Watchmaking in Washington DC
Grand Seiko, a new start in the USA
Rolex and the Bubble back
A visit to Tiny Jewel Box, jeweller to the political establishment in the capital for decades. ...................................................p.10
The Japanese watchmaker explains its strategy for targeting watch lovers in America. ......................................................p.13
How a 1933 modification to the Oyster case by Rolex engineers gave rise to an iconic shape. ......................................................p.29
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WATCH BUSINESS PAPER | USA VOL. 54 NO. 305 | CHAPTER 4/2018 | WWW.EUROPASTAR.COM
Baselworld: salvation through watch culture? By Serge Maillard
Its main competitor is a Geneva cultural foundation. Its headquarters are in a city recognised internationally for the influence of its art. Its venue is the work of venerated architects. And yet, strangely, Baselworld seems to have missed a fundamental shift in the world of watchmaking: the mechanical watch has become both a contemporary art form, appreciated by the world’s wealthy, and a true global culture that ignites the passion of younger people. Far from killing off the watch by appropriating its basic function, the virtual world has increased its attraction. Instagram has not made the watch an old and odd thing, it has restored the glory of the most traditional timepieces! The frenzy of social networks has made the slower pace of the watch industry ever more attractive, as seen by the success of Omega’s Speedy Tuesday operation (see p. 8). Baselworld would be well advised to position itself as the keeper of global watch culture, which is in a better state than ever. Its current image, that of a fast-declining fair, is the first existential obstacle for the new management to overcome. They have just taken the reins and they are immediately confronted with a major crisis, following the departure of their main exhibitor. Let’s stop pitting the end client against the business customer. Retailers are regional experts who, if they have survived the recent years’ drastic changes in the watch distribution chain, are still there for a good reason: their address book, their access to collectors in their area, and their ongoing dialogue (both online and off) with them. Imagine that the profits of MCH, the parent company of Baselworld, could be put towards inviting
The 72 pre-selected watches (view central section)
renowned retailers from around the world for an “experience” (the buzzword today) with one or more of their best end clients. This fair must become “B to B to C” in order to truly bring together the best of watchmaking! Let’s dream of a more “horizontal” fair, in tune with the managerial culture of our time. Once in Basel, let’s imagine that, far from being limited to a tour of the booths – which are certainly impressive – the “experience” would translate into major retrospectives of exceptional pieces (the Geneva watchmaking museum, closed for fifteen years, could supply some interesting exhibits...), interactive experiences into the heart of the watch movement, and panels of speakers debating the hot topics of the industry. Consider bringing in major auction houses, which have become the real new gathering place for watch collectors. It’s not just about money: the fair, with its rich archives, could use its powerful cultural resources to offer something new about the olden days. Let’s fight for the creation of a genuine central library, offering books devoted to fine watchmaking (a bit of self-promotion here...), as it is this heritage that is so lauded today by millennials. And beyond: the Bodmer Foundation in Geneva is a good example of what can be done in this area, combining ancient writings and ultra-contemporary technologies. Let’s invite a guest from the world of the arts to blend their vision with watchmaking. Ulysse Nardin exhibited works by Damien Hirst on their booth at the latest SIHH. The organiser of Art Basel certainly has the resources and contacts necessary for such an initiative! Baselworld belongs to MCH as a financial entity. But the Basel Fair, which is more than a century old, belongs to the entire industry as a cultural entity. Its disappearance would be anything but a positive signal, as it is part of a long tradition which itself is also the best commercial argument for the industry today. The catharsis of the watch world should not start with the destruction of its ancestral rituals...
Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting By Serge Maillard
Longines is continuing to target high-precision quartz through the V.H.P. collection, which brings a surprising innovation. The Flash Setting mode included in the collection’s new GMT model uses a smartphone flashlight to set the time zone. This intelligent module remains operational in all circumstances, no electronic emissions needed. The guiding philosophy is to place new technology at the service of the watch, rather than the (Read on page 4) other way around.
DP INSTANT CHANEL_BÂ·F SQUELETTE OR BEIGE_534x353 Europastar USA.indd 1
The new Fine Watchmaking skeleton movement, designed and developed by the CHANEL Swiss Manufacture. 18K BEIGE GOLD.
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Longines Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting Longines’ flash of intelligence By Serge Maillard
It’s one of the most intriguing watches of the year. At first sight, the Conquest V.H.P. GMT Flash Setting by Longines has all the understated sporty elegance of the other quartz models in this ultra-precise collection relaunched in 2017, which boasts an accuracy of ± 5 seconds per year. If you look very closely at the watch, it’s possible spot a tiny hole in the 12 o’clock marker. This opening lets light through the dial, behind which is a light sensor, which detects the flashes of light emitted by a mobile phone. After downloading the dedicated app, the user chooses the time zone they wish to add, brings the watch and phone together, and something very unusual happens: for a couple of seconds, flashes of light are sent to the watch, and the hands are adjusted to display local and home time, using binary Morse code! Morse code, which uses a series of short and long signals to communicate through signs, light, sounds or gestures, was invented in 1832 (the year Longines was founded!) for use in telegraphy. Since then, it has earned its place in the collective imagination as one of the first long-distance communication methods of modern times. This precursor of digital communication is still alive and well today, and is used for communication in military applications, navigation and aviation, as well as by scouts, divers and mountain climbers. So it was not too much of a stretch to press it into the service of watches!
