without, about selling or merging TimeZone to, or with, other bigger players. I realized that in order for me to achieve my dreams and goals I had to take TimeZone to the next level; which would require a major infusion of capital and was something I just didn’t have. So, I sought a White Knight. Someone who could capitalize the concept and still allow me to run [TimeZone] the way I loved. This was naïve thinking. I sold the website to Ashford.com, a publicly traded company, in October of 1999. Sure, they let me still manage the site, but they stifled my creativity so much that I just couldn’t look at myself in the mirror anymore. I left TimeZone in May of 2001.
TZ: Do you regret selling TZ? Would you have done thing differently looking back?
RP: “Regret” is an elusive term. I certainly felt very emotional when I finally gave up ownership to Ashford.com. Part of the sales agreement was that I would stay on for two years and run the site: a “sweetheart” deal that paid me well to keep my focus on the site. But, it quickly evolved into me having to fit into their corporate structure and act like an officer of a publicly traded company, and not an Internet creator nor maverick.
I’m an entrepreneur. I had run my own businesses for the last 25 years and really didn’t fit into this profile of having to explain myself and get approval from those above me in rank to do any changes to the site. So, after only a year, I was fired from the company. My first job [as an employee] and first firing.
As fate would have it, the Internet bubble began to burst and Ashford starting to fall into the sinkhole of the market crashing. They offered TimeZone back to me. I offered them all my stock back, but they also wanted as much money as they could get. Some of you reading this article may remember me calling you around this time, as I was trying to put together a group to buy TimeZone.com back and continue where I had left off. But, I just couldn’t come to an agreeable price from Ashford and I moved on. Would I have done it differently looking back? In hindsight, yes. I would have gone with my other options that were available at the time.
TZ: How has the watch business evolved because of the Internet in the past 20 years?
RP: I truly believe that the Internet has altered the course of the watch industry down a path that it never would have taken had the Internet not existed. The Internet’s influence has been profound and provocative, and has truly changed the way the watch industry does business. As the Internet gave the watch companies a broad vehicle to promote their brands, and opened up their audience base dramatically, they discovered that the “brand name” is everything.
Today, the industry has evolved into a “war of attrition”. Most of the well known brand name watches were bought up by the large Swiss watch conglomerates, the biggest player being the Swatch Group. Swatch owns around 18 different watch brands, including Breguet, Omega, Tissot, Blancpain, Tiffany & Co., Longines, Rado, Hamilton and so many others. I believe this evolution would never have taken place without the Internet’s ability to reach a vast audience that gave the big conglomerates the ability to promote and sell to customers their brands that go from cheap to very expensive.
TZ: What do you think of TZ today?
RP: I think it still shines as a great destination to learn about the world of watches.
TZ: Twenty years ago the brands missed the opportunity to an early dialogue with collectors through Internet forum. Today, they go gaga with blogs and bloggers and treat them like royalty. Do you think they overcompensate and don’t want to miss the next opportunity?
RP: To be honest with you, I haven’t the foggiest idea, anymore, what goes through the minds of the big brand name companies. I’m not sure I understand their business model to buy every, and all, brand names they can get their hands on. Are they the new Proctor & Gamble of watches? Or do they just think that more is better. However, as I just launched my own new brand of watches, I do see how the dialogue with Internet blogs and bloggers is absolutely essential and important to smaller companies that need the interaction between customer and brand.
Richard Paige: Internet pioneer, entrepreneur and creator of the Rpaige Wrocket watch (Hawaii, 2013)
TZ: Let’s get back to you. You moved to Hawaii and created a new business, what was it?
RP: When I finally moved to Hawaii, after working with TimeZone for 5 years, I had pretty much burnt out with my career in the watch and Internet world. I needed a new focus and I needed to get involved with something that was new and as far away from the jewelry and watch business as possible. So, as a incurable entrepreneur, I first got involved in a start up “Healthy Fast Food” business with some watch guys here in Hawaii. Then I invested in a water bottling plant, which was about as far away from watches as I could get. Then moved into harvesting, desalinating, and bottling Deep Ocean water. From there I became very active in real estate development (which I had been doing alongside retailing since 1985).
TZ: Why come back to watches today?
RP: As fate would have it, about a year ago I got very sick and had a lot of downtime to recover. My wife decided that she wanted to buy me a watch to cheer me up for my birthday. We went to a high profile watch store and looked at everything in my wife’s price range, but I didn’t like anything – everything I did like seemed so expensive. Then, a few days later, I was going through my old stuff and found a watch that I had produced in 1987: a pocket watch that I had converted into a wristwatch. It hit me like a thunderbolt. I never finished this project that I started in 1987, and I was never more happy than when I was creating, designing, and working on art, watches and jewelry. So I decided, right there and then, that I would finish this project of one of my great passions in life – designing, manufacturing, and selling art that tells time.
TZ: What can you tell us about the Wrocket?
RP: The Rpaige Wrocket watch is a true labor of love for me. It’s the watch that I always wanted for myself. I’m a huge fan of Art Deco and especially the architecture of this period: The Chrysler Building, The Empire State Building, Rockefeller Plaza, etc. If you really think about it, all the different variations on the theme of wristwatch design were born in this era: circles, squares, and rectangles. The wristwatch really hasn’t changed in design since the 1920s when it first became a prominent style of jewelry for men.
So I set about creating my ultimate “dream watch”. A Chrysler Building for the wrist with a first class motor inside.
As I got more and more wrapped up in this watch, I began to realized that what I really wanted to do was to not only create this watch for myself, but to complete the project I had started in 1987; the Pocket watch converted to wristwatch, wrist-pocket watch… Wrocket. The next logical step was create a new brand, the Rpaige Watch, and begin the journey of designing, engineering, manufacturing, and selling this watch.
But, what was also nagging at my brain was the fact that any watch company could produce a great $25,000 watch. But could they produce a great limited edition watch for under $3,000?? This was my obsession, challenge, and goal. An affordable limited edition masterpiece.
I wanted the watch to be unique. Let’s face it, from the across the room it’s very difficult to differentiate one watch from another. They seem to all mimic each other in design and style: military, chronograph, divers: in round, square and rectangle. I wanted the watch to be able to be recognized from across the room – dial, hands, case. “Hey, that’s a Rpaige Watch!”
Equally important as the design is the mechanical movement or “engine” of the watch. It’s the heart and soul of a watch, and determines the brand’s relevance, worth, prestige, and historical place in the watch world. Since I’m not a watch movement manufacturer, I needed to have a movement that fit my idea of importance for my new watch. I couldn’t use an ETA, that would make me another “Me Too” watch, and I couldn’t use a “great House” movement, that would make the watch way too expensive for my parameter of a watch under $3,000. Where could I turn? I turned to my roots. I had learned to fix watches on old American pocket watch movements. These are great teaching devices because the plates, wheels and parts are “oversized” compared to wristwatch movements, and it’s easier to understand watch mechanical theory by being able to visually see the parts in action. These watches were a pleasure to work on: great materials, great design, and visually beautiful. I fell in love with these miniature “motors” of a time and era of long ago. But it wasn’t till many years later, after I had become adept at repairing modern watches, did I come to realize that I had learned my trade on the “Michangelos” of movements. The Golden Era of Watchmaking: American pocket watch movements made between 1890 and 1930. So now I had identified my movements, and the project took a giant step forward. The Wrocket watch: a fusion of the pocket watch and the wristwatch.
Wrocket with Black Dial in Steel
TZ: Will you sell exclusively on the net or will you eventually expand to retailers?
RP: For now, I’m going to sell exclusively on the net through my website (www.rpaigewatch.com). This way I can assure that I can keep my price under $3,000. If I sold to stores they would have to retail close to $4,000. However, I would really like to have a few good retail stores represent my watches and think I’ve come up with a way to do this and still keep the prices reasonable. And then I could have an avenue for my next design, which I’m currently working on. So, at this point I’m currently searching for retailers who understand what I’m doing.
TZ: Your Price point is very aggressive, what makes you keep cost low and still sell these watches at a profit?
RP: Well, that’s a hard question to answer. I needed the first design to be a home run so that it would give me the opportunity to create additional designs in the future. And since I had to reengineer the design to accommodate the antique/vintage movements which don’t use a modern detent plate stem, using instead the original sleeve design, the manufacturing costs were challenging. Also, there are the labor costs to restore the original movements. So I don’t plan on getting rich with the first watch, but hoping to make out better on the next design since the engineering costs have already been paid for.
TZ: Is there a next generation of Paige watchmakers coming?
RP: I don’t think so, my two daughters don’t think too much about watches, and they think I’m crazy to wear a watch when I can get the time from my Iphone. Of course, at some time in the future, they may see things differently.
TZ: And the traditional TZ question: What watch are you wearing today?
RP Is this a gotcha question? [Laughs]. I love that your asking me this question because I used to ask this question once a week on TimeZone, and it was my favorite question to ask. To me it was the quintessential post on TZ. And it was always such a popular Post. Everybody seemed to like this question, whether they were knowledgeable about watches or not, it gave them a chance to participate in the forum discussions and to become part of the show. For some TZers, it let them show everyone else how sophisticated or knowledgeable they were, and I often wondered if the watches they were saying was on their wrist, really was on their wrist, or just wishful thinking, or the best watch they had in their collection, even if they weren’t wearing it.
To wit, one time while I was still the owner of TZ, I was traveling with a good friend of mine. While we were having lunch together, we both logged on to TZ on our laptops at the same time. I had posted the “What are you wearing” question earlier and I was reading the posts about what everyone was wearing. Then I noticed that my friend had just posted that he was wearing a Lange 1, which was in his collection; however, when I looked over at his wrist he had a Seiko diver on!! I still kid him about that to this day.
So in the interest of honesty, I’m wearing nothing on my wrist. I never wear a watch when I’m just hanging out at home.
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An interview in March 2013 by Paul Boutros
Smart, warm, and gracious, Carole Forestier-Kasapi is Cartier’s watchmaker extraordinaire. Born into a family of watchmakers, her infectious passion for watchmaking is felt the moment she begins speaking. During a brief interview in Geneva during SIHH 2013, Carole explained how proud she is of the 2013 collection developed by the Cartier team.
Carole Forestier-Kasapi, Head of Fine Watchmaking, Cartier
Photo Credit: Cartier
TimeZone (TZ): First, sincere congratulations for winning the “Best Watchmaker Prize” during last year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève! It was a well-deserved honor. Can you tell us how you got started in watchmaking?
Forestier-Kasapi: Thank you, Paul. I was born into it. My parents were watchmakers. My brother is a watchmaker. As a child, I was always in the shop where my father worked and I started dismantling different watches. My brother started in the same way, and wanted just to fix the mechanisms to get them to work. Getting them to work was not my goal. I’ve always been very curious, and like to know how things work – not only regarding horology. My goal was to figure out how the watches worked, and the possibilities to get them to work in a different way.
TZ: We saw so much diversity in this year’s new introductions from Cartier – the Métiers d’Arts, the Mysterious watches, and a new in-house chronograph for the Calibre de Cartier. What sources of inspiration do you and your team draw from to develop new introductions?
Forestier-Kasapi: There are different ways. First of all, I don’t put limits in place. I always try to question everything. For instance, today’s traditional oscillator – the balance wheel with hairspring – that’s not necessarily the best solution. I’m ready to put that into question. Once you have the mindset of putting existing things in question, that pushes you to be more creative and to drive innovation. This was how the Astrorégulateur was born – when we put in question the tourbillon.
Rotonde de Cartier Astrorégulateur
Photo Credit: Cartier
Another source of inspiration is the heritage of Cartier. When I worked with the movements of our historic mysterious clocks, I was inspired. It’s another way to be creative.
Modern Cartier Mystery Clock
TZ: When you presented the Rotonde de Cartier Mystery to the press, you were proud of the fact that 58% of the volume was devoted to the mystery indication. Can you explain why this is so impressive?
Forestier-Kasapi: It’s true, I am proud of it. A large part of the movement is used for the mystery. We managed to develop a movement with a 4 Hz frequency and a power reserve of 48 hours. Most mysterious movements have a very low power reserve. We managed to do this within a small space and maintain a very thin movement, which is a real achievement. I’m probably the only person to appreciate these details!
Rotonde de Cartier Mystery
TZ: Since the launch of Cartier’s Fine Watchmaking Collection in 2008, we’ve seen 47 new references and 16 all new, in-house movements over the past five years. What can we expect to see in the next five years?
Forestier-Kasapi: The development planning up to 2018 is now completed. Our development time is very long – I like to have five years to ensure better solidity and stability. You will see, between 2013 and 2018, there will be some incredible pieces. There will be many new complications that do not exist today. More seriously, the basis of the new collection will be classical pieces. In the Fine Watchmaking Collection, we do need to have tourbillon watches, perpetual calendars, chronographs, etcetera. Once you have all these foundations developed, you can become more creative. The collection will always change. Some calibers will disappear and be replaced by new ones. In five years, there may be a new, completely different chronograph that will replace the central chronograph. We don’t have to have three chronographs in our collection.
Rotonde de Cartier Astrotourbillon
TZ: Will we eventually see more of the ID One and ID Two’s innovations distributed further across Cartier’s watches – even outside of the Fine Watchmaking Collection?
Forestier-Kasapi: Yes, our final goal is to implement all these different technologies within our whole collection. A goal for instance, is to have our caliber 1904 movement be adjustment free. We know this will take some time, and we want to proceed step-by-step. It takes a lot of time to properly industrialize all these new developments.
ID Two Concept Watch
We will never try to go too fast and skip steps. Instead of having a watch without requiring any adjustments, you will have a watch with many problems! We are discovering things every day. We don’t yet understand some of these new technologies completely. We conduct extensive tests and make new discoveries every day. That is a major difference between a traditional development and an advanced technology development. For example, making a tourbillon with a carriage made of titanium or steel – that’s not a big challenge, and it wouldn’t be really fun. We know very well how to design it to be shock resistant. It’s much different when you work with new materials. Things occur that you didn’t know before.
TZ: Cartier’s Tank designs are loved by collectors. Will we see more Tank variations in the future?
Forestier-Kasapi: Certainly! The Tank is really an icon at Cartier. What was the slogan at last year’s SIHH? ‘Never Stop Tank!’
Cartier designed the first Tank watch in 1917. From Cartier’s SIHH 2012 Never Stop Tank Display.
TZ: Do you ever read online forums such as TimeZone.com, and are you ever offended by negative comments? For example, the most frequent criticism I hear is that of the large size of some of Cartier’s watches.
Forestier-Kasapi: From time-to-time, yes. When wrong things are published or mis-information is spread, it sometimes hurts my feelings. Regarding the large sizes, we know and we are aware of it. This year, we made an effort to reduce size. It’s a good thing for us to have some large models because many of our customers desire them. But fashion is changing. So we correct and we improve. We’ve taken this perception into account, especially for the development of new movements. We are really addressing thickness and size.
TZ: Can you comment on this year’s large number of Métiers d’Arts watch introductions?
Forestier-Kasapi: It’s nice to have many variations, for instance, with enamel. We use two techniques – cloisonné and champlevé – for our dials, like many other brands, of course. However we do original, more creative things with the same material. For example we use an enameling technique called Grisaille, which is a transparent type of enameling.
Métiers d’Arts Watch with grisaille enamel horse dial
TZ: What are your favorite watches this year, from both the Fine Watchmaking Collection and Métiers d’Arts collections?
Forestier-Kasapi: From the Métiers d’Arts collection, the Cameo piece – because it’s very French – sorry, I’m French! I just love it, the engraving, it’s really a work of art. Someone’s hand brought it to life.
Rotonde Tourbillon Watch with hand carved Cameo Alligator formed from stone
From the Fine Watchmaking Collection, it’s difficult to say because it’s like trying to identify your favorite child! I love the Double Mystery Tourbillon just for the amount of history that I learned and experienced with the project.
Rotonde de Cartier Double Mystery Tourbillon
The project fulfilled Hélène Poulit-Duquesne’s dream. She is the International Marketing Director. We all work together. The Marketing department is in Paris, and our designers, half are in Paris and the others are in Geneva. My team is in La Chaux de Fonds. This distance makes collaboration difficult. However, another idea of Hélène, we meet one day a week – every Tuesday – for what we call a “Studio” meeting. Our colleagues from Paris, every Tuesday morning, fly in to La Chaux de Fonds and are at the Manufacture by 9:00 AM. The designers from Geneva come in by train. We spend the whole day in a closed room, thinking together. It’s a mandatory meeting, and sometimes we fight. But our creations are the result of this great teamwork.
TZ: Thank you so much for sitting down with us, Carole. We appreciate your time. One last question, which is a tradition with TimeZone interviews – what watch are you wearing today?
Forestier-Kasapi: A Santos Dumont Squelette.
Santos Dumont Squelette
TZ: A favorite of mine. Thank you again, Carole!
Picture credits: Cartier, Paul Boutros
An interview in February 2013 by Howard Parr
In conjunction with the 40th Anniversary of the Royal Oak last year, Audemars Piguet set out to do some deep self-examination. That may sound complex, but in truth the result was a simplification of the message. From a revamped logo and new marketing tagline (“To Break the Rules, You Must First Master Them”), to consistency across the range of the 2012 novelties, and heightened effort to solidify the customer experience.
The brand has been noticeably clarifying its message and its product.
This year we saw a reduction in the number of pieces introduced at SIHH, which follows this same tact. We were also left with a number of questions, which became apparent Internet-wide. In light of much speculation floating around the Web, I requested an interview with AP in order to clarify the goings on.
Newly appointed CEO François-Henry Bennahmias invited me to meet with him this week in New York to address those very questions, and here is that interview.
TimeZone (TZ): You have recently moved from CEO of the Americas to CEO of Audemars Piguet. Congratulations again.
François-Henry Bennahmias (FHB): Thank you
TZ: Audemars Piguet has been working hard on clarifying the message from headquarters to the end client. It shows up in the marketing, the appearance of displays, boutique branding, and the watches themselves. Perhaps you can comment on how this carries forward under your direction.
FHB: I could summarize it in three words: Fewer, Bigger, Better. Which means over the last 5-7 years, we became a little too easy on ourselves. Too many Limited pieces, too many similar watches. So, we have had to do some serious homework. We decided to slow down, reduce the number of references, reposition the collection, and look at which models could sustain for the next 10 years or more.
A pattern developed. We would see a big buzz on new watches, and then people were waiting for the “next big one” a year or two later. We want to build business by being more consistent with the message, the models, the collection itself. It’s certainly not a blank page, but rather more of a cleansing.
We’re doing something unique among manufacturers. We are buying back inventory that has not moved in a while from the retailers, which will help strengthen their existing inventory. We have also lowered prices on some of the precious metal pieces. Over the last 3-4 years, the cost of precious metals has increased dramatically. Consequently, so have all costs. We expect to sell a watch for more than a few years prior, but there is a point where it’s too much, and it doesn’t work.
TZ: It seems to be working really well now, no?
FHB: Now, yes. But there is a point where you have no room for sustained growth. Not just in terms of price, but in terms of the significance of the models. You don’t want to leave a watch insignificant, and the planning and solutions need time to play out.
There are possibilities for growth specifically in precious metal sport watches. And to play effectively in the marketplace, we have to make some adjustments. We determined it was best to do this now. This affected only a small number of references, and on an average there was a 15% reduction on those models. Some more, some less, but that is the precise average.
TZ: And it does not include any Limited Editions?
FHB: No, we didn’t touch those.
Royal Oak Offshore Michael Schumacher LE in Rose Gold
TZ: Some have asked about accommodations for those who recently bought these pieces.
FHB: People have to do what they think is right, period. We are not the only ones who sell our watches. We have some solutions for our own boutique customers–we know what they paid for the watches–and retailers know what they need to do with their customers. They capably handle their own businesses A-to-Z, just as they always do.
TZ: So the goal is specific, not speculative?
FHB: We had to look at last year’s launch of the 37mm Royal Oak, the 41mm Royal Oak, the Royal Oak Chronograph, the Extra Thin Royal Oak. The overall reception was unbelievable. Except, with feedback from clients and retailers, we took a close look and agreed that a number of precious metal pieces were high enough that we could see 2 to 3 years down the road having to introduce new models just to maintain momentum. Not good for anyone. These models were very well received. They have lasting power. We don’t want to replace them so quickly.
Don’t forget, every time we stop a model every 2 or 3 years, the cost of re-tooling a new model, new hands, new crown, new dial, etc. is outrageous. When you consider that the Royal Oak has grown for a 40 year period, it’s crazy to turn through models so quickly when a great 41mm watch has every right to be in the collection for 10 years or more.
Of course, there is room for a special Offshore, or 40th Anniversary Royal Oak, but the core collection is an enduring one, and we need to support it. We are committed to a message of quality and consistency, so this is integral to what we are doing.
TZ: You could see this in this year’s novelties. Some beautiful Ladies models, a few Grand Complications and only a couple of new Offshores.
FHB: Fewer. Bigger. Better. Which is why in 2014 we’ll see fewer Offshore models, and will continue to reduce the number of references. We have to be able to deliver the watches to our customers, and some struggle to find them because we simply have too many references to maintain consistency.
We have two years of “cleansing”, if you will, and come 2015 we’ll be in a good position to stretch a bit.
Royal Oak Offshore Michael Schumacher in Titanium with Cermet Bezel
TZ: Does this include discontinuing the Rubber Clad?
FHB: The Rubber Clad will continue for a little while, and then we’ll see it re-imagined. It has been very successful for us, but it’s been the same watch for a long time. It’s going to be time to do something a bit different, and so in time we’ll see this.
TZ: How about the blue dialed 41mm Royal Oak and Royal Oak Chronograph? Are they now boutique-only?
FHB: Yes, confirmed. And for a simple reason. We cannot make the exact same quantities of the three dials, because of materials access, production scheduling, etc. We simply can’t. So we chose to maintain standard production of the black and white dial models, and instead of going through the process of choosing who gets what from a lower production of blue dialed models, we are simply selling the blue dial versions through the boutiques.
Royal Oak 15400
TZ: And what about Forged Carbon? We’re told no changes for 2013, and keep posting this, but the word ‘discontinued’ keeps popping up around the Internet
FHB: I don’t know where this came from. I can officially say that Forged Carbon is not going anywhere. It has been a very successful material for us. We were first to market with it. We are not stopping Forged Carbon.
And we are always looking at other materials, which leads me back to the “Better” part of our goals. Forged Carbon has been important for us, and it will remain so.
Royal Oak Offshore Diver in ceramic
TZ: How does your goal of “Better” affect your relationship with the retailer network?
FHB: Same as the watches. We have been dealing with quantity over the years, and we need to focus on quality. At every level, and in everything we do. It’s a huge challenge, but this also puts the retailers in a stronger position. We’re spending an extraordinary amount to buy back inventory that has not moved for them. The pricing is positioned for sustainability, and moving forward we are more competitive.
There are maybe 5 to 7 brands who can generate more than $2 Million in annual revenue per door (point of sale), and we are one of them. The concept is proven, and thankfully we have many wanting to become Audemars Piguet retailers. Looking ahead 10 years, we will bring the brand to another level as we have the past 10 years, and the retailers will be pleased. We are not going away from the retailer network, and we could even open stores with the retailers.
The bottom line is we care more about this partnership than ever before, and it means looking ahead. Not just for a sale, or this week. A year, 5 years, 10 years. We are all answering the same question. “Who are we marrying for the long term?”
TZ: Quality over quantity, with the collection and your relationships?
FHB: It’s always about relationship. Always, always, always. And we can improve the collective benefit if we are working toward the same goals.
In 1999, I came to the US and we were doing $6 Million in revenue, with 95 doors (points of sale). We are now at 39 doors, and we just broke $100 Million in sales for the year. What does this say?
TZ: Quality product, sold by quality people, spells luxury.
FHB: REAL luxury. True luxury is the experience that goes with the product. It is not an amount.
TZ:Thank you very much for taking the time to address these questions , and congratulations again on your new role at AP.
FHB: Thank you!
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An interview in October 2012 by William Massena
About Michele Sofisti
Michele Sofisti has extensive experience in the watchmaking industry. Before creating Sofos Management, his own activity devoted to international strategy, marketing and management consulting, in 2005, Michele Sofisti was President of Swatch AG (Switzerland) for five years. He also served as President of Fred Jewellers and Christian Dior watches at LVMH, following his initial experience in the Swatch Group as Vice-President and then President of OMEGA SA. He began his career as a Geologist, then entering Ferrari where he was promoted as CEO of Ferrari Germany. An Italian national, Michele Sofisti earned a degree in Geology from the University of Parma.
Michele Sofisti CEO SOWIND Group
William Massena (WM): After nearly 14 months at Sowind what has changed and what remains to be changed?
Michele Sofisti (MS) We have engaged significant changes in many fields. Girard-Perregaux has intensified sharply its effort in the field of Marketing with many projects such as The New Face of Tradition, a unique initiative in the industry featuring the young watchmakers from our Manufacture, or numerous iconic partnerships with Kobe Bryant or Andrea Bocelli. Very important, the distribution is being rationalized and optimized at the international level. Last but most important, product creation and development are our key field. My motto is simplicity. The brand had too many collections so we are rationalizing our offer and reducing the number of references and collections. This will help for production, communication and visibility in the point of sales. If we are reducing number of references, at the same time we are launching two new product families, developing new high complications. For instance with watchmaking Maestro Dominique Loiseau, we are developing a grand complication from which we will feed the core range with a new family of large calibers.
We will launch of our new sport collection in the USA, in December, which will be a key step for the Brand.
For JeanRichard, we are repositioning the brand, and will unveil its new identity and collections in November. Overall, changes, achievements have been really important. Obviously this is an on-going process.
WM: Is the Integration of an independent brand such as GP within a Luxury Group such as PPR a difficult task?
MS: The philosophy of PPR in this respect is really positive and this helps a lot. The group motto is to empower talent and imagination, help brands grow. The positive and entrepreneurial culture of the Group is therefore really key. The task however is challenging. As I mentioned before, the changes we have and will implement are really significant.
WM: This week PPR has announced that it will divest itself from Mass market distribution companies such as FNAC to concentrate in the luxury market, should we expect more acquisitions of watch companies from PPR?
This is a question for the senior executives of PPR. I guess there is attention on opportunities in different industries, including watches.
WM: You have brought in Dominique Loiseau, a very talented personality in the Watch World, how will he influence GP?
MS: I met Dominique Loiseau several years ago, working together in Omega. He is one of the most talented contemporary watch inventors with a rare vision, and expertise. His ethic and culture are a perfect match with Girard-Perregaux. And Dominique was attracted by the history and creativity Girard-Perregaux offers. He is bringing in is knowledge to the brand ‘Think Tank’, developing a revolutionary complicated watch which will serve a base for future regular collection developments. The manifesto of time, connected to this new grand complication and project aims at overturning watchmaking conventions. Watchmaking has evolved, historically, through conventional and rational means — a logical progression that nonetheless created technical constraints. To move forward, we are trying to free ourselves from these constraints, ignoring the conventions that limit us. This is the intention that animates our development with Dominique Loiseau.
WM: You are about to introduce these new GP references, what can you give a scoop to the TimeZone Audience?
MS: Our next step will be the launch of the new Hawk collection, in Miami during the December 2012 Art Week. It will be a sport collection launching first as a dive watch (Sea Hawk) and a chronograph (Chrono Hawk). The Hawk Collection will renew totally the brand’s tradition of crafting sport watches. It is an innovative, edgy design yet taking from the DNA previous Girard-Perregaux sport watches. The combination of materials proposed is also an important part of this concept.
WM: Traditionally, we always ask the interviewee what watch he is wearing as the last question?
MS: A Sea Hawk Pro 1000m.
Girard-Perregaux Sea Hawk Pro 1000m
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TimeZone Interviews November 6, 2012
A video conversation in November 2012 by Jessica
Jaeger-LeCoultre CEO Jérôme Lambert sat down with TimeZone to discuss the new JLC boutiques opening this year in the U.S., including South Coast Plaza that opened this week, along with other topics specific to watchmaking. Amongst the subjects covered are the Golden Rule of design, the Duomètre Sphérotourbillon, the impact of innovation on affordability, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s manufacturing of movements for other brands, as well as some comments about the watch on his wrist.
Jerome Lambert, CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre
The third U.S. Jaeger-LeCoultre boutique opened this week at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California
A conversation in September 2012 by Jessica
TimeZone met with Patek Philippe President Thierry Stern during his visit to the Patek Philippe Boutique on Rodeo Drive. Steeped in over 170-years of continuous history and tradition, Thierry Stern shared the values of his family-owned company and insight into the Ladies First Complications, the design process and commitment to quality, his continuing passion for movement complications and the factors he considers when deciding to open a boutique.
Thierry Stern, President of Patek Philippe
TimeZone (TZ): Three years ago, Patek Philippe launched the Ladies First Chronograph, Ref. 7071 with a new in-house caliber 20-535 chronograph movement; then, the Ladies First Split Seconds Chronograph, Ref. 7059; and most recently, the Ladies First Minute Repeater, Ref. 7000. In what part of the world have women responded the strongest to your Ladies First Complications?
Thierry Stern (TS): That’s something new. Before that, we had a lot of ladies models that were simple movements. But then, a lot of women in Asia started to ask when were we going to make a complicated movement.
For 10 to 20 years, these women wore beautiful Patek watches with quartz movements or simple mechanical movements. Many of their husbands are watch collectors with minute repeaters or split seconds and their knowledge and understanding grew. Then, these women wanted to have their own complications in a watch designed for them.
This is not just fashion or trend. These women really enjoyed having something complicated and they were ready to buy complications for themselves. So the wave came really from Asia, and now you see it all over the world.
TZ: What type of women are buying the Ladies First Complications?
TS: These are self-made women with great positions in business who want something quite nice and are willing to spend the money for it. They don’t need a husband to buy a watch for them. They’re independent and able to buy one themselves. They are passionate for watches, and sometimes even more passionate than men collectors.
TZ: The design is very thoughtful and balanced. The Ladies First Split Seconds is comfortably sized at 33.2mm and the Ladies First Minute Repeater is perfectly sized at 33.7mm.
TS: The target was not only to provide a complicated movement, but also to have a great design. To do that, I must say that I was happy to have my wife Sandrine work with me. She designed the ladies watches. She’s been working with Patek for 12 years and she designs watches that she would love to wear.
When I was making them, as a man, I could do 80% of the job. But I’m not wearing them. So there was always something missing. We don’t have the same tastes, we are different. So at one level, I need to have a woman in charge of ladies design. Someone who has this final touch that I will never have. That’s how it started. We could build the complexity of the movement, and the beauty and aesthetic of the ladies line is made by a lady.
What was important at the time, and remains today, is that Patek Philippe makes the smallest and the thinnest movements in the world. That helps us create beautiful design.
That’s why at Patek we’re always aiming to have small movements. First of all, it’s fantastic in terms of technology because they are a challenge. But secondly, it allows us to create the perfect shape of a case that’s very flat on the wrist and not big and thick. We cannot create a great design if a movement is too big. The watch will simply be big. With Patek, the movements are so thin that we’re able to realize beautiful designs. Even since I was a child, we have always made a thin movement. We need the thinnest movement because that allows us to create beautiful watches.
7071G Ladies First Chronograph with grey opaline dial and Caliber CH 29-535 PS
TZ: Last year, one of the most beautiful watches released at Basel was the new ladies Nautilus, Ref. 7008. It has a stainless steel case, a mother of pearl dial and an automatic movement. However, it’s only available with a diamond bezel.
TS: I’m very limited in production, so I can’t always provide choices. It’s not always easy for me to decide. Since 50% of women are willing to have diamonds, it was a difficult decision. In fact, we had a lot of discussion about this watch and finally decided to release it with diamonds.
TZ: With the diamonds, the ladies Nautilus is $10,000 more than the men’s stainless steel Nautilus with no diamonds. So it really becomes inaccessible for a woman like me who then has to make a choice of paying substantially more for a ladies watch or settling for a men’s model, or something discontinued or even vintage.
TS: It’s true. I totally agree with you. I’m pretty sure some day you will see a ladies Nautilus without diamonds. [Smiles].
TZ: With a mechanical movement?
TS: Definitely, it will come.
TS: But understand we cannot make everything for everybody. It’s not possible to provide all the varieties people want because with every watch, the aesthetic quality has to be there.
TZ: 15 years ago, Patek lead the market with affordable complications such as an annual calendar and world-time. Is this still the company’s strategy to focus on complications?
TS: This is our skill. It’s not only strategy, this is more our passion at Patek. We’re always willing to develop new movements. We like that. It’s always more exciting to have a movement more complicated. The whole process at Patek has been created to develop complications. This is why we are so known.
We worked really hard in the 1980s where everybody was dead. The quartz movement came in the 1970s, so all the other watchmakers threw away everything, both their equipment and their movements. In the 1980s is when we started to redevelop all our complications. At the time, my father [Philippe Stern] had a vision that only one type of watch should remain – the one with a mechanical complication. He believed there would always be people who appreciate fine mechanisms, whether it’s manual winding or automatic. And he was right. It’s like a nice painting. It’s something unique, rare and made with passion.
So the target is always to do something better, always more complicated. It’s like a brainwash. When you come to Patek we need to make the best complicated movements. We are willing to do that. On the production side, the entire structure is developed to do that.
5270G Chronograph with Perpetual Calendar
Caliber RTO 27 PS QI – minute repeater, tourbillon escapement and instantaneous perpetual calendar
TZ: Our readers were delighted to learn of the opening of the Patek Philippe Boutique in Beverly Hills. What does Patek Philippe look for in a city when opening a boutique and can we expect more boutiques in the future?
TS: The strategy for Patek is not to open a boutique everywhere. We are not willing to do that. We are very cautious. When we open such a boutique, first it has to be in a major city where there are potential collectors and where there are collectors who already understand Patek. When you have production like us of only 50,000 pieces per year, there is no other way to be but very, very exclusive. It’s quite logical to decide to open in a big city. Then you must have the right retailer. It could be the best city in the world, but if the retailer is weak, I will not open there. So you need to have the right partner.
I wish I could please everybody, but it’s not possible. And I’m not willing to increase quantity just like this [snaps fingers]. I’m not aiming for that. The pleasure we have is to be exclusive and to make the finest watches. This is what I will always fight for. So I don’t have a choice. I have to be very, very cautious. One boutique in the United States is fantastic. I don’t know if there will be a second one, and I’m not in a rush. I’m willing to make you happy. That means, when you come into the boutique, it’s something really exclusive and quite unique as an experience. And yes, that’s Patek and it will never change.
Patek Philippe Boutique Beverly Hills – the most sophisticated boutique on Rodeo Drive
TZ: Finally, in closing, we have a TimeZone tradition of asking what watch are you wearing?
TS: The Aquanut Travel Time. It’s very appropriate for me as I travel all the time, so I really enjoy it. I have been wearing it now for a few months and it still works, which is really good. [Both laugh] It’s really useful. You know, I just click to know the time. I have the time set to Los Angeles and the Geneva time. So it’s midnight and I have to go to bed. [Both laugh]
TZ: Thank you so much for your time.
TS: Well, thank you.
Thierry Stern wearing his Aquanut Travel Time, Ref. 5164
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A conversation in May 2012 by Jessica
The Foundation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) recently hosted a cocktail reception to launch “The Mastery of Time” by French author Dominique Fléchon, an historian and expert in antiquarian horology. The 456-page tome divides the major breakthroughs in watchmaking in six thoroughly researched chapters. During the book signing, and with the assistance of his translator, the author shared his thoughts about his latest project.
Dominique Fléchon author of ‘The Mastery of Time’
TimeZone (TZ): It’s a pleasure to meet you. Having read several of your books, it seems ‘The Mastery of Time’ is your opus. How long did it take to write the book?
Dominique Fléchon (DF): Thank you. Yes, it’s a big story. The fundamental parallel between human progress and time-measuring progress, this was no small undertaking. It is the result of six years of research.
TZ: Sounds like a tremendous effort.
DF: No other work has been published on the topic since the 1950s.
TZ: Although it’s newly launched in the US, I understand that ‘Mastery’ has already been cited in American proceedings as a reference.
DF: I’m not surprised at all. Since its publication, I’ve learned that it was used as a reference in legal proceedings in Geneva. It has been well received by all accounts.
TZ: And this is not merely a history book or treatise. There is a philosophical theme about humankind in relationship to the concept of ‘time’ itself. Is this right?
DF: Definitely, yes. It’s a story of where do we come from and where are we going. In the first chapter, we begin at a point where time measurement is simply consciousness of a determined moment of the day. Then we see humankind’s progress and the unfolding of civilisation. Since the first civilisations were agricultural, time measurement is with non-mechanical tools; astronomical devices that rely upon celestial bodies such as the sun or moon. Then we see a succession of scientific discovery and invention of time devices that sometimes directly help human progress.
TZ: It’s about us trying to make sense of the world?
DF: [laughs] Yes, exactly.
TZ: So time measurement began with the origins of humankind?
DF: We can say that time measuring began to exist at the moment humankind became aware that it had a past, present and future. And so yes, the history of horology begins with the origins of humankind.
TZ: Fascinating. Thank you very much Dominique. We have a TimeZone tradition to enquire about the timepiece being worn. May I ask what are you wearing?
DF: Yes, when the FHH was founded, we had these pendant watches made. I often wear mine on my lapel. And I am also wearing a Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso chronograph.
Dominique Fléchon signing ‘Mastery of Time’ at a cocktail reception at Adour Alain Ducasse
The FHH pendant watch styled after a vintage cyclists watch
Dominique Fléchon shares a TimeZone wristshot of his JLC Reverso Chronograph Retrograde
About the book
Mastery of Time
Dominique Fléchon, Author
Franco Cologni, Foreward
Publisher: Flammarion (January 10, 2012)
456 pages with 400 colour illustrations
Printed in Italy
List price $100.00
A conversation in February 2012 by Jessica
Michael (Mike) Margolis is a watch collector. Mike’s passion for watches began sometime in high school when his father gave him an Omega Seamaster. Mike vividly recalls winding it, setting it, putting it to his ear and falling in love with the little machine on his wrist.
In his youth, Mike dreamed of a career in the CIA. He earned degrees in Latin-American Studies and Foreign Language at the University of Connecticut, learning to speak Spanish, Portuguese and German. Upon graduation, he applied for a foreign language position with the CIA and had three interviews in Langley, Virginia. After his fifth week of testing, he received the disapponting news that the CIA declined to extend a job offer.
Mike earned a fellowship to study in Lisbon, then travelled to Germany to teach English. After returning to Connecticut to marry his school sweetheart, Mike dabbled in his father’s blueprinting business. Fascinated by the optical instruments used for map surveying, Mike moved on to the emerging hi-tech field of global positioning systems (GPS). Mike worked in the GPS industry for ten years until Jean-Claude Biver hired him to work for Hublot.
In his first interview as President of Tradema of America, Inc., the North American distributor of Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard, Mike Margolis provides TimeZone with some personal and professional insight into his meteoric rise from watch collector to brand President.
TimeZone (TZ): When did you start collecting?
Mike Margolis (MM): In 1996, I discovered Watchnet and realized I wasn’t the only person who liked watches. Someone on Watchnet mentioned TimeZone and I found this website. This was the very early days when Richard Paige, William Massena, and Kohei-san were regulars. I started as a vintage watch collector mainly because I couldn’t afford new pieces.
TZ: When did you meet Jean-Claude Biver?
MM: After the Blancpain Forum moderator Mark Kolitz got sick with cancer, Richard Paige asked me to replace him. At the time, TimeZone only had two brand forums, the Blancpain Forum and the IWC Forum.
After I became the Blancpain Forum moderator, I started an online-correspondence with Jean-Claude, who was CEO of Blancpain. In late 1996, Jean-Claude wanted me to help arrange a collectors dinner in New York. That’s the first time I met Jean-Claude and the first time I met Michael Sandler and Ray Purkis. After the dinner, Jean-Claude told me it was the first time he met his customers. He was so used to dealing with suppliers, distributors and everyone in the industry, he never actually sat down to meet the customer who ultimately buys his watch.
TZ: Sounds like this was one of the first collectors dinners?
MM: I’m sure it wasn’t the first collectors dinner. But it certainly was one of the first. Until then, the brands had been very standoffish with their customers.
TZ: How did you get involved with Hublot?
MM: Over the years, I continued developing a friendship with Jean-Claude and we would meet once a year at Basel. In 2004, Jean-Claude asked me to meet him in New York for breakfast. He had great news, he had left the Swatch Group and gone to work for Hublot. I couldn’t believe it. I told him, “Jean-Claude, Hublot is dead!” Then, over the next several minutes, Jean-Claude shared his vision and plans to revive the brand. He drew a picture of FUSION on a napkin. I wish I’d kept that napkin. [Laughs]
I told him, “I’d buy that watch.” He said, “Yes, OK, but that’s not why I wanted to see you. We want to start a sponsored forum on TimeZone”. After that breakfast, I approached Michael Sandler and William Massena to convince them to try a sponsored forum where Jean-Claude would actively engage with forumners online.
TZ: Was this the first industry sponsored Internet forum?
MM: Definitely the first of its kind. At that time, it was unheard of for a Swiss industry person to come on any forum and participate, let alone the CEO of a Swiss company.
TZ: I recall when the forum launched.
MM: Yes, in April 2005 the Hublot Forum launched simultaneously with the Big Bang launch in Basel. Two years later, at a Pre-Basel collectors event, Jean-Claude offered me a job as Communications Director. Then in January 2008, I was promoted to Sales Director for Hublot of America. Ever since 2005, we saw the company go through tremendous growth.
TZ: What an incredible journey.
MM: It’s been an exhilarating ride. Each day, I can’t wait to wake up and start my day.
Girard-Perregaux in-house Calibre GP03300
MM: Absolutely! Any brand who ignores the power ofthe Internet is doing their company a disservice.
TZ: As an executive, do you consider an online watch forum like TimeZone relevant?
MM: It’s not only relevant, it is important. People are much more connected now.
TZ: As someone who’s managed national sales and distribution, do you think the typical consumer is Internet savvy?
MM: Let me put it this way, consumers are far more educated today than ever.
TZ: Does Switzerland understand the educated consumer?
MM: Sure. We can see that many Swiss brands are nowTimeZone sponsors. And in a bigger sense, we see pricing parity. Switzerland sets the worldwide prices of watches. Because people are so connected through the Internet, the pricing in Geneva needs to be the same as New York and Buenos Aires. Otherwise, someone in Geneva will lose a sale to someone in New York or Buenos Aires over the [nominal] cost of a wire transfer and FedEx bill.
TZ: Do watch retailers understand the educated consumer?
MM: At the retail level, no. I don’t think many watch retailers understand the educated consumer. They understand some elements of the Internet, but not all.
TZ: How can a retailer identify an educated consumer?
MM: As soon as a customer opens his/her mouth, a retailer should know if the customer is an educated consumer or not. It becomes very obvious whether or not the customer has studied technical details and different model variations. Some educated consumers actually enjoy playing “Stump the Retailer” by asking very pointed technical questions about the movement or manufacturing.
TZ: As President of Tradema, what are your short- and long-term plans?
MM: Well, the first few months I imagine will require a lot of studying about the organization. Learning about what’s right, what’s wrong. Then, I have some big plans for connecting with Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard customers. So many brands don’t connect with their customers. I have every intention of connecting withour customers. This is very important to me and everyone at Girard-Perregaux and JeanRichard.
TZ: Over the years, I’ve watched you implement ideas and those ideas have proven to be very successful on more than one occasion. I think I echo many at TimeZone who wish you continued success.
MM: Thank you. But don’t make me sound arrogant! [Laughs] I’m just a regular guy who loves watches and I love what I do for a living. I still can’t believe I get paid for playing with watches every day. But thank you.
TZ: Thank you, Mike. This was a pleasure and I appreciate how much insight you’ve shared with everyone at TimeZone.
Girard-Perregaux 1966 Small Seconds
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A Conversation with Rudy Chavez of Baume & Mercier
A conversation in July 2011 by Jessica
Rodolfo “Rudy” Chavez is an American success story. His story begins in the 1960s, when his parents fled Cuba. After the Chavez family immigrated to the United States, Rudy grew up and put himself through college by working odd-jobs at a New Jersey jewelry store. Eventually, he worked his way up to become the President of Baume & Mercier North America.
Then, just 5 years old, Rudy recalls his father’s release from prison and the family’s immediate departure on an airplane to Spain. The Chavez family left their homeland penniless and, literally, wearing the clothes on their backs.
The family remained in Spain for a year until they arrived in New York City. Rudy recalls his parents’ arrival on a Friday night. Although neither spoke English, the following Monday, both parents went to work at jobs secured by their relatives.
Rudy’s father was 40 years old and went to work at Gimbels department store as a stock boy. His mother went to work at an embroidery factory. By 1970, the Chavez family moved into a tight-knit blue collar community in Union City, New Jersey. Rudy was 7 years old.
Through his parents, Rudy learned the values of hard work, humility, ethics and, most of all, the determination to meet and overcome every challenge.
TimeZone (TZ): Your family overcame quite a number of challenges.
Rudy Chavez (RC): You learn quickly that you can work through challenges. I saw that in my father, and in what he overcame. Here was a man who didn’t speak English when he arrived and had to start over at 40 as a stock boy. Yet, he worked hard enough to own his own business within a few years.
TZ: Your parents sound like a strong influence in your life.
RC: They are and I’ll never forget how hard they worked. My mother worked in a factory. At that time, Union City was the garment capital of the country and she worked at an embroidery factory. Not only was her work very hard, but I recall vividly her waiting outside our home each morning for her ride to work. Every morning, she waited for a co-worker to pick her up in a van. Even during the winter when it was 20-degrees, she would stand outside and wait. My parents’ work ethic was ingrained at a very early age.
TZ: How did you find your way into the watch industry?
RC: I put myself through college by working odd-jobs at Continental Jewelers, a family-owned jewelry store in New Jersey. I literally started at the bottom, vacuuming the floors, cleaning the windows, pretty much anything that needed to be done. Then, one day I got a promotion. I still had to vacuum and clean the windows, but I was also promoted to sales.
TZ: That sounds like a promotion and a demotion at the same time.
RC: [Laughing] It was, and I learned retail sales from the bottom up. It was a great opportunity because I learned right away how much I enjoyed sales. In the jewelry industry, you help clients select that special piece for a special moment, whether it’s a wedding, a birth of a child or an anniversary. There’s a connection to something meaningful in their lives. So it’s something I immediately enjoyed doing.
TZ: Did you work at Continental until you graduated?
RC: I did. I eventually earned a degree in Accounting. But I enjoyed working at Continental so much that I continued working in sales until I became a manager. I was about 30 years old when I finally left Continental for Saks Fifth Avenue, where I sold watches and jewelry. I worked at Saks for five years before I was hired by Sector.
TZ: Is that Sector the watch company?
RC: Yes, in 1992 Sector Watches hired me as a Visual Merchandiser. Sector was a great experience because the company provided me a background in several aspects of the business ranging from merchandising, sales and eventually regional and national accounts. I was very happy at Sector and never intended to leave, but several retailers recommended me and I was recruited by Baume & Mercier. That was 15 years ago and I’ve been with Baume & Mercier ever since.
TZ: What position did Baume & Mercier recruit you for?
RC: I was hired as the New York Regional Manager. From there, I became Director of National Accounts and, previous to my current position, I was Vice-President of Sales.
Historic Baume & Mercier single-push chronograph from 1948
TZ: Sounds like you’re a natural leader. You certainly enrich the company. What makes Baume & Mercier different as a watch company?
RC: Baume & Mercier has a rich heritage and an authentic pedigree. Since 1830, the company has only specialized in fine timepieces. Today, we specialize in contemporary classics that are affordable. For Baume & Mercier, it’s important to provide our clients with timeless designs and value. For 2011, we focused on an historical chronograph as the inspiration for the new Capeland collection.
Capeland Flyback Chronograph in stainless steel, Ref. 10006
The newly designed Capeland Chronograph features a two-tone dial with Tri-compax layout
Capeland Chronograph two-tone dials in black (Ref.10001), slate (Ref.10003) & silver (Ref.10005)
TZ: The new collections are handsome, timeless, classic designs.
RC: They are. The other quality I appreciate is that Baume & Mercier has always been a brand that’s been very special to owners. They either purchased or received a Baume & Mercier on a special occasion. There’s an emotional connection behind our timepieces and it’s common to hear how our clients wear them with incredible affection.
TZ: That’s interesting because, while we were dating in the mid-1990s, I purchased a [Baume & Mercier] Hampton for my husband when he completed graduate school. He still owns that watch and I’m surprised how often he wears it since he owns other watches that cost many times more.
RC: This is a common story I’ve heard from many clients because this emotional connection has always been an authentic part of the brand. But also, that Hampton — does it have a curved case? [Affirmative nod]. That model launched in 1994 and it has a timeless, elegant design. We’ve come full circle as a brand because our new CEO, Alain Zimmermann, has found a passionate way of communicating the emotional aspect of being a part of our clients’ special moments. Mr. Zimmermann thought of our new campaign, “Life is About Moments”. This is so true to the brand.
TZ: Thank you for taking the time to talk. Yours is a truly inspirational story and it was a sincere pleasure meeting you.
Classima Automatic Jumping Hour, Ref. 10039
© Timezone. All rights reserved.Read more
TimeZone Interviews January 10, 2011
A TimeZone Interview with Jean-Frédéric Dufour, CEO of Zenith International SA
Interview conducted 2011
MS: MichaelSandler – TimeZone.com
MS: Thank you for taking the time to speakwith me today. Would you please tell us a little about yourself andyour background prior to taking the position with Zenith?
JFD: I am a man fromthe watch industry. I was actually with a Swiss bank in Hong Kong forsix months at the very beginning of my career, but since then I havebeen in the watch industry. I started in sales at $3,500 per month, andthen moved to the production side, and was in charge of developingproduction plans, then moved back to sales, then to marketing, and toproduct development. My whole life has been dedicated to trying toproduce beautiful watches. When people ask me what I do, I always saythat I’m trying to make the people happy.
MS: Based on what I’ve beenhearing, people are extremely happy with what Zenith has been doingsince you joined the company.
JFD: Thank you. It is importantfor me that when you spend money on a watch, the feeling that you getfrom the watch is a very pleasant feeling. Pure emotion and truepleasure.
MS: Since you took on the role at Zenithtwo years ago,what are some of the most significant changes you’ve made at thecompany?
JFD: Our first focus was onsmall things. Number onewas the product. We looked at the number of references, the quality,and the supply chain. We decreased the number of references from 850down to 120. Now after two years, the collection has experienced a 100%renewal for Zenith. For a brand like Zenith, with its history, productwas really key.
And then was marketing. Without the right marketing,you cannot spread the right message. So we really concentrated on themarketing. We wanted to have consistency, focusing on the right peopleand giving the right message. And the key message was that Zenith, withthe El Primero, was the inventor of the high frequency self windingchronograph. This means everything. It means knowledge. It meanscreativity. It means manufacture. If means collections with a future.
When I ask myself what made Zenith successful for a century and a half,it all began with Georges Favre-Jacot when he was 22 years old. He wasvery young, starting this company in the Swiss mountains. And he toldhimself that they were at the start of an industrial revolution, and hetold himself that the world needs reliability, accessibility andprecision. And with these few key things, he managed to develop thecollection for people who were entrepreneurs, politicians, scientists,etc. All these people were responsible for building the world that weare in now, and they needed precision. Before the industrialrevolution, precision was not an issue. During the time of the kings,you needed to queue up for the chance to meet important people, buttiming was not kept like this.
Favre-Jacot managed to be a key playerin that revolution, producing instruments that the people needed. So inthe ads showing the product, we explain these stories of the history ofZenith. So far, this has been very successful.
MS: It’s interesting that yousay this. The first verygood watch I bought for myself was a Zenith chronograph…an El PrimeroClass 4 with a black dial. It was this history and the pursuit ofprecision that first drew me to that watch. At the time I bought it,Zenith was not even selling watches in the United States, so I had toget the watch from a retailer in Europe.
JFD: What Idid when I joined the company was to make sure we were connecting theproduct to the roots and to the DNA of the company. I wanted to makesure we were producing the collections in line with who we are andwhere we come from.
I should also say that we have really been in theUnited States forever. We started in 1919, but then we stopped afterWorld War II because Zenith Appliance has the name, and so there was nochance for us to be there. But we had a very long history in the UnitedStates. So there was a gap in time, but Zenith is definitely not new inAmerica.
So to finish, without giving too many details, we have alsofocused on things like efficiency, direct reporting, risk management.This recipe is working pretty well. And the last but not least, thereis finance. We belong to the first luxury group in the world, and beingpart of that group means we need to be performing.
But now I know that Zenith is back on track, and the direction is theright direction. Whenyou give so much into the company, getting that feedback is veryimportant. We know that we’re moving in the right direction, and weknow where we want to go. I want Zenith to be the best offer between$5,000 and $10,000 US dollars.
If you look at Rolls Royce and Bentley….for a time, they were beingmade in the same place. You had Rolls Royce that everybody knew. Butthe insiders, the car people, they were not buying the Rolls Royce,they were buying Bentley. And today, Bentley is bigger than RollsRoyce. For me, this is like Zenith and Rolex. We have David againstGoliath. They are a big company and we are a small company. We cannotfight with the same tools. For me, it’s not good business to try tocompete with them in marketing, but I can compete in product and I cancompete in the history and the story and I can compete with my historyand his energy (gestures towards Alain Huy, Zenith Brand Director forNorth America). I really want to push Zenith in the direction where webecome a company for a buyer who knows. Who knows watches.
Michael Sandler: I cantell you for certain that on TimeZone, thefeedback on the company over the past year and a half has beenextremely positive. People strongly support the changes that are takingplace at Zenith.
JFD: At the end of the day, even with allour energy,our management….it’s about the product. When you look at our successworldwide, number one, it’s because of the product.
Michael Sandler: Can youtell us a bit more about the currentcollections and where the company may be headed?
JFD: We are now developing novelties atquite a highpace. We have a very real collection now (130 references in two years).We have the El Primero collection, which features watches fromchronograph to tourbillons…but always with the same hands, indices,etc. Now we also have a very strong collection called Captain. Theseare timeless watches which express a century and a half of knowledge atZenith. It is very respectful of the history, and therefore of you gofor Captain, you can’t really make any mistakes. We have severalmodels, from the simple, to the moonphase, to the annual calendar.
Andnow we have another new collection which we call the Pilot collection.Within this collection we are offering only one reference so far, butit will be a very good test for us. If you look back, Zenith is one ofthe companies with the strongest legacy in pilot’s watches. We werethere with these watches during the First World War, and the SecondWorld War. Again this is our legacy. Next year we will be coming withtwo additional models in this collection. Then we have anothercollection called Zenith Heritage. In this collection is the Vintage1965, the square watch like the one which was worn by JFK. We also havethe Ultrathin, which is a very classic watch with only hours andminutes and seconds. It is 40 millimeters, but still quite thin at 7.6millimeters. It is a very nice, elegant watch which looks like avintage piece, but it is very modern.
Another interesting piece of thehistory of the company is regarding Charles Vermot, who saved thecompany by hiding all the original tooling in the attic. In 1972, whenZenith was bought by Zenith Corporation (the American company). TheAmericans decided that they no longer wanted to produce mechanicalwatches, and they wanted to focus only on quartz. So they requestedthat the large building where movements were made was emptied, so itcould be used to produce quartz watches and electronic appliances.
There was a man there named Charles Vermot, and he told the companythat they should not do this because that tooling was all a key part ofthe company’s history and culture. So what he did was that at night,without notifying anyone, Charles and some others were able to movesome of the original equipment from the large building into the attichere [points to a building on a photo of the manufacture]. And now,after 40 years, we are overhauling that building and we will bestarting production there next summer. It will now be brand new andstate of the art.
So by doing this, he effectively saved the company. In 1981, when Rolexcame and they were looking for movements, they wanted to find themovement which was inside the first El Primero, the 3019. They werelooking for this movement for use in their Daytona. So Mr. Castella,the new owner, came to the manufacture to see if they could producethat movement. And it was because all the original tooling had beensaved that the company was able to do this.
And of course I must mention we have the Academy pieces, the very highend pieces like the Christophe Colomb. These pieces are, of course,very exclusive. In the El Primero collection you have an exclusivechronograph,in the Captain you have the exclusive annual calendar, in the Heritage,you have the exclusive Ultra-Thin.
Michael Sandler: Since you were with Chopard prior to joiningZenith,can you comment a bit on the contrast between the fact that Chopard didnot have a very long history of manufacture movements versus Zenith andits deeper history in this area?
JFD: I’m not sure how to begin to answerthatquestion, but it is obviously to very different situations. Chopard ismuch more about the marketing, the emotion. Zenith is much more aboutthe knowledge, the history, the legacy. Because Chopard had quite asmall history in developing manufacture watches, it was very difficult.In the end, it is very important to be who you are, knowing where youcome from, and where you want to go. At Chopard, when we weredeveloping the watches, we had to find a history, sometimes frompictures.
Michael Sandler: I thinkyou’ve already touched upon theanswer to my next question during the course of our discussion. Whatare the attributes that you feel really differentiate Zenith as acompany?
JFD: Firstly, there is the century and ahalf of theirhistory, in the same location. They have won over 2,330 differentprizes during their history. There are 297 patents received under thename of Zenith, which makes them perhaps one of the highest receivingbrands ever. There are over 500 different calibers developed over itshistory. And there is of course to loyalty and the love of the ownersof the watches. You don’t have many brands like this in the world.
Michael Sandler: As part of LVMH, Zenith is now within afamily ofother watch companies. Is there a lot of collaboration between Zenithand the other LVMH watch companies, or do you remain very independent?
JFD: We are not independent because wehave the sameshareholder, but we are 100 percent autonomous. We decide where we wantto go. We have to write the business plans, provide the reports, etc.But we can go in any direction as long as we are able to explain werewe are going. Basically, we must say what we will do, and we must dowhat we say we will. But each company within the group has freedom andcan behave as an entrepreneur, and this definitely makes a difference.
Michael Sandler: As you’ve alluded to previously, Zenithinvests asignificant amount in research and development. Are you sharing thisresearch and the outcomes with other companies within the group?
JFD: Everything is really separate, butof course I amspeaking with the other companies (for example Jean-Claude Biver). Buton an individual level, we don’t share.
Michael Sandler: Do youreleaseinformation on how many watches Zenith produces on an annual basis? Itwould be interesting to understand the numbers just to get a gauge ofthe size of the company.
JFD: We don’t really releasethese numbers publicly. But we are in the range of maybe fifty toseventy thousand pieces per year.
Michael Sandler: Whichare yourlargest markets today?
JFD: My number one exportmarket is Hong Kong. And then it’s Europe. We have to count Europe as asingle market and we don’t really see it country by country. Numberthree is China. Number four is Japan and number five is North America.Then number six is Taiwan and number seven is South America. As you cansee, we are quite global. I think we are quite well balanced. Of coursethe Asian market is pulling the whole industry forward. Not only forZenith. And I think America is progressing at a very good pace, so wecannot complain.
Michael Sandler: Asidefrom what you have alreadymentioned, are there any specific novelties from Basel this year thatyou would like to highlight for the collectors on TimeZone?
JFD: Well we have the Stratos,which has a connectionto the flyback which we were producing for the French army. It is 45millimeters, and has a ceramic bezel. It is made from alchron, which isa very light metal that is aluminum with titanium. It has been usedbefore in automobile racing engines. It is very strong, with hardnesslike steel, but it’s lightweight like aluminum.
Michael Sandler:Obviously, because this interview is for TimeZone, I’d like to ask youfor your views on the Internet, and how it is affecting the watchindustry today.
JFD: It is key, and it isincreasing month aftermonth. Why? Because you can connect directly with the people that youwant to touch. It is also key because it gives the consumer directaccess to the information. If you go back twenty years, most of theinformation you have was through advertising, or maybe from theretailer. Then the magazines arrived, but the magazines were limited aswell.
Now I can prepare information, and give it to anyone who wantsit. If I wanted to buy a watch, I would first go to the internet toresearch, to see the quality, the history, etc. And we see that. Everytime we come to the internet with information, we have better response.It is the media of the future.
Michael Sandler: OnTimeZone, we have atraditional closing question for our interviews. What watch are youwearing today?
JFD: It’s not one watch, but two. Thefirst is theStriking 10th. It was the first watch I really worked on when I joinedthe company. This was a very important piece for me, because obviouslyI did not want to make any mistakes. So this piece is obviously veryemotional for me.
On my other wrist I have the Christophe Colomb.Originally, this movement was inside a very heavy and bulky case, butwhen I arrived at the company, I saw the base movement, and howfascinating it was. So I thought to myself that I have to give the endconsumer this same feeling. So we had to make the watch with a minimumof material and a maximum of movement. So you can really see themovement of the balance. It’s like a marine chronometer, but inside awristwatch. I’ve been wearing this piece to test it since thebeginning, and so far it has been perfect. So in a way, these are mytwo lucky watches.
Michael Sandler: Thankyou so much for your time,and for sharing your thoughts with us.
Copyright 2011, Michael Sandler
All Rights Reserved
TimeZone Interviews October 18, 2010
A TimeZone Interview with Jan-Patrick Schmitz, President of Montblanc North America
Interview conducted September 2010
MS: Michael Sandler – TimeZone.com
MS: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Would you please tell us a little about yourself and your background in the industry, and how you came to Montblanc?
JPS: I joined Montblanc in Hamburg in 1994 as the Controller for Asia Pacific. I moved to Asia in 1996 and became the President and CEO of Montblanc Japan. I had an appreciation for timepieces, but I would not describe myself as having been a watch collector at the time. With my first salary, I bought my first quality watch, from a German company – a Chronoswiss Regulator.
In 1997, while I was in Japan as President and CEO, we launched our watches. I stayed in Japan until 2002 and, in 2003, I moved to the Unites States to take over the position I am in today as the President and CEO of Montblanc North America.
MS: For a long time, Montblanc has been known as a writing instrument brand. How was the decision made to evolve the brand to the point where you were producing watches as well?
JPS: You asked me to speak a little about brand evolution. When I go back in time to 1994, prior to timepieces, when we were primarily a writing instrument brand, we sat down and had a global strategy meeting where we developed a strategy called Concentric Circles, and looked at where the brand wanted to go. The reason for this was actually quite simple. We were already a global market leader in writing instruments, but the writing instrument world had changed from being purely a tool which was used in the office every day to an accessory used to write notes, etc., since you would no longer hand-write letters and memos. As a market leader and in order to grow, we knew that we had to expand our line beyond writing instruments, while also strengthening our premium writing instrument positioning.
As part of the Concentric Circles strategy, we wanted to develop our product portfolio and widen our distribution to products that made sense for us. So the next step was to go into desk accessories and products focused around writing. Being that we were a masculine brand (which is not a male brand…there is a big difference; a good comparison would be Porsche, which is a masculine brand with powerful luxury cars, but women love it just as much as men do), we added products like cufflinks. Then in 1997 came the big second pillar, watches. Watches have a lot of product DNA similarities to writing instruments. Both are precious. Both are tools. Both are analog. Both are traditional technologies crafted by hand. Both are collectible items. Both are purchased or received to commemorate significant moments. And finally, both writing instruments and watches are handed down to the next generation and can be appreciated for many lifetimes. This is why we made that decision.
In 1997, the Swiss watch world was looking at us regarding this decision. I remember a joke from SIHH, when the watches were introduced. The President and CEO of Montblanc Worldwide was asked by a journalist: “Where do you put the ink?” and everyone in the room laughed. But we knew we were on the right track for all of the reasons which I discussed before.
Also important is our brand heritage and the fact that we are a craftsmanship brand. This is, of course, the same with watches. Although we are part of the Richemont Group, we decided to set up our own manufacturing. We certainly learned a great deal from our other colleagues and brands about watch making, but we started this endeavor not just to have watches with our name on them, but to become a watch brand and to learn how to make fabulous watches.
MS: As you moved into watches, what was the evolution from the early pieces to the point where you were producing watches more as a true manufacture, using in-house movements?
JPS: The first pieces we produced really looked like a Montblanc pen, as though you took the pen and brought it into the shape of a watch. There was some criticism from watch collectors, at that time, that our watches were too much like our pens. This was not by accident, though, or because we had a lack of creativity, but rather it was done because we knew we had to speak initially to the Montblanc enthusiast. At the beginning, strategically, we were not looking to inspire watch collectors but, rather, we were working to inspire Montblanc collectors. By getting them on to the wrists of people, we created some initial momentum, and we have gradually grown over the years to become appealing to a broader audience.
From the beginning, it was always our desire and our strategy and our focus to come out at the right time with our own movement. So we started this knowing that one day we would have our own movement and our own watch, which is the Nicolas Rieussec. When people think of the brand, we want them to know that this is genuine European craftsmanship, with a pure philosophy.
We knew we had a couple of years’ time before we actually had to come out with our own movement. As time progressed, a big and important line for us was the TimeWalker line, which we launched in the early 2000’s. That was probably the first one which, in America, stood out in terms of recognition, from an aesthetics point of view. We created a recognizable face. If you look at watch brands and at watches in general, you really see two broad areas. One is the whole notion of complication and movement and this is, of course, where you find the collectors’ focus and the TimeZone readers’ focus. There is also the area of brand and aesthetics, and buying a quality, nice, great looking, reliable Swiss watch.
This, as I mentioned, was all continuing while we prepared for the Nicolas Rieussec. We knew that this watch would be one of the few historic milestones that any watch company can have. For example, when in 1924, we introduced the black MeisterstÃ¼ck pen and, 85+ years later, it is still here. We knew that in a hundred years, when our great grandchildren are standing at SIHH, that piece will be the one that people will see in the historical showcase. We also wanted to create a design which is definitely unique. This is another thing we especially believe in. If you take any successful watch brand out there, aficionados and collectors will associate a piece with that brand. Think Cartier, close your eyes, most will see the Tank Francaise visually, despite the fact that there are many other beautiful and well selling Cartier watches. The same is true for any other brand. So we knew that from the topic of the dial and the aesthetics which would be part of the DNA that is carried forward, we had to do something unique. That is, for instance, where the smiling bridge came from. We knew we had to create a link to the roots of the brand. We are the world leader in writing instruments. We are a craftsmanship brand. We are a manufacture brand in all the various aspects in which we operate.
We did a lot of research and then we came across the wonderful facts around the invention of the chronograph and Nicolas Rieussec. Of course, the term chronograph (chronos – time; graph – writing), “time-writer”, is an emotional linkage between pens and watches. And that’s where we knew the conceptual basis for the watch. From there, once we had the concept, we moved into the technical part of it, where we had to develop our own movement, and we wanted it to serve a function. So we looked at things like the twin barrel and how to add useful functionality to the watch, even though at the time we did not want to go into the ultra-high complications because it is a milestone which would endure for hundreds of years. The chronograph, in addition to its linkage to writing, is a practical and sought after complication.
We developed the movement and we developed the design. We tried to make it a coherent watch which fulfills all of these aspects and which would “Wow!” everyone. It would be a watch we could be very proud of, the same way we are proud of our MeisterstÃ¼ck pens.
Click images to see full-size
MS: You also have, as part of your collection, the beautiful Villeret line. Can you speak a little about that particular line, and the Minerva acquisition?
Click image to see full-size
JPS: In life, as well in business, in order to be a success, you need a few ingredients. One is determination. Another is a strong plan and to focus on it. The third component is luck. That luck really appeared when the Richemont Group had the opportunity to acquire Minerva. I was personally not involved, so I cannot speak about all the intricacies involved in that. As I mentioned, we had started our brand evolution in the 1990’s. Given the nature of our company and our history, we also wanted to play in the league of the best. So when we were able to acquire Minerva, from the beginning, we knew and fully understood the philosophy and the character of the manufacture.
Click image to see full-size
Looking at the history, the assets, the people, and the skills…they were a special manufacture. The skill level is second to none. Knowing that, we had a match. From the beginning, it was very clear that we respected and wanted to maintain the history. Therefore, we made a couple of very important decisions. The first was that every movement reads “Villeret”. The case reads Montblanc as well as the dial; all the emblems on the watch read Montblanc and it became the Montblanc Villeret collection, but the movement says “Villeret”.
As you know, in Villeret, we make over 90% of all the pieces that go into these watches. They are actually done in-house. There is a tremendous amount of skill there but we have to be sure this continues. You have to sit down today and plan for the future by understanding where the manufacture will be in eight years, or fifteen years, so we are actually prepared for the future. That was the second step, after we made the decision to maintain the history. We speak proudly of it and communicate it. After all, it is a wonderful, pure manufacture, which specialists and collectors know about but which everyone should know about.
The third step is that we want to show innovation, as we are doing today in our writing instruments. We want to bring amazing new movements. We want to inspire and excite and to maintain this heritage by showing new technical ideas. So why do all this? At some point in the not-too-distant future, watches will actually be the biggest part of our business.
MS: Would it be possible for you to give us some information about your total annual watch production?
JPS: I’m afraid we do not publish those numbers. We have two manufacturing facilities, in Le Locle and in Villeret. Le Locle is already going through its third expansion. It is where the Rieussecs are produced, along with the TimeWalkers and the other collections. And then, of course, we have Villeret, where we have done what we can to respect and maintain what was already there. If you go there now, you will see that we restored what was there. We preserve the place and, at the same time, train new generations of people who craft these watches, in the same way it was done back then.
Click images to see full-size
MS: What is your view of the U.S. Watch market? Do you see this market, and it’s appreciation for high end watches, growing? Do you see the market becoming more aware of the higher end watch brands like Montblanc?
JPS: There are a couple of really important points here. If you look at the really big picture, there are some fundamental differences in the markets. If you take Europe and America….in Europe you have what I call a lot of “inherited understanding” of luxury things. It means that people grow up in families where there is already familiarity. For example, my great-grandfather had an IWC pocket watch from the 1920’s which he then handed down; you grow up over generations with people having that exposure. There’s a culture of inheritance.