Two options for adjustment Longines is combining a vintage code with an ultra-contemporary communication tool in order to improve the performance of its watches. There’s no transmission of biometric data to the phone via Bluetooth. There are no waves. One specific function of the phone – its flash – is brought into the service of timekeeping precision. The watch company thus remains faith-
FLASH SETTING: USER GUIDE To put the watch in Flash Setting mode, perform one short press followed by one long press on the crown. The minutes, seconds and GMT hands all move to 12 o’clock, and the hour hand moves to the nearest hour marker. The Flash Setting module sets the hour in five seconds, using flashes from the smartphone. When, after a long flight, the user arrives in the country that was previously represented by GMT time, two presses on the crown switch it back to home time. The Flash Setting also retains more complex information, such as the fact that Russia does not observe Daylight Saving Time.
ful to its systematic refusal to jump on the “connected” bandwagon, while at the same time – and perhaps this is an additional thumbing of the nose – commandeering one of the phone’s functions to make it an intelligent watch module. Longines’ philosophy – a tenacious quest for precision timekeeping and enduring elegance, a world away from the built-in obsolescence of the digital sphere with its inconvenient charging requirements and electronic smog – could not find a better interpretation than in this model. In
the era of the selfie, this watch keeps all the flash bulbs to itself. Another point in its favour is the fact that there’s no need to have a smartphone constantly within reach. The watch is perfectly operational even without the Flash Setting function. Longines has designed a very practical system for setting the time zone via the intelligent crown: slowly rotating the crown adjusts the time minute by minute, while a quicker twist sets the hour without disturbing the accuracy of the minute and second. >>
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Harnessing the industrial resources of Swatch Group Walter von Känel, the president of Longines and the man whom everyone calls “the Boss” (read the interview in Europa Star Chapter 2/18), explains a little more about the genesis of this unusual innovation. “In fact, the Flash Setting function had been pencilled in since the start of the V.H.P. concept, but it was originally intended for our customer services. We thought we’d put a light sensor on the back of the watch so that the perpetual calendar could be reset after the battery was changed. But we realised it would be even better to bring this function out from behind the scenes, so that it could help our customers directly!” This innovation, which only Longines within the group is using, is the result of a collaboration with ETA and the Swatch Group’s research and development divisions. It opens up many possibilities; although today its use is restricted to setting time zones, in the future it could be utilised in other applications.
Ongoing quest for precision timekeeping Longines and quartz go back a long way. In 1954, Longines developed a very high precision quartz clock for sports timekeeping. This was
followed in 1969 by the UltraQuartz, the first electronic wristwatch movement which, beginning in 1984, would also drive the Conquest V.H.P., a genuine icon of precision in the company history. Last year’s relaunch of the V.H.P. concept (for Very High Precision) already included numerous innovations. Its return to the spotlight represents a particularly strong signal from Longines and its president Walter von Känel: while the majority of the company’s output is mechanical, the brand has never abandoned quartz, or the pursuit of electronic ultra-precision.
In 1954, Longines developed a very high precision quartz clock for sports timekeeping.
The updated version, launched last year with three-handed models, followed by chronographs (the GMT Flash Setting is the third contemporary variation on the V.H.P. theme) was intended to mark the shift to a quartz standard of +- 5 seconds per year. The V.H.P. collection includes a perpetual calendar that will require no adjustment until... 2399! Battery life is over four years. But the most surprising feature of this collection is the integration of a gear position detection (GPD) system. This mechanism compensates for any loss of accuracy caused by
shocks to the watch, by automatically reinitialising the hands. In the event of light knocks, the hands are repositioned immediately, but more serious impacts are corrected once every 72 hours (3 days) at 3 a.m. Similarly, when it detects any magnetic fields, the watch mechanism automatically “freezes”, ready to restart at the correct time once the danger has passed!
Reasonably priced In addition to the pursuit of precision, another of Longines’ historic battlefields is fair pricing, by which it means affordability combined with quality. The three-handed Conquest V.H.P. starts at CHF 950. The new version with GMT and Flash Setting functionality, available in 41 and 43 mm sizes, goes for CHF 1,250 in steel and CHF 1,550 in black PVD. The unusual approach of setting the watch using light is a result of the industrial resources of a group that has delivered solutions to the electronics world for many years. It’s also an opportunity for this confident brand (it has a strong following in China) to thumb its nose at the vogue for connectivity at all costs. We can expect to see more variations in the future, with intelligent modules designed to optimise the watch. In particular, this new departure confirms the Swatch Group’s strategy of distancing itself from the Silicon Valley giants, preferring innovative in-house solutions that make the most of emerging technologies.