If you look at America, it is more a culture of achievement. There are people here who, when they are successful, they start appreciating fine things. They will go out and try to find what they can enjoy with the achievements they have made. There are a couple of implications. The first is that we have a much higher need to educate the consumers here. I knew what IWC was when I was four years old. Obviously, I didn’t appreciate the value, but my grandfather had one, and my father had one, and they told me that one day I might have one. Here, I think that element is missing.
Then you have the pricing issue. Prices are only a big issue when there is a lack of understanding of the value behind them; the value of creation; the value of history; the value of craftsmanship, etc. This creates an environment in need of education more than in most other markets.
There ultimately is a strong development of pure symbolism. So what does that mean? If you take the Swiss watch market by and large, you have the sophisticated collectors (like the TimeZone community) and then you have the brand-minded consumer. I don’t mean that disrespectfully in any form or shape. These are people who want a good product which is recognizable and understood and is of great quality. They buy it as a symbol of achievement. They don’t buy it because they are fascinated by the mechanical movement which has hundreds of pieces that are made by hand. This is the type of consumer that is in America. For the most part, the proportion of “brand buyer” versus “collector” is larger in America, and I believe that it will be so for a long time.
If you look at the collectors, America is also special. When you look at only that group, the American collector base is, by and large, much more knowledgeable and much more serious than most others. Once they get into it (and that’s the result of all that education), they are very intense. Asia is very different because it always had a high appreciation for craftsmanship, both in the Chinese and Japanese cultures. There is also a lot of brand consciousness there as well. In America, over the last forty to sixty years, our society has turned somewhat away from manufacturing and has become more service- oriented and high-tech oriented. The level of appreciation for sophisticatedly creative things (for example, fine furniture with beautiful wood joints, where not a single nail is used, etc.) is not there for the average American.
To finish this thought…if you look at the total population, wealth and potential, America is a vastly under-developed market, not only for us, but as an industry. The second thing, of course, is that the balance between the collector watch customer and the brand watch customer is very focused on the brand, and this creates a large potential as well. Once a customer understands and appreciates what goes into it, then Americans are the best customers to have. They are very loyal and willing to spend money. There is a thirst for information, which helps shape the customer.
MS: Given that Montblanc is part of a larger organization, Richemont, can you speak to what you see as the advantages and disadvantages of such an arrangement?
JPS: I will speak candidly here, even though it might not sound like I am doing so. I truly believe, irrespective of the fact that I am on the payroll, that Richemont has a close to perfect setup. The leadership of Richemont often speaks of the need to maintain the heritage of the companies and brands, and to actually avoid too much talk about all of our “family ties”. Of course, if you are a collector or very knowledgeable about the industry, then you immediately know about all these family ties; we don’t promote them. The overwhelming majority of customers, outside the collectors, don’t know how we are connected.
That is really important, because people buy a brand when that brand is pure and true. A Montblanc really looks like a Montblanc. A Montblanc really feels like a Montblanc. It is a Montblanc, and it is a little Teutonic. It is communicated that way. It is part of the heritage of our brand. The Swiss brands and the French brands have their own DNA as well.
The companies are like brothers who truly love each other, but we are competitive; that is part of our culture. At the end of the day, we have a drink together and celebrate our success. We do compete but there are tremendous advantages to being a part of a big group.
MS: What about the sharing of technical resources, new technologies, and/or talent? Does this happen within the Richemont group of companies?
JPS: I’m personally not that closely involved in that side of the business, so I can’t fully say. I know we have a friendly relationship, and that people move across brands and, of course, their knowledge goes along with them.
From a market point of view, I can tell you that we’ve consolidated all our customer care and after-sales services here in America. So you can see a very interesting structure of synergies and separatism at the same time. Certain parts are synergistic in terms of finishing, polishing, etc., but then you see teams of people who only work on the specific brands. For example, there is the head watchmaker for Montblanc and his team of watchmakers, and then there is a different team for IWC and all the other brands respectively. Of course, since they sit near each other, they talk and share their knowledge informally, even with the brand focused set-up and the training which goes across the brands.
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In terms of distribution, we don’t go in as Richemont to a given jeweler and say: “Look, here is our stable of brands”. I represent Montblanc, and my colleagues from the other companies speak for their brand. Although you may be in the safety of a family, you still have to struggle your own struggle. I think it makes each brand stronger. I think, from a collector’s standpoint, you get a better product, because you get a passionate brand run by passionate people, rather than a big conglomerate.
MS: Given that we’re doing this interview for an internet based watch site, I’d like to ask you how you think the Internet has impacted the watch industry, and also where you think it is going over the coming years?
JPS: Particularly for collectors, it is the ultimate in terms of information distribution and really being able to share your passion. It is an amazing platform for connecting with fellow collectors and being able to exchange information and knowledge that would be impossible without the Internet.
I think all watch brands that care about what they are doing are now engaged in that world and are listening, because you can learn an awful lot from these collectors. This doesn’t always shape what you do, but it brings you into connection with a much larger group of people.
From a retailing point of view, the Internet is lending itself to destroying some of the value I was talking about earlier, and to making everything a commodity. In the end, because you are remote and just looking at pictures and words, it becomes a commodity. When things become a commodity, especially complicated watches which are passionate and emotional purchases, there is something missing. If you just have a picture sitting on your computer at home, you don’t get the full story.
By and large, though, I think the industry is learning to get the most out of it by thinking about how to communicate using the technology. I think there’s actually an exciting opportunity in using the abilities of these various platforms (iPad, iPhone, etc.) to convey information and to educate the customer. If you look at print advertising, it is very one dimensional. We are looking into ways that will allow you to actually dive into the movement, and to help you to visualize three dimensions on the screen. Eventually, to help overcome that lack of value appreciation, I think the power of the educational side can create value instead; but it’s truly a challenge.
I think a lot of brands in the beginning hoped that the Internet would simply go away. But it hasn’t, and they have had to make peace with it. Now it is a matter of making use of it in the right ways.
MS: We have a traditional final question here on TimeZone, so I will ask you as well. What watch are you wearing today?
JPS: This is my favorite watch that I have. It is the Nicolas Rieussec chronograph in rose gold. There are two things that I feel are important about this watch. First, it will be the one that I will pass down to my son one day and, second, it is a piece of history for me because I have been so involved with the brand and this particular watch. I love the uniqueness of both the complication as well as the design of it.
MS: Thank you so much for spending time speaking with me and for so candidly and openly sharing your thoughts with the participants on TimeZone.com.
Copyright 2010, Michael Sandler
All Rights Reserved
TimeZone Interviews September 9, 2010
A TimeZone Interview with MarcMichel-Amadry, President of Concord
Interview conducted September 2010
MS: Michael Sandler – TimeZone.com
MS: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Would you please tell us a little about yourself and your background in the industry?
MMA: I have always been working in the watch industry. In fact, I could say that I was born into this industry because by father also always worked in the industry. He went to watchmaking school in Besancon, France. My grandfather was a watchmaker as well, so since I was a child, I have always been surrounded by watches. My father was also a collector of pocket watches, so obviously with that background, you develop a special relationship with the watch as an object…..a precious object.
Given this, once I finished business school, I obviously wanted to enter this industry, and at that time the company I targeted to work for was Tag Heuer, because they had great knowledge and expertise in marketing and I did my business school specializing in marketing initially. I started with Tag Heuer in 1996 and worked there for four years at the headquarters, occupying different positions and responsibilities. Then in 1999, you will certainly remember that the LVMH group purchased a number of different Swiss brands like Tag Heuer, Ebel, Zenith and also Chaumet to develop a new division. It was also at that time that I was sent by Tag Heuer to Singapore to be in charge of marketing for the brand for the whole Southeast Asia region. The Tag Heuer subsidiary in Singapore then became the LVMH watch and jewelry subsidiary, leading all the different brands in the region. In 2001, I became the GeneralManager of the subsidiary, which gave me very strong experience in sales.
In 2003, I was asked to come back to Switzerland to take over the position of marketing director for Ebel. After successive terms as Marketing Director and Marketing Vice President, I was appointed President and Creative Director of Ebel in February 2009. Just a year later, I was asked by Ephraim Grinberg to take over the position of president of Concord.
As you see, I have a lot of experience in this industry, and have always been fascinated by these objects. I have thegreatest respect for watches and everything related to them. It’s really part of my life.
MS: Please tell us a little about Concord as a company, and some of what you feel are the key points in their history.
MMA: Concord is a brand that was founded in 1908, and so it is a company which is now more than a century old. One of the key dates which is interesting in American history is that in 1945 at the Potsdam Conference, the US President Harry Truman gave Concord watches to Churchill and Stalin as presents. I think this is a great story and it shows the position and the profile of the brand at that time, and during the century. Another very important date is when the father of Ephraim Grinberg, Gedalio, took over the company in 1970. It was the first Swiss watch company that the Grinberg family purchased in the history of their family business.
Another important achievement and milestone in the history of Concord is the launch of the Delirium watch that you certainly know well. It was in 1979, and at that time it was the flattest analog watch, with a total thickness of slightly less than 2mm. This was a really great achievement.
Another important collection in Concord’s history was the Mariner, which was launched in 1980. It was also at that time that the second generation of the Delirium was launched. It was the thinnest skeleton watch. I think the wholeDelirium saga has been really critical to developing the profile of the Concord brand. It showed a lot of audacity and know-how, and it was a great experience to create such a thin watch.
Another important collection for us is the Saratoga, which was launched in the mid-1990s, and also the La Scala collection launched in the late 1990s.
In 2007, there was, of course, another very important milestone in the history of the brand. It is when, through the impulse of the Movado Group and also a new management team, it was decided to give a new direction and a new impulse to the brand by launching the C1 collection. We are trying to unify the image of the brand on a worldwide basis with one leading design and with a daring and audacious communication. Vincent Perriard and his team relaunchedthe Concord brand with a very unique position.
MS: Your closing comments are an excellent lead-in to my next question. Concord very much reinvented themselves with the development and launch of the C1 line, and they moved away from a lot of the other collections that they were known for, including the Saratoga and others you mentioned. What was the reason that the company decided to take such a dramatic step and such a significant change in direction?
MMA: Of course I was not involved in the very beginning of the development of the C1 story, but I would say that the key goal for the management at that time was to unify the image of Concord under one unique roof. Concord had always been successful in three regions of the world, the United States, the Middle East, and Asia. In these three different regions, you could have three very different positionings of the brand. The way Concord was perceived in the U.S> was not necessarily the same way Concord was perceived in Asia, or in the Middle East.
The idea was really to give a new impulse and a new dynamic to the brand, and to take this opportunity to come with one unique image and one unique leading product. Before, the three parts of the world did not have the same models leading the business. We wanted to have one unified communication and to put everything under one roof with a single image. That is exactly what was the driving force behind relaunching Concord at that time with so much audacity.
The thing is that if you look at the C1 line, and you look at the Saratoga or the Delirium, you could believe that they are miles away from each other in terms of inspiration. I still believe that there are values which have always been very important for the Concord brand, and which have inspired the relaunch of the brand in 2007. It shows how a brand with a strong know-how, a lot of audacity, and a very unexpected design could go from trying to put together the thinnest watch possible to creating something truly unusual. I think the team in 2007 which has put together the new strategy and the new positioning has really tried to use the same ingredients – edginess, audacity, modernity – in a watch design that was more in line with the trend at that time. They created a new language in the way the case was constructed, in the way the strap is integrated into the case, the way to design dials, the way to create, with the C-Lab collection, very unique timepieces. Certainly not the same thickness as the Delirium, but behind it there is the same level of inspiration.
MS: Regarding the company itself, can you tell us a little about the size of Concord, the number of watches you produce, etc.?
MMA: The Concord team remains a small team. I would say that on a global basis, there are twenty to thirty people working for the brand. Of course it’s not a high volume brand in terms of units. We make a few thousand pieces per year, but we don’t give exact numbers. It is certainly a company whose purpose is to design and produce high quality, innovative watches, with high value in terms of quality of construction and quality of manufacture, and it is not our purpose at the moment to drive very high volumes with that brand.
MS: Which are your largest markets currently?
MMA: Currently, our key markets remain the Middle East, which is a very important market for Concord, together with Asia. The U.S. Market is also important, and another market which is very strong for us is Mexico.
MS: Is there anything you would like to highlight for the TimeZone enthusiasts related to your current models or collections?
MMA: I think the strength of Concord is to have created a very iconic model C1, which can be designed or replicated in a lot of different interpretations, depending on the movement, the materials used, the dial design, etc. The C1 design philosophy really allows a lot of different executions. Of course, within the C1 core collection, there is one very interesting model that we are currently introducing, which is the C1 MecaTech, which has a very sophisticated and highly constructed dial, which is a tribute to the complexity of the case design itself. I think it is a very powerful design.
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One of the strengths of Concord is that the case is immediately recognizable, but we also pay a lot of attention to the dial design. It’s a fantastic little machine, and I think a lot of collectors have become very demanding in terms of the way a brand must pay attention to the details of the dial design, and this is typical of what you can find in the design of the C1 MecaTech. Now of course, from a collector’s point of view, this is extremely important.
Since coming on board at the beginning of this year, I have also been immersing myself in the world of the C-Lab collection, with the C1 QuantumGravity and the C1 Tourbillon Gravity. With these two very unique movements, it is simply fascinating. The movement and the design of the case have merged together to create a very unique object. It’s not that you had the movement on one side and on the other side you had some designers seeing how they could create a case that could fit the design of the movement. There were really two parallel works to make sure that the philosophy of the case design and the brand and these two very unique movements….that they found a way to merge these two realities into a timepiece that is really unique and looks like no other watch on the market. This is the spirit of the C-Lab collection that we hope to perpetuate in the future.
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MS: Obviously, some of the pieces collectors associate most closely with Concord over the past few years are the Gravity and Quantum Gravity. Given the recent news that the movement creator BNB has gone under, and given that you have collaborated with BNB on these pieces, what does that mean for the future of this particular collection? Do you have plans to build pieces like this in-house in the future?
MMA: The first thing that was crucial was to make sure that, with the disappearance of the BNB company, we could put together and find the right partners to ensure the quality of after-sales service for the people who have purchased the Gravity or the Quantum Gravity. This was done pretty quickly, and now we can say that the servicing and the making of such highly complicated and technical pieces is guaranteed. So we have found the right partners and we have really put together the knowledge to do that.
Now what is important is the future. This does not mean that without BNB there is no C-Lab story. On the contrary. There are plenty of people and companies in Switzerland of crazy inspired watchmakers with whom we can collaborate to maintain the C-Lab philosophy. Of course it will be hard to come back next year with something totally new because it’s very hard to, within less than twelve months, put together a credible and relevant new movement to be ready for Basel 2011. But the target is clearly by 2012 to be back with an exceptional C-Lab collection that will bring something new to the watchmaking world.
MS: I am a big fan of watches that really aim to do something totally new and different, like the Quantum Gravity, or for example, the pieces that Max Busser is producing.
MMA: I think Max is doing a great job, and that he is really talented. He always brings new ways to read time with a level of emotion which is really incredible.
MS: You have spent some time speaking about the movements in pieces like the Quantum Gravity and the Gravity. A large proportion of TimeZone participants are extremely interested in watch movements and movement production. As such, companies that are making their own movements are generally given some special attention. Is there any intention for Concord to take additional steps towards producing movements in-house, and toward becoming a true manufacture?
MMA: I would say that for the core collection, like the C1 Chronograph or the C1 WorldTimer, the C1 Big Date, we will continue to purchase movements from the movement companies. So this will remain the same. I think the place where we can really invest the time and energy of our product team is really in the C-Lab collection. Of course working in partnership with an independent watchmaker, or a manufacture like BNB was, may still happen. I don’t think that we will integrate 100% both the knowledge and the manufacturing capability within the company. This is not something that is in our plans.
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MS: Looking forward, what are your goals for the company over the next few years?
MMA: I would say that the first goal of the brand over the coming years is to make sure that our customers, our clients, our distributors, the people selling Concord watches worldwide, are confident that we will continue with the same impulse and leadership which was started in 2007. With this as a transition year, one of our main goals is to reassure all the people selling Concord in the world that we will continue to invest in the brand, that we will continue to come out with new products, and that we will continue to maintain the spirit of the C-Lab collection. Those are all very important.
In terms of a vision over the next three to five years, I think Concord has a duty or mission within the watch industry, which is to create unexpected timepieces, not only within the C-Lab, but also within the core collection and to explore new ways of constructing watches and engineering watches. I think Concord is a daring brand with a daring spirit, which is really what we need to maintain to remain alive as a brand. I believe very much that Concord is a great watch brand and what people expect from us is to do things differently, and this is really what we need to do to remain alive and to perform.
MS: Obviously, over the past couple of years, changes in the global economy have had a significant impact on the watch industry. Aside from the changes in the economic climate, what do you see as the most significant challenges for Concord over the next few years?
MMA: I think the point you have raised about the economy is very important and has caused us to think a lot about how we are doing things. We have decided very recently, and this is a very important decision within Concord, to do a global re-pricing of the collection starting in June of this year. Prices of a Concord watch were simply too high after going through these very turbulent times and having consumers who are now more demanding about the value that they get from a watch. So they are more sensitive to pricing. This is never an easy exercise to do because you have to convince your retailers worldwide about the necessity. We have, and so we have repriced the collection to regain some attractivity and competitiveness which was needed.
Again, consumers have changed, and today they expect more value for the same amount of money they would spend on a watch, and if you are not competitive pricing-wise, then it can become a very difficult and challenging to sell your brand. So this was a very important initiative…and for the new management, the most important one since we have been on board. It is always a bet when you do a re-pricing. It is a bet on how your retailers and distributors will react. In fact, we have been extremely pleasantly surprised by the support we have received. I think that with our new pricing, the price is now in line with the value of the watch, which may not have been the case coming out of the recession.
MS: Your repricing is certainly interesting, especially in light of some recently announced price increases for a number of other brands.
MMA: I think over the next year or so, you will see a lot of price increases because of the Euro depreciating against all other major currencies. I think you will see price increases for a lot of brands in areas where the watches are sold in Euros.
MS: As we approach the end of this interview, are there any other things you would like to bring to the attention of the timezone.com visitors?
MMA: I think we have covered a lot. The message I would love to give to all the TimeZone readers would be to continue to look at Concord as a brand, as a design inspiration, and as a laboratory to generate new ideas. Of course, as I mentioned before, there is a new team in place to refresh and relaunch the spirit of a brand that has so much to say and has such a beautiful history and a beautiful heritage. We still have a lot of things to say and to do with this brand.
MS: We have a traditional closing question for these interviews. May I ask what watch you are wearing today?
MMA: Today I am wearing a watch that we are about to launch, the C1 MecaTech, which I simply love.
MS: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, and for your candor and openness answering the questions.
MMA: Thank you for your interest and your support. I hope that in the future we will prove to all watch enthusiasts that the Concord name and the Concord philosophy can generate very strong and interesting watches.
Copyright 2010, Michael Sandler
All Rights Reserved
TimeZone Interviews May 17, 2010
A TimeZone Interview with NickEnglish, Co-founder of Bremont Watch Company
Interview conducted May 2010
MS: MichaelSandler – TimeZone.com
MS: How did you become interested inwatches, and what drove your decision to form your own watch company?
NE: It started from an early agewith Giles and I spending most spare minutes with our father in hisworkshop. He was a remarkable man, an aeronautical engineer fromCambridge, who spent his spare time building aircraft we still fly,boats we sailed the world in, musical instruments he played in bandsand restored clocks which still hang on our walls. He was a watchcollector too. To keep us quiet as kids he often used to bring out anold grand-father clock he had purchased from a local auction yearsbefore and let us tinker with it until we thought we had it working!
The other big influence in our lives has been flying. Our father wasdisplaying vintage aircraft in air-shows most weekends whilst we werechildren, and Giles and I would take it in turns to go to the airshows.We would hardly be able to see out of the back of the WWII aircraft ashe did the display with us in the back seat. We picked up flying (howcould we not?!) and were displaying aircraft in our teens and still do.Our lives however changed in 1995 whilst I was practicing for anair-show. I hadn’t flown with my father for a few months, and thatMarch day we decided to go for a aerobatic formation practice withanother aircraft – flown by a friend of mine. My father taggedalonginthe back seat for fun. During the aerobatic flight something falteredwith the other aircraft’s engine (also a T-6 Harvard) and we tookevasive action whilst upside down to avoid it. The aircraft flickedinto an inverted spin at low altitude. We recovered but in an effort toavoid trees the aircraft flicked into the ground and broke up. Myfather died on impact and I was thrown out and broke 30 bones.
Our lives changed dramatically at that point. Having done a brief spellwith the RAF Reserves, we were both working in corporate finance atthis point. This was really our tipping point . At this point we bothdecided to leave our city jobs to run a business restoring vintageaircraft. Whilst doing this, we found an opportunity to do what we hadreally wanted to do with our lives – set up a British brand makingourown watches. It meant more than ever now. With the incredible historyof watch making in Britain (Harrison, Mudge, Graham, Daniels etc.) wefelt that it was the time to start, using some very special people. Wehad a very clear idea of what we wanted to achieve and now was as goodas any other time to start.
MS: Can you tell us a little about thehistory of Bremont, especially prior to your formal introduction in2007?
NE: When we started in 2002, wewere pretty confident that 2 years later we would have a watch we werehappy with. It was 5 years before we released our first watch into theretailers. It took us three years to decide on a name for the brand!From the very start we had both decided that we did not want to’inherit’ another brand. You walk around Basel and you realize thatsoso many of the brands out there with a long ‘history’ in fact havebought a history for a company making watches 80 years ago, stopped,and restarted 10 years ago. Where is the continuity in that? How do youknow what the original founders ambitions were with the brand? Where isthe tooling and the plans for the original movement, if there was amovement? All of these questions went through our heads and it becameclear we wanted it to be a new brand focused on technical excellence.
Our family’s last name (surname) is English. Having a British watchbrand called English could appear to many as slightly clichéd,and probably fairly tricky to trademark(!), and so it came down to aflyingtrip we were making 2 years after my plane crash. Giles and I wereflying a German 1930’s Bucker Jungman down through France in weatherweprobably should not have been flying in. The weather worsened and withfuel running low we put the aircraft down in a small pea-field in thechampagne region of NE France. If land like this in the US or UK likethis you apologise to the farmer and buy him a bottle of scotch, inFrance can get a lot more complicated a lot quicker with theauthorities. The farmer came out and offered to help. He was in hislate 70’s and he helped us push the aircraft into his barn. We stayedthere for 2 nights as the weather cleared. He, quite incredibly, was aformer wartime pilot himself and had a workshop much like our fathers.We had a lovely couple of days with him and talked for hours fromeverything from aircraft to watches. He reminded us hugely of ourfather. His name was Antoine Bremont. We kept in touch, and this wasreally the birth of the Bremont brand.
MS: Bremont is a British company. Whereare your watches actually manufactured/assembled?
NE: Following the decision tostart a watch brand, we found some workshop space in Bienne inSwitzerland. Although we were very much British in outlook, when westarted we quickly realized that the skill-base we needed , especiallywhen it came to multiple watch manufacture, was still better placedbeing in Switzerland.
All of the design was being done in the UK, and indeed a lot of thefinishing – like the hardening of the steel cases – was beingcompletedhere, but the final assembly, the movement itself and the case and dialconstruction etc was all being done in Switzerland.
Over the last few years we have wanted to do more and more in the UK tothe extent that we now have a new range of watches – the Bremont MB’s -being assembled at our workshop in England. All of our serious testinghappens over here in the UK, as does the new movement design. It hasgot to the stage now that we have fully designed and built a newmovement for a rather special ship’s clock here in the UK.
MS: Can you tell us a little about thesize of the company (numbers of watches produced, number of employees,distribution model, etc.)?
NE: We are still small in watchcompany terms. We will probably only make around 2500 watches thisyear. With the two workshops we employ just under 20 people.
MS: Can you describe the philosophy behindthe design and production values of your watches?
NE: When we started we had avery clear view of what we wanted to achieve. We wanted to produce awatch which by any watch makers standard was without questionbeautifully made. All watches made by us would be mechanicalchronometers. We wanted to make ‘understated’ watches that were not’bling’ in appearance, and so could never be classified as beingfashion pieces. We have felt that so many brands have gone down themass-market shiny/bling watch route that almost betrays their past.They therefore had to be fairly timeless in appearance. Perhaps themost important design philosophy was one of durability. We wanted thewatches to look great in the boardroom but robust enough to be used inany situation. Our personal background is so focused around aviationthat is hard for some of this design inspiration to not filter through,you only have to look at the Bremont MB or the EP120 and you can seethis very clearly.
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MS: Are there particular watches inhistory from which you are taking design cues?
NE: Sure, I think every watchbrand takes inspiration from other time-pieces that have been outthere. Our technical director who is very must a purist believes thatthere are only 3 shapes a watch should be – ’round, round andround’!!How can we possibly deviate away from this factor alone! Watchbrands/models I personally have been inspired in the past includeiconic watches like the IWC Mk 10 and 11, the 1950’s Rolex Explorer,the vintage Blancpain Fifty-Fathoms and indeed some of the earlySmiths’ military clocks and dials found in so many of the vintageaircraft we fly.
MS: Can you speak a little about yourprinciples of “Individuality, Precision and Endurance”?
NE: Giles and I have alwaystended to do things differently. We tend to drive cars and motor-bikesand fly planes that are not the norm for most day-to-day commutingrequirements. I think this comes genuinely comes from our interest inall things mechanical from a very early age and appreciating things ontheir own technical merit. We are only producing roughly 2500-3000watches by hand this year and they have to be individual on this basisalone. Many of the US Air-force squadrons we are making watches fornow, have come to us due to the interest and aviation pedigree of theBremont MB, but also because they do see themselves (quite rightly) asbeing elite in aviation terms. They were becoming tired of wearingwatches that could be found on so many other people. I think this sumsup the ‘Individuality’ fairly well. To own a watch that has so manyhours of someone’s time put into it counts for a lot in this industrywhere so many watches fly off a production line with hardly any humaninput during the manufacturing phase.
Precision goes without saying with a watch of this nature, but everywatch of ours is Chronometer tested in Switzerland.
I mentioned briefly early on that one of our key principles was that ofrobustness. This ‘Endurance’ tag has become a huge part of thebrand.You only have to look at some of the testing the Bremont MB wentthrough and you can see what I mean. The Bremont MB is arguably themost tested watch out there in the market place. I don’t think awatch,since the Speedmaster was sent to the moon, has a watch been tested tothe extremes that the Bremont MB and the Supermarine 500 have been.Even after all of the testing the Speedmaster was never developedfurther based on the test results, it was simply the best watchavailable at the time for their requirements. The Bremont MB wasdeveloped over a 2.5 year period with Martin Baker, the British companythat make 70% of the world’s air-force ejection seats. They havesavedover 7200 lives to date and have never had an ejection seat fail sincethey started making them in the 1940’s. They wanted to produce awatchthat would withstand the same testing as the seats themselves. Thesetests, other than multiple live ejections, included 40 years worth ofvibration tests, shock tests, electro-static and severe climatic tests(at altitude), salt-fog and corrosion tests etc. To withstand thesetests the watch had to be modified significantly. One example is theway the movement is mounted. The movement had to be mounted in aproprietary rubberized movement mount so at no point is the movementattached to the case, unlike traditional watch design where themovement is held in the case by a series of movement clamps. What isincredible about the project is that the whole process was videodocumented over a period of two years – it makes someincredible viewing seeing a mannequin being ejected at 690 mph with ahighdefinition camera on the watch! The same technology developed in theBremont MB was then integrated into our diving watch – the Supermarine500, which makes this a totally unique and extremely robust divingwatch.
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NE: There are basically 6 or 7lines. There are the Supermarine and B line mentioned above. We thenhave 3 main chronograph ranges. The more classic looking of these isthe ALT1-C range. We then have the ALT1-P range which has very goodreadability and an internal rotating bezel. Finally on the chronographsthere is the ALT1-Z range (for Zulu) due to the second UTZ time zone onthe watch. We then have the BC-series of watches that are the moreentry watches to the Bremont clan, which are the ‘3-hander’ automaticsas we call them.
Moving forward, many of the developments planning are actually basedaround movement changes/modifications. We are doing more and morein-house and this will become obvious at Basel next year. We take theBritish bit quite seriously and hopefully this will become even moreevident with time.
MS: Are there any particular watches thatyou would like to highlight?
NE: I think the EP120 was aninteresting one. EP120 is a very famous Spitfire MkVb WWII aircraft. Itis very original with an incredible history behind it. We were luckyenough to be given part of the aluminum skin covering from thisaircraft as it was being restored. We made a limited edition of thiswatch with this metal built into the dial and movement. We made 120 ofthese watches – all were pre-ordered and were sold last year. It isincredible to think that part of your watch, that you can see, wasflying over Normandy in 1942. We liked that.
MS: What are some of the factors that youbelieve differentiate Bremont?
NE: From the outside, obviousthings that make us different include the fact that we are really oneof the true British watch makers out there. There are very few of us,and we do look at watch-making differently from the Swiss, andhopefully this shows.
Technically, in addition some of the areas high-lighted above, Bremonthas a very unique Trip-Tick three piece case construction. Virtuallyall watches out there use a two piece case – the case itself and thecase back. Ours are very differently constructed using a top bezel, amiddle barrel and the case-back. This allows us to use differentmaterials (like steel and aluminum in the MB) but it also gives thecase a very unique case look with beautifully sculptured lugs thanalmost pour over the middle barrel. They are very technically designedcases and I think the time and effort that has gone into them reallyshows.
One of the key differentiators for Bremont has also been the hardnesstreatments that are applied to our watch cases. From a very early stagewe wanted to produce a watch that had an understated but refined satinfinish to the case, but we also wanted the cases to be very tough too.To achieve this we had to take our cases (which are made inSwitzerland) and transport them to the UK where they are finished by aspecialized company that finishes and treats the jet turbine blades forleading engine manufacturers. We use a similar technology where thecases are diffused with Carbon at very high temperatures (to make theunderlying substrate harder) and then finished with a number of otherproprietory treatments, The result of this time and effort is astainless steel case which is 2000 Vickers in hardness, as opposed toabout 350 Vickers for a normal stainless steel case. This is quiteexciting and the difference is very obvious indeed after the watch hasworn for a while.
Other key differentiators for Bremont, which have been touched on inpart, are things like the nine layers of anti-reflective treatment weapply to BOTH sides of our sapphire crystal which is very obvious whenones looks at our crystals in day-light, the unique way we mount ourmovements in some of our watch models (rubberized anti-shock mount) andthe soft-iron Faraday cage found surrounding the movement in the MB andS500 models.
One other final difference between Bremont and other watchmanufacturers is that we only produce mechanical COSC certifiedchronometers. We just find it hard to get really passionate aboutquartz watches, and because of this, it is probably a road we willnever decide to go down. This is why so much effort has gone intoproducing a mechanical watch with the durability of the MB or the S500- we just wanted to prove that robustness for a military watch doesnothave to be limited to quartz movements.
MS: Please tell us a little about thebackground of your technical director, Peter Robert?
NE: Peter qualified as a Fellowof the British Horological Institute in the early 70s and then becamethe first student from the UK to attend the original WOSTEP course inNeuchatel, under the founder Monsieur Farine. Here Peter designed andconstructed a unique mechanism for the Valjoux 72 chronograph.
Peter then advanced his experiences by spending a period of time withIWC in Schaffhausen. He then became an “Official Rolex Watchmaker”training and working at the main factory in Geneva – and thentransferred to Rolex UK for some years. Peter then spent time withGarrard – the Crown Jewellers after which he qualified as a lecturer sothat he could teach technical horology. Peter spent 13 years teachingtechnical horology and was head of watchmaking where he taught manyfine students including Stephen Forsey and Peter Speake- Marin. Peteralso designed for the students a rather interesting version of a detentescapement.
Peter then returned to Rolex in Geneva where he worked in a ratherspecial watch department. On returning to the UK Peter became aconsultant in technical design for various watch companies and aconsultant training lecturer for Rolex in London. Currently Petercontinues as a lecturer with Rolex – keeps his hand in to purewatch-making looking after watch collections for a select clientele,but most of his time is now taken up with his position of TechnicalDirector with Bremont watches where is doing what he really loves!
MS: As you know, many TimeZoners aremovement fanatics. Is there any intention for Bremont to move towardsbecoming a true manufacture (with in-house movements), or are youcontent with the current model?
NE: It is interesting actually,from my brother and my perspective we entered the watch-making world 8years ago from a back-ground more in aviation rather than horology. Wehad tinkered with watches and clocks all of our lives through ourfather, but restoration of vintage of aircraft was our realback-ground. Our approach has always been slightly different fromothers in the luxury watch industry. We are actually caught in themiddle of this debate. All of our watches use chronometer testedmechanical Swiss movements at the current time, but as a company wehave always wanted to develop a movement to make the watches moreBritish. We have an incredible Technical Director in Peter Roberts, andhe has been instrumental in us developing a new ship’s clock in-housefor release this time next year for example. We are also designing andbuilding our own in-house modules to bolt onto our existing Soprod7750’s for a new module we will be showing next year too. A new’in-house’ movement from Bremont will follow not too long afterthat.
Most of our range however currently uses a mixture of Sellita, Soprodand ETA movements which are then finished in-house with a few othertweaks. The reason for using a Valjoux base in our watches was a verysimple one. Let’s go back to flying. We have flown a number ofdifferent aircraft over the years from wartime to modern day aircraft -and there are probably 3 or 4 key western manufacturers of reliableaero engines. The same Lycoming and Continental engines used inaircraft in the 1940’s, for example, are still being used intoday’s aircraft – with very few, if any, modifications. Would you flyoverthe North Sea during winter with a recently released “in-house” engineproduced by a new aircraft manufacturer? I wouldn’t, and there manyexamples of fatalities where people have tried. It takes many years torefine and test an engine. Look at Pagani Zonda, Lotus, McClaren, ACCobra, Red-Bull Racing and many other leading car manufacturers/racingteams and you will find that the same reasoning is being used motorindustry.
This is the approach Bremont and many other luxury watch brands havetaken over the years. There are countless examples of this. Take someof the major “credible” brands out there – the most desirableRolexes ever made were the pre-1999 Daytonas which used Zenithmovements, andbefore that Valjoux. Every Patek Philippe chronograph before the 21stCentury had an outside movement, including Lemania. Breitling, IWC andPanerai all use versions of the Valjoux or Unitas movement. Whilst thisis true, it must be remembered that there can be an enormous differencein quality between an entry-level and top execution chronometer rated7750, for example. Materials in the movement can differ substantiallyand the finish can be very different too. It is for this reason, whichmany chat-rooms fail to consider, that the ‘same’ 7750 can be foundin a £600 watch or a £15,000 watch. In many examples are just notcomparing like with like.
The other point to consider is that the vast majority of the apparent”manufacture” brands buy-in parts like rubies, screws, hands,dials, and balance/main-springs in any case. Where do you draw the linefor amovement to be classified as being totally ‘in-house’? Considerthis point – virtually all of the world’s luxury mechanical watchbrandsusebalance springs produced by one manufacture – Nivarox. Nivarox is thename given to a metallic alloy that is very wear-resistant,non-magnetic and virtually immune to temperature variations. It just sohappens that the only company making these springs is owned by theSwatch Group. The balance spring is really the heart-beat of anymechanical watch and so this is quite a integral part for a”manufacture” not to be producing.
Recently there has certainly been a large drift towards in-housemovements by luxury watch brands – especially over the last 3 or 4years. The catalyst for this, however, is really the threat ofnon-supply of movements from the Swatch/ETA stable from which manybrands are dependent. This has been on the horizon for a while.
So are Bremont heading down the ‘in-house’ movement route? Theanswer is yes and no. No because we will undoubtedly continue to usemovementslike the Valjoux 7750 base for our chronographs in some form. They areso robust, precise and well proven.
Yes, because as we mentioned before, it is a real desire of ours tomake our watches even more British. They are designed, finished andassembled (depending on the model) in England, but still have a Swissheart-beat. There would be something very satisfying and special aboutproducing a movement in England, in a country that once led the worldin the field of horology. The form and finishing of a classic Englishmovement is very different from the Swiss equivalent and it would be atremendous accomplishment to be able to produce a movement that onceagain competed with the Swiss. The Germans have done it with Lange& Sohne and Glashutte, and so there is no reason why theBritish cannot do the same. Great British watch-makers like GeorgeDaniels and Roger Smith are making beautiful truly hand-made Britishmovements but only in very limited numbers. We would like to do thesame but on a larger scale. It is a huge challenge but one worth trying.
We have some very British adaptations to our movements coming out inBasel next year, and well as a Ship’s clock which has been totallydesigned in-house and built in the UK. It is 28 cm across and a veryspecial piece indeed.
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MS: What are your goals for the companyover the next few years?
NE: To build the brand into aninternationally recognized (outside of the UK), yet niche, manufactureof very interesting and well constructed chronometers.
MS: What do you see as the greatestchallenges for your company over the next few years?
NE: I think the challenge withBremont is the same with any smaller “niche” watch brand, and thatisone of exposure. The marketing budgets of the large luxury and watchgroups dwarfs the budgets smaller independents have available. It ishowever a fun and interesting challenge that we find totally engaging.
One area that has proved to be very successful and enjoyable in the UK(and further a field) in terms of the public understanding what weproducing and the effort that goes into each watch, are events. We arethe Timing Partner to a number of high profile UK events like theFestival of Speed at Goodwood, the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race and theThe Epsom Derby, but what we find works well to compliment these largerevents are a more intimate events with real enthusiasts. We areplanning to have a series of these events with collectors andenthusiasts over the coming months in the US.
MS: In a very short period of time youhave managed to attract an incredible amount of interest from a numberof high profile people. Who are these people and what do they wear?
NE: We are lucky in thisrespect. I think we simply appeal to those individuals interested in’all things mechanical’ like us. They want something well made,different and something that fits with their personality. Orlando Bloomis a big fan and owns four or five pieces, Tom Cruise loves his ALT1-C,as does Ewan McGregor and Ryan Seacrest (who also owns three Bremontsand can be seen wearing them on American Idol a lot). There are thenpeople like Jeremy Clarkson (Top Gear), Bear Grylls and Liam Neeson,which is very flattering.
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MS: And now our traditional final TZInterview question: What watch are you wearing today?
NE: The new DLC coated U2prototype I have been testing for a few weeks now. A great watch – ablack DLC version of the Bremont MB with a sapphire back. It is out ina couple of months!
MS: Thank you very much for taking thetime to do this interview. I’m looking forward to seeing Bremontcontinue to grow.
Note:Nick English can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. All images provided by Bremont Watch Company.
Copyright 2010, Michael Sandler
All Rights Reserved
An Interview With Christopher Ward of London
Christopher Ward is the new kid on the block of quality watch making. He is, he says, driven by the finest traditions of English watch design.
A native of Liverpool, UK, he spent his formative years in Prescot, the area of the city that, in the 19th century, was centre of the Lancashire watch and clock industry.
His great hero, Thomas Russell, created fine timepieces and received royal patronage from Queen Victoria. The first production edition of Christopher’s C1 Russell – a watch he designed in homage to Thomas Russell – was recently accepted into the renowned horological collection at the World Museum Liverpool.
‘It was a great honour,’ says Christopher – but perhaps only the first of many accolades that be due this maker who wants to put exclusive watches within reach of everyone and, while selling only through the Web, remains totally committed to a very personal service that enables him to engage in direct communication with each customer.
TZ: With a background of directorships in retail and commerce, what motivated you to switch to watch making?
CW: The short answer to that question is that it started with a bet! I wagered an old friend that I could make ‘the cheapest most expensive watch in the world’. It might sound flippant, but I was inspired by my long-standing love of watches and commitment to the principle of ‘quality at accessible prices’. It was a challenge to myself and to the commercial world in which, until that point, I had spent my career.
Now for the longer answer, you have to go right back to the beginning when I left school at 18 to work in the buying office of a major Liverpool-based retailer. It was my introduction to a fast-paced, commercial environment and I was hooked. Over the years, the work took me all over the world, for organisations including Reebok, Samsung and the Disney Corporation.
At 47, I had a successful global consultancy with blue chip clients, but wanted a new direction. I sold my business and while I was deciding where to go from here, I met up with Mike France for a beer.
Mike and I started our working lives together in Liverpool. He went on to directorships of some of the UK’s biggest retail stores, but had also recently sold his business – The Early Learning Centre franchise – and was looking for a new venture. We were sitting on a boat on the river Thames, contemplating life, business and the future, when the idea began to gel.
Mike was keen to move away from ‘bricks and mortar’ retailing to a web-based operation. I wanted to revisit my first love – watches. It was a perfect piece of serendipity.
Equally serendipitous was the fact that one of my great business friends from Hong Kong, Woody Lam, had been one of the Swiss ‘Class of 32’. As a young man in the 1970s, he had travelled to Switzerland to train as a watch maker. It was at the time when the Swiss industry had woken up to the potential threat from the Far East and rather than quash it, decided to ‘plant’ Swiss-trained expertise in the region. Needless to say, the bright young things they trained immediately set up their own businesses, so the initiative was abandoned after just a few years.
Woody is no longer a professional watchmaker, but he still has immense skills. I spent a year with him and seven other students from the original 32 Swiss-trained watchmakers, learning art and science of Swiss production. I added my knowledge of English watch design; Mike and his business partner Peter Ellis
TZ: : You attribute some of your love of watches to the great English watch maker Thomas Russell. Why?
CW: Thomas Russell was surely one of the great names of 19th century watch making – though surprisingly little is known about him outside Liverpool. He was, along with Joseph Sewill, at the forefront of the Lancashire watch and clock industry, of which my home town – Liverpool – was the very heart.
This made sense – at that time, most of the steel, gold or other metal cases were being imported from Elgin in the U.S.A and shipped over to the UK, docking at the great port of Liverpool. Of course, the city was a major seafaring port at the time and Russell’s and Sewill’s main revenue stream was in the manufacture of ships’ clocks and chronometers.
My interest in watches goes back to school days. I attended grammar school in a town called Prescot, where Thomas Russell’s family was based. The industry had long since died out by then – probably unable to recover production after most of the factories were turned over to the war effort during the second World War, or so I am led to believe.
The Prescot horology museum was very close to my home and school. I used to wander round it, fascinated by the timepieces on display, eager to absorb every scrap of information I could find about the mechanisms.
I bought a watch with my first pay packet – it was a Sewill and I bought it because it was a Liverpool watch. Later on, while I was training with Woody Lam, the first watch I restored was a Thomas Russell Hunter pocket watch – this became the inspiration for our C1 Russell which has just been accepted into the Liverpool Museum collection.
I think it’s a real shame that knowledge of Liverpool watch making is dying out. The Russell name has all but disappeared and Sewills has just been taken over and yet to re-emerge.
TZ: Your business model is completely different from that of other watch makers. How and why did it come about?
CW: Our business model is simple – we sell directly to customers over the web at a price that represents trade cost plus a small but fair margin. That means there are no middlemen or retailers to bump up the price, we don’t use sponsorship or trade shows to build the brand. As far as we are concerned, the watch comes first, not the marketing, and we don’t want customers to pay for the extras that necessarily seem to come with a huge marketing machine and brand hype.
Our brand values are our strength – honesty, fairness, value, openness and integrity. I try to check every watch before it is shipped and answer most, if not all customer enquiries myself. If you call, it’s usually me who answers the phone!
We think this model may be unique, but I’ve no doubt someone from the TZ forum will let us know if it isn’t!
TZ: Describe the philosophy behind the design and production values of your watches.
CW: A Christopher Ward watch is quintessentially English in design. When we set up the company, we never wanted to be a ‘me too’ Swiss rip-off organisation. Each model is very distinctive – whether over time that will translate into an overall Christopher Ward handwriting I can’t yet say. All I know is that I want my watches to be the perfect blend of function and form.
We align ourselves with other brands that use movements like the 2824-2 movement, such as Tag Heuer, Tissot, Zeno, Sinn, Maurice Lacroix, Kobold, to name but a few, but our pricing structure is different to theirs.
The main point is that I never compromise the watch to meet deadlines. I prefer to let my watches speak for themselves and if it takes a little longer than promised to get the design and mechanism right, then so be it.
TZ: Apart from Thomas Russell, who or what are your design inspirations?
CW: There is a lot you can do within the design of a wrist watch, but you have to have a starting point. I take a lot of inspiration from nature, particularly when I am meandering up and down the Thames in my boat.
In future, I may even evolve the ladies’ watch range into ‘wrist art’, with hand-painted dials all on a natural theme. I have a team of artists in Tibet ready to create something beautiful for me!
TZ: We know you keep your prices as low as possible, but how do your watches compare in value with other brands?
CW: Our biggest challenge is to convince the consumer of the perceived value of our watches. We are producing top quality watches with the same Swiss movements that are used in other well-known Swiss brands, but selling them direct to customers for around one fifth to one tenth of the retail price.
So, the quality is equal to (and possibly better than) comparable brands, but some consumers may not believe that we can really achieve that quality for such a low price. The fact is that we can and do, and once people know about us our reputation seems to spread quickly. The catch 22 is that we actually may sell our watches at too low price for people to believe us.
Very early on in the history of Christopher Ward London, we received independent appraisal of our first watch from a watch-focused web forum and now even Swatch have commented favourably on our products.
In the end, though, it’s the customer that will make or break our brand. We put as much into our service as into our watches so that every customer feels connected to the manufacturer of their watch. It’s a very personal thing for me and the customer. We hope that word of mouth rather than ‘the celebrity’ will build our brand.
TZ: Will you continue to be as personally involved in the business as it grows?
CW: That’s a very good question. We are a very small team at the moment. We ship between 30 and 200 watches a day and nothing goes out unless I have looked at it. That way, I have a connection with every watch that carries my name. I also stamp and personally sign the individual authentication letter that goes out with each one, as well as answering email queries. If there are any problems, I deal with them myself and carry out repairs thus keeping in touch with any problems and customer needs.
One of our ‘challenges’, if you like, is that the internet engenders the idea that purchase and shipping are instantaneous and Christopher Ward watches are not a 24-hour turn-round operation. The service we provide is appropriate to the quality of the watches.
All too often, in today’s world of brand hype, people lose sight of what real service is. To me real service is looking after, and caring for the customer and producing a product that our customers will love and treasure. This service takes time and it is impractical for us to turn around crafted pieces in 24 hours – after all, if you commissioned a painting or bought a top-of-the-range car, you wouldn’t expect it delivered the following morning.
There are, though, occasions where we will pull out the stops, for example if it is a customer’s birthday or anniversary, we will do our best to accommodate their timescales.
TZ: The Kingfisher Diver-Pro watch is, as you say on the website, "an important addition to the Christopher Ward collection". Why did you decide to develop the Kingfisher and how did you approach the development of its functionality?
CW: Diving is my passion. I have dived all over the world, though these days I confine myself to clear, tropical waters with colourful fish!
After 15 years as a qualified diver, I have read a lot of hype about divers’ watches. I wanted to give our customers a professional dive watch, as good as any other brand out there, with a price differential that means you could also afford a diving holiday too!
I wanted to give it a real point of differentiation from other dive watches, so I added perhaps the world’s first No Decompression Limit Table on the screw-down back case. I haven’t found another but would be interested to be pointed in the right direction by your members.
I should stress, though, that while the watch is designed to be a high performance dive watch (it’s used by, amongst others, an ex-Royal Navy sub-marine bomb disposal expert!) it should only ever be used as a back-up to other dive equipment, such as a dive computer.
TZ: There has been considerable discussion lately regarding the increasing size of watches over the past few years. Is that a trend you believe will continue, or do you see it as a fad that will pass?
CW: The demand for larger watches is probably due to the psychological needs of men to demonstrate their manhood, wealth etc, using the few avenues at their disposal, such as cars, gadgets and accessories. Given the unlikely change in this need, I doubt that this trend will reverse in the near future.
TZ: What are your longer term goals for the company? Where do you see yourself in five years?
CW: At the moment, we are very focused on developing the range from around 60 or so watches to 200+, including a strong women’s range, which we are currently building on, with the new Diamond Encore and the soon to be launched Divine Collection. Eventually, we will move new product development to the next level – an even better watch for the same money.
TZ: What do you see as the most significant challenges facing some of the smaller companies in the watch industry over the coming years?
CW: Without a doubt one of the most significant challenges will be the continuity of supply of mechanical movements in order to keep up with demand.
Another concern would be if the bigger brands abandon their current distribution channels in favour of going direct to the consumer, via the internet. This is however unlikely and would be a very brave move as it would surely upset many retailers.
TZ: Your watches contain Swiss movements. Are they manufactured and assembled in Switzerland or elsewhere?
CW: I think all too often some manufacturers are afraid to be open and honest about where their components come from. In fact in the luxury goods market, and in this I include perfumes and handbags, there is an awful lot of smoke and mirrors set up to justify high prices.
Christopher Ward London watches take the best of watch-production from around the world. The movements are indeed manufactured in Switzerland – we have relationships, for example, with ETA. The cases are manufactured in the Far East, where most of the watches are also assembled, some are assembled in the UK.
The important point here is to say we’re not afraid to say who we use or where we buy our components from, so long as we source from reputable and ethical suppliers, for example all of our diamond watches adhere to the Kimberley Process, and we have a very close relationship with our production guys at the unit in Hong Kong (James and Philip), who incidentally were also trained in Switzerland.
TZ: Which watches do you have in your personal collection? Which is your favourite, and why?
CW: Of course I have all of the Christopher Ward range and then amongst others my collection also includes a Tissot, a present from my wife, several Thomas Russell pocket watches and curiously a Nomos, which I bought because I was curious about a watch which, like CWL watches, is priced lower than one would expect for the quality. I also have a Walt Disney Finding Nemo watch that my four-year old son gave me to fix – but it’s digital….help!
What’s my favourite? The Christopher Ward collection and sentimental value aside, I prefer my IWC Spitfire. It’s a wonderful watch to look at and wear and I like IWC’s simplistic approach to design.
TZ: And finally, in time-honored TimeZone tradition – which watch are you wearing today?
CW: The original CWL prototype C5 Aviator with a white face.
Photos of Kingfisher Diver Pro courtesy ofHans van HoogstratenAdministrator Christopher Ward Forum
An Interview with Gene Stone, Author of “The Watch”
by William Massena
Tell me a little about your watch background?
Do you have any advice for people who want to write about watches?
Still, as watches become increasingly popular, there will be more of a need for photographers who can specialize in horology. TimeZone is rife with them.
You organize the book in part by the fifty companies every one should know about. How did you decide which fifty to include?
I would like to conclude the interview with the traditional question on Timezone; which watch are you wearing today?
A Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso Duoface — it’s the perfect watch for someone as wishy-washy as I am. If you can’t decide what to wear, this way you get two two choices even while you’re wearing it.
Click here to purchase Gene Stone’s book “The Watch” at Amazon.
by William Massena
At Basel 2006, TimeZone (TZ) had the privilege to visit Patek Philippe and interview Mr. Thierry Stern, Vice President and Mr. Claude Peny, CEO. Later, we were joined by Mr. Philippe Stern, Chairman. The interview lasted about an hour and was conducted in French. No questions were provided in advance. The interview was conducted on March 30, 2006.
(TZ): Thank you so much for the opportunity to have this interview. I would like to start with retail. When will the Geneva boutique open and what will it look like?
Thierry Stern: We hope to be open by the end of this year. The entire building has been renovated. Three floors will be open to the public. We plan to organize some exhibits around particular themes. We will also have the entire current collection permanently available for our customers at the Boutique; this is important to us.
We wanted to create three Patek Philippe destinations within Geneva, a Patek triangle if you wish, between the factory in Plans-les-Ouates, the Patek Museum, and the Boutique.
TZ: Do you mean that all the watches currently available in the catalogue will be for sale at all times at the Geneva Boutique?
Claude Peny: No, that would not be fair to our retailers. Some difficult to obtain models will not be available for sale. Customers will be able to view the watch, but will have to order and wait for it.
TZ: There have been rumors that you recently purchased the Patek Philippe Boutique on Bond Street in London (that boutique belonged to a retailer), is that true? Is Patek developing a strategy of vertical integration from manufacture to retailer?
Thierry Stern: Yes we bought the Boutique in London, It was an opportunity we could not miss, because that location is important to us.
No, we are not interested in opening Boutiques everywhere. We have a very close relationship with our clients and partners, the retailers. These relationships are important to us.
The 27-70 and Others
TZ: Speaking of relationships, there have been a few rumors about the 27-70, among them that Patek will terminate production of the 27-70 because Swatch will soon force you to have the Lemania name on the movement.
Claude Peny: We are already stating in our literature that the movement is a base Lemania. I was recently meeting some of their executives and there was no such issue. We already do most of the work in house on the Lemania, including a number of manufacturing and decoration operations that are no longer being made by Lemania.
TZ: I want to mention a model that is important to the TimeZone reader, and that is the 3970. I understand that you will not give production numbers, however recently Antiquorum has written about the production at length in conjunction with recent auctions, providing breakdowns between the 3970 and the 3970E, including hand shapes and most importantly the overall production by case colors (Platinum is the rarest, followed by white gold and rose gold and finally yellow gold). Did you provide these numbers?
Claude Peny: No we did not, but I think they know where to get the information.
Thierry Stern: You know William, all these breakdowns are unbelievable, these classifications… Within Patek, we have four references for the 3970 and that’s it. Those tiny variations are not so important at least not in Patek Philippe’s eyes.
TZ: The price of the 3970 is climbing fast, and some people even speak of speculation. What is your opinion?
Thierry Stern: People have always speculated. (smile)
Thierry Stern: No it is not discontinued. We only have three master watchmakers working on the 5004. They also handle repairs, so obviously production is very low. But expect to see them soon.
Claude Peny: We stopped production in 2003 to make some changes to the movements… some improvements that do improve the functioning of ref. 5004. We propose to retrofit these improvements to the older movements as they come in for service.
Thierry Stern: We offer this possibility to the client. Some choose to do it, others don’t (wry smile), preferring to keep the movement as original as possible.
TZ: What about the 5070, are we at the end of the run for that model? And is the 5970 soon to be discontinued with the release of the 5960?
Thierry Stern: No, we are not planning to discontinue either watch. We have not set specific production time periods. We try to look at the big picture, but also satisfy our collectors. There are no plans to discontinue these models.
TZ: This brings me to the 3712. One year of production, and the rumor is that the watch is already discontinued?
Thierry Stern: Yes, the 3712 is discontinued. It is rather the way we produce that reference that made us stop production. It was different than the way we will produce the new Nautilus collection.
TZ: I was surprised not to see the new Nautilus line. When will it be released? And why does the 3712 not fit within that line?
Thierry Stern: We are a small company with limited capacities. Producing the unique components required for the 3712 bracelet separately from the rest of the Nautilus line did not make much economic sense. The new Nautilus will be available in the Fall.
TZ: About the 5960, it is a rather interesting concept: you integrated a small complication (annual calendar) with a more classic one (the chronograph). Furthermore, your have a very original design. Can you tell us more?
Thierry Stern: We are very proud of the 5960. The first in house chronograph was important to our collectors, and to us. We wanted to create something original, interesting and forward. We have received excellent feedback about this watch.
TZ: With a price that is relatively affordable, will production be able to satisfy demand?
Claude Peny: Yes. Regarding the price, a few people have commented on that.
Thierry Stern: We used to deliver the first shipment of new watches in small batches of 80 to 100 pieces, however we were not satisfying demand. In certain markets, some retailers received new models, while others who did not complained to us. With this watch, we want to satisfy everyone, at least in a specific market, so we will not ship the first watches until we have reached 300 units in production. Until then, we will not ship the watch to our retailers.
TZ: The new Men’s 2006 collection has a common theme: size. You are replacing a few older models with larger watches. Do you think that trend is here to stay?
Thierry Stern: Yes absolutely. Today’s teenagers are taller and bigger than one generation ago. Large watches are here to stay because they are more legible and proportionate to our wrist. For example, the new Worldtimer has better legibility. The cities were a bit “tight” on the inner bezel of the 5110. This one is easier on the eyes.
TZ: The 5396 is another new watch that will become a big star. The windows for the day of the week and the month seem very appealing to collectors. But did we need another annual calendar?
Thierry Stern: Collectors requested this watch, and we have already received great feedback. The annual calendar is very popular, and this combination is what the market was expecting from us (note that the very popular 5125 Wempe limited edition had the same dial set up).
TZ: Last year you released the silicium anchor in a limited edition reference 5250. What feedback have you received from the happy few owners?
Thierry Stern: Very little (smile). It seems most collectors have kept the watches in their safes. However, we have done extensive testing and control in house. It works very well; it is reliable.
TZ: You are introducing the Spiromax in a new 2006 “Advance Research” limited edition this year, and the edition is very small. Why such a small number?
Thierry Stern: We can’t make everyone happy. We are limited by our production capacities.
Philippe Stern (who just entered the room): I want to know who buys this reference as we do for our minute repeaters. We work very closely with our retailers to know the final customer who will buy our minute repeaters. We want to know which Patek Philippe watches they already own. I do not want to see minute repeaters in the grey market, and it is the same with these limited editions.
TZ: You will have 300 watches this year; that is quite a few customers to know.
Philippe Stern: We will try.
TZ: My favorite watch this year is a ladies watch, the Gondolo Serata ref 4972/4973. It reminds me of the vintage reference 2442.
Thierry Stern: The watch is thick and it’s a beautiful design, in great contrast to the new Gent’s model Gondolo Trapèze. The latter could also be worn by a woman. It is thin and not very large. Do not forget the new ladies Calatrava 4896. Very thin and elegant; a favorite of mine.
Philippe Stern: You will always find vintage Patek DNA in our watches.
TZ: It seems important to Patek that the customer knows and understands Patek history. However the last 15 years are not well covered in Patek books. Will you soon release a new edition of Huber & Banbery, or a new book?
Philippe Stern: Books are tremendous work. We have no plans for a new book on the history of Patek, however we are working on a book for the museum. It will be a catalogue raisonnée of the museum’s entire collection.
TZ: On that note, I would like to thank you Gentlemen for sharing this time with us.
Please note that I did not conclude the interview by asking each participant what watch he was wearing, however:
Mr. Philippe Stern wore a 5296 in white gold, as did Mr. Claude Peny. Thierry was wearing a 5056P.
Picture credits: Patek Philippe, Antiquorum, Michael Sandler, Ron DeCorte, Chronometrie.com
© TimeZone.com 2006 All rights reservedRead more
TimeZone Interview with Girard-Perregaux’s
Click the images to view larger versions
Conducted at the SIHH on April 3, 2006
MD: Stefano, can you describe your role at Girard-Perregaux and tell us what areas you oversee?
SM: That is the one billion-dollar question! (laughing) I have three main roles inside Girard-Perregaux. First, I’m involved in product design. Second, I am responsible for the global Girard-Perregaux corporate image including our retail concept. And third, I am in charge of the BMW-Oracle Racing partnership. From the relationship with the Challenge to the design of limited editions dedicated to our
MD: Do you work at a computer doing design yourself, or do you work over the shoulder of a designer and make suggestions?
SM: Personally, I prefer to draw sketches on paper. Then, we have a design department with people working on computers. Some people work more particularly on case design, others on dials designs. In a rather different way, movement design is not only a matter of mechanics. I work with all these people to oversee the progress and make sure every project is consistent.
MD: Is design one of your favorite aspects of the wristwatch business?
SM: I am very passionate about design. I’m passionate about cars, furniture, interior design. Actually I graduated in Architecture. I first wanted to be a car designer. I’m from
MD: Of the products that you have been involved with, in terms of the design, is there one that you’re especially proud of?
SM: It depends on my degree of involvement with a specific product design. I am proud of the Flying Tourbillon
MD: You mentioned that you are responsible for the BMW-Oracle Racing relationship. Do you enjoy sailing?
SM: Yes, very much, but I have never been involved in sailing competitions personally but in car racing competition. I was a rally driver. This is not that popular in the
MD: As a second generation member of the family business, do you bring a new or different perspective from that of your father?
SM: I believe I have to be consistent with what has made Girard-Perregaux what it is over decades. Since my father took over the brand he has invested tremendous energy in promoting the Manufacture spirit and in designing unique products. Then, he has taught me that you have to innovate. This is part of the brand DNA as well as part of our family values. We are entrepreneur. This leaves room to bringing fresh blood every day in the brand. If Girard-Perregaux tradition goes back as far as 1791, we have a modern vision of watchmaking.
MD: In your experience, do younger people, say under 25 years old, have an interest in haute horology and fine watchmaking?
SM: I believe that more and more young people are interested in fine watches. But that’s not usually the period in life when one can afford high complications. I do have many friends who are interested in watches. I went recently to a party in Gstaad, which is one of the most exclusive ski resorts in the world, and there were at least 50 teenagers wearing limited editions from AP, Girard-Perregaux, Vacheron. But that is a very unusual situation.
MD: Earlier you mentioned the importance of research and development. I know that Girard-Perregaux is involved with developing new materials for use in mechanical watch movements. Is there any news or new information in that area that you can share with us today?
SM: Well, we are working on it. We are involved in several projects linked to the application of innovating materials in the field of watchmaking but that’s a little too early and delicate to speak about now. We were precursors lately in the introduction of ceramic ball bearings and we have also introduced sapphire bridges for the tourbillon. This was perhaps not the first time worldwide, but for us it was interesting to present a new design.
MD: I heard someone in the hall say that perhaps something new is coming for 2008?
SM: Yes, we will present a new escapement in 2008 or maybe 09. I think it will be a real breakthrough. This escapement will be used for high-end watches. It is totally different from the Swiss lever escapement system. This will be totally different from traditional production and current watchmaking techniques.
MD: Do you collect watches?
SM: Yes. But as you can imagine I am in a strange situation. I think I have never bought a watch. A lot of the watches I have are presents exchanged with other brands. Apart from the GPs I have, there are several models from other brands I really like, but it is difficult for me to wear them, except in private situations.
MD: Among watches in your collection do you have any favorites?
SM: For several years, I have worn the Laureato Evo II Chrono called "Olympico." Currently I wear a Sea Hawk.
MD: If there is someone in our audience who has heard of Girard-Perregaux but who does not know very much about the company, what would you like to say to them about Girard-Perregaux?
SM: Girard-Perregaux is a one of the few true Swiss manufacture. Our movements are designed, developed and produced in-house. Our design approach is unique. We always focus on maintaining a proper balance between the design on the outside and the design on the inside. I believe that only passion and emotion can produce fine watches. Then one has to know about our long tradition, and about specific watches like the 3 gold bridges tourbillon. This is a true icon for the brand. It represents our tradition, skill and our savoir-faire as they say in French. Then we are today one of the few independent Haute Horlogerie watchmakers in
It is not easy today to explain this. The word Manufacture is used by every brand but it has for us a very specific meaning. A lot of people believe that most brands design movements and I think this is an issue we have to face as a true movement maker.
The Girard-Perregaux Manufacture
MD: Perhaps at this point you can show me the new models for 2006.
SM: Certainly. I think we have something interesting here… this is the new ww.tc Perpetual Calendar. It is quite unique as a mix of complications in the market. The only watch to propose world time and perpetual calendar indications. The shape of the case is at the same time classic and dynamic. A watch that is already a GP classic!
MD: I agree – it is very nice looking.
SM: The Vintage 1945 is one of GP’s most popular collections. This new model features a very classic complication, a triple calendar (indication of the day, date and month). This is also the first time we have designed a square case for the Vintage 1945 collection. Because there is a round indication for the date, we decided to have a double symmetry for the case.
MD: When will this be available in the stores?
SM: In October.
MD: How about the ww.tc Perpetual Calendar?
SM: The same date.
We are a partner for the Monte Carlo Historic Rally, and we have dedicated a special limited edition for the Rally. As I told you before, we are very involved with car competitions. The dial colors are inspired from the Italian flag because Alitalia, the Italian airline company, sponsored at that time a very special car, the Lancia Stratos It was a very extreme car, it looks like a star ship, from the 1970s. It was a winning car, and so we designed this watch as a tribute to this unique car and to is victory in the 1976 edition. This is a limited edition, 1000 pieces total.
Next, for the ladies, you know that a clear trend is ladies models with high-grade mechanical movements. We have always designed ladies watches, but what has changed lately is that the ladies are much more interested in a fine and sophisticated mechanism. We introduced the Cat’s Eye, and over 3 years we have doubled the percentage of ladies watches we produce. This one, called Cat’s Eye bi-retro, has a manufacture movement with retrograde seconds and day of the week indications. It has a black MOP dial. The Cat’s Eye was awarded the Grand Prix de Geneve for ladies watches, prizes in
Next, I think one of the most striking novelties for us for 2006 is the new Laureato Evo3. Alongside the well-established chronographs, we have designed this model featuring our patented large date, a moon phase and a power reserve. This is a new complication with several sophistications in its construction. We have also redesigned a thinner case and the bracelet as well.
MD: On the big date, are the disks on the same level?
SM:This is a Girard-Perregaux patent. It features 2 overlapping disks, and one is a transparent.
MD: And when will this be available at the retailers?
SM: Also in October.
This next piece is a classic Girard-Perregaux watch called Girard-Perregaux 1966. It is very simple and elegant. I think that for a watch with these aesthetics, the automatic system is very important. Normally with an extra flat watch manual winding is used, but we decided to make it an automatic because we believe this is a modern approach with a much more comfortable use.
It looks very simple but I can assure you that a lot of design thought went into it, to get the proportions just right.
MD: What is the diameter of the case?
SM: It is 38mm.
MD: Which metals is this available in?
White and pink gold, and we also have a version with diamonds set in the bezel.
Now maybe we can look at the new calibres completing our portfolio, and then perhaps spend some time to look the Haute Horlogerie Collection.
This one is 8 ¾ ligne or
The next one is 13 1/4 lignes which is exactly 30mm. This is the GP4500. It will be dedicated to large gentlemen‘s watches, complications and modules. The large size will allow subdials to be spread out. That is important to a large size movement. It also has a large barrel, which is important so it has enough power to drive complications.
Then we have the talking piece for GP at SIHH. This is the Laureato Evo3 sapphire bridge tourbillon...
Our idea was to keep perfect the classical three gold bridges tourbillon. We do not want to give in to fashion. Back in 1860, before he designed the classical and iconic 3 arrow-shaped gold bridges tourbillon, Constant Girard designed another tourbillon with 3 parallel nickel-plated bridges. It was a very modern design. So we decided to use this very same design for a modern watch, just to confirm the modernity of our 3 bridges tourbillon, and we have done it in sapphire. So, we have a very modern watch with modern production techniques, inspired by a 19th century timepiece. A really exciting product I believe.
MD: I agree – I like this piece very much. Will it be produced as a limited edition?
SM: It will not be limited.
MD: What is the metal?
SM: It is titanium with a platinum bezel. In the future, there might be special versions in gold or platinum, but for now the standard version, if you can call this a standard version (laughing) is titanium.
MD: How many do you think will be produced per year?
SM: A very small number. Crafting sapphire bridges is a complex and time consuming process. The matte finish of the plate is also really special. Only can the hands of the most talented watchmakers work on this type of finish. And it takes time…
MD: What will the pricing be?
SM: In Swiss Francs, it is 170,000.
Are you familiar with the automatic winding system for the 3 golden bridges?
MD: No, can you show me?
SM: We have patented a few years ago a system featuring a small rotor placed just below the barrel. We had to work on this technical solution, because we wanted to keep the geometry and the architectural elements of the 3 bridges Tourbillon very pure. So we designed this system, without the large rotor, and it looks right.
MD: It seems that this small rotor would not have sufficient mass
SM: That is why it is platinum.
Here is the Evo 3 Tourbillon on a strap. For a tourbillon it is incredibly light.
Here is the Sea Hawk
OK – I think I have shown you all the main novelties for SIHH. We are also working on some interesting projects for the future, but this will have to be presented later…
MD: How far out do you plan? Do you know what watches you will offer 3 years from now? 5 years? 7 years?
SM: It depends. In terms of the design, we are now planning watches for 2008. For the movements, we are thinking 2010, 2012.
MD: Stefano, thank you so much for spending this time with us.
SM: Thank you very much Mike. I enjoyed meeting you, and I would like to say hello to the TimeZone community!
For more information on the Evo 3 Tourbillon, please click here
© TimeZone.com 2006
Official images © Girard-Perregaux, used with permission
Photos and Text by Peter Chong
Much has been written about Philippe Dufour, his mastery of the craft of watchmaking, his insistence on perfection, his stubborn-ness to remain close to the art of his forebears, his open-ness to sharing with collectors and other watchmakers alike.
I have been close to the man for many years, since the mid-1990s, when he made his mark as the creator of the wristwatch Grande Sonnerie, and of the Duality. I visited him again at his booth in the ACHI stand in Basel 1998 when gingerly, he told me that he had created something different from his earlier creations. Something so simple, in watchmaking terms, he called it the Simplicity.
This marvel in watchmaking has been making storms amongst cognicienti around the world. The initial run of 100 pieces have been completely been taken up, and Philippe is now taking orders for the next 100, with deliveries extending to 2008.
The watch is available in either a rose gold, white gold or platinum case, and in two sizes – the traditional 34mm, and in 37mm. And in three dial options – silver or grey guilloche dial with applied dagger markers, dauphine hands, and in a printed white dial with roman numerals and blued steel Breguet hands.This is quite simply, pun intended, the best finished watch in current production.
In this article, I explore with Philippe and showing pictures of the Dufour Simplicity – being constructed in his atelier, unplugged…before finishing.
The Overcoil – how the coil is wound
The Breguet overcoil is bent to shape by hand. First, the flat coil as purchased from an old source is put on the scope and the magnified image thrown onto the screen where it is matched with a tracing of a theoretical overcoil is overlaid. The calculated curve is shown below.
The hairspring is from a new old stock. Picture below shows the size of the hairspring.