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Instagram, “long time” and “short time” The paradox of the supposedly forward-looking new networks is that they constantly plunge us into a distant and magnified past. The internet has given us unprecedented access to a wealth of archive material. The Speedy Tuesday sale of a ’70s reissue by Omega, conducted via Instagram, is a strong illustration of this.
We’ve probably never dreamed of the ’70s so much. Who would have thought it? When the internet arrived in the watchmaking world and began to overturn its distribution chain, coinciding with the sudden arrival of the connected Apple Watch, one could have been forgiven for assuming that its effect would be primarily disruptive. However, the opposite phenomenon occurred simultaneously: a thorough “revaluation” of a more distant watchmaking heritage. Young people with dreams of vintage chic resurrected from the dungeons of history watches that were hitherto sleeping the sleep of the just. Is it simply nostalgia? Probably in part, because in this age of “short time”, where absolutely every facet of everyday life is accelerated, “long time” is a dream. Give man what he wants and he will always turn to its opposite! But that’s not all. It’s also a technological phenomenon, because the web has unlocked the most incredible surge of knowledge in the history of humanity. This also, of course, concerns watchmaking, which has made time its industry. Archives have been opened, specialised sites have multiplied, sales platforms dedicated to vintage and pre-owned watches have emerged, and every year sees new records set at auction. Watchmaking’s heritage, which used to be so difficult to research, locked up as it was in dusty libraries and chilly basements, has emerged from its icy tomb, revived by the heat of electronic networks!
The digital fate of vintage brands Brands understand the benefits they can derive from this well-informed “back to basics” wave. Hence the multiplication of vintage models and reissues we have seen over the past two years at watch fairs. Brands such as Rolex or Patek Philippe, which have always been prized at auction, are less affected by this exercise, since their entire history has been based on consolidating their heritage with as few breaks as possible. Collectors have consequently been more than happy with these developments.
Companies that do not have this opportunity, or which lack the wisdom to take it, perhaps penalised by strategic zig-zags and changes of ownership or management, must endure a counter-revolution that takes the form of re-evaluating their past – which can lead to semantic exaggeration and historical shortcuts.
events, which shows the power of networks (and people) to create independent, original initiatives in the vintage niche.
The information revolution engendered by the internet (which may yet translate into a sales revolution) is a bonus for the bestestablished houses in the marketplace.
The two Bell & Ross accounts Another more recent brand has also adopted a very interesting approach to the use of social networks: Bell & Ross. The Franco-Swiss house, founded in 1992, has two Instagram accounts. One – bellrosswatches – is for “short time”. It’s the most popular, and also the most classic, with fast, heterogeneous and continuous posts on new releases, at the blistering rate imposed by the social network. The other, bellross_chronology, is more surprising. This one is for the “long time”, with a very limited number of visuals, organised in a chronological and ultra-methodical way. A way of slowing the flow of time, perhaps...
(one of the most famous examples of the “kaiju” or “giant monster” genre), featuring a bright orange seconds hand. Combining a vintage reissue with the current fashion for superheroes on large and small screens (Netflix has announced the relaunch of an Ultraman animated series) means
Is it not precisely this delicate balance that human beings seek today, between a daily tide of demands and notifications, and their inalienable will to rise above their human condition, and their fate as homo digitalis?
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By Serge Maillard
net (which may yet translate into a sales revolution) is a bonus for the best-established houses in the marketplace, those with the richest heritage, which have retained some kind of historical coherence. One brand that is rapidly climbing the vintage rankings, and which has clearly understood this phenomenon, is Omega. Last year, its 1957 Trilogy (Seamaster 300, Railmaster and Speedmaster) set the tone. A more recent initiative gives new life to calibres dating back to 1913! On the face of it, these old models have greater powers of seduction with new customers than James Bond himself. Incidentally, the latest opus of the 007 franchise revived the superb 1963 Aston Martin DB5 – yet another sign of the times. Clearly, it was unthinkable to destroy such a beautiful object for
The revivial of the Speedmaster worn in the early 1970s in the Japanese Ultraman saga
And brands that have no pedigree, such as those launched almost daily on Kickstarter by budding entrepreneurs, take up the aesthetic codes of yesteryear and invent a historical narrative based on a watch bequeathed by someone’s grandfather. Anything goes, as long as it hints at a long watchmaking history! We should also mention here the pure and simple rebirth of some of the wonderful brands of the past, as well as the still sleeping beauties like Universal Genève, which are being sought out on sales platforms and auctions and giving sweet dreams to aficionados. These brands may not yet have any new collections, but they already have a community, and without any marketing at all!