The hairspring is then bent to shape manually, using two pairs of tweezers, and coaxed, tweaked to follow the theoretical shape. This is a laborious process and needs the eye hand coordination that not many watchmakers today possess.
The wheel train
Each part is finished to the highest possible degree. The photograph below shows the linear drawing showing the engagement of the wheels, and the shape of the teeth. Philippe taught himself AutoCAD to be able to prepare drawings like these, which are required by the CNC operators to program their machines to cut the wheels. The wheels are then hand finished with hand chamfering.
Shown below is the movement plate, yet unfinished, just returned from the CNC machinist. The edges are sharp, and require some polishing before it is ready to receive the wheel train. Philippe uses the double assembly method, to ensure that he can make the adjustments to the wheel train by assembling it, and then taking it apart before applying the final finishing to the movement. This is to ensure that he can make adjustments and ensure the wheel train works properly, and also to make sure that when the adjustments are done, he does not mar the exquisite finish characteristic of the final product.
The wheels are finished by chamfering and polishing the teeth. Not many watches are thus finished. Shown below, counter clockwise from top right – the second wheel, the third wheel, the fifth wheel, and the fourth wheel.
The wheels are then placed in their places with the pinions inserted into the jewels, and the wheel train is thus set, as shown below. The pinon teeth of second wheel, which turns at the rate of one revolution every hour, engages with the mainspring barrel.
Shown below, is the wheel train, showing the chamfered wheels from barrel to 5th wheel. Also shown is the black polished barrel. The wheel train below is at the stage of first assembly, before the final finishing of black polishing and Geneva stripes.
The balance is then assembled, and the movement put into beat. The first rough adjustment is then made. When Philippe is sure the watch is ticking well, he disassembles the whole train. And begins the task of finishing the plate. Shown below is the plate with the perlage completed on the recessed areas. The faus cotes are then applied, and finally the anglage applied to the edges for the final finish.
A TimeZone Interview with Jean-Claude Biver
CEO of Hublot SA
Interview conducted in New York, June 2005
MM: Mike Margolis – TimeZone.com
JCB: Jean-Claude Biver
MM: Let me start with a simple question: What is Hublot?
JCB: During the last recent years a sleeping brand, which is finally not so bad, because I don’t know many people who make mistakes when they’re sleeping, which means the brand has remained clean and ready to be re-lauched.
In 1980, Hublot founder and owner Mr. Carlo Crocco discovered Rubber and Gold, it was the first Fusion in watchmaking history. Fusion of the Rubber Tree and the Gold Mine, nobody had thought to do it before. The Fusion of Materials, that is Hublot. At Basel 1980 everybody thought he was crazy.
Thirty years later, every brand from Breguet to Swatch have made watches with rubber, with the rubber trend started by Hublot in 1980. Many companies now combine rubber and gold in jewelry as well.
There were two things that attracted me to Hublot: First, it is a brand with a concept and a mission: they represented Fusion in Watchmaking Art. Second, the brand had a strong identity: in thirty years they never strayed from their mission: the same case shape (“hublot” means “porthole” in French) and the fusion of rubber and metal. This brand had all the ingredients of future success.
So, I called Mr. Crocco and tried to buy the brand, and he said “No, I will not sell it to you!” But we came to terms, and I left the Swatch Group and became the CEO of Hublot in July 2004. With the summer holidays, I started in September 2004.
MM: Where does Hublot go from here? Let’s face it, it really is a sleeping brand!
JCB: Well, my role at Hublot is in a certain way to relaunch the brand and to develop it’s mission : The “Fusion” between Tradition and Vision. In other term to create New Fusion, to face lift the product from 1980 while keeping 100% of the DNA of the product, to develop new “fusion “movements, to develop the distribution and to make the brand desirable. Today we already have the first visibility of my intervention :the Big Bang. We have with Big Bang a very attractive, innovative, unique watch , with a very new construction concept (the first “sandwich” construction in a watch case), we have fusion using Ceramic, Rubber, Gold, Carbon Fiber, Tantalum, Steel and more! Hublot and the world will remember my contribution through the Big Bang, it is the new era of Hublot.
MM: Excellent, now Hublot have a fusion of new materials. That is a great start. Everybody followed Mr. Crocco with the use of rubber. But aren’t you following Panerai with Tantalium, Chopard with Carbon Fiber and IWC with Ceramic (Zirconium Oxide)?
JCB: With Hublot, we actually have TWO new fusions: First, the aesthetic, or the case and bracelet, and second, the movement. No true fusion can come from one, it must come from INSIDE the watch and OUTSIDE the watch too. Inside, after less than a year, we can’t see much yet, the inside fusion will take some more time. Nevertheless, our goal is very clear: We will make fusions inside the case and outside the case too. The Big Bang shows you all the outside fusions with new materials, the inside started a little bit. I promise you, we have a lot, lot, lot coming inside. We have many plans that will hit the watchmaking world. People will be surprised at what we do.
MM: Can you tell us a little more about the future fusions?
JCB: Fusion is the combination of tradition and vision. Tradition, which we take from the past, and Vision, which leads to the future, and we bring them together today. You can not walk into the future without one leg in the past. Fusion will be our basic philosophy going into the future, as it has been in the past. Art which repeats what was done in the past is an Art which is dead, because you can not progress into the future by repeating what was done in the past.
MM: So, what does the future hold for Hublot?
JCB: In Watchmaking Art, I was the first with Blancpain in 1982 when the brand belonged to Jacques Piguet and myself to repeat the fine watchmaking art of the past. (MM note: Blancpain under JCB’s leadership introduced the six masterpieces of watchmaking: the Ultraslim, the Moon phase Calendar, the Chronograph, the Minute Repeater, the Quantieme Perpetual and the Tourbillon, and then combined them all into one watch, the 1735) Today I want to be the first with Hublot not to repeat the past, but to interpret it into the future. I will take the path I know and the path of the future and I combine them. That is the highest objective I have for Hublot today. This is the reason I am so motivated, it is not just putting ceramic with gold, I am motivated by the entire philosophy of mixing TRADITION with VISION. This is why I work today, I want Hublot to be the reference of Fusion In The Watchmaking Art. Each brand must have a reason to exist, each brand must have a mission and bring something more than a watch to the customer .Blancpain is the reference of tradition, maybe they’re not the only reference, but they are a reference. And Hublot has a reason to exist as well, it is to be the reference of Fusion In The Watchmaking Art.
MM: As you know, we Timezoners are movement fanatics. What can you tell us about the future Hublot movements?
JCB: Unfortunately, I can not show you the fusion in the movements today, but believe me, it is in the works, we will have our own movements, they will come! I am so happy to be with you today, we are assisting in the birth, or really the rebirth of Hublot. And in September we will have Ron decorate coming to the Hublot factory in order to analyze and to make a report about our unique Tourbillon which we presented in limited series in Basel 2005 and which will be heavily developed in the “fusion ” spirit in 2006.
MM: Yes, but is the technology there today to bring your fusion to the movements, to the mechanics of the watch?
JCB: Let me say this. If we would get the most beautiful tourbillon movement in 21kt gold, I could not use it for Hublot, because where is the “Fusion”. We would have to add something from to the future to the traditional movement. For instance, why not having the bridges made in ceramic instead of 21kt gold? Why not having some bridges in titanium with blue sapphire instead of the red rubies?
MM: If Abraham Louis Breguet were alive today, what do you think he would be doing?
JCB: If Mr. Breguet were alive today, I think he would be using modern materials instead of gold, brass or steel, which were the only material he could use. So this is what I mean by Fusion, to add something new from our days, not simply to repeat the past. I can not repeat the past, I did that already once with Blancpain, and I can not live my life by repeating over and over the same traditions.
MM: Thank you very much for giving us a small glimpse into the future of Hublot. As you know, here on Timezone.com we always end each interview with the same question. So, may I ask you, what watch are you wearing today?
JCB: Today I am wearing my Big Bang in steel and ceramic and I have a few days holidays in St.Tropez after we came here to sponsor a major Polo Tournament.
Copyright 2005, Mike MargolisRead more
All Rights Reserved
TimeZone Interview With Fabian Krone,
CEO of A. Lange & Söhne
Conducted at the SIHH on April 6, 2005
TZ: Now that we are approaching the first anniversary of your being named CEO of A. Lange & Söhne, what goals did you set for yourself and for the company during your first year, and how are you doing on those goals?
FK: Well, I have been with the company now for two and a half years and I can say that in the first year the target was to clean up some issues with the distribution and get some organizational matters in the product development done, so when I was appointed CEO last year in May things were already happening. I think now we are in a situation where we came back to be in line with the product philosophy …with the brand philosophy of A. Lange & Söhne – in the products, in the design of the products, in the design of the movements, and in the functions, so that was actually my target to try to get back on the steps of Adolph Lange and to get back on track with respect to the history and what was done in the first 10 years. In the products, I think the Lange team has managed to do that with the Lange 1 Time Zone and also last year with the Lange Double Split.
TZ: What has been your best moment as CEO?
FK: You know it’s very hard to say because there are many best moments. One is when I have the opportunity to pass through the manufacture, and the second is when I have the opportunity to talk to customers. But the most beautiful moment of course is when the ideas which are developed during one year are realized: a product is ready and you say “Wow!”, and then you really have a feeling of emotions in the stomach…
TZ: What is the process for determining which new model will be released, or what your next project will be? For example, there will be a new watch next year, or more than one. What is the process for determining which watch will come next?
FK: Well, during my first year with Lange, we’ve done big efforts on trying to understand where we want to go to. Where we’re going to with the products, where we’re going to with production capacity, where are we going to in the distribution. And so what we have found in the last year is our roadmap. For example, we now have a long distance roadmap on the product development….
TZ: So, if I may, and I am sorry to interrupt, regarding product development there would be a list that says "In 2006 we will introduce this model, in 2007 this model, in 2008 this model…."
FK:…We have a list that is out to 2014, it says we should have certain models. Of course the list is flexible, we always can do some changes. It takes three to five years, sometimes a little bit more, to develop a product, so we have set out clearly which products will be launched. But there is no hurry…there is no stress… there is nobody pushing us to launch the next new product next year and so on. One of the most important decisions that was taken is to step back. Considering the multitude of new launches of new products from many brands, what we’re doing is exactly the opposite: we have launched this year one, main product. That’s it. It’s a very risky step we’re taking. In my opinion, there is a slight inflation of new products in the market, so we’re trying to focus on one.
TZ: When you’re determining which product will be next – where products fall on the list, for example whether a product is in 2006 or in 2009 or in 2012, what are the factors that you consider? Do you look at the competition? Do you say “That company has this complication, and we must have one as well?"
FK: We do not have a big marketing machine which does market analysis and so on. We have watchmakers who have lovely ideas. If we were to have asked a couple of years ago “What is the new function that you need for your customers?” nobody would have said he needs a double rattrapante. So I think it is our job to create the new demand… to create new ideas in the watchmaking. If we want to try to be ahead, we have to create new ideas and new functions which are not yet on a wristwatch. And of course we’re working on that. There will again be something that has not existed before.
TZ: Each year it seems that watches grow larger and larger. Do you see that as a fad, or do you think larger watches are here to stay?
FK: I think there is a certain trend that the watches are getting bigger, but slightly bigger. And I think the trend is that there’s some exaggeration on the market now. So on one side it’s a trend – so it’s fashion, but on the other side the effect is that you will have slightly bigger watches. So I don’t think that in the next 4, 5, or 6 years we will go back to the 36 or 38 millimeter watch. I think the 39 to 40 mm watch will be the standard, like it was 37 or 38 mm a couple of years ago. I think the 43 to 45 mm and whatever you see, that’s quite fashionable.
TZ: Some people have commented that in their view, with the large Lange 1 or Grande Lange 1, the proportions were not quite as aesthetically pleasing as the original. How would you respond to those comments?
FK: After nearly 10 years, it was time to offer an alternative dimension of the Lange 1 to our customers. The sales show that we where right.
TZ: I know you have a background in the automotive industry, and people often like to draw analogies between wristwatches and automobiles. I’ve heard people say if an exotic automobile can be serviced in 10 days, why can’t an exotic wristwatch be serviced in 10 days? What would you say to those people?
FK: I think that’s a nice question, thank you very much, because I never thought about it that way. When I think about it now, the big difference is that a car driver, normally has this retailer who has complete service and complete sales. So they are trained and they sell a certain amount per year. Normally there is exclusivity – selling two or maximum three brands – so he can actually concentrate on teaching and training his mechanics on that car and that model. I’m not saying it’s better or worse in our business, but in the watch industry, you have partners of the manufacturers, they have up to a few dozens brands, so I think we would have a problem to train the watchmaker on all of them, especially the high-level models. That is one point.
The logical consequence is that the watch in many cases has to be sent back to the central service. This unfortunately takes time. To explain the complexity of servicing a A. Lange & Söhne to the customer we have introduced the “History of your watch”. This book explains the servicing process and gives the service-watchmaker the opportunity to note the masterwork which has been done on the watch.
TZ: At the Basel show this year, Glashütte Original introduced a new movement in which they split the three-quarter plate. One of the reasons given for doing it that way is ease of service – it speeds the servicing of the watch. Do you think Lange & Söhne would ever take a similar step, or do you think that you will maintain the tradition of the three-quarter plate?
FK: First of all, if I say there’s no compromise for us, remaining in the steps of Adolph Lange and the old historical watches, there’s no reason to change. Now you could say it’s more efficient. The fact that we are assembling and disassembling each movement twice, we could say: OK, we do it faster, assembling once and not disassembling any more, for efficiency reasons. But I think there’s no efficiency reason to split the three-quarter plate. They may have their reasons, and of course I respect the reasons. I think it’s not the way to go for us, because maybe you can shorten the lead time in the service by a couple of hours, so increase process efficiency. At the end it is not that what our customers expect from an A. Lange & Söhne watch. It is beauty, the uncompromised art of watchmaking.
TZ: At the Basel show this year, Patek Philippe, which is generally considered a traditional and conservative company, introduced a movement in which they incorporate a silicon escape wheel. I’m wondering if you see Lange & Söhne going in that direction at all, for example experimenting with or using exotic materials to improve the movement.
FK: I think the step which Patek Philippe has taken is a very interesting and excellent step because they have managed to do something in watchmaking that not many are able to do. And the reason why they have done it is to increase the quality and decrease the services, so there is a useful reason, it is not a gimmick. I could imagine that a step like that Lange also takes, as long as it is not a gimmick, as long as it is really useful….
TZ: What do you see as the greatest benefit and the greatest drawback to being part of a group like Richemont?
Well, the big benefit is surely that, although a traditional small company, A. Lange & Söhne, was and will always be a very international company, because the customers are international and the partners are international. They have to be serviced and they have to be managed and we have to work with them. And to work with them, we have to be nearby. And to be nearby we can all do an organizational structure… an A. Lange & Söhne organizational structure, or we can use the Richemont platform. So the big advantage is in the distribution, and we are able to have our own organizational structure in Japan, in Hong Kong, in America with our own people. So what Richemont does is the whole back office, which does not touch the retailer or our customer, like HR, controlling, and so on.
The other big advantage is surely that being in a group like Richemont, there is big innovation and energy in this group. There are highly motivated people running the different companies and that is very motivating. That encourages us to also go faster. The disadvantage is, I don’t know… I couldn’t tell you (laughter). Well, of course since we’re in Glashütte, far away from everywhere, we are quite independent in what we’re doing, so I actually do not see a big disadvantage.
TZ: Do you see Lange & Söhne ever producing watches in stainless steel?
FK: This is a question which is often asked. We have a very limited capacity, which we are not able to increase very much. We have around 350 employees, of which around 50 % are watchmakers. To find a watchmaker is not easy. So we have a school where we train them for three years and they come into the process. So before we are able to increase the capacity, it takes time, and if we increase by maybe 500, 600 watches, this is nothing. So the question is “Why do stainless steel?” If we do it, we will probably increase the demand and will have a price which is lower than today, and we will not be able to deliver those watches. So there’s not a reason today to do stainless steel.
TZ: Are there any plans for sport watches or for a military or pilot-inspired line?
FK: I think we are in the market now where others are trying to get in. In the whole field of water and air, with all the divers and pilots watches, there are so many competitors and they’re all trying to get market share and so on. And if we do this, it would have to be in stainless steel. For the time being, we do not want to get in this competition. If we do a sportive watch – you could also say that the Datograph is a sportive watch – if we pursue that, we would try to find something different, and that could be – that is open.
TZ: Do you see Lange & Söhne production ever exceeding 10,000 pieces per year?
FK: 10,000 watches a year in the world is not a lot. So if we would find further 250-300 watchmakers we would maybe try to get there. But, that is a big, big bottleneck. And we will remain on the strategy of having only our own movements, and we will increase the number of parts or elements that we produce in-house. We will not buy movements like others do and change it a little bit, which is another reason why we will not be able to exceed it. In the next 10 years, were not planning to exceed that number.
TZ: Turning now to the new Time Zone watch, the case diameter is 41.9 mm. Was that diameter driven by an aesthetics or by the size of the movement plus the world time complication?
FK: Exactly. This is the dial of the Lange 1 of the “old” Lange 1, plus it has the city ring, so that combination is one reason why we had to have the watch in that diameter. And the second is that the movement actually got bigger because of the further mechanisms and components which are in it.
TZ: What was the inspiration for the mechanism that allows the owner to switch the home time from the small time display to the large time display?
FK: Our watchmakers never stop. I mean they never stop increasing the quality and increasing the complexity, not for the sake of complexity, but asking “What happens if I do that and that? Is there a function which allows me to do that?” So they actually never stop. They do something on one day, and the next day they say “Well, that’s not good enough, so let’s continue.” The reason why we did that switching of times is the utility it has. We said "What happens if our customer stays two weeks in New York?" The big time display is still the time in Berlin, and the small time is New York. So, how useful is that? It’s useless – because they automatically look at the watch and look at the big dial, not the small one. So we said "Well, can we manage to change that?" And if we change that, then how does he know if it’s day or night? So we had to do a second day and night indication. That’s the actual process. Then, at a certain time, you have to say, now this is enough. It was really long process and it was always improvements and improvements until we got where we are, and that is the reason why.
TZ: Do you know approximately how long it took to develop the movement from the first day someone said "This would be a good idea" to the day there was a working prototype?
FK: Well from the first idea – which was completely different from what it is now – it took about 3 to 3 1/2 years. And we changed quite strongly in the last 2 1/2 years….
TZ: When will the Time Zone watch be available in the retail stores?
FK: The first watches will be delivered in July. We’ll do an interesting global event to introduce the watch. We are just working on it, the details will be announced soon.
TZ: Approximately how many pieces of the Time Zone will be produced this year?
FK: Well, we have had extreme success, and we’re actually already sold out for this year, so after the exhibition we will have to think a little bit about this year’s production.
TZ: What will the pricing be?
FK: I can tell you in Euro, for the platinum one it’s 35,200, and for the gold one it’s 26,200.
TZ: When we do an interview on TimeZone, we always ask…. What watch are you wearing today, and does the watch have any special significance for you?
FK: It’s actually the watch which I wore last year, and the year before…the Datograph…
TZ: …It must be a personal favorite…
FK: I would not say it like that (laughing). On TimeZone people like it, everybody likes it. It has a beautiful movement…
TZ: …It’s a cult favorite…
FK: …It’s lovely.
TZ: I know many people whose desktop on their computer is a picture of that movement.
FK: (Laughing) I’ve got it too.
TZ: Those are all the questions I have. Thank you so much for spending this time with us.
FK: Thank you and all the best to the TimeZone community.
Interview conducted by Mike Disher. Certain questions provided by Peter Chong.
Photos courtesy of A. Lange & Söhne, used with permission. Photo of Fabian Krone by Mike Disher.
© 2005 TimeZone.com
A TimeZone Interview with Jean-Claude Biver
CEO of Hublot SA
Interview conducted April 2005
MM: Mike Margolis – TimeZone.com
JCB: Jean-Claude Biver
MM: Welcome to timezone.com, Mr. Biver! For those readers who are not familiar with you, can you please tell us a little bit about you, and your history in the watch world?
JCB: In 1975 I went to the Vallee de Joux after having finished my degree in Business of the University of Lausanne. I went to the Vallee because I enjoyed the nature and the life style of this retired region of Switzerland close to Geneva. While living there in a wonderful farmhouse in which Louis Elyee Piguet, the famous watchmaker, used to produce its Minute Repeater and other complicated movements, I met a lot of the inhabitants of the Vallee and a lot of them where watchmakers. One of them was the grandson of Louis Elysee Piguet, Mr. Jacques Piguet who was running the movement factory Frederic Piguet.
I fell in love of his watch which was a skeleton ultra-slim watch and asked him if he would see any opportunity for me to join the watch making world. Thanks to his father Mr. Frederic Piguet I got the unique chance to meet Mr. Georges Golay, chairman and CEO of Audemars Piguet. A few days later I had a job at AP,and had the unbelievable and unique chance to be offered one full year of stage inside AP. I learned with the production manager how to make a watch, how to manage fine regulation, to learn with the Product Manager how to design a watch and with the Salesman how to sell watches. I got the infusion into my blood of the love of fine watches. I already had the love of the Vallee, and the love of its people, and now I had the love of their Art: “The Watch making Art” You see I really am one of the rare Managers to have received the full dimension of the Art of Watch making into my blood and into my heart.
I worked with passion at AP till end of 1979 when I started to have some frustrations because I was of the opinion I could do better if I had the full power and trust, which I did not have. Although my job as Sales-manger Europe was successful and well paid, I decided to join my brother and my friend Fritz Ammann to Omega. Omega was struggling and I got the responsibility of the Luxury Gold Division, from product development to sales. It was an incredible international experience, but my nostalgia from the very fine Watch making Art did stay and pushed my out of Omega end of 1981 in order to go back to my Vallee and join my old friend Jacques Piguet and buy the oldest brand in the world: Blancpain.
We bought Blancpain end of 1981 and started to develop the brand from zero in 1982 with the concept that we would never make a quartz watch, because we would stick and develop only and exclusively the traditional Watch making Art. As in the old days of watchmaker-master Louis Elysee Piguet. Some family problems lead both Mr.Piguet and myself to sell our brand to Mr. Hayek in 1992 who gave me the opportunity to join the Board of Directors of Swatch Group. I remained CEO of Blancpain till 2002 and undertook the restructuration together with Mr. Hayek of Omega. My input was mainly in the Product and Marketing field of Omega and even today we can see the influence of our input from 1993 to 2003.
In 2004 I took first a sabbatical year during which I tried to help my friend Franck Muller for a couple of weeks and in June of the same year I had my start with Hublot as Member of the Board and CEO of the fine and small watch brand Hublot.
MM: Many watch aficionados credit you single handedly with saving the mechanical watch industry from the quartz movement. Can I get you to take some credit for that?
JCB: Remember in 1980 the whole Swiss watch industry was orientated to develop and present in its collection Quartz watches. Even prestige brands like PP, AP, VC had in those days a proportion of 70% more or less quartz movements in their collection. The Swiss watch industry had its biggest crises and many watchmakers couldn’t find a decent job and as a consequence left the industry.
So when we came out in 1982 with the statement we had never made a quartz watch and that we would never make one, the statement made a lot of noise. The entire philosophy and concept of Blancpain was based on the revival of the traditional Art of Watch making. Even the old farmhouse, where Louis Elysee Piguet was born and lived, and the organization of the daily job of the watchmakers where faithfully inspired by the tradition. As soon as we were meeting the success, all the other brands started to reintroduce mechanical movements in their collections. The resurrection of mechanical watches was on track and we can admit and state today that myself through Blancpain was the drive or it.
MM: After such a successful career with Blancpain, why did you leave there?
JCB: I encountered some family problems and succumbed to them and sold the company. If it was a certain emotional loss for me, it was certainly not bad at all for Blancpain, because being member of Swatch Group gave to Blancpain an incredible access to the mechanical technology and enormous power in the distribution and organization.
MM: Well, I do understand why you left, but after having had such success with Piguet and Blancpain, why Hublot? Mr. Crocco makes a nice watch, but it’s not really known in the world of haut horloge so much as as it is with fashion people.
JCB: Hublot as you say is a nice watch…But more than a watch I recognized in Hublot the incredible actuality and strength of its concept: the fusion of Watchmaking Art through a mono-product strategy. The link between tradition and vision. Not only, exclusively tradition (like Blancpain) and not only design or vision, but the fusion of tradition and future. I believe in this fusion not only in Watch making Art, but also in other fields. In fact I believe a tradition remains alive not only through its repetition, but much more through the contribution of the present and future.
So from today on we will work on the field of “Fusion” and I want to make Hublot the reference of “Fusion” in the Watch making Art. Can you believe how wonderful it will be to use the tradition and to marry it with our today’s and tomorrow’s visions, using all the means of today in order to transform the tradition and to improve and develop the tradition. That is and represent a real milestone for me in my career. I am very confident that every collector will in a certain number of years recognize our work and will also buy Hublot watches. By the way it has already started. For the first time we have many collectors wanting to buy our Big Bang. And we have many new outlets all over the world, which till recently never sold Hublot watches, that are now buying and selling our line.
MM: We at timezone.com are very honored to host the first factory authorized watch forum with Hublot. Not only do we link to the www.hublot.ch website, but the www.hublot.ch website links to timezone.com as well, an industry first. Can you tell us, why timezone.com?
JCB: Because Timezone is the best site for the collector and the watch freak. Those people are our future customers and we want them to be the first to understand our concept, our philosophy, our products and our “Fusion”. I am personally honored to be able to talk to the Timezone people and I will answer as many questions as possible directly myself and I would like for every new “Fusion” in the watch making Art, inform and advise first our Timezone privileged customers.
MM: A traditional closing to every timezone.com watch interview always ends with the same question…Can you please tell us what watch you’re wearing today?
JCB: I am wearing the first Big Bang in steel and Kevlar and rubber with a beautiful finished Jaquet chronograph tri-comp ax movement, with a Hublot styled rotor. A watch that is powerful, strong, different, and were you discover the longer you wear it its hidden secrets of details which we tried and succeeded to master. As a sport-watch and fusion-watch I believe that this Big Bang will make all the sports-watches from today look different and that Big Bang is the first masterpiece of a new generation of watches.
MM: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us.
Click for larger image
Click for larger image
All photographs provided by Hublot
Copyright 2005, Mike MargolisRead more
All Rights Reserved
A TimeZone Exclusive Interview
By Steve Luk
SL: How did you get interested in horology, and what prompted you to venture into haute horologerie?
FPJ: When I was admitted to the Ecole d’horlogerie in Marseille, I knew nothing about watchmaking at all. After a few months, everything seemed simple – it was pure happiness, and I realized that watchmaking was for me. After I finished school, I went to work for my uncle Michel Journe, who was restoring antique watches. I worked for a few years restoring collector’s pieces from the 16th to 18th century. Evidently, these watches were haute horlogerie and for the rest of my life I concentrated my work in this area. In 1978, at the age of twenty, I started to work on my first pocket watch, a Tourbillon.
SL: Is there any particular reason why you have to remain independent instead of working for a large manufacture? Are there any advantages to being independent?
FPJ: Besides the short period when I worked for my uncle, I was always independent. It is vital to be so when you are a creator. It seems to me that it is impossible to create if you do not have total freedom of control. To create is an irrational impulse which cannot be mixed up with an investor whose vision is always financially-oriented .
SL: What do you find to be the most difficult part of remaining independent?
FPJ: If you want to remain independent, you must do everything with your own money, which limits the number of people that can work with you. Therefore, you must do everything yourself – your days are very long. But, little by little, by reinvesting your profit, you build up a team and there are no regrets.
SL: How do you position the brand “Francois-Paul Journe” in the industry? What image do you want “FPJ” to project and be known for?
FPJ: I am not a man of marketing – I know nothing about this nonsense. However, a questionnaire Patek Philippe sent to its clients at the Basel Fair asked “What is your favorite brand after Patek Philippe?” The answer given most often was F.P. Journe. This is something that I appreciate.
SL: How big is your company in terms of the number of watchmakers and the output level?
FPJ: There are 45 at the manufacture in Geneva (below left), 12 at the dial maker, and 4 in Tokyo (below right). Our production in 2004 was approximatively 700 pieces over 9 references. This translates to about 78 watches per reference, and each reference is available in gold or platinum.
SL: Ultimately, how big would you like your firm to be? Do you want to remain as a “small” manufacture or eventually become something bigger?
FPJ: I chose to establish the Manufacture in a very nice building in the old part of Geneva. This building has a working area of about 20,000 square feet, which limits our future production to support about 60 stores around the world, that is about 25 watches per store per year, so 1,500 watches per year in total. When you choose to do excellence, it is rather difficult to do more, and the size of the building is adequate for that purpose.
SL: Given that most of your designs are unique, I assume your watchmakers require special training to assemble and fine-tune the watches. Do you provide special training to all your watchmakers? On average, how long is it before a watchmaker new to your company is able to assemble a resonnance chronometer?
FPJ: The training period for an apprentice watchmaker depends on his talent and skills. Take the Octa Reserve for example – it usually requires 3 to 8 months of training. All watchmakers begin with that watch. Then later, once they master the required skills, they work on more complex projects. As for the Resonance, assembly and regulation time is from 20 to 30 days, depending on the watchmaker.
SL: What separates you from the rest of the independent watchmakers? Do you see yourself as very different from other AHCI members?
FPJ: Compared to the other AHCI brands, there are no differences, as long as they make real quality horology. The AHCI watchmakers have different ranges of skills, but in absolute terms, they are like me: they want to exist through their passion.
SL: As for future development, do you want to remain as a creator of high-end complicated watches, or do you want to penetrate to the mass market by producing some more affordable watches, like sports watches?
FPJ: My motivation for the future remains to make quality horology. I am not trying to take some “market share” – I only care to provide total satisfaction to my customer. As for a sport watch, why not, if it is a real timing instrument, with a new approach that can be justified. But the goal will never be mass market.
SL: Thank you!
All Rights Reserved
A conversation with Mr Richard Mille, President& CEO, Richard Mille.
By Peter Chong
With exclusive, never published before hand sketches,showing development of the design of the fascinating watches
PC: Richard, thank you formeeting me and for being here for this interview. My objective for thisinterview is to allow our Timezone readers to have a better understanding ofyou as the man behind the brand, and a good look at the central keypropositions of the Richard Mille watches.
Shall we begin with yourinvolvement in the watch business. You have been in this business for a longtime, although the Richard Mille brand is a fairly new company. Tell us moreabout your background.
I am totally mad about this subject; watches, cars, aircraft. I am notpersonally a watchmaker, and I am pleased to say, Enzo Ferrari was not a cartechnician, but he had a very clear idea of what a high-performance car should be.
I believe I have a precise idea of what a high-performance watch shouldbe. I think I have gone deeper into technique than many others . Nowadays, alltop of the range models for any brand are developed with teams of engineers,with computers, with cad machines, so I had no hang-ups about starting my ownbrand, with a strong concept and very precise technical ideas.
PC: You had an illustriouscareer with Mauboussin before you started on your own; tell us more about thathouse.
I left the Company for 2 reasons: my project for launchingmy own watch was ready, and I did not agree with some members of the family ontheir latest strategy , which was to abandon selective distribution and replaceit with a hypothetical â��mass marketâ�� distribution. This proved to beunrealistic and megalomaniac. Since then, the new owner has reestablished acorrect distribution policy.
PC: Where did you first startyour fascination on watches, and how you built your businesses?
But I remember the many times I worked on spare parts thatI later used on my model cars that I had built from scratch and that I stillhave today. Since then, I have spent mytime reading technical books relating to watches, cars, aircraft, etcâ�¦and thisnaturally led me to visualise a strong conceptual watch which was highlytechnical but without gimmicks.
This concept was, however, so technically complex that itled to the very high end positioning where it stands now. This is how mypassion was transformed into reality, and the tremendous success of this brandis certainly due to the fact that the inspiration was purely technical and notat any time commercial. This is stilltrue today.
PC:Tell us more about why you decided to startRichard Mille.
shares inMauboussin, so all lights were green!
PC: You exude great drive andpassion, has the Richard Mille the man always been like this? (Richard waswaving his hands in excitement and jumping up and down making his point in thehotel suite in Geneva when we metâ�¦testimony to his passion and â��fire andbrimstoneâ�� style of expression) Were there difficult times during the birthingof Richard Mille the brand, and how has this great passion pulled you through?
PC: What are the key tenets and special propositionsthat the brand will bring to collectors?
RM: I modestlythink, and professionals confirm it, that this brand opens a new era in watchhistory, in terms of concept, technique.
RM: It has the 3basic requirements for auctioneers, i.e: Authenticity, quality, rarity, and Iwould add another: creativity, which represents an important aspect in terms ofartistic value.
All important artistic periods, as in painting forexample, represent a complete rupture with existing works. I wanted the Millewatch to represent a rupture, but at the same time, I wanted to keep the bestof watch-making tradition, such as hand finished angles,
PC: How do you intend to deliver this (these)promise(s)?
PC: I thinkyour products look absolutely beautiful and are a breath of fresh air, but thecollecting community has been shown very fickle â�� favoring new, innovativebrands while the novelty is there, and then going back to the traditionalmakers after the â��honeymoon is overâ��. How do you intend to stay relevant foryears to come?
The success of my brand is due to the fact that I can pass on my passionto my client, and my clients can saythat they wonâ��t change this watch for another, although they have plenty othersin their safe. It means that they know my watches are truly genuine, and thatthere is no lie in the technical data.
So I am not going to revert to a situation â�� with purely commercialobjectives â�� that Iâ��ve always hated, and which I have done everything possibleto step away from. On top of that, I think I have more that enough technicalideas and concepts for the next 20 years to come and I would be too frustratednot to transform them into reality! The great painterâ��s collections becamevaluable because of continuous creations. After 2 years of existence, wealready are at model NÂ° 9, model No.10 is in the pipeline and with the arrivalof each new model, more important developments!
PC note to audience. The RM008 is a split secondchronograph with tourbillon. Also shown left is the original design of theunique case, which is elegant and at the same time exudes strength andengineering feelâ�¦much like a Ferrari.
This is certainly the mostcomplicated watch I have ever made and I would go so far as to say that it willprobably be one of the most complicated the world has ever seen.
As for the RM 009, it will belightest mechanical watch ever seen, made from ultra-modern materials.
I am very proud of the RM 007which will be released in May of next year. The 007 is my first watch designedfor ladies and I have done everything I can to avoid the stereotypical femalewatch. Often ladiesâ�� watches are simplymodified versions of the manâ��s watch with a few diamonds for good measure. Irealised that women of today are much more demanding; they are now powerfulexecutives, they choose their own cars and will appreciate a watch with a bigpersonality.
The RM 010 will have to remain mysecret for the moment but I can assure you that there are lots of developmentsin the pipeline.
PC: Please dolet me have the details when you are ready, Timezoners all over the world arewaiting with bated breath for this one! Richard, let me turn now to yourfascination with Formula 1 racing. Why this fascination? How and where doesthis relate to watchmaking?
PC: What lessons have you learntfrom F1 techniques that you have applied to your watches? Do you believe awatch movement has to be absolutely rigid with respect to its case ? Do you feel a lighter watch is technicallymore superior to a heavier one? What about the movement what special features?
PC noteto readers: The RM006 was a world first to implement a carbon fibre movementplateâ�¦what began as an experiment to test the new material, resulted in abeautiful watch.
Plates made from gold, brass and copper are notrigid and will react to temperature changes and shock. Carbon fibre, which isamorphous, will not react in this way and remains rigid, with excellentisotropic results, as well as chemical stability. For example, this material will not react to thermic shock.
RM: Although I amnot a watchmaker, I have very precise technical ideas and concepts.
PC:Tell us more about Dominique?
We decided to start a jointventure in 1999 and created a group of companies specialising in different watch areas; manufacturing
PC: Describesome of these high technical added values.
PC: You havebeen known to throw your watch on the floor, or across the table to drive homethe point that your watches are especially tough. Are those watches stillrunning well? Do you really encourage your customers who buy these beautifultimepieces to rough-handle their watches?
PC: You use somerather interesting materials in your watches. Tell us about some of them, theirspecial qualities, and special problems you have encountered working with them.Note to Timezoners: shown left is the design of the crown.
Sketches of the pincers of the split second hand onthe Rattrapante RM08, and design of the rotor bearing of RM005.
PC: What is your relationship with Renaud et Papi? How has this playedinto Audemars Piguetâ��s very similar Royal Oak Concept watc
We have some â��babiesâ��in common,and the best is to yet come!
PC note to Timezoners: See design exchange documentshown left showing the collaborative nature of the relationship.
PC: Thank you very much, Richard, and obviously youhave had very good success with RM watches, and I wish you even greatersuccess.
Â© Peter Chong October 2004.
|Interview with Manuel Emch, CEO of the watch manufacturer Jaquet Droz, La Chaux-de-Fonds, canton of Neuchâtel, Switzerland|
Conducted during the Basel Watch and Jewellery Show April 2003
By Magnus Bosse
Jaquet Droz? Ever heard of? Just another brand recently acquired by the almighty Swatch Group? You may think like this (and I have to admit that I also did!), but after an intense inspection of the new models at this years’ Basel Watch and Jewellery Show in April I changed my mind: There is something unique, something extraordinary coming from this old and at the same time refreshingly young brand.
The new Jaquet Droz watches exhibit an aura of Ying and Yang combined in one single horological masterpiece: reduced in styling, but rich in technical innovation and splendid in the choice of the selected materials. Exclusively precious materials such as white gold, almost erotically formed and pantomiming the glorious tradition of pocketwatches, they shelter and present high end mechanical movements under exclusive dial materials such as enamel and rare exotic stones.
Each watch is characterised by an unusual dial design, most eye catching is the large excentric seconds hand, reminiscent of the important pocketwatch tradition of Jaquet Droz. But also more complicated offerings always display utmost creativity when it comes to give a certain complication a most interesting look.
This is not a brand meant to pour as much money in Swatch Group’s chest as quickly as possible. This is a brand made to innovate, a brand characterized by a bohemian attitude. An impression that is further substantiated once one met with Mr Manuel Emch, the young CEO of Jaquet Droz. An elegantly dressed man in his early 30s, with an unusual background, he’s for sure not the typical watch company CEO one might meet elsewhere.
When I took the chance to meet and interview Mr Emch, I quickly realized that the above described impressions do not appear from nowhere. I want to invite you to follow my conversation with Manuel Emch. Please note that the interview was originally performed in German and therefore may have a certain German flavour.
Magnus Bosse (MB): Mr Emch, you are quite young for a CEO of a watch manufacturer.
Manuel Emch (ME): After my A-Levels, I studied design at the Art Center school in La Tour-de-Peilz (in Switzerland), a subsidiary of the Art Center in Pasadena, California. Shortly after, I joined the Swatch design team in Milan (Italy) for an internship and began to design Swatch watches.
During this time, I developed a passion for collector’s pieces, and finally worked for Sotheby’s London in the department ‘Works of Russian Arts and Icons’, where I had the chance to work on masterpieces from Fabergé and I also came in contact with fine antique pocketwatches.
After that, I returned to university and studied economics at the university of Lausanne (Switzerland). Following my exams, I returned to Swatch Group and worked for them in Singapore. Next step was a consulting job in process optimization for a Zurich based engineering company followed by two years at Philip Morris in the marketing department. After 4 years, I wanted to turn back to my passion for watches and coincidently Mr Hayek asked me to return to Swatch Group, and so I started to work for Rado’s marketing department. Very soon Mr Hayek asked me if I would take the challenge to rebuild the recently acquired brand Jaquet Droz. That was in 2001.
MB: Do you have an own collection of watches?
ME: Oh yes. I started with SWATCH. Like many others, and I still have about 180 very special SWATCHES, and I even slept in front of the SWATCH stores to get the most sought after limited editions! Now, I focus on mechanical watches, especially antique pieces. I own about 20.
Pierre Jaquet Droz (1721-1790) was famous in his age for his impressive automatons: Fountains, Singing Birds and musical watches, but also writers and musicians. He was world-wide known for his excellent skills in making such masterpieces and he travelled around the world to present his automatons to the puissant sovereigns. The automaton shown here on the left is a Singing Bird in a box with a built-in clock, made by Jaquet Droz & Leschot, London, between 1775 and 1800. The bird is flapping with his wings and opes his mouth, once operated. The movement of the bird is covered with a brass plate. This Singing Bird is in the possession of the ‘Musée Internationale d’Horlogerie’ (MIH) in La-Chaux-de-Fonds.
On the right a contemporary piece, made still today by Jaquet Droz. Consisting of more than 500 parts, it writes the company logo on a piece of paper, thereby following the pen with his eyes, breathing…
MB: Jaquet Droz is a name that has almost vanished from the public perception. What were the reasons for Swatch Group to invest in this company? The search for unencumbered name?
ME: The immense history of Jaquet Droz was for sure the driving force behind the purchase. Jaquet Droz was – beneath Breguet – one of the most important watch makers in the history of Swiss watchmaking art. It is part of the Swiss heritage. Before the take over by Swatch Group, it was not very well known, but it is part of ‚la culture neuchâteloise’, everyone in the canton of Neuchâtel knows Jaquet Droz! Swatch Group specifically wanted to rescue a part of the watchmaking expertise from this region. There are many haute horlogerie brands situated in and around Geneva, but there are only very few left from the glorious tradition of Neuchâtel.
MB: This requires a certain effort in communication. Otherwise you run the risk that the people think: „Oh, great, Swatch bought another name to establish a retort company without own identity!“. By which means do you counter such apprehensions?
ME: We tried to isolate the ‚brand DNA’ that Jaquet Droz was known for in the 18th century and to transform it to meet the requirements of today’s watch connaisseurs. Jaquet Droz always focused on emotions and aesthetics. Pierre Jaquet Droz was the first who invented the concept of a jewellery watch, he was the first to ornament his watches with pearls, enamel and so on.
He also was famous for his animated birds, his fountains and musical watches and mostly for his automatons. He was the first who not only concentrated in achieving better and better accuracy, but furthermore he made real works of art out of his watches.
These are the principles we try to base our company on. We are not going to make me-too products, instead we will focus on these strong heritage.
The speciality of ancient Jaquet Droz was what we nowadays would call ‘jewellery watches’: The combination of highest mechanical quality with beautiful and aesthetic ornamentation, for example enamel covers, stone setting or unusual design solutions. No wonder Jaquet Droz had a huge success in the asian market! Depicted here are two vintage pocketwatches, also exhibited at the MIH.
Jaquet Droz’ unique design with the decentralised enlarged seconds hand has historic roots: The vintage Jaquet Droz pocketwatches featured this design icon for the first time: Depicted here is a vintage Jaquet Droz pocketwatch in comparison to the modern Grande Seconde Grand Feu Email : Note the alternately used roman and arabic numerals!
MB: What is a Jaquet Droz watch for you personally?
ME: For me a Jaquet Droz represents emotion and aesthetics, based on very high end and exquisitely finished mechanics, which are a matter of course for us. We go one step ahead and ornate our watches with an unmistakable style and attention to the detail that is lost at most other watch houses.
MB: Jaquet Droz’ annual production volume is quite low, especially compared to all other companies in Swatch Group’s portfolio. How does that work out and what is Swatch Group’s interest in such low numbers?
ME: Jaquet Droz is especially interesting since it offers the chance to manufacture a niche product. Breguet is maybe the brand with the greatest watchmaking potential; we have Glashütte Original, a company known for their very ‘german way’ and technically inspired fashion of manufacturing high grade movements; and we have Blancpain with its simply elegant designs and highest pretension on finishing. With Jaquet Droz things can be done that are unthinkable for the other brands.
MB: Could you draw a sketch about your customer? Who is interested in Jaquet Droz watches?
ME: Well, that’s a question I like! As I already pointed out, Jaquet Droz’ potencies are emotion and aesthetics. Therefore, I can think of our customer as a person who is receptive for such values, like an architect, an artist or a designer, and who is on the hunt for a product that reflects his principles. We quickly learnt that our customer group is not that consistent: beneath pure aesthetes we also have collectors and connoisseur’s attracted by our history as well as women looking for the uncommon.
MB: What are your core markets?
ME: Today we are present in 40 countries, and we have about 65 points-of-sale. Our main markets are Japan and Singapore. I think one reason is the dial layout that reminds on an 8, a symbol of luck in Asia. Also our limited editions are always restricted to 88 pieces. I consider so called ‚limited editions’ with more than 100 pieces not as restricted production.
Furthermore the Middle East and Russia, but also Switzerland, France and England and Italy are doing very well. We will start in Germany and the USA soon.
MB: Could you take a Jaquet Droz watch and explain all its specialities?
ME (takes a Grande Seconde): Of course: This is the Grande Seconde watch (Ref. J003034201), which represents the basis of our collection. It is inspired from a pocketwatch made in Pierre Jaquet Droz’ ateliers in the 18th century: This aesthetic principle represents a contemporary interpretation of Jaquet Droz’ ideas. The special feature is the large seconds hand, which shall remind us on the elapse of the seconds. Seconds are getting more and more important in today’s business life. Important decisions are meanwhile a question of seconds, not minutes or hours.
The case is made of white gold and rejuvenates to the back like the case of a vintage Jaquet Droz pocketwatch. Despite having a substantial diameter of 43mm, the watch never gives an impression of oversize. Also the lugs are very special: They are not straight but cabled. And the crown is designed like its counterpart of a pocketwatch. The sapphire crystal presides over the case and it is additionally domed, which makes it very difficult to manufacture with the required diameter.
The dial is made of ‘Grand Feu’ enamel, a very traditional technique, and the hands are made of steel, blued by hand.
The movement is based on an ebauche from Frédéric Piguet, a double barrel movement with an added small complication for the large second hand. The movement is – according to my opinion – the best tested haute horlogerie automatic movement. We chose it to ensure our customers the optimal performance in a high grade movement. The rotor is made of 18kt true white gold, but we will switch to 22kt rotors.
MB: Do you really think the owner of a luxury wants to be reminded of the elapsing of time, especially of the seconds?
ME: Well, its a playful effect! One could also say:’I take the time!’!
From left to right: the Jaquet Droz Collections:
(i) top bar:
– The collection ‘Hommage Genève 1784’: Grande Seconde Cerclée black
(ii) middle bar
– The collection ‘Hommage La-Chaux-de-Fonds 1738’: Equation du Temps, Douzes Villes and Les Lunes (proto-type, meanwhile dial changed to a dial similar to the Douzes Villes)
– The collection ‘Hommage Londres 1774’: Chronographe GMT
(iii) lower bar:
– The collection ‘Hommage Londres 1774’: Tonneau GMT XL and Ladies’ Tonneau
MB: Are all of your watches based on a Frédéric Piguet movement?
ME: We altogether have three collections:
– The collection ‘Hommage Genève 1784’ where theGrande Seconde belongs to,
– The collection ‘Hommage La-Chaux-de-Fonds 1738’, which consists of the more complicated models like the Les Lunes and the Equation du Temps
– The collection ‘Hommage Londres 1774’, these are the sportier models with tonnneau-shaped case or with chronograph, and/or GMT function
These collections are named after the three ateliers that Pierre Jaquet Droz founded. The Genève and the La-Chaux-de-Fonds collections are based on Piguet ebauche, whereby for the Douze Villes we completely re-designed the movement. We have 2 patents for this. The Chronographe GMT from the Londres collection is fitted with a Lemania chronograph movement, modified with a GMT function. The other watches of this collection have a Jaquet-Baume or an ETA movement.
MB: Do you plan to further develop the Piguet base movements, for example with addition of a free-sprung balance, or do you even think about the construction of an own movement (which is very costly compared the developing costs for, say, a car)?
ME: This is not a financial discussion! It is more a strategical or marketing decision. If we confer our ideas and principles that are found in our case and dial work to the development of a movement, I’m pretty sure that we can create something really extraordinary. For example, the rotor hides very much of the movement. But what if one places it between two movement plates? But to tell you the truth, we are working on such an exceptional in-house movement…
From left to the right:
– movement of the Grande Seconde watches
– movement of the Chronographe GMT watches
– movement of the tonneau-shaped GMT watches
– movement of the Ladies’ tonneau-shaped watches
MB: What is your vision for Jaquet Droz? Is Jaquet Droz going to offer all complications?
ME: No, although we have a Chronograph in the developing stage. I do not see a Perpetual Calendar in our range, we are more playful. A Tourbillon would fit perfectly, but IF we will construct a Tourbillon you can be sure that this will be an unique Tourbillon which is different to all the existing ones. One that is really exceptional! One that implies quality, technique and aesthetics and the certain bit of ‘uniqueness’.
MB: Can you explain the structure of Jaquet Droz as a company? How many employees do you have, and how many of them are watchmakers?
ME: We are 20 people, amongst them are 10 watchmakers (2 have just began to work with us). 2 people are solely responsible for quality control, which is very important to me.
MB: Considering the small company and the low production numbers: Is it possible to confront your manufacture with a wish for a custom-made ‘piece unique’?
ME: Oh, yes, we are open to such requests. For example, take our Douze Villes watch: It displays 12 time zones represented by 12 towns which can be switched simply by operating the pusher at 2 o’clock. I don’t think that 24 interesting time zones exist. Therefore we chose to display only 12, with a larger and better visible window, but still functional. Of course, for a customer who works in New York, lives in Beverly Hills, deals with partners in Sydney, has a house in St-Tropez and perhaps a lover in Hong Kong, we would be happy to make him a one-of-a-kind Douze Villes that fits his needs!
With our special edition Grande Seconde Cerclée Minérale we offer customized watches. Our customer can choose his dial out of different precious and semi-precious stones. Also very unique is the Grande Seconde Deux Emaux, which consists of a dial with 2 layers of ‘Grand Feu’ enamel, burned one after the other. A technique that requires utmost dedication to perfection and extremely skilled and sophisticated hands. The rejects are enormous, since the severe temperature changes during the enamel process easily break the enamel surface! Each piece is a real and unique piece of art.
From left to the right: Grande Seconde limited editions (‘numerus clausus’):
(i) top bar:
– Grande Seconde Decentrée (88 pieces)
– Grande Seconde Deux Emaux (88 pieces), detail pic
– Grande Seconde Cerclée ‘Paillonée’ (8 pieces)
(ii) bottom bar:
– Grande Seconde Cerclée ‘Quartz Rutile’ (8 pieces)
– Grande Seconde Cerclée ‘Obsidian’
MB: For a personal note: What are your passions?
ME: I have two passions: Watches and art, contemporary art. For example the modern photography of the ‘Düsseldorfer Schule’. This is very much based on my early educational background (Art Center). I take a lot of time to visit galleries and museums because it helps me to switch off and get new ideas. It’s my source of inspiration.
MB: Do you visit the internet watch discussions site?
ME: Yes, I often visit them and I’m always surprised about the discussions held there. This is one point I really love about the watch business: it often invites you to emotional conversations!
The Internet is an amazing vehicle to support our brand. There are many highly competent collectors all around the world, which can be brought together by using the internet. Sure, wrong facts, rumors and ideas can spread around, but we have the chance to communicate the pure reality. It also helps us to detect mistakes and to get new ideas.
MB: Thank you very much for this interview!
ME: Thank you!
Credits: Special thanks to Manuel Emch for his time and to Nathalie Kotelat and Ilse Maassen for supplying image and information material.
Magnus Bosse © October 2003
Last update November 30th, 2003
TimeZone Interviews January 5, 2004
A TimeZone Interview with Kees Engelbarts
Interview conducted November 2003
MS: Could you begin by telling us a little about how you got started with engraving?
KE: I know it might sound strange, but the reason I started engraving, was a water balloon-throwing contest. I won a medal that I had to pick up at an engravers workshop in my hometown, ‘s-Heerenberg in the Netherlands. He was busy hand-engraving little cupids and I fell in love with the craft. He gave me the address of the school in Schoonhoven / Holland, so next day I enrolled. My first hand-engraving lesson was a disaster, I stabbed an engraving tool in my left hand, and I still wear the scar. My teacher though, said it was a good omen.
MS: Did you go to school to learn your art, or are you self-taught?
KE: Both! As I said before, I went to school in Schoonhoven for four years. After having finished my school I went to a “Fachhochschule für Edelstein und Schmuck Gestaltung” in Idar-Oberstein / Germany, where I studied for three years. During my vacations I worked in Geneva to earn some money to be able to pay school in Idar-Oberstein. The self-taught part was that when I started working as a hand-engraver, I realized that I hadn’t learnt any thing at school apart from preparing my tools. It took a lot of patience and perseverance to achieve a quality level, good enough to work in the high-end Swiss Watch Industry. I think it’s impossible to learn this at any school. I’m still learning every day!!
MS: How did you make the transition to engraving watches and timepieces?
KE: My first contacts in Geneva where through a friend in Holland who’d asked me if I wanted to work in Geneva. The engraving-workshop where I started to work was specialized in engraving watches. That’s the second time I fell in love, this time with the unique combination of esthetics and perfect technique, that a high quality watch should have. It was at that moment that I started dreaming about making my own watches one day…
MS: What made you decide to pack up your life and move to Switzerland?
KE: During my study in Idar-Oberstein, I met my wife Pascale in Geneva. To finish my school in Germany would have taken me two more years. I figured that it was time to really start working and also thought I’d learned enough in Germany so I decided to move to Geneva in 1994 and find a job there. I quickly found out that my character was not suitable with working as an employee, so I started my own workshop in 1996.
MS: What were your first projects when you first started in the watch industry?
KE: When I arrived in Geneva I spent three or four months engraving without earning any money. I just had to do try-outs on brass to show my boss that I was good enough to start engraving the real thing. When he finally agreed to give me some pieces to engrave, I of course started with the easy things.
MS: Could you tell us about some of your more interesting or challenging projects?
KE: Artistically seen, my most challenging projects are my own watches. To start off with nothing and to end up with your own watch, to me, is like magic. Of course I also did a lot of challenging projects for clients like the Platinum No. 1 for Jaeger-leCoultre, Erotic Automats for Antoine Preziuso (prototype) and Svend Andersen. I like engraving prototypes and unique pieces. Every engraving can be as interesting and challenging as you want it to be. But sometimes the only challenge is to finish your work in time.
MS: Can you tell us some of the watch companies you’ve done work for? Specific models? Projects?
KE: I work (or worked) for some AHCI members, Antoine Preziuso, Svend Andersen, Philippe Dufour, Christiaan van der Klaauw, Peter Speake-Marin. Watch companies I’ve worked for are amongst others: Jaeger-leCoultre, Franck Muller (I was employed there for about 2 years and I’m still alive…), Hublot, Parmigiani, Harry Winston.
MS: What is Mokume Gane?
KE: The linked file describes this in some detail.
MS: How long, on average, does it take to engrave a complete movement? Can you explain to us the steps that are involved in preparing the movement for engraving, and the engraving steps themselves?
KE: There’s no average. It all depends on the movement and the decoration. The steps, in general, are:
Taking the movement apart – Cutting out of the main plate and the bridges (if it’s a skeletonized movement) – Finishing of the edges – Fixing the pieces in a kind of wax so the pieces are held and supported – Draw (in rough lines) the decoration on the movement – Engraving of the movement – First engrave thin lines, parallel to the edges and around the holes – Engraving of the decoration – Finally, finishing the edges, filing, burnishing and polishing – Finishing of the surface – Plating of the movement (gold, rhodium, silver…)
MS: On several of your watches, the rotor has been skeletonized. Do you hand the material out of a stock rotor?
KE: Yes, the image to the right is a rotor I did by hand. The watch is a unique watch made by my friend Antoine Preziuso for a special customer.
MS: Aside from Mokume Gane, are there other techniques you plan to try on watches which have not been done before? Are you limited only by the size of the plate, or are their limitations in the materials used as well? What materials are the most difficult to work with?
KE: Yes, I do have some ideas to use new techniques and materials in the future. What I need is time to do some try-outs. Of course I will keep you and your time-zone friends informed about my new stuff.
About the limits, I think the limit is where you place it. An engraving can be as tiny that you don’t even see it anymore. The question is if that makes any sense. As an engraver you should always consider that the person who looks at your work (engraved dial, engraved movement) doesn’t have a microscope. Therefore I always study the pieces I’m going to engrave to be sure they look nice with and without magnification. For three dimensional engravings you need a certain thickness of the dial to be able to achieve depth.
Most difficult materials to me are stainless steel (very hard), platinum (because of the irregular structure, also difficult to polish).
MS: Can you tell us about your own line of watches? Are all the pieces you make one-of-a-kind (unique), or do you also do series production?
KE: All watches I made, until now, are unique. I’d like to continue this way, but I don’t exclude making small series in the future. Still, I want to give to each watch the attention it needs and deserves.
The technical part of most of my watches is done by my brother, Bart. He is an excellent watchmaker and guarantees that my watches are not only nice to look at, but also tell the correct time.
The movements I use are mostly new old stock vintage movements that I buy from watchmakers in small amounts. It’s hard to obtain movements from manufacturers because they only want to sell minimum quantities of one hundred pieces.
The cases of my watches are all handmade as well.
MS: You mention your cases are hand-made. I would imagine VERY few people are making their own cases by hand. Can you describe this process for us?
KE: Indeed, most cases of mass produced watches are made by CNC machines. It’s cheaper and faster.
Since I only make unique pieces, every case has to be adapted to the movement I want to use, the thickness of the dial, etc. Before making the cases we have to make a technical drawing. Every single watchcase is made from a solid piece of gold or platinum. The case is turned on a lathe and milled to get the exterior shape. The inside of the case has to be very precise to be sure that the movement fits in nicely. Once the case has its final shape it’s polished. Then we put in the glasses with joints as well as the tube for the winding crown. It all sounds quite simple, but it takes a lot of technical skills, precision and time to make a case like this.
MS: Do you do custom engraving for customers on watches they already own? Can you tell us about a few of the requests you’ve received?
KE: If customers ask me to personalize their watches, I sometimes accept, sometimes refuse…
Most watch companies don’t like the idea of someone changing their products. In most cases guarantee is void when you even take the watch apart. You could compare with the car industry where car manufacturers, in the past, didn’t want other companies to “tune” their cars. Nowadays there are many companies that are specialized in customizing cars. Maybe in the future this will happen in watch making as well…
I’ve done some pieces for customers. You can change the dial, engrave the movement, open the back of the watch, engrave the watch case. You could also engrave a name, logo or coat of arms on the automatic rotor. Anything is possible but clients should understand that it’s a lot of work…
MS: Is there a particular watch (or watches) that proved to be particularly challenging? Which piece which you’ve done in the past are you most proud of?
KE: No, every new engraving is a challenge. It has to be! You can play a song on the piano without being concentrated or motivated. If it sounds terrible, no problem, you play it again and try to do better. When engraving a watch (or something else) it has to be right the first time. That’s the challenge!
The piece of art that I’m most proud of is my four year old son, Dan.
MS: What are your goals for the future?
KE: Being happy first of all!
For my work I would like to be free in what I do. Right now, being an independent engraver, I do a lot of work for watch brands. But the word “independent” is wrong in the sense that I “depend” on these watch companies to give me work. That’s one of the reasons why I want to make my own watches. People don’t know me very well yet, but I want to convince customers that the products that I make are unique and special. If I could make a living from the watches I make, that would be fantastic.
The hard part is that people are so focused on brands. Children at the age of 4 or 5 years only want Nike shoes because all the kids in school have them. Grown ups aren’t much wiser, unfortunately. They sometimes buy watches of a certain brand to show off. Personally, I can’t understand those people. I want to make watches for people that understand my work and the uniqueness of that work.
Thanks to articles in magazines and interviews like this I can maybe reach those people…
MS: Do you engrave items besides watches? If so, what other items do you work on?
KE: Wedding rings (without guarantee that the wedding lasts), bracelets, pendants, forks, knives, spoons…you name it.
MS: Do you collect watches yourself? If so, what sorts of watches interest you?
KE: No, I’m too poor and the money I have goes in material and movements to make my own watches. I would like to make a nice watch for myself one day (my wife already has one).
MS: Is there anything else you would like to tell the TimeZone community?
KE: “I’m a poor lonesome engraver and I’m far away from my goal…” (Lucky Luke)
I hope that the TimeZone community understands the passion that I have for my work and that they will tell others about me. Until now I have felt like singing under the shower, nobody hears you…even if you sing nicely!
Thank you for doing this interview with me, I hope readers will enjoy it as much as I did!
Note: Kees Engelbarts can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Copyright 2003, Michael Sandler
All Rights Reserved
Engaging and bright, and a staunch friend of watch collectors throughout the world, in a few short years Dr. Frank Müller has left his mark on the watch industry. Formerly head of A. Lange & Söhn in Glashütte, Germany, last year he joined the Swatch Group and has recently become CEO of Glashütte Original. In this exclusive TimeZone interview, he tells us about the future of German watchmaking and his perceptions of the strengths of Glashütte Original.
FM: Frank Müller, Glashütte Original
TZ: Peter Chong & Michael Friedberg
TZ: Frank, we understand you have been fascinated by mechanical watches for a long time. Please tell us how your interest started.
FM: Indeed, my interest for mechanical watches dates back to my youth. However, then and for a long time to follow I was so impressed about the mysterious ways of how a mechanical timepiece actually works that I did not dare to approach the subject – except for some alarm clocks ruined under my hands. Only when I lived in Switzerland for some years my anxiousness disappeared. In this country you simply cannot escape from that cultural institution called watch. Since then a small love affair became a deep compassion and finally ended in a wonderful full-time job.
TZ: We’ve heard that you have quite a collection of pocket watches. Could you describe it for us?
FM: Well, I wouldn’t call it big at all – unfortunately! So far, simply a few time pieces belong to my rather modest collection. One for instance is a beautiful Swiss rose gold Savonette of the 19th century and another a silver observation watch of Glashütte origin being manufactured in the mid 30’s.
TZ: You have a Ph.D.; in what field did you specialize in?
FM: Yes, you are right, I am holding a Ph.D. in marketing. The research work focused on external company magazines. My interest was to find out if and how for instance in-flight magazines, newsletters of IT corporations or journals of car manufactures succeed from a company’s and the readers’ viewpoint.
TZ: Aren’t Ph.D.’s unusual in the watchmaking industry?
FM: To be honest, I have no idea. In our industry you will presumably find many more engineers carrying a Ph.D. than marketing specialists. To my personal experience the field of subject is less important anyway. I simply have enjoyed research work as it generally helps to sharpen one’s mind, to structure thoughts better and to improve the mental discipline. However, we need not to forget that in private and business life we are interacting with people, with humans beings. Thus intellectual skills are just one competency one would need to run successfully a challenge like the manufactory Glashütte Original. The mechanical watch is an highly emotional phenomena, and so are the people touching it: the watch makers, the retailers, and of course the lovers of fine timepieces throughout the world.
TZ: When you began your university education, did you know you were going to work in the watchmaking industry?
FM: No, only at the end of my research work I thought it would be nice to link one of my favorite hobbies with my professional life. And I have not regretted that decision at any moment.
TZ: How and when did you join the industry? What did you do?
FM: In 1998 I sent a job application to Mr. Günter Blümlein, who was heading the LMH group, the former mother company of IWC, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Lange. I had written him that I would know the difference between a chronograph and chronometer but not much more, yet, that my interest in watches was so deep that I wanted to join his ranks. As a man of humor, I suppose, he liked the approach.
TZ: Mr. Blümlein was well-known as a great leader. How was he as a teacher and a boss?
FM: Günter Blümlein was a man a great complexity. In a very impressive way he combined as an engineer a deep technical knowledge about the watch mechanics with a rich experience of many professional years within the industry. He had an incredible feeling for the customers’ dreams and above all showed a great deal of personal integrity. To work with him was quite demanding, but always extraordinarily inspiring.
TZ: What important lessons did you learn in the years with him that you could share with us?
FM: Well again, his personality set a very stimulating example to all who have had the privilege to work with him – and although he has unfortunately passed away in 2001 – I think he still does post mortem. Besides, he was a very hard working man thus not relying on his multiple talents alone.
TZ: After some time working at LMH headquarters you then joined Lange Uhren. What were your responsibilities?
FM: As Lange was a fast growing company my duty as managing director was to take care of all sales and financial related issues. The task for a dedicated team and myself was to develop further the international distribution net of watch retailers and to define internally structures and procedures to manage growth sense fully.
TZ: When did you move to the Swatch Group?
FM: That was in 2002.
TZ: What have been your responsibilities at Glashütte Original?
FM: At the beginning of my assignment my first priority has been to get to know the people working in the manufactory Glashütte Original and to make myself acquainted with their striking ways of producing such wonderful timepieces. Hence, I have not carried any particular responsibility else then to observe and to learn. Nevertheless, since joining Glashütte Original the process of decision making has gradually been passed from the hands of Mr. Heinz W. Pfeifer onto me. Having very successfully developed Glashütte Original in the last decade, Mr. Pfeifer wanted to move on to new responsibilities at our mother company the Swatch Group. I am grateful to him that we have found the time of a soft ten months long period of transition of powers.
TZ: Could you elaborate on why you decided to join Glashütte Original?
FM: During a sabbatical year that followed my assignment at Lange, I simply could not resist the trusting offer of Mr. Pfeifer that was kindly accepted by Mr. Hayek Sr.. and Mr. Hayek Jr. of the Swatch Group to become the CEO of Glashütte Original. I am very thankful for their confidence. Glashütte Original is a fascinating brand with a bright future. Directing one of the top jewels of the watch industry is without doubt a great and exciting challenge.
TZ: What are your thoughts on the future of German watchmaking? Is it heading for
FM: The future of watchmaking of fine mechanical timepieces in general and the German one in particular are certainly bound to be prosperous – under the condition that the watch enthusiast finds good reason to remain devoted to the artifacts of our workshops.
And I believe there are indeed many arguments for a long-term optimism regardless of usual, sometimes descending economic cycles. The causes are twofold: First, in a more and more complex world, that is to say in a complicated environment changing rapidly, there is a deep social need for reassurance. Here, fine mechanical watches with their intrinsic traditional values give orientation in being a bridge to the past. Mechanical watches will continue to fascinate us. Second, in recent years many manufactories have undertaken strong investments into r&d, production facilities, and customer service. The credibility of various brands has further increased since. To my humble opinion, the watch lovers will carry on to look for beautiful timepieces – and they will find them.
As far as the city of Glashütte is concerned a miraculous development has taken place during the last decade. Today, brands like Lange, Mühle, Nomos, Union, and Glashütte Original are established and highly esteemed addresses in their respective markets. Their visions are fresh, the infrastructures new and modern, the people on average very young. If we build our ideas – and I am saying this with all modesty required – upon this solid basis I am strongly convinced that Glashütte shall continue to enchant the watch enthusiasts all over the world. And if there is need for proof of the commitment and dedication of the “Glashütter” look at the speed in which they have overcome the disastrous flood of last year. Early September for instance Glashütte Original is inaugurating its completely renovated factory of more than 10.000 square meters. We invite all interested watch fans to visit us in one of the most modern ateliers for inventing, producing, assembling, and finishing fine and complicated timepieces.
TZ: As Glashütte Original is part of the Swatch Group, what is the relationship between the two? Do you see yourself as an extension of the Swiss watchmaking giant or as an independent German manufacture funded by a large corporation?
FM: Glashütte Original today is privileged. As you are indicating, on the one side we enjoy a huge liberty in defining our visions and strategies. On the other side we draw many advantages from the enormous resources of our mother company the Swatch Group. I have just mentioned our new factory which without the tremendous support of the Swatch Group would not have been realized. Yet, in a true partnership it is natural that we wish to contribute our share in working successfully for our shareholders and in offering our particular knowledge and experience as a German watch manufactory.
TZ: Where do you see innovation coming from? From big conglomerates like SMH and Richemont, or small, individual watchmakers like Dufour, Halter, and others?
FM: I hope and believe from both. Competition keeps all of us in motion. As long as the watch industry as a whole continues to introduce exciting complications, beautiful watches, freaky timepieces the customer will be ready to give it his share of attention. And competition will motivate the watch manufacturers to do their utmost to come up with exactly those exciting complications, beautiful watches, freaky timepieces.
If you look at the novelties of the past years, many marvels have came up from the Académie but at the same degree also from the fine brands of what you call with a slight pejorative connotation the “conglomerates”. You see, the source of innovation is the same in both “camps”: the highly creative human inventor.
Independent, group belonging, small, or big – the question is irrelevant as long as the watch enthusiast, the collector is satisfied. But what makes him or her satisfied? Where is the individual line of preferences that all watchmakers need to understand to convince? Is it the dial and case design, is it horological innovation, is it the finishing of the movement, the exclusivity of a brand, the social status attached to it, the factory’s place of origin and its’ tradition, the watch’s price, a tangible or intangible potential “return on investment “of a limited piece? For me, these questions are the important ones.
TZ: What about Glashütte Original – how does innovation fit within this company?
FM: In the perception of our customers and friends we wish to be considered as a very, very important German brand for traditional, yet not old fashioned, highly qualitative and exclusive watches. It is obvious as Glashütte Original offers top end mechanical timepieces that we have to be on the edge of the technical innovation. And pieces like the PanoRetroGraph, the first watch ever incorporating a regular and a down counting chronograph, underline our ambition. All our movements are in-house movements, developed by our own team of in-house engineers. As our movements are exclusive Glashütte Original they are in a way already innovative by nature.
TZ: What do you perceive to be Glashütte Original’s strengths?
FM: Oh, what a tricky question!
Well, our strength is first of all our people: dedicated, talented, and hardworking watchmakers, engineers, goldsmiths, tool makers, managers. It is them who build the success of Glashütte Original every day. What strikes me as a newcomer is their experience. Glashütte Original looks back onto a long history. And it has saved the horological site Glashütte also in very difficult times preserving a knowledge about mechanical watch making that others could build on later. I believe that without this special continuous existence of Glashütte Original the renaissance of the top end watches “Made in Germany” would not have been possible after the Berlin Wall came down.
Then, we are privileged to co-operate with excellent partners: the finest watch retailers and jewelers in the world. With the Swatch Group – we have already spoken about it – our mother company gives us a big support.