Omega to alpha Generally speaking, the information revolution engendered by the inter-
The web has unlocked the most incredible surge of knowledge in the history of humanity. This also, of course, concerns watchmaking, which has made time its industry. the needs of the Skyfall movie (illustrating how spectators can instantly pass from ecstasy to fear!): a Porsche 928 finally did the trick. But perhaps the most striking illustration of how to successfully navigate between “short time” and “long time” is Omega’s second Speedy Tuesday operation. Finely orchestrated on Instagram, it featured 2,012 pieces of a 42 mm watch inspired by the Speedmaster worn in the early 1970s in the Japanese Ultraman saga
guaranteed success with all those overgrown social-networked teenagers who are also contemporary watch aficionados! The 2,012 limited edition watches went on sale for CHF 6,350 on Tuesday July 10th at noon on the brand’s Instagram account; they all sold out in exactly 1 hour, 53 minutes and 17 seconds (we expected no less in terms of precision from an Olympic timekeeper!). That’s nearly 13 million francs in sales, in less than two hours... It should be noted that the Speedy Tuesday concept was launched in 2012 by the Fratello Watches collectors’ website, first as a hashtag on Facebook and then as a forum for Omega and Speedmaster enthusiasts. It’s interesting that this idea has developed organically from a community of aficionados, brought together through the internet around a watch with venerable origins. Originally, the brand itself was not involved in the Speedy Tuesday
“This second account is a bit like the anti-Instagram,” Carlos A. Rosillo, co-founder of Bell & Ross, explained at a recent meet-up in Paris. “It’s based on the concept of sustainability; it goes against the diktat of instantaneity that we see everywhere. We’re reintroducing the concept of memory to a network that tends to forget everything. The concept of ‘curator’ is also very strong on this account.” So we have two accounts and two approaches, to avoid descending into schizophrenia. Because it’s easy to get lost between long time and short time, there’s a constantly updated, frenetic, regular account – and an account based on what we want to bequeath to the future: sustainability and memory. Is it not precisely this delicate balance that human beings seek today – between a daily tide of demands and notifications, and their inalienable will to rise above their human condition, and their fate as homo digitalis? Europa Star is in the process of digitising its rich archive stretching back over 90 years (the company was founded in 1927). Soon to be online, as well as in our November 2018 Global edition dedicated to Heritage.
10.10am on Fifth Avenue. N 40° 43’ 53.1’’ W 73° 59’ 49.1’’.
Freak Collection Starting at USD 48’000. Featured model: USD 95’000.
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Tiny Jewel Box: watchmaking in Washington DC
Tiny Jewel Box
By Serge Maillard
“We’re always very happy when we get a call from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!” Matthew Rosenheim has a rare privilege in the watch industry: the president and owner of the Tiny Jewel Box boutique, which has sold timepieces for 17 years, is Rolex’s exclusive representative in central Washington DC – the most internationally sought-after brand, in the political heart of the most powerful country on the planet. While many fear for the survival of the “bricks-and-mortar” model, such a competitive advantage is difficult to beat! But above all, the historic jewellery marketplace in Washington seems to have been practising for a very long time what is now the key word on everyone’s lips in the industry: the best customer experience. “In many ways and despite all the technological developments, my job remains very similar to that of my grandparents,” Matthew Rosenheim emphasises. “We do business based on human relations. Of course, we develop new strategies, but sometimes the simplest things work best.” Here, each new product entry is meticulously thought out by the Rosenheim family.
Tiny is beautiful Unlike many of their competitors, the Rosenheim family systematically refused to open other stores, which turned their only boutique, which now occupies a historic building in the city centre, into an impregnable bastion of jewellery and watchmaking. Its history began – unusually in the industry – with a woman, Roz Rosenheim, who opened her jewellery store in Washington in 1930 and counted Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a regular customer. And today, as was the case in the past, the owner is always present. “We like the idea of a single destination, embodied by familiar faces,
with the owner on site to welcome you,” Matthew Rosenheim explains. “When you operate a family business, it is difficult to separate the business from your personal interests. And if we expanded, I believe we would dilute our business on the one hand, and on the other hand impact our daily personal pleasure. It would be for purely commercial reasons and that is not the only reason we do this job!” “We have a special location and a single watch operations centre. This concentration of strengths and knowledge offers the richest possible customer experience,” adds the retailer. It should be noted that the exhibition space is no longer confined to the 100 square feet of the original shop (hence the name of the boutique); its area has multiplied by 80 in 80 years, as the Washington Post underlined in a portrait of this iconic store.
Watchmaking and “understatement” It should also be noted that, unlike other retailers who face fierce competition on their doorstep, the basic conditions are rather favourable to Tiny Jewel Box. This unique location, a stone’s throw from the White House, has always determined its destiny. Moreover, few brands have opened their own boutiques in the American capital. The proximity of New York probably plays a role, but also the profile of their (rather conservative) clientele. “I believe that there is a whole fringe of watchmaking clientele that is not necessarily ready to adhere to the concept of a single-brand boutique. The concept of ‘brand loyalty’ is now more in question than ever,” says Matthew Rosenheim. Over and above the advantages of its location, it was Tiny Jewel Box’s cautious and highly selective strategy that paid off. Initially a jeweller, Tiny Jewel Box expanded into watchmaking quite late, at the turn
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Since Roosevelt in the 1930s, the American political establishment has been buying jewellery from a specific retailer: Tiny Jewel Box. This historic address has succesfully added watches to its portfolio since 2001. It proves that, even in the age of the internet and new technologies, not everything translates to the virtual world; patiently building one’s reputation around uncompromising principles pays off in the long run. All the more so with new generations exhausted by mass consumption. Visit.
of the year 2000. It has since caught up quickly, forging successive partnerships with Rolex in 2001, Cartier in 2015 (which coincided with the expansion of the boutique, taking over premises previously occupied by Burberry, and freeing up a lot of space for the new watchmaking section) and Patek Philippe in 2016. For Matthew Rosenheim, who has several decades’ experience serving this clientele, watch lovers in Washington are among the most educated... and the most traditional in the country. We will certainly see fewer Richard Milles or Hublots than in New York or Miami. There are several reasons for this. Washington is a traditional city of history and heritage. It is a focus of the political establishment of the United States; it is a place where one moves in circles of influence, discreetly, rather than in ostentatious luxury. “Here, the local currency is not money, but your network, who will take your call or not!” Moreover, sporting timepieces with a disruptive design or covered with precious materials do not necessarily fit in with the electoral base and the public service mission of its representatives. The word “understatement” takes on its full meaning here – and has nothing to do with purchasing power... “There are actually a lot of watch collectors in Washington, but they are very discreet on the spot,” Matthew Rosenheim points out. “If they show their collection, it’ll be outside the capital!”
When the Obamas met the Bushes Political elites are the primary clientele of this prestigious address, including a series of American presidents. During the 2008 presiden-
tial transition, Michelle Obama presented Laura Bush with a gift from Tiny Jewel Box. It was also a vintage brooch that the Obamas presented to the Queen of England in 2011. Jim Rosenheim, who represents the second generation, is still active in the shop and was awarded the GEM Award for Lifetime Achievement a year ago. In addition to customers and institutions from the political world, the shop also attracts businessmen visiting the American capital, which is a lobbying hotspot, and – this is a recurring refrain in the industry – more and more Chinese tourists, who visit Washington on their American trips.
Washington is gentrifying The demographic structure of the city itself is changing. While the middle to wealthy classes settled in the suburbs from the 1960s onwards, as they did in many other American cities, we are now witnessing the opposite phenomenon, with the corollary of a real estate boom. Washington is gentrifying. “I no longer recognise my childhood neighbourhood,” explains Matthew Rosenheim. “The new generations no longer necessarily want to live far from the centre, in the quiet suburbs of Virginia or Maryland. They don’t want a long daily commute and often do not own a car. In addition, the political centre continues to attract people. Even though people continue to talk about government cuts, that’s not the reality!” The retailer generally makes the acquaintance of this new millennial clientele – Washington is also an important university centre, notably with Georgetown – through
the sale of engagement and wedding rings. That’s one advantage of combining jewellery and watchmaking! “It is often at this time that new generations first set foot here. Demand is increasing. More and more spouses want a watch as a wedding gift.” This is where the boutique can count on its ancestral recipes for personalised and local advice. “The quality of a watch is greatly enhanced in an environment where everything is disposable, from the phone to the car. In this context, one appreciates all the more an object that lasts for a whole lifetime! The new generations want fewer objects, but better quality objects. I think that’s what really defines the new state of mind... and in that sense too, it’s in line with my grandmother’s philosophy!” The store has maintained this state of mind, opting for a form of strategic prudence – and it continues to pay off. “Our goal is not to represent twenty brands like other retailers – which is much more difficult to manage – but to have the best.”
Smooth move towards the online world The big question of the moment remains how brands will integrate all the potential opened up by new technologies. “Today, everyone recognises that the status quo is not sustainable for watch distribution chains,” says Matthew Rosenheim. “I think, however, given the brands we represent, that the digital transition will advance gradually and not by sudden breaks.” The retailer has also noticed that brands are pulling back somewhat in terms of the initiatives their representatives can undertake online. “We can, for example, migrate communication and marketing actions to the digital world.” Tiny Jewel Box does not (yet) sell watches online. “We see e-commerce as inevitable in the long run. But right now, I don’t think we’re losing much by not being active. On the contrary, brands have refined their strategies and reassessed their partnerships in recent years: in this sense, our ties are stronger than ever. On the one hand, the opening of mono-brand boutiques is decreasing, and on the other hand, online sales are still in their infancy.” Matthew Rosenheim still sees a paradox at a time when everyone seems to be pressing watchmakers to rush online: “Rolex and Patek Philippe already have long waiting lists. We can’t get the models we’d like. Are these brands going to engage in e-commerce while not being able to deliver to customers immediately, when digital is the reign of the instant?” Brands: Rolex, Patek Philippe, Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC, Longines, Frédérique Constant, TAG Heuer
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Business is booming for Dallas retailer Timeless Cruising along thanks to industry, farming and oil, the Texan capital is morphing into a choice destination for watch buyers. One retailer is doing particularly brisk business here: Timeless Luxury Watches. We met the man in charge, Michael Pearson. By Serge Maillard
On the one hand, no one could say that the Texan watchmaking giant, Fossil, is in top form. Taking a battering from Apple Watch, the fashion watch group, which operates mainly on license at the entry-level end of the market, is turning its hand to smartwatches as fast as it can. On the other hand, luxury watches seem to be selling better than ever in the Texan capital of Dallas – one indication among others of the segmentation of these two worlds.
are growing up around Dallas, and that’s where Timeless has the most potential. There’s room for growth! So every two or three years we change location. We’ve just moved into larger premises that are better situated: 1,200m2 of floor space where we now offer more than 20 brands.
“You have to take the car to come here, you don’t come by chance!” One of the boutiques to benefit is Timeless Luxury Watches, founded eight years ago by an entrepreneur couple, Dan and Anna Broadfoot. Today it is headquartered in Frisco, one of the towns with the strongest demographic growth in the United States and located in the northern suburbs of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex with its seven-millionplus inhabitants. Although the company originally traded mainly in pre-owned items, it gradually began selling new watches, first of all good-looking, independent brands such as Linde Werdelin and Bremont, then the big names of the watchmaking industry, such as Omega, Tudor and Oris (a brand with which the retailer has developed a limited edition, the Oris Timeless Sixty-Five). And none other than the former head of the American market at Bremont, the dynamic Briton Michael Pearson, is managing the business growth of this up-and-coming retailer. While across the pond, Europa Star had the opportunity of meeting him.
Demand is getting more diverse, fortunately! And we also sell some of the usual big names like Omega and Tudor. But it’s true that at the moment we’re seeing special demand for rarer brands, such as Nomos or Grand Seiko. We offer a very diverse array of watch brands
for those who want to leave the beaten track. We’re still a relatively young retailer on the watch market, so we’re trying to innovate. You know, not all young Texans want to wear their father’s Rolex! Is the economic situation propitious for luxury products at the moment? Dallas is a booming metropolis right now. It always has been a sprawling city with a hinterland rich in oil and farming products. It’s also home to more and more industrial giants, like Toyota or Boeing. New cities
“New cities are growing up around Dallas, and that’s where Timeless has the most potential.”
Basically, we use the web to produce content with added value. It’s a key factor that puts us one step ahead of industry where the new technologies are concerned. The Internet isn’t a marketing tool; it’s a fantastic way of communicating intelligently. For example, we’ve set up a partnership with the site Watchuseek and we write our own watch ‘reviews’. We have our own photographer and we share our content on the social media. In short, we do indeed have an online presence – but for the moment we don’t sell on the web. We’re considering e-commerce, but that too has to be a unique and luxurious experience – timeless, in short!
customer service. It’s not enough to sell watches, you have follow them throughout their entire life cycle. As a Briton and having been in the industry for quite a while, I can tell you that Americans are the most welcoming and trusting cus-
Brands: A. Lange & Söhne, Benson, Bremont, Carl F. Bucherer, Credor, Frédérique Constant, Casio G-Shock, Grand Seiko, IWC, Louis Moinet, Montblanc, Montegrappa, Nomos, Omega, Orbita, Oris, Presage, Prospex, Speake-Marin, TAG Heuer, Tudor, Wolf, Zenith.
Who makes up your customer base?
We weren’t really expecting to find such a diverse and dynamic local watch scene in Texas. The state has long been the closely guarded territory of Rolex and Breitling! How have you succeeded without these giants and with more “niche” brands?
tomers I’ve ever seen. But if you disappoint them once, they’ll never come back. Apart from that, we’re trying to find the right mix between online and offline.
It’s half local and half visitors. In actual fact, I see our boutique as a brand in its own right, because you have to take the car to come here, you don’t come by chance. Besides our original choice of brands, we also place massive importance on
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What do we actually know about Shinola? The adventure continues! We’re in Detroit, the American city determined to rise from the industrial ashes. At Shinola, they produce watches, bikes and, now, audio material. And the brand is to inaugurate its first hotel at the end of the year. A paradise for postindustrial hipsters!
After the watches, bikes, notebooks and record-players, it’s the turn of loudspeakers and headphones! After all, why should a watch brand restrict itself to its primary mission, especially if its groove is lifestyle? It’s true that Shinola, launched in 2011 by Tom Kartsotis (the founder of Fossil), has taken things to an extreme, since it is due to open its first hotel in Detroit by the end of the year. And it has already launched its own cola!
What will happen the day when the hipsters shave off their beards and once again look to more futuristic products? "We’re diversifying, because we’re still a start-up in the throes of creative development,” underscores Jeffrey Trosch, Shinola’s communications manager who we met in the United States. “But our absolute priority and leitmotiv, whatever the product category, is design.” Watches remain the principal business of this young brand with an old name - Shinola was a famous American shoe polish manufacturer during the first half of the twentieth century, which also gave birth to an expression in the 1940s, “know shit from Shinola”... Today, the company has no fewer than 28 proprietary boutiques in the US, from Boston to Honolulu. It is also distributed in several renowned stores in Europe, such as Le Bon Marché in Paris, and has opened its own store on the Old Continent, in London. In the United States, its prime market, the brand has adopted an original distribution model, since it is
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By Serge Maillard
The new Shinola Hotel in Detroit, under construction
represented solely by its flagship stores – or on the Internet. Shinola is indeed meeting with success online, which now represents “a very large share of our turnover, via our e-commerce platform”, in the words of Jeffrey Trosch.
Mechanical models next? The careful, ultra-classic, elegant design of the watches has won over new generations of buyers in the United States. Because, as you will have realised, Shinola is nothing if not consistent in style. “Our best-selling lines are the Bedrock and the Runwell and our prices range from 550 to 2,200 dollars, with an average price of 800 dollars,” details Jeffrey Trosch. The brand produces virtually exclusively quartz watches, except for a few mechanical series in limited editions. And quite naturally so, since the Shinola factory in Detroit, where the watches are assembled, was born of a partnership with a Swiss champion of quartz watches, Ronda. Nevertheless, the Baselbased manufacturer recently converted to mechanical calibres, which it now sells to an array of brands. So when will Shinola be making the great leap to automatics?
es, including, precisely, those from its partner Ronda. Since then, it has had to use the label “Built in Detroit using Swiss and imported parts”. But who cares about the label, the locals would say, because in Detroit, the brand has become the living symbol of a city which is seeking to create a post-industrial dream, “Motor City” having been ruined long since by globalised delocalisation... Shinola’s workshops now employ some 650 people. The brand shares its Argonaut Building premises with a famous industrial de-
The brand is the symbol of a city seeking to create a postindustrial dream. sign establishment, the College for Creative Studies, and does not hesitate to make use of its young talent. Not content with just reburnishing Detroit’s image, Shinola is now placing itself in the role of moral support-giver to immigrants, with
its new Statue of Liberty line, an extension of its Great Americans series and first and foremost a reference to a tense political context on this issue in the United States. The challenge facing Shinola will be to withstand the test of time, when the current predilection for ultra-classic, vintage lines starts to wane. What will happen the day when the hipsters shave off their beards and start looking ahead towards more futuristic products once again? That day, Shinola will still be able to count on its natural elegance...
A symbol in Detroit Two years ago, the brand was admonished by the strict Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the Swiss and non-American origins of certain components of its watch-
The Runwell 41mm Silver Watch
Shinola The Guardian 36 mm
WATCH AFICIONADO | 13
Grand Seiko, a new start in the USA Grand Seiko Spring Drive
The Japanese brand has opened its first boutique dedicated exclusively to Grand Seiko in Beverly Hills. It has also just launched sumptuous limited editions for the US market. The brand's overseas deployment has been met with very positive initial signals in America. By Serge Maillard
As we explained in detail last year in our special Far East issue, Grand Seiko, previously Seiko’s upscale collection, has broken away from the parent company to become a fully-fledged brand in its own right. This is part of an ambition to conquer a bigger share of the global Haute Horlogerie market. In Japan itself, Grand Seiko was already renowned for the finesse of its design and the precision of its calibres. But elsewhere in the world, and especially in the United States, the name “Seiko” was mostly associated with entry-level watches, since the quartz revolution that saw the Japanese brand conquer the planet. It was to correct this narrow vision of the breadth of the company’s offering that Grand Seiko freed itself. And it is naturally in the United States that the first effects have been felt the quickest. No coincidence, then, if the world’s first Grand Seiko Boutique was inaugurated in Los Angeles, on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Europa Star had the opportunity to speak with two key figures on the development of the new entity in the United States: Akio Naito, Chairman of Seiko Corporation of America, and Brice Le Troadec, Brand President of Grand Seiko America. The first brand store has opened in Beverly Hills, your presence at the CoutureTime watch fair in Las Vegas was noted, there are limited editions for the US market... and you’ve enjoyed a very favourable reception by retailers and collectors. The new global ambition of Grand Seiko seems to have found fertile ground in the United States! Akio Naito: Indeed, the new strategy makes sense here. We have to catch up with all the potential that has not yet been deployed by Grand Seiko in the luxury market in the past, especially in the United States. Grand Seiko, born in 1960, had until now been almost exclusively promoted in the Japanese domestic market. When the company decided to expand internationally, it first made it through its production of affordable watches and not its more luxurious rang-
es. That’s why, even today and excluding Japan, a majority of people associate the name Seiko with an affordable brand. In the United States, the average price of a Seiko remains less than half of that in Japan! Brice Le Troadec: We are very pleased with the first results of this strategic decision to make Grand Seiko a brand apart. Collectors who already know the brand are our first customers, but we intend to gradually expand this base to a wider audience. US retailers are very excited! We are delighted to see so many new customers interested in Grand Seiko. The United States is already the biggest market for Grand Seiko outside of Japan.
The wholesale network is our priority. Our goal this year would be to have approximately sixty Grand Seiko partners of high quality in the United States. What about online distribution? Brice Le Troadec: We currently do not have a Grand Seiko e-commerce platform; however, it is possible to find Grand Seiko models online through our authorised retail partners, but not the extended collection. We are also proud of our partnership with Hodinkee, who recently successfully launched their e-shop.
“The roots of Grand Seiko reside first in the search for the most accomplished functionality.”
You have opened a Grand Seiko store in Los Angeles and have Seiko stores in New York and Miami. What is your strategy for the distribution of Grand Seiko in the United States, especially in terms of the difference between retail and wholesale networks? Akio Naito: The flagship store inaugurated in Beverly Hills is part of our new strategy, because it allows us to control our image in order to deepen this market. However, the idea is not to multiply brand stores.
Spring Drive models reserved for the American market, with very original finishes and motifs on the dial, introduced as “Kabuki Kimono” dials. The dial texture is inspired by the Karazuri “empty painting” technique used in the texture of the kimonos worn by actors in Kabuki theatre. We are counting on these limited series of the 44G line, which have been very well received, to increase our brand recognition in the United States.
Brice Le Troadec: Grand Seiko is a true Japanese brand with strong traditional and cultural assets. Our inspiration comes directly from the natural elements surrounding our studios. But we trust that these values are universal and can be interpreted globally.
We know that the United States remains for the moment a stronghold of brands like Rolex and Breitling... How do you intend to seduce American buyers? Akio Naito: We offer very high quality watches, with a focus on precision and finishing. The most sought-after Grand Seiko models are powered by our innovative Spring Drive in-house movement. Watches equipped with high-frequency Hi-Beat calibres are also particularly popular. As for our prices, they start at $2,200 for quartz watches. In general, I was surprised by the young age of Grand Seiko collectors in America... Our models are particularly appreciated by the new entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, and have a very strong appreciation from watch connoisseurs who understand the intense craftsmanship with which the brand has become synonymous. Brice Le Troadec: We are now launching three new Grand Seiko
Akio Naito: We intend to develop traditional Japanese crafts and motifs, which are very popular in the United States, such as lacquer or enamel. But do not forget that the roots of Grand Seiko reside first in the search for the most accomplished functionality. Credor [another Seiko brand, Ed.] is more oriented to the world of jewellery, decoration and the arts. Grand Seiko is primarily recognised for its innovation: for example, we have a research department in Japan that has developed the new Spron alloy, and is also working on its application for the medical industry.
Brice Le Troadec
“The United States is already the biggest market for Grand Seiko outside of Japan.” Indeed, are you planning to play the ‘Japanese card’ a little bit more, in order to attract Western collectors? Swiss brands, for instance, have not hesitated to use (and sometimes overuse) oriental crafts on one-of-a-kind pieces and limited series... It’s a bit ironic!
In the United States, as elsewhere in the world, watch auctions are becoming more important, as is online trading of vintage or preowned models. With your long history, are you counting on this booming market to increase your popularity? Brice Le Troadec: The US is very active in the trade-in watch business. Although we are not directly involved, we truly believe that preowned sales and auctions are very important for the establishment of the brand. As Grand Seiko’s production is limited, we have observed organic growth and interest in the brand, and we recognise that we are highly rated in the collectors’ market.
14 | WATCH AFICIONADO
Couture: luxury watchmaking in Las Vegas In the wake of Baselworld’s massive restructuring, all watch fairs around the world are rethinking how they operate. However, the Couture Time fair in Las Vegas seems to be doing quite well. Brands are indeed increasingly insisting on “local events”. Would this be an explanation? Three questions to Gannon Brousseau, the show manager.
It is a cosy salon, where watchmaking occupies a whole wing of the Encore hotel in Las Vegas. A perfect environment for luxury watchmaking – however a minority share of the Couture fair compared to jewellery. Hence the creation of an “event in the event”, Couture Time, dedicated to watch brands. While its longtime rival JCK has been navigating in the entry-to-medium range environment, the Couture