Now, for the watches of Glashütte Original, I would answer that our ultimate strength is exclusiveness. What do I mean by that?
First, Glashütte Original is one of the very few remaining – how should I put it? – traditional, complete, or true manufactories as we are mastering the whole process of watch making. Glashütte Original is inventing, prototyping, producing, assembling, and finishing its movements internally. Our watches are original in the pure sense of the word as you will find them nowhere else. Additionally, our particular approach way of watch making takes place under one single roof. All ateliers and workshops are ones of the most integrated in the world.
Second, in terms of the amount of watches manufactured every year we are certainly very exclusive. We offer only a very small number of finely handcrafted timepieces in line with the Glashütte’s long and rich tradition of watch making.
Thirdly, we think that the collection itself is striking. Glashütte Original’s timepieces are bridging the past, the present and add a sensation of future, too.
TZ: What are the areas where you, as the new CEO, would work to improve?
FM: By principle there is no area where things cannot be improved. Yet, I hope to be free of that particular vanity that somebody new has to prove himself by changing everything. To the contrary: The entrepreneur Heinz W. Pfeifer and his teams have accomplished astonishing things in the last decade. Having won many prices such as “Watch of the Year” in various countries, it cannot be that wrong what has been done so far. Thus, our task is to build up further our reputation as one of the finest addresses in the watch universe. Here, the measure will be the satisfaction of the watch community throughout the world. For the time being my motto is: evolution instead of revolution.
TZ: Can you tell us any specific plans?
FM: We wish to invest further into the development of our collection, into the degree of innovation, the quality, into the after-sale-service, into the shared activities with our retailers – all things that are of direct advantage to our final customers. For this we will work internally on our structures and procedures and externally enforce the internationalization of Glashütte Original.
TZ: Where do you see Glashütte Original in five years? Is there a long-term plan for products and sales?
FM: Up and yes.
TZ: Relative to your role, will you exercise full control over all aspects of the company, from design, prototyping, manufacture, marketing, to sales?
FM: Yes and no. My role as Glashütte Original’s CEO is to represent the company as a whole with all its activities to the retailers, the final customers, the media, our shareholder the Swatch Group. However, this does not rule out that within the board of directors there is a system of precise job sharing. Naturally, a CEO will always have a special and close look onto product development and communication.
TZ: Glashütte Original seems to have a wide range of models, from limited edition tourbillons to steel sports watches. How do you view this diversity? Is it a strength?
FM: Definitely yes. Being able to cover this wider range gives us a lot of credibility. As long as we have an umbrella being put up by the values of innovation, quality, exclusiveness, tradition above each single model whether it is the tourbillon Julius Assmann 3, the PanoReserve, the automatic Senator Perpetual Calendar, the manual winding Karree, or the Sport Chronograph I see no obstacle in diversity.
TZ: Some models of Glashütte Original have been praised for their innovation, such as the PanoRetroGraph. Will special models be a mainstay of the product line in the future?
FM: Yes, indeed. And the PanoRetroGraph is a very good example.
TZ: Other models have been criticized as having styling that might be derivative of competing manufacturers –for example, the emphasis on oversized dates and eccentric hour/minute chapters. How would you answer these critics?
FM: I know these remarks and would like to give you a general answer first. Is there something wrong to have an automobile industry today because all cars that came after Carl Benz’ first model of 1886 have been derivates since? Same goes for Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928 and any kind of break-through innovation. Imagine nobody had taken on the revolutionary visions of those two gentlemen for reason of being considered a copyist? The leaping progress is always more thrilling than the creeping one. But which one is better?
The point is, and here I will be more precise in my answer, that one ought to be free to work on an existing idea as long as you intend to improve it or to realize it in a new, captivating way. Let’s take your example of the oversized date. Glashütte Original’s Panoramadate is unlike other solutions as the two discs carrying the date numbers are fixed on one level. Thus the date window does not need a bridge in the middle to conceal two dials of different height. In consequence the Panoramadate improves the indication’s visibility – a customer benefit.
Yet I wish to add one aspect to your date example: Did somebody really give gracious credit to the old Vénus factory who actually thought about and introduced first a big date in a wrist watch long before it came into fashion in the 90’s again when it was improved, patented, and finally re-introduced?
Glashütte Original’s ambition is to launch break-throughs like the PanoRetroGraph, but also to develop concepts further such as the oversize date indication or the regulating system with the Duplex-Swanneck fine adjustment as long as they add to the collectors’ satisfaction.
TZ: All Glashütte Original models have in-house movements, which is a relative rarity within the industry. Do you consider that essential?
FM: Yes, this is very essential. Actually, our product and production policy is founded one three pillars: First, we incorporate only exclusive in-house movements into our watches. Second, workshops and ateliers are fully integrated under one roof. Third, we do not only produce prototypes of screws, wheels, pinions, balances and almost all movement components ourselves but the total number of needed quantities for all our timepieces.
Our goal is to master the whole process of the so called value-chain in making a watch for reason of functionality, quality, and authenticity of our collection. The word Original in our brand is a true and very seriously taken obligation for us. We want to be very credible in the view of the watch enthusiast as he is ready to commit himself to a highly exclusive timepiece.
TZ: Do you have a favorite model? Or one that you consider representative of the entire Glashütte Original line?
FM: Even if I had, would I tell you? They all have their particular merits and charms, haven’t they?
TZ: One last question, if we may, that we always ask. What watch are you wearing today?
FM: Today the Senator perpetual calendar in rose gold. Yet, as I we have more than just one model in our collection I am happy that the week counts seven days and the month at least 28!
TZ: Thank you!
Peter Chong and Michael Friedberg
All Rights Reserved
A TimeZone Interview with
Mr. Thierry J. Chaunu
President of Chopard USA Ltd
Interview conducted September 2003
Mr. Thierry Chaunu
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MS: Michael Sandler – TimeZone.com
TC: Thierry Chaunu
MS: Mr. Chaunu, would you please begin by telling us how you got your start in the watch industry.
TC: It’s very simple. I joined Cartier in the early ’80s in Paris at their headquarters, and then fairly quickly, about three years after that, I was appointed the VP of marketing for Cartier in the United States. So I got my love for watches and diamonds pretty much at that time, and throughout the ’90s I was President of Christofle Silver.
MS: How did you come to work for Chopard?
TC: As you may remember, unfortunately my predecessor at Chopard died in the SwissAir crash five years ago, and therefore when I was approached by an executive search firm, I really thought it was a wonderful opportunity to go back into the watch and jewelry industry. So that is how I joined Chopard.
MS: In the five years that you’ve been with Chopard, what changes have you seen at the company?
TC: It’s been a wonderful experience, because Chopard has grown significantly in this market. When I joined, Chopard had already started its expansion, and had opened its first U.S. boutique on Madison Avenue back in 1995. In fact, even before I was approached by the executive search firm and before that tragic accident, I couldn’t help but tell myself whenever I was walking in front of a jewelry store (you know you never lose sight of the fact that you were once in the industry), I said “My goodness, where is Chopard coming from?” Certainly Chopard was a more confidential brand in the United States back in the ’80s, but starting in ’95/’96/’97, as an observer I saw that Chopard was in many good jewelers and also in many wonderful magazines all over the place, and I was very intrigued. So to answer your question, the company had already started its expansion, but what I found most exhilarating was the opening of several other stores in the United States market. First we opened South Coast Plaza, then shortly after that, Palm Beach. Then we opened Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, Bal Harbor Miami. We grew significantly in terms of turnover by keeping the same number of doors in terms of authorized Chopard retailers in the country. That was the biggest change, I think.
Chopard New York
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MS: What are your current responsibilities as President of Chopard USA and what have been your biggest challenges to date?
TC: My responsibility is really to run the business with everything it entails, from the financial aspects of the company, the marketing aspects, the retail aspects, the wholesales aspects. I love to be involved with our retailers. I think that the true battle happens over the counter, and this is where I would like to spend more time than I can today. This is truly my passion, to work with our retailers and jewelers.
MS: You mention your involvement with the marketing aspects of the company. Is Chopard’s marketing in the U.S. geared specifically to this market, or is the approach more consistent and global in nature?
TC: It’s very consistent. It starts with the advertising, which is all conceived and designed by Chopard in-house, so we use the same materials, the same visuals that are seen in Rome, Monte Carlo, Bangkok, you name it. Obviously there are some aspects of our marketing efforts that are specifically for the United States when it comes to events, but not really, because even the charities which we support are pretty much the same charities that Chopard supports globally around the world. Even our magazine, “Happy News”, the same one which is published in 19 languages if I’m not mistaken, is the same around the world.
MS: How do you perceive the U.S. marketplace currently, in terms of it acceptance of high-end watches. Do you see it changing?
TC: In the United States, sophisticated clientele have evolved greatly over the past 20 years. When 20 years ago there was perhaps only one brand that they would trust when it came to high end watches, everyone has seen the appearance in the United States of many, many reputable brands who were before that confined to Europe. Why? Because I think the world is becoming smaller, and people have money and education. Certainly Americans in many areas, wine, food, and certainly watches, have over the past 20 years become extremely sophisticated and in some areas I would say even more knowledgeable than the European public. They are very sensitive to quality, beauty, esthetics, design, performance, and it’s wonderful for a company like Chopard.
MS: Can you tell us a little about the company and their production?
TC: Chopard has been making watches since 1860, and the family who owns Chopard is pretty much the only one left in the field, the Scheufele family, is the fourth generation in a family of jewelers originally from the Black Forest in Germany. Watches and jewelry are really in Chopard’s veins to the extent that Chopard makes pretty much everything in-house and if one day you can come to the factory in Geneva or in Fleurier now you will see how we melt the gold ourselves there in the factory. Everything is done in-house, including diamond setting. The jewelry is done in Geneva and also in Pforzheim in Germany. So to answer your question, the fact that Chopard is totally integrated, family owned and manufactures their own product is really what makes us a little bit different in this marketplace where so many people borrow engines from different manufacturers.
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I don’t think anyone is 100% self sufficient, since there are some components where it makes more sense to buy from a specialist. The degree of involvement hat Chopard has in the manufacturing of its own product is quite phenomenal.
MS: How large is the company in terms of production, etc.?
TC: Roughly, we make about 70,000 timepieces and roughly the same amount of jewelry. Within our collection, it’s important to know that we love to do small series. Very frequently we will even do a one of a kind at the request of a customer. Why? Because even though we have reached a level of production, it is important. The family works pretty much seven days a week at the factory (their offices are at the factory), and if we have a customer who wants a watch like this but with a little difference, and it’s urgent, you can be confident that the factory will stop what it’s doing in the production like to make just that piece. At our level, that is unheard of, but we still do it.
Beyond that, we do a lot of small series. I mentioned my watch, which is one out of 250. We have the Monaco Grand Prix 200 only in rose gold, the Elton John, and the Prince Charles. They are very limited production.
Watches from the Elton John Collection
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The Prince Charles
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It’s the same for the ladies watches, which means that our customers know that they can be fairly confident, and our retailers also know, that what they wear or sell is not exactly what the neighbors wear or sell. You can travel around the world, to Hong Kong, Tokyo, Munich, Monte Carlo, and you will have Chopard boutiques. However, you will not find exactly the same collection. It’s not cookie-cutter, it’s not mass luxury. It’s true luxury, and I think that’s at the heart of what Chopard is.
MS: That seems to be a very unique perspective, since there are many who define luxury as simply a price point. It’s also interesting to hear how flexible Chopard is given the size of the company as a whole.
TC: That’s exactly it. Our customers are looking for exclusivity, the exceptional. There will always be a clientele for that and I would dare say, especially in the United States, that there are more and more people who look for this special category of products. They have graduated, if you will, from a mass luxury mentality to a true luxury mentality. I think this is a normal evolution, whether you grow in economic terms or educational terms. The more you’re exposed to beautiful objects, the more you look towards the next level. That’s where Chopard is compared to most of the luxury brands. Yet at the same time, we’re not so confidential that we make only 5,000 watches for the whole world, which is also a different niche.
We bring this level of personalization that is quite appealing. Plus the design and the style which is unique to Chopard since everything is created in-house. The owners create themselves.
MS: The level of involvement of the owners in direct production also seems to be fairly unique in a company of this size. It truly seems to be a passion for them.
TC: To the degree that you would not even suspect. The word passion is important, because for us, the employees of Chopard, my colleagues around the world in every subsidiary, we truly feel the passion that the family has. It’s exhilarating to a point that I have never before experienced in my professional life.
MS: Would you speak to us a little about Chopard’s current line-up. Are there any specific models you’d like to highlight?
TC: I realize, obviously, that you’re very interested in watches, but I would like to make one point about the jewelry. Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele, who designs the jewelry, has launched a wonderful collection called Happy Spirit. It’s is a variation on the theme of the Happy Diamonds, the floating diamonds, but takes it to a new level, the next level. There is also a watch which goes with the jewelry that received a tremendous response in Basel. As you know, in our booth in Basel it’s not like we introduce only one new product. We have tray after tray after tray of new products, which is also exhilarating for the buyers, the retailers.
For the watches, one of the main thrusts which Chopard has done in recent years was the foundation of the L.U.C. movement and the L.U.C. factory in Fleurier. That was the brainchild of Caroline’s brother, Karl-Friedrich, who is more involved in watch production for the company. This, I think, is a significant adventure for Chopard, because Chopard is more known in the States for its ladies diamond watches. But for men, the fact that we have succeeded in a very short time to produce an exceptional collection of serious watches from scratch.
Watches from the L.U.C. Collection
L.U.C. Quattro, L.U.C. Sport 2000, L.U.C. Tonneau, L.U.C. 1.96
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The year the first model was introduced, it was named Watch of the Year in 1996 by the Swiss professional press. It’s one thing to create one movement, one model, but in the last couple of years, we’ve introduced the diver’s Pro One watch, the two timezone, the regulateur, and now the tourbillon. The tourbillon is not just a badge of honor, if you will, that the company decided to do just to be recognized. It is a very innovative tourbillon and has several patents and it’s an incredible watch on its own.
The L.U.C. Tourbillon
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MS: I believe the long power reserve is also rare in a tourbillon?
TC: I believe the reserve is 216 hours for the L.U.C Quattro. Also, the watch is a certified chronometer, and you have four barrels, two superimposed. The technology and creativity in this movement is a demonstration that when Chopard does something, they really do it with passion, and with an incredible amount of work. The work ethic in the company is incredible.
Also, the watches are made to Geneva Seal standards, which is no small feat given the regulations. I think it was not so difficult in the sense that once you are used to creating excellence in workmanship and design, it’s more a question of determination and commitment. It’s not something that we did one day just to occupy a certain niche. It’s really a return to the roots of Chopard.
There is this quest for excellence that, in the case of L.U.C., shows that the company is truly an innovative company, while retaining its classical roots.
MS: Is there one watch which you feel epitomizes what Chopard is as a company?
TC: To answer your question, if you look at Chopard as a whole, I just gave you one specific segment of Chopard, but the Happy Diamond line and the Happy Sport line, the floating diamonds is what personifies Chopard because it’s fun, its creative, it’s a serious piece of jewelry because of the quality of the diamonds, the work done to set each diamond in its own cup is quite mind-boggling, which is why no one else does it. To me, this is what Chopard is all about: exclusivity, fun, and quality of the diamonds and workmanship.
Watches from the “Happy” Collection
Happy Diamonds, Happy Sport, Happy Love, Happy Fish
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For men, outside of the L.U.C. line of watches, I would have to say the Mille Miglia which is certified chronometer. It’s fun, and is also a watch that you don’t see everywhere. It’s of incredible quality. I carry this watch at all times with me [Note: Mr. Chaunu points to rose gold Mille Miglia on rubber strap]. In the pool, in the shower, the watches go everywhere.
MS: Could you tell us a little about Chopard’s relationship with the automotive industry and with automobile related events, etc?
TC: It’s very simple, really. Being a family owned company, the father Karl Scheufele, and the son Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, both collect vintage cars. But they also do not just collect them to admire them in a garage, but also to drive them. Every year since 1988, I believe, they not only sponsor, but also participate in arguably the most legendary automobile race, the Mille Miglia in Italy. It takes you from Brescia to Rome and back.
To participate in that race you have to have a car which was built before 1957. You have about 300 participants from all over the world, driving for example a Jaguar from 1929 or a Bentley from 1932 or a Ferrari from 1951. That’s the passion, because every year the Scheufele drive in a different car and because of their love for fine vintage cars.
It also meets the demand of our clientele. Our clients are, more often than not, passionate about watches, movements, precision mechanics, and they also collect cars. The similarity between the two is striking.
MS: We’ve definitely noticed the correlation amongst watch enthusiasts on TimeZone as well, and in fact, have launched an automotive discussion forum to supplement our watch forums.
TC: It is common what whoever collects cars usually appreciates or collects fine watches. When it comes to Chopard, we meet quite a few of them every year ourselves in Pebble Beach in California. For years we have been sponsoring the Pebble Beach Concourse D’Elegance. It’s probably one of the top three events in the world when it comes to vintage cars. We have a hospitality suite, and we meet celebrities or collectors. It doesn’t matter if you collect five cars or twenty, they are all wonderful individuals.
MS: Can you give us any hints as to new models that Chopard will be launching in the near future? A L.U.C. chronograph, perhaps?
TC: Thank you for trying [laughs]. There’s a little bit of magic in Chopard. Perhaps when you work for General Motors or another huge company, you always have some industrial secrets which are shown in advance. Sometimes you can see their next models before the Paris Auto Show or the Geneva Auto Show.
At Chopard, it’s a very closely guarded secret. The family, being the originators and creators of our products, usually unveil them the day before Basel starts. When we ourselves fly to Basel, it’s with considerable excitement because we know we’re going to discover, literally a few hours before the retailers, all the new creations. That’s the way Chopard is.
I remember being at Chopard headquarters in Geneva two days before the Basel Fair started and I was amazed at how Caroline was fitting a model with her latest jewelry designs. I asked her about the items, and she said that they were for Basel. I said “it’s the day after tomorrow” and she said “it’s that last finishing touch”. It’s very much like haute couture work, where the couturier will finish the hem of a dress literally seconds before the model goes onto the runway. This made me think of the same thing. That’s how Chopard works. Some new products come right in time for Basel and won’t be shown before.
The Pro One
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MS: Recently, there has been considerable consolidation in the watch industry, with companies like Richemont, Swatch and LVMH acquiring multiple brands within a portfolio. How do you feel this is impacting the industry, and more particularly, how do you feel it is impacts an independent family owned and operated company like Chopard? How does it impact your ability to compete?
TC: Certainly, the economic factors at play are very important. You’ve seen the emergence of the equivalent of General Motors, but for me, it’s my own personal opinion that the danger in all of this is that all of those brands under the same group can become a little bit stale. Have you seen any really big differences between Buick or Pontiac after a few years?
The fact that Chopard is fiercely independent shows that perhaps in this world there is still room for people who have innovation at heart. I think genuinely that the Scheufele family has a passion for what they are doing. They have fun doing it. They are proud of what they have achieved over a few decades. I am very confident that the public sees that also.
As we said before, for the people who really want to buy true luxury as opposed to mass luxury, the product speaks for itself. You can see if a product was designed by a marketing committee or if it was designed by someone who is passionate….with drive…with energy. It becomes apparent in the product. I’m not saying that there is no interest in cars at General Motors, but there will always be buyers that want other brands, other models that speak to their hearts.
Watchmakers at Chopard New York
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MS: You’ve used the word passion frequently as we’ve spoken, and I can see it even in the way you speak of the company.
TC: I think Porsche has that same passion when they create their models. It wouldn’t surprise me if at 11pm at night they are thinking about their new stick shift.
MS: What impact do you feel the Internet has had on the watch industry and for Chopard in particular?
TC: I think the Internet has proven its usefulness when it comes to communication and to spread the gospel, if I may say. Strictly as a commercial tool to actually sell over the Internet, I think that many of the good jewelers and retails are greatly concerned about the fact that you turn their stores into a showroom where they would not be able to compete against products that are either stolen, or are from the gray market. This was a concern I remember that was very high four or five years ago.
Today, regarding the Internet, I think that for true luxury products like our products, we really don’t belong there. We would not be able to explain our products to the buyer. Nothing replaces the direct contact between the buyer and an experienced salesperson in a boutique. That’s not to say it doesn’t fit other brands, but for us, it’s not what we are really looking at.
MS: Are you a watch collector yourself?
TC: When I read that question I said “I’m going to be disappointing him”, but no. I think to qualify for the name collector, you have to have a certain quantity or interesting models. For me, I have a few watches but I would certainly not dare say that I am a collector. There are so many knowledgeable and true collectors out there, but I would not qualify.
MS: Besides watches, what are some of you other interests or passions?
TC: I love skiing and car racing. No surprise.
MS: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, and for your hospitality here today. I really appreciate your openness and candor.
TC: You are welcome. And if when you write about us, if you have more questions, please do not hesitate to let me know. Thank you also for your interest in Chopard. Hopefully you can come to see us in Basel.
Special thanks to Ms. Stephanie Labeille of Chopard USA for her assistance on this interview.
Stock photographs provided by Chopard USA
Copyright 2003, Michael Sandler
All Rights Reserved
A TimeZone Exclusive Interview
Zen and the Art of Watchmaking
Translation by Hartmut Kraft
Beat Haldimann is a rising star on the Swiss watchmaking scene. While under 40, he is considered among the “20 most significant horologists” by the magazine Chronos. His introduction of the H1 –a central flying tourbillon– at the AHCI exhibit during the 2002 Basel Fair caused a sensation.
In this exclusive interview for TimeZone, Herr Haldimann shares with us a philosophy of watchmaking that combines Zen thought together with historical watchmaking tradition. At the same time, his work reflects technical expertise and innovation of the highest order. The end result has been a remarkable wristwatch.
MF: Michael Friedberg – TimeZone.com
BH: Beat Haldimann
MF: How did you first get interested in watchmaking?
BH: When I was a boy, my way to school passed by a watchmaker. I always stopped and pressed my nose against the window of his shop. I guess the watchmaker must have seen my large amazed and asking eyes and must have taken my continuous interest seriously. That very watchmaker later became my teacher, who knew to nurture my interest in watchmaking.
MF: What was your first job in watchmaking?
BH: Daily practice as well as the studies of historical movements.
MF: When and why did you decide to form your own business?
BH: I wanted to bring my own ideas to life. After some years of “shopping around”, I founded the company Haldimann Horology in 1991.
MF: What was it like at first to “go out on your own”?
BH: My first income came from the production of diverse prototypes and the developments of patents and inventions for a renowned Swiss company. In retrospect, I have to say that I never lost focus on my
goals. I am very much convinced that anyone can achieve whatever he finds to be his calling and what he desires with all of his heart.
MF: Could you tell us about the first tourbillon that you made. First, when was it?
BH: The central tourbillon H1 “flying” was first introduced at the Basel show in 2002. One should not forget, though, years of searching and finding preceded that presentation. I didn’t have the capacities and resources of a large company.
MF: Why did you do it?
BH: My primary goal was to create a wristwatch with the sound of the traditional Breguet pocket watches: this fascinating voice that speaks of ancient times and that gives a watch its very own heart.
MF: How long did it take?
BH: It took about three years from the first idea to delivery of the first watch.
MF: What was the experience like?
BH: I was filled with deep satisfaction and gratitude. I guess this must be the feeling of a woman after bearing a child.
MF: You’ve also done a lot of work with pendulum clocks. How does the watchmaking differ from clock making?
BH: The work in our atelier strictly follows along the tradition of Breguet, Harrison, Bürgi and Janvier and we are keen to uphold their values. We are eager to further develop traditional and innovative watchmaking in the present era. The difference between building a wristwatch and building a pendulum clock is basically that we don’t use enlarging tools like microscopes or loupes for the creation of a large clock.
MF: It seems like your central tourbillon reflects a very clear philosophy and set of values.
Throughout my studies of the Japanese philosophy of Zen, I felt this growing desire to create a watch that would embody the Zen values of “concentrate on the essential” and “focus on your center”.
MF: Technically, in a normal movement the balance is not in the center of the movement. How did you get the balance in that position?
BH: This peculiar central arrangement that doesn’t sacrifice the dimensions of the movement is indeed a pretty crazy construction. We had to break with known tradition to achieve our goals which required a diameter of the movement of no more than 14 lignes (31.58 mm), a huge cage of 16.8 mm with a large balance of 14.4 mm in a case with a diameter of no more than 39 mm and a thickness of the watch of no more than 10.5 mm.
MF: I would think that achieving all those goals must be much more complicated than leaving the balance in its normal position.
BH: If we are talking about a wristwatch with classical features– that is, a dial design with central minute and hour hand, with a regular power reserve and regular dimensions– the way to create such a watch is historically predominated. Crown wheel, barrel spring, wheels, balance and escapement are all placed around the center of axis of the minute wheel. The wheels for the hands are placed beneath the dial, all complications, be it a date, a perpetual calendar, a chronograph or the rotor for the self winding movement could be construed on top or beneath the base caliber.
However, if you want to replace the center minute wheel with a flying tourbillon right in the middle of the watch, you have to break with the traditions in order to achieve your goals – there are no historically-given defaults.
MF: The tolerances appear to be unusually close and the center wheel needs to be replaced –is this all to achieve the visual result of a tourbillon in the center?
BH: In order to realize the visual appearance of the central tourbillon, we needed to “push the envelope” of what might be technically possible.
MF: There certainly is an aesthetic difference. But is there any functional difference?
BH: We aimed not to have any functional differences compared to traditional hand wound wristwatches: that is, we wanted winding and setting the hands with one crown. That actually was one of the greatest challenges.
MF: Is the “point” of the H1 tourbillon to demonstrate horology as an art?
BH: Indeed. We primarily aimed to create a wristwatch with the melodic sound of the historic Breguet pocket watches. The H1 meets this goal. The name of the caliber, “Cal. H. Zen – A” is another aspect that alludes to the correlation between art and watchmaking. It generally refers to the center, the central, the Zen-like focus on the essential. That’s why the philosophy of the H1 could very well be described as the focus on the essential.
MF: May I ask how long does it take to produce these beautiful watches?
BH: All watches that we create in our atelier are individual and unique pieces. We build on quality not on quantity and as such we recognize individual requests of our customers. Each customer has to wait about four to six months for his individual watch.
MF: Do you make all the movement parts yourself? Even screws? But not springs?
BH: Principally, we are able to produce every single piece of our watches in our own shop, except hairsprings, mainsprings, rubies and sapphire crystals.
It is one of our core principles to do our own research, design and development, and then to create various prototypes and manufacture our wristwatch and clock movements almost exclusively ourselves.
MF: Where do you see you and your company going over the next few years?
BH: We will always try to follow our calling.
MF: What greetings may I extend from you to watch collectors and lovers at TimeZone?
BH: I am always very pleased and excited that there are people who concern themselves with the in-depth study of watchmaking.
MF: Thank you. I can assure you that our readers are equally pleased and excited that you have shared so much with us.
Special thanks to Harmut Kraft for translation services and contacts with Herr Haldimann
Images courtesy of Haldimann Horology
Copyright 2003 Michael Friedberg PastTime
TimeZone Interviews August 11, 2003
A TimeZone Exclusive Interview
Chief Executive Officer, Vacheron Constantin
TZ: Did you always have an interest in watchmaking?
CDP: My father was head of the Swiss watch chamber exhibition division and has been creative for more than 40 years ! He
TZ: When did you start in the watch industry? What did you do?
CDP: My first job right after completing my studies of economics has been with the Omega group in Bienne, where I was assistant in the organization division and later product manager of two of the four Omega collections.
After five years of training and experience, I was called to manage the communication and product division at Eterna in Grenchen. I then was promoted to CEO of Eterna and overall I stayed 14 years in that company.
TZ: What was it like when you first started at Vacheron Constantin?
CDP: I joined Vacheron Constantin in November 1988 as CEO of the company. Vacheron Constantin was then producing 4,000 watches a year. My task was to build a new management team to launch a new marketing and product concept, but keeping the motto of Vacheron Constantin which was always “quality first, respect of the tradition and permanent creativity”.
TZ: How has Vacheron Constantin changed in the 15 years that you have been CEO?
CDP: In very few years, Vacheron Constantin has been able to develop constantly its image, its products, its personalized service. The main goal has been to focus on a strong and motivated team, to share our culture with the markets’ own culture and mentality, giving a full priority to personal contact.
CDP: Fine watchmaking has to be art which consists of a unique trilogy: design, mastered techniques, hand finishing.
Business is not a goal but the consequence of a total commitment to our faithful customers all around the world.
TZ: Can business and art co-exist?
CDP: Art and business can co-exist together because they are attached together by the passion of our master watchmakers and the passion of those who are our ambassadors in the 57 markets where we are represented.
Art is the real expression of all Vacheron Constantin works of art. Business is what makes our long-term investments feasible; it is why Vacheron Constantin lives in harmony after this very long period of time (248 years of continuous challenge!).
TZ: Can the tradition and innovation also co-exist?
CDP: You cannot dissociate innovation and ultimate finishing. It is a whole, where design, technique and hand finish have to be harmoniously linked together to produce “works of art” ; you have to create continuously to preserve and capitalize tradition.
TZ: We understand that from 1989 go 2001 Vacheron Constantin’s sales have increased over 400% from 3,500 to 15,000 watches annually. To what do you attribute this large growth?
CDP: I can define this success by very few but capital words:
TZ: As CEO, managing this growth must have been a challenge. Can you tell us how you did that?
CDP: You never work alone! The first key elements are respect, motivation and vision. Vacheron Constantin employees share this long-term vision, and give the best of their personal talent and experience. My job has been to coordinate all activities and transmit these values to our distribution (general agents, subsidiaries and retailers).
TZ: Is there a ceiling on growth in the high horology segment of the market?
CDP: We could say that sky is the limit! However, we can only hurry strongly, giving priority to long-term quality. We have 586 point of sale and we have to harmoniously balance quantities with quality, expectation and dedication.
TZ: We believe that Vacheron Constantin has undergone a revitalization since Richemont took over from Sheik Yamani’s ownership. What has Richemont done?
CDP: Since Richemont has taken in its hands the destiny of Vacheron Constantin our manufacture has improved strongly in terms of marketing and distribution. Richemont is a great family with a very long-term vision on real luxury, service, training and very long-term commitment to our clientele.
Each brand is independent, respecting its individual vocation but homogenously coordinated for the benefice of all.
TZ: Your products seem to have a strong historical emphasis – the designs have traditional “Vacheron characteristics”. The dials and movements reflect meticulous craft. Can you comment on the importance of “patrimony” to high horology?
CDP: The patrimonial values of Vacheron Constantin represent 248 years of continuous experience. All our designs are linked to the past but recreated completely. Identity is then perfectly respected and creativity also. Design at Vacheron Constantin has nothing to do with fashion, which comes and goes. Design is linked to strong cultural values and care of all details.
TZ: In which market segment do you see Vacheron Constantin playing in?
CDP: Vacheron Constantin is linked to high horology, whereas Geneva at l’ìle (site location of Vacheron Constantin Geneva since 1755!) is at the heart of the creation of time.
Vacheron Constantin distinguishes itself with its unique trilogy, applied on all its watches:
TZ: How are you positioning the various product ranges?
CDP: Vacheron Constantin has produced complementary collections which allows a full spectrum of high horology timekeeping:
Overseas is the sport segment with top of the range technical features (150 meters water-resistant, strong and noble steel, triple safety clasp, etc…) targeted to younger customers (chrono and automatic watches)
Royal Eagle is in shape (barrel shape)and a new segment (based on the forties design development of Vacheron Constantin). It also is targeted to younger generations (chrono, semi-complicated watches).
Malte is the center of Vacheron Constantin lines, with reinforced identification symbols which go from Tourbillon to chrono to two time zone, etc…
Patrimony is the super classical line, which represents the typical patrimonial elegant values of the brand.
“72” is a wonderful and very original line (unisex and ladies) based on an original design of 1972, for which Vacheron Constantin received then the Prestige of France prize recognition.
Egérie is a unique and very feminine line which will be launched on the fall in all markets.
Kalla is the top of the range jewelry line which combines mechanic watchmaking and jewelry refinement.
TZ: In 1998, Vacheron Constantin acquired HDG (Haut de Gamme), now known as VCVJ (Vacheron Constantin Vallée de Joux). What were the factors underlying that decision?
CDP: Long and fructuous collaboration with HDG naturally led to integrate HDG in the Vacheron Constantin manufacture due to increasingly specific needs and requests. Exclusivity is a must for our maison of “Haute Horlogerie.”
TZ: What work is done in the Vallée de Joux and what work is done in Geneva?
CDP: Geneva is the headquarter for the manufacture. Both centers, Geneva and Vallée de Joux, work together under the control of the manufacture manager. Specifically, Vallée de Joux is responsible for R & D and movement components; Geneva takes care of controls and logistics. They split their activities according to specific projects and production schedules.
Based on a product briefing, our designers and technicians work closely together, on specific projects and with due priorities. All our product developments follow a precise and long-term strategy followed by a three year plan and the budget which prepares the production forecast.
CDP: Our vocation in Haute Horlogerie technique requires very sophisticated and unique workmanship linked to top of the range technical innovations and the very specific know-how of our engineers and master watchmakers.
TZ: Would you be planning for all Vacheron Constantin watches ultimately to be running on in-house movements?
Vacheron Constantin has been continuous in creativity for over 248 years! The brand is then solidly anchored in a living tradition.
All our new developments are designed and built in-house (Vallée de Joux) and crowned by the Geneva hallmark. Our future is clearly linked with exclusivity, quality, reliability and service which is a long term commitment.
TZ: But, specifically, there have been persistent rumours of an in-house automatic calibre, perhaps to be introduced this year. Can you tell us anything about this?
CDP: Rumours are rumours and we shall not comment them, but as we launch regularly important novelties, you are most than welcome at the next Geneva SIHH!
TZ: Where do you see Vacheron Constantin in the future? Will it continue to grow? Will it continue to address the same markets with products of the same character and quality?
CDP: The future of Vacheron Constantin is linked to our faithful clientele which expects creativity, quality and service and it is our main goal.
TZ: One last question, that we always ask. Can you tell us what watch you are wearing today and what is special about it?
CDP: I wear today the most simple and sophisticated Vacheron Constantin time keeper, equipped with the thinnest mechanical movement, total thinness of 1.64 mm, with more than 115 components! … very understated isn’t it?
TZ: Absolutely. And we thank you.
Copyright © 2003
TimeZone Interview with Roland G. Murphy of RGM Watches
RGM: Well, that’s a long story. I worked for a clock company part time when I was in high school. I worked in the area of carpentry, actually cabinetmaking, which is what I had taken in vo-tech. Then this little grandfather clock company went out of business during the time when I was working there part-time (through no fault of my own, I might add).
At that time, my father and I bought up some clocks and movements, some half assembled and others in pieces. This was a good opportunity for us. They had a fairly good name in the area (Harford County, Maryland) since it was a 40 or 50 year-old company. So I would assemble these clocks and sell them, basically. That’s how I was making money after high school.
I learned some things from one guy who used to put the movements into the cabinets, He gave me a few little pointers. I’ve always been very mechanically inclined, so I would cut a hole in a work table and actually put a grandfather clock movement in front of me over that hole. I supported it so that I could put the weights on and could actually make it function and watch it run. That way I could figure out how everything worked. Eventually I was taking everything apart and putting them back together, learning how to adjust them.
MS: How did you make the shift from clocks to watches?
I went to school for clockmaking in Lancaster, PA at Bowman Technical school. In the clockmaking course there we also did pocket watches. That’s when I realized that although I liked clocks, I really preferred watches even more.
So watches became even more intriguing to me, especially the history of the American watchmaking industry. The different companies, the advancements, the things that really took place here at the beginning of industrialized watchmaking. Many of the advancements started on this side of the ocean as opposed to the other. This was all very fascinating to me…the histories of companies like Hamilton, Howard, and many of the other smaller companies.
Then I ended up getting more and more into watches, and ended up going to school at WOSTEP in Switzerland in 1986. I took the course there and did very well. I was obviously very interested in pursuing a career in watches. I was also good at recognizing movements and things like that.
MS: Once you finished school in Switzerland, did you come back to the U.S.?
RGM: Yes. When I came back here I went to work for a major conglomerate in product development for one of their brands. I worked on the design of new watches as well as ordering of sample components such as dials and hands and cases. I also technically checked those things when they came in from the manufacturer. I was responsible for checking everything before it was approved to be ordered for production. If there were problems, I would have changes made until it was OK.
I also got very good interchangeability there. Before I came there, they didn’t have a very good handle on certain movements and hands. So, they had a lot of things that were not really organized in a way where they could use their inventory properly. I was able to figure out the interchangeability of movements and cases ,that one movement could also fit in another case, or you could buy another movement and make a particular watch a quartz or a mechanical watch.
I also put together many prototype watches. I was also called on when they needed a watch for a movie. I put together a watch for Robin Williams that he wore in “Dead Poets Society”, I built a watch for Dennis Quaid ( a watch with the “Sugar Bowl” Logo on the dial) . I think the movie was called “Everybody’s All American” or something like that. Recently Albert Brooks wore RGM watches in the “Muse”.
MS: When did you end up starting your own company?
RGM: Eventually, in the early 90’s, I started my RGM experiment, if you want to call it that, ( I wanted to do my own thing, so ). About 1991 is when I officially started at least the framework of the first watch.
MS: What was that first watch?
RGM: That would have been the 101 chronograph and the 101M chronograph, which we don’t make anymore. They were gold chronographs with engine turned dials and blue steel hands. They were sold at extremely reasonable prices for that time. Occasionally you’ll see one pop up on Ebay or here and there, not very often. Maybe once a year I’ll see one come up for sale. We made about 150 of those watches.
Then basically I sort of muddled my way through the years running my own company, designing watches and coming up with new models and progressively growing slowly. We’ve expanded our service here as well.
MS: Some of your watches show design cues from historical watchmakers like Breguet or others. Which watchmakers or companies have influenced you or your designs?
RGM: Breguet, in one sense, was the strongest influence, only because I’ve always loved some of the elements that are typical to Breguet, such as engine-turned dials and blued steel hands. If you think of Breguet, you think of that. We took it a step further than them, because we like to use varied patterns and designs in our engine turning. For years and years, Breguet only used one or two patterns. It’s only been during the past couple of years that they’ve started to use other patterns than the basic Breguet type of engine turning.
We started basically taking some of the elements that we liked, and then tried to expand that engine turned look. We went into shaped watches, whereas Breguet hadn’t made shaped watches in decades. We made the 102J which was the first watch that started the William Penn family for us before they were making any modern shaped watches. It still had the engine turned, blued steel hands look.
As far as other makers, I couldn’t pick one particular name. Of course the pilot watches do have that traditional look that many companies use. Many of our watches have a very traditional look used by many different makers. That’s also true for certain complications, for example the triple date moonphase, which is not necessarily associated with only one company.
MS: RGM currently offers customers the opportunity to have a completely custom watch designed from scratch. Could you explain a little about how that process works?
RGM: We’re actually going to revise our website (www.rgmwatches.com) soon to add more information on the custom pieces….it’s pretty basic right now. We’re also going to show a lot more of the custom watches we’ve made over the last year or two. We probably get several hundred requests a year about custom watches, and we make somewhere in the neighborhood of thirty custom watches a year with varying degrees of customization.
A custom watch can be taking an existing model and simply tweaking it a little. Perhaps they want a special engraving or they want a whole new dial and different hands. We’ve had some customers come to us and say “I love that watch, but I want it in white gold”. We do not normally make the watch in white gold, so we make a brand new case in white gold for the customer. Also, changing the dial and hands on a watch can make it appear like an entirely different watch.
We’ve got other customers who want particular functions or complications, so we may use an entirely different movement, or do a customized movement. The movement can also be altered with respect to finish. In turn, an entirely new case may have to be made. These sorts of things we really consider a completely custom watch. New dial, new case, sometimes new hands….so that’s a truly custom piece. It could be a time only watch, a chronograph, a repeater. A new one we’re working on which we just started for a customer is a custom made RGM perpetual calendar. The dial would be loosely based on the perpetual calendar dial from our minute repeater. We will make it an automatic watch, and we’ll be doing a lot of hand engraving and also two-tone plating of the movement. The customer was very specific about the look he wants.
MS: Do most of your customers come to you with very specific requests or requirements?
RGM: Some customers are very specific about what they are looking for, so we can hold their hands and work things through with them with email, drawings, pictures, etc. Once we get to a certain point, we can actually simulate the look of the entire watch in color for them so they can see exactly what they’re going to get before they sign off on having the watch built. So that’s an interesting project.
We have other customers who we have to draw out a little more, because they’re not exactly sure what they want initially. They want a custom watch, but they’re very vague. So we work with them closely and we can feed them ideas until we can find the right direction on what they are looking for. That helps us get to a point where we can help them find what they want.
MS: Of all the custom pieces you’ve been asked to make, what was the most complex? Did you actually make the piece?
RGM: The most custom watch that we did, we introduced as a limited edition model in the RGM line. It’s a minute repeater tourbillon with the movement reversed so you can see the hammers and tourbillon through the dial and you can see the racks for the repeater and the things normally hidden under the dial through the back of the watch. That’s the most complicated watch we made as a custom watch. It had a special dial as well. It’s a Claret based movement and we worked on a case with the customer as well.
He wanted to make something very special and very complicated, and I pitched ideas to him and then eventually we made the watch based on those ideas. Now we do offer a similar watch, but of course it doesn’t have the same dial as his. We offer the same functions in our line now on a special order bases. Of course watches like that are very expensive, and typically we don’t make very many of them. Maybe once a year we make a watch of that complication.
MS: Can you tell us about RGM’s production, how may people are here, volume, etc.?
Certainly I don’t work on nearly as many watches as my watchmakers do downstairs. There’s obviously a lot more to keeping a business going than just working on watches. I have to wear many hats.
MS: In terms of your overall business, can you comment on the split between work done on your own watches and new production against repairs your watchmakers are doing on other brands like Girard Perregaux, etc.?
RGM: RGM new production varied over the last couple of years from about 300 to 400 pieces, so it’s very small production. We’re not really looking to increase that by leaps and bounds. Slow progression is fine with us.
Last year we did somewhere between 1,600 and 1,700 repairs. Not all those are full-blown restorations or overhauls, but that’s how many pieces we had here as a company. These could be anywhere from a regulation to a full restoration of a particular brand watch. We do repair and restore many different types of mechanical watches. We are the official service center for several brands; one large brand and several smaller brands. At RGM we do all sorts of repairs for customers.
MS: Have there been any interesting or unique pieces which have come through for repair recently? Something which perhaps sticks out in your mind as particularly notable or memorable?
RGM: Of course some complicated modern pieces have come through for repair, but I think the more memorable pieces are the older watches, because you may never have the chance to see another piece like them. I’d say the most memorable pieces that we’ve done here are some of the Patek minute repeaters. Several years ago I did the Patek Grand Complication for the NAWCC museum. I restored that watch, which was certainly a nice piece to work on. It was a perpetual calendar, minute repeater split second chronograph. It had a broken balance jewel and several other problems.
Other pieces we’ve done here include a high-quality unsigned minute repeater that was given by Mr. Rockefeller in the 1890s to a man who took care of his yachts. That was an interesting piece and you don’t usually forget a watch like that, with its history and its ties to a famous name in history.
Sometimes it’s the individual. We’ve fixed watches for several race-car drivers and some actors. We’ve repaired a couple of watches for Mario Andretti. One was an old Omega pocket watch. There was nothing really exciting about the watch, but it’s interesting to see what certain people have. I think it was a family piece that was handed down to him. So sometimes it’s the watch and sometimes it’s the person who sent the watch in. Still the most memorable ones would have to be those Patek repeaters and the one from Rockefeller was a very interesting piece.
MS: Does RGM have any plans to develop an in-house movement at any point? Is this something you’ve considered?
Often I’ve seen things being made at other companies that otherwise I would have sworn were made in-house. So even when a company makes their own movement, like we had talked about earlier, often a lot of components are not made there, like the balance, hairsprings, escapements, jewels, mainsprings, screws, regulations devices. Things like these, no matter which brand it is, are normally made by suppliers who specialize in those areas.
So typically, an in-house movement for most companies would be: they own the design, which could or could not have been done in-house. Often there are people on the outside who help with the design because it is such a large investment. Even within the design, you may have several different people who actually worked on that particular design or tweaked it. Because it is such a large investment, it’s often not left to just one person to do that. If a particular person is in charge of a design, there are often several other people working with him. They may even send the design out to other companies who would review the design for feasibility or technical or engineering mistakes which they could try to resolve ahead of time.
Some companies will then produce their own bridges and plates, and others will have those bridges and plates produced on the outside and then finish them in-house and so on. I really don’t think a truly in-house movement exists. There’s just no one making everything.
MS: So with respect to what you’ve just outlined, is RGM planning to venture into this arena at some point?
RGM: We do have plans to do an “in-house” movement, with some parts made here and some parts made on the outside. That is something we’re currently working on . It’s probably a movement that we will make on a very small scale once we finish the prototypes and test. Then we’ll see what the feasibility is and how many we’re going to make. So it will probably be made in very small quantities each year. It will be signed Lancaster, PA. We’ll probably offer it in different finishes and allow people to get it engraved a certain way, or choose Cotes de Geneve or perlage or damaskeening, etc.
So we’re working on that, and it will obviously be a more expensive item in our line, probably aimed toward the custom kind of area. For example, you wouldn’t see the movement in a pilot watch at $1,750.
MS: Would you discuss your current model line a little? Are there any specific models you’d like to highlight? New models, etc?
We just introduced in Basel the same watch with a copper color and silver dial instead of the all silver or the blue and silver dial. The copper and silver version of the 151 is the newest watch that we showed at Basel. We’re always working on new things, so we’ll probably introduce something totally new for next spring. We also just introduced our Model 160, which you can see on our website.
MS: Do you have any special or unique projects going on that you can tell us about?
RGM: We’re working on some variations of some of our other watches which haven’t really been shown around much. There’s the Constellation ship’s watch. That was sort of a pet project of mine, and I don’t really know that there’s a big market for it since it’s a bit of a departure from our other watches. I love watches and I love sailing ships, so this watch combines the two. We haven’t fully decided how we’re going to market it. It may be a watch which we decide to only sell directly through our website as a special offering because it’s so different from our other pieces. Of course we did all the artwork here which was then translated to a beautiful dial. So we’ll see where that watch goes.
Over the last year or so we’ve also increased our pilot watch line, incorporating the 107 which we’ve had in our lineup for years at 35mm. Then we introduced the 42mm 150 and then the 151 pilot, which is a 38.5mm automatic. The 150 and 151 can also be had on a bracelet. These are the first watches in our line that we’ve offered with a bracelet.
MS: You just mentioned the introduction of the 150 at 42mm. The trend with a lot of companies now seems to be towards the production of larger watches (over 40mm diameter). Is that a trend you believe will continue, or do you see it as a fad that will pass fairly quickly?
RGM: I think it may drop off somewhat, but I don’t think it will disappear. A lot of people now are used to large watches. It may slow down, but I think you’ll see larger watches stay around. The 42mm watch we offer was an answer to that market, but also we were able to put the large Unitas movement in there and still sell it at an affordable price. Our movement is a very upgraded one, with an upgraded balance and a Trivois regulator which I think makes it an interesting piece. When you turn it over and look at through the display back, all you see is movement due to its size. We also have a skeleton version.
I think 42mm for RGM is the biggest you’ll ever see us go. I think that’s the limit for an RGM watch, and you’ll probably not even see too many at that size. I think 38.5mm or 39mm is a more practical size for most of our customers. I’ve had customers inquire about pieces at 40mm, which we could custom make.
MS: Earlier, you mentioned that one of the key features of many of your watches is the intricate engine turned dials. Could you walk us through the process of designing these dials and then the actual process of making the dials themselves as compared to a stamped dial?
RGM: Sometimes for the novice it’s difficult to see the difference between an engine turned dial and a stamped dial or an embossed dial. On an embossed dial, the tool is hand cut, sort of like how our actual dials are. So with the tool, it is cut once, and then each dial is stamped with that tooling. The peaks and valleys on an engine turned dial are much sharper than on a stamped dial, because there’s a little bit of rounding over on those stamped dials. So it’s not quite as sharp and crisp, but it can still look very good. It also doesn’t reflect the light in the same manner as a true engine turned dial. If you really want the optimum, engine turning is certainly much nicer to look at to someone who can recognize those differences.
As far as making the dial, the difference between the two is fairly great. Engine turning is an art, a skill. It’s like a hand engraver or a painter. The people who do engine turning, basically that’s all they do, although some also do hand engraving. They’re typically not watchmakers and not dial makers. They just do this art, either by hand or in the case of engine turning, with a rose engine or straight line engine.
In the process of making one of these dials, we would design the dial here. We will decide exactly all the dimensions of the dial and what engine turning pattern will go where. So we make a very detailed drawing with all the patterns and measurements. Typically we’ll work with a dial factory, which will handle the details for us as far as having the engine turning done, because they have to start first.
MS: What material are RGM dials made of? Do you have an engine turner on your staff?
RGM: With all RGM engine turned dials, the plate is either solid gold or solid silver. Even if the dial is silver in color (as in some of our William Penn watches, or some of our more complicated pieces), the dials are made of gold and then they’re silvered. In some of our other pieces, like the 151 or the chronographs, the dials are made of silver. So the dial factory will prepare the plate, whether it will be gold or silver. It will be cut to size, it will have dial feet applied, it will have the center hole and holes for the other hands and calendar cut. Also, they will print guidelines on the dial for where the engine turning is to go and where it’s not to go.
Then the dial is sent to an engine turner, which is typically a one or two person family operation in their home . They will then turn the required pattern onto the surface of these dials. It usually takes several hours to turn one dial, even after the plate has already been prepared. When the engine turner is done, the dial then goes back to the dial factory, who then prepares the dial. With a very, very fine abrasive and a soft brush, the dials will be brushed under water to create a very fine finish on the engine turning and will also remove any burrs which may have been left on during the engine turning. Typically, the flat areas can be brush finished to make them a little brighter. Sometimes there’s masking done so that a certain area isn’t touched during a certain process. There’s printing involved of the tracks and the numerals and the logos, lacquering of the dial, etc.
To make one engine turned dial, there are many people involved. It’s a large process with many steps, versus a stamped dial, which would normally be something like a brass plate that can be stamped in a matter of seconds, and then printed and lacquered. There are far fewer steps involved and it’s much less expensive. It’s a similar look, but to a trained eye, there’s a very big difference. If you look at our dial closely compared to a stamped dial, you would definitely see a difference in quality.
If you look at our website on the engine turning page, there’s a link to a page which shows many different engine turning patterns. There are more patterns than what are shown on that page, but it does show some of the varied designs which are possible with engine turning. We have a Rose Engine at RGM we use for turning on a caseback or bezel mainly on custom jobs.
MS: Regarding case design, you noted earlier that many companies are not making their own cases. Are your cases exclusively your own designs, or do you also use somewhat standard cases designed by the case-maker?
As far as the William Penn goes, this is a totally RGM designed case. It does not really mimic anyone else’s watch. If you look at the side of the case, you have a slight tonneau shape, very unique angles on the side, and the lugs are unique. It is sort of a classic looking rectangle, but if you look around the market, there really is no other case like this.
MS: Are there any current watch companies which really stand out in your mind as doing something truly unique or interesting? Do you have any particular favorites? It’s always interesting to get the perspective of a watch designer on what his contemporaries are doing.
RGM: Sometimes I can admire things that I wouldn’t necessarily make, but I can appreciate what they are. It may not be an idea that I want to explore, but I can say that it may have been an interesting project or an interesting choice that they made on a particular watch or design. It would be hard to name one person. I think as far as the design goes, in terms of classical designs and sticking to your roots, Vacheron has done a really nice job in the last several years. They’ve come up with several nice, classic looking pieces that really say “Vacheron”. I wouldn’t’ make a watch that looked like that, because it’s not me, but looking at what they’ve done and how they’ve kept the continuity of some of the classical looks, they’ve done an excellent job on some of their pieces.
On the other hand, I think Patek’s watches (and I love Patek), over the past several years are a departure from “Patek”. That may be good and it may be bad, depending on who you are. If I was deciding what Patek should make, I think I would have made a few more classical looking pieces, but as I said, I’m a real classical kind of guy. Somebody else might say they needed to change things and shake it up a little.
MS: What about the work of the small independent watchmakers?
RGM: With individual watchmakers, I think there are a number of them. I couldn’t name just one because I’d be afraid of leaving someone out. There are a number of individuals who I think have done very interesting things in several areas. With one person it may be a design element like a cool rotor, with another it may be an interesting case, and with another an interesting dial or an interesting movement or combination of functions. So I don’t want to name individuals just because there are so many out there. It just shows you how alive watchmaking is right now.
As far as the huge complicated watches, personally I think you can go too far. I’ll use a story that Phillipe Dufour told me once , I was visiting with him a few years ago and he was describing how some customers want everything in a watch: tourbillion, a repeater, a split second chrono, a perpetual calendar. For Philippe, he’s not really all that keen on those types of watches. So he told me this story . He told the customer that he’s from Italy, where they make really fine sports cars. They’re beautiful cars, they handle great. But if I came to you and said I want a sports car which was incredibly fast, and had this special engine, and these gull-wing doors and I want 4-wheel drive so I can go off-road, well then it’s not going to do as well on the highway any more. Now you’ve got 4-wheel drive and big tires, but you’ve lost something else in the process. He said that whenever you do that, there are compromises, and when he said that, it stuck with me.
I don’t think cramming every single function you can into a watch is necessarily a good thing. I prefer watches which actually have individual functions and do them well and look good. I like watches that are designed well and function well, as opposed to a watch that has a power reserve, a repeater, a tourbillon, and other functions. Those things don’t really do anything for me. I see watches like that come out and yes, they’re engineered amazingly and they’re neat, but I just don’t have an interest in that area.
I’d rather have a tourbillon by itself or maybe one other function. Something like that is a little cleaner looking and more interesting, and it will function better. I think the more you cram into a watch, the more potential there is for something to go wrong.
MS: What are your future goals for RGM? Where do you see the company going over the next few years?
RGM: Well over the next few years I hope to increase our sales slowly. I want to add a few more individual interesting pieces. There are a few pieces of which we’re working on the design of right now that we’ll introduce next year. They’re very classic pieces but they’ll be very nice watches made in very high quality. I’m sure some of them might be 25 pieces; others may be 50 or 100 pieces. Overall a very small series in their own right.
I want to continue with engine turned dials, but I also want to explore using other kinds of dials. We’re never going to stop making engine turned dials, but I also want to offer options. That would give us a whole other price point and a whole other look. I really like the look of some of the Omega dials from the 40s. There are some elements we’ll take from some of the classic pieces which I’ve liked over the years. That way, we can offer a watch with more than just one “look” so it would appeal to more customers.
MS: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us at TimeZone. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the TimeZone community?
RGM: Well, I’ve been a visitor to TimeZone for a long time, since it was in Singapore. That was when I first started playing online, so I would read some of the stuff on the site. I also did an online interview with TimeZone several years ago with Richard Paige. I visit TimeZone every week to see what’s going on, and I’ve always found it to be a really good resource and also an inspiration in a lot of areas. Of course I invite anyone at TimeZone who has questions or who either agrees or disagrees with me to contact me. I’m always ready to talk about watches, and I invite feedback.
MS: Again, thank you very much for your time.
RGM: Michael, thank you for taking the time to come see us here at RGM, we hope you can come again in the future.
You can visit the RGM website here: http://www.rgmwatches.com
by Kohei Saito
Master watchmaker and manufacturer Martin Braun attended an event at Swiss Time Gallery in Laguna Hills, California, and TZ’s Kohei Saito was on hand for a quick interview. At the show, Martin introduced his latest watch lines.
KS: Hello Martin. It is so nice to see you.
MB: It is a pleasure to see you as well. This is my second interview with TimeZone!
KS: So what’s the latest?
MB: I’m launching the new “Korona” line.
KS: What does the name Korona signify?
MB: Korona means Sun. I use a Sunburst image on all my watch lines and wanted to enhance it in the sport watch. The Korona dial is on two levels, and the watch has a PVD bezel. This particular model (shown below) has my own module to indicate night and day. The center of the dial is emblazoned with my sunburst logo. The center dial rotates, so that when the logo is above the horizon, it is daytime, and when it is below the horizon, it is night.
KS: Who designed the watch?
MB: I did. As a watch manufacture, I’d like to set trends myself. I want Martin Braun to be a trendsetter, not a follower.
KS: What’s ticking inside of the Korona?
MB: The base movement is an ETA2892, refined by Soprod SA.
KS: What else is new this year?
MB: The EOS is now offered with several new dial colors including Prussian blue, white, blue mother-of-pearl, blue mother-of-pearl with diamond hour markers,
18k rose gold, and canary yellow. Of course, German Silver and black dials
remain available as well. EOS and Boreas round models are produced in either 39 mm or 42mm case sizes and in platinum, 18k rose gold, and stainless steel.
KS: And you’re also showing a new square case EOS?
MB: Yes, the square case is also new. When you look at case from the side, it has the image of columns from ancient Greek buildings. The Athens Olympics are coming very soon, you know, and I wanted to capture that image. The square EOS and a square chronograph are now in production.
KS: When will they be available in the stores?
MB:Both the square Eos and the square chronograph are available in select stores now.
KS: Do you have any new watches that use a vintage movement?
MB: Presently we’re only offering a Lemania 1883 moon phase hand wind chronograph Limited Edition. Working with vintage movements is very difficult.
KS: How come?
MB: They require a great deal of attention – assembly and disassembly several times to get everything working right.
KS: Are you referring to the hand wind A. Shild alarm movement?
MB: Yes. They were old movements, and the condition of each movement varied. Of course I have very high standards before I will use a movement in one of my watches. Getting all of the movements up to my standard was quite a challenge! The PUWs in the Teutonia were much easier to work with. I have automatic alarm with AS 5008 now, the La Sonnerie II. This movement was originally produced during the 1950’s. This new model is a limited edition of 100 pieces and comes with either a white enamel of silver guilloche dial. The rotor is 18K white gold and guilloche blued steel.
KS: Do you visit TimeZone?
MB: All the time. I visit several watch sites based in Europe, and of course one is in the German language, but as far as US-based sites, TimeZone is the only one to visit every day.
KS: We are honored. Why do you choose TZ?
MB: As a manufacture, I’m always interested in what watch enthusiasts have to say, understanding people’s opinions as well as their feedback is very important to me. Just look at how many people post on TZ every day! Good or bad (laughs), I think this diversity of posts makes it interesting to visit, and I learn quite a bit from it.
KS: Do you have any plans for new watches or movements?
MB: I can’t tell you anything now… you will have to wait and for next year’s Basel show.
KS: Thank you very much.
MB: Thank you Kohei.
Special thanks to Lawrence Rubin, President of Martin Braun USA, and Swiss Watch Gallery, Laguna Hills, CA.
About a three hour drive away from German capital Berlin, two
About a three hour drive away from German capital Berlin, two
Actually, yes. I was always fascinated with cars and my dream was to
… by myself, Dieter Dornblueth. Dirk’s sister is also a watchmaker
of D. Dornblueth & Sohn?
The brand D. Dornblueth & Sohn stands for our own handcrafted
That’s quite a story! It all began on a cloudy evening in November
The movement was half finished, when Dieter Dornblueth was offered to
I had no idea about all this until October 1st, 1999. That day, my dad
enough – but how did you come up with the unique overall design of the
Well, the original design was clearly spoiled by the famous B-Uhr
Well, but we were done with the general design of the watch when we
We then wanted to include a power reserve indicator, since we though it
Yes but only due to another coincidence. My dad was waiting for his car
One other thing about the design that bothered us. We felt the second
everything in your watch is handcrafted by you but for the wheel train of
Well, the balance wheel and components like the Incabloc shock
movement parts to third party manufacturers change any of your plans –
will you actually start to cut your wheels by yourself as well?
No. Nothing will change. First of all, I don’t think that the Swatch
stories about your first supply contracts?
I guess you are referring to the cases?! Before I started working on
But there’s many more that I did in a trade instead of for cash deals
For some reason today’s blued hands are different – seems like they are
You say so because of the silverish slot – that doesn’t mean that the
Btw, you missed something on the plate that is hardly recognizable as
Also, we decided to add the Geneva stripes instead of the traditional
You have to know that the matte gold fine grain surface of the original
I mean it’s the details but then the details don’t stand by themselves
you see yourself to resort to more and more manufacturing each single part
of your movements?
Well in the long run maybe. At the moment, I wouldn’t have the time to
I am interested in my watches. Of course I need to make a living from
about expansions of your line of watches?
We are planning on bringing out a smaller watch soon. The fact that our
very confidently inter-rupts me] …
Clear as daylight: The Dornblueth Tourbillon.
No, I wouldn’t want to call that a Dornblueth Tourbillon. I am really
Oh, there’s so much to do in the meantime. You asked me to dream. So we
Dornblueth and Soehne [ size=2>sons]?
You mean Dieter, Dirk and then Lukas also? Yes, maybe. my older one is
yourself with the well known brand from Glashuette?
No, of course Lange is different, and certainly I am not quite yet
I pretty much want to keep it the way it is and slowly expand the
of timezone.com and to those interested in D. Dornblueth &
[With a very humble voice]
have to broach the subject again, I though we experienced a hefty boom of
mechanical watchmaking in recent years?
Most of the timepieces that you see in the market today that are
Small seconds and Power Reserve indicator, brushed and polished stainless
steel case with a diameter of 42mm, sapphire crystal, handcrafted movement
with a power reserve of more than 48h at 18.800 A/h. List price: Euro
Small seconds, brushed and polished stainless steel case with a diameter of 42mm, sapphire crystal, handcrafted movement with a power reserve of more than 48h at 18.800 A/h. List price: Euro 2,500.00
Interview with Michel Parmigiani
MF: Mr. Parmigiani, thank you for telling us about yourself, your company and your fine watches and clocks. I’d like to begin by asking about yourself and your history.
MP: When I took the decision to set up my own business, before 1975, I was encouraged by a friend to approach Marcel Jean-Richard, guardian of a body of inherited technical expertise.
All Rights Reserved
A TimeZone Exclusive Interview
Bonati of Panerai
the Panerai watch represents a military secret, then the commanding secret behind the
company is its President, Angelo Bonati. Signor Bonati has created what may be
one of the great success stories in the watch industry over the past
quarter-century. With the support
of Richemont and a talented staff, he has engineered the development of a small
brand into an international cult object. Panerai’s business success, and the
strategic thinking underlying that success, represents a unique story and one
seldom disclosed to the public.
AB: Angelo Bonati, President, Officine Panerai
MF: Michael Friedberg, TimeZone.com
Mr. Bonati, you’re in charge of a brand that elicits strong opinions from the
public. You must be a watch connoisseur yourself. Please tell our readers about
your background in the watch industry.
I was always involved with the Italian market. I started with Richemont back in
1980; that has been a long time. Mr. Franco Cologni was always my boss. It was
always Richemont: at one time Cartier and then Vendome. I was President of Cartier and some other brands.
did leave the group for two years in mid-1990s,
finding other international experience. I re-entered in 1997. Shortly
thereafter, Mr. Cologni called me and said “I have an adventure in my hand. Do
you want to do it with me?”
I understand that the adventure was Panerai. How did the idea of Panerai as
an international brand develop?
Panerai had to face the reduction of the military budget in the early 1990s, as
the Italian Navy then was its sole and exclusive client. In 1993, it
commissioned about 1000 watches from suppliers and sold them.
|In 1994, Sylvester
Stallone was working on a movie and wanted to see a different instrument
– one that was linked to the military. He wanted it for – how do
you say it? – for his “persona”.
He saw this watch and immediately said “this
MF: I guess Richemont saw a brand starting to
No, no. It was really just a decision of
the Group, which wanted to buy a Brand with a real history and a high quality
Surely there was more strategy underlying that decision?
Yes, because at the time, Vendome didn’t have a real sports watch. Baume &
Mercier, Piaget, Cartier –these really were not sports watch lines.
The idea was that we needed a real sports watch brand.
And how was that strategy to be implemented?
We thought that there were two ways we might do it.
First, we could do it in quantities, by producing the watch at a low
price. That would use the brand strictly to generate cash. We decided not
to do that.
we decided we could play another card and come from history. We decided to do
watch was a military secret. There were slightly less than 300 made before the
1990s. Why, then, was the watch famous with collectors?
It was because of its unique history and its quality. Historically, it
had a Rolex movement. We decided, then, to enter the market based on the
exclusivity of Panerai’s history.
But historically these watches were very large. History is well and good, but
wouldn’t that inhibit sales?
Size was another aspect of the strange
history. At the time of 1997, there really were only two well-known oversized
watches, the Audemars-Piguet Royal Oak Offshore and the IWC Portugieser.
But for Panerai we decided to respect the watch and its history.
the Panerai watch is heavy. It is big; it is strange. But it is different and it
has a strong personality. Most importantly, there is a history here.
There is a history of value, a history of man and a history of hero. This
is not a normal history, linked only to a watchmaker.
it is a symbol; the watch is a symbol. We decided that we had to maintain the
But large watches also have become very popular. Some people, however, think
it’s a fad –is it a passing fad?
We opened a new segment –the large size. It’s now difficult for collectors
to go back. The watches are easy to read; it’s easy to check the time. Clients can’t go back to smaller watches.
How large can a wristwatch go? In January, your 47 mm model will be available.
special edition commemorating our model from 1950, and is being made over 2002
and 2003 in 1,950 examples. But I
think the right size is 44.
also have 42 mm –in some Radiomir—and 40 mm in Radiomir and Luminor. For the
Luminor, 40 mm is the smallest we can go. Because of the crown guard and
proportions, we need at least 40 mm. I think 44 mm is right.
Even if you’re maintaining a tradition, you’ve developed new models. When
you started, initially Panerai had two lines –both the historic and the
contemporary. How do you develop a brand yet maintain the basic concept?
Yes, we developed models and the brand.
But frankly we were “not in business just to make business”. We wanted to
achieve real status. We wanted to stay simple and genuine.
Our success is linked to one idea of the watch –its history. Our
success is linked to one idea of the watch, to one product –its history, its
But with that success comes growth.
Will that growth dilute the brand?
Here –with Panerai—we have design and
history and content. More than
quantity I want quality. There will be even more content in the future. We want
to be serious; we have sophisticated clients.
Can you elaborate about your company’s growth and
biggest market now is Italy. The U.S. is the second biggest market. We have 50
retailers in the U.S. and Canada. But
there are 800 for Rolex.
day that a company doesn’t grow it will fall downYet we want to grow slowly,
taking little steps. We are investing for the future; we want a brand that will
be strong 20 years from now.
prefer to increase contents more than numbers. And we must maintain simplicity
–the essence of the brand.
While your designs are simple, I’ve admired the number of new models Panerai
has produced in just a few years.
Actually, we don’t have that many models.
Apart from the Special Editions, we
have just 40 references: eight historic, the rest belong to the
contemporary range. Also,
we have only a few dials. Brown for titanium, blue for some special dials and
then a few basic dials. I don’t want more. I prefer simplicity.
Radiomir line can use other content and lets us use more complicated movements.
The Luminor line has several models: the “solo tempo” basic model, the GMT,
the Power Reserve and the chrono. These preserve the heritage –which is
somewhat contradictory, I admit, since in the 1930’s the Radiomir models
preceded the Luminor. The Radiomir
was the first Panerai.
If you would, please tell us about the company today; its facilities and
have 30 employees at the factory plus 15 in Milan. There’s 4 people in the
U.S. A total of 80 people around the world.
Our structure –it’s very simple. We are like a family.
makes most of our movement and we transform them. The GMT and Power Reserve are
our developments; Valjoux transformed them and they are now exclusive to us. We
worked on this for three or four years. Also, look at the finishing.
I also think many of your watches have excellent design. It’s much
harder to design something simple. Who does your design work?
We have an art director, Gianpiero Bodino, who is very good. He does almost
everything, even packaging. He designed, for example, our steel bracelet. We
talked around the table. We came up with idea that we could produce the bracelet
with links like the crown protective device.
Do you get involved in the design process?
What, may I ask, are you wearing? Is it special?
AB: 300 in
honor of the Laureus. In May 2002 we sponsored a yacht in a Regatta in
Where is the industry at and where is it going?
A very good question. All watchmakers now are upgrading content and product.
mid-market now is covered by fashion brands –they are growing up. That’s
natural. The industry needs external creativity, especially suited for each
also it’s important to the watchmaker to put something real inside. There has
to be a good balance of content and design.
Then you have success. To really move up, you have to give something
Where does Panerai fit in this?
The luxury unit has two primary clients. The first are trendsetters, which
always are dangerous for a brand. The second is
a solid clientele who want strong contents. They are finding brands with
content. They want something inside. Also, as a smaller group are the
collectors, who want something very exclusive.
assertion of value is strong for Panerai. There is history and design and
originality and the right mix. There is something very simple but strong.
It’s clear to me that you understand where you want Panerai to be.
We have to keep the watch simple and pure to its history. You have to have a
clear vision and then follow what you believe.
Thank you very much.
Bonay, President of Panerai North America (left), and
All rights reservedRead more
This month, with the invaluable assistance of Dr. Thomas Mao, I was able to receive answers to interview questions from Georges-Henri Meylan (depicted left), the CEO of SA de la Manufacture d’Horologerie Audemars Piguet & Cie, in Le Brassus, Switzerland, and Francois Henry Benhamias (depicted center), the President of Audemars Piguet of the Americas.
From left to right, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Muhammad Ali, and Francois Henry Benhamias
Special thanks to Dr. Thomas Mao, who provided the images of the wristwatches and arranged for the interviews, and to Audemars Piguet, which provided the photographs of Mssrs. Meylan, Benhamias, Schwarzenegger and Ali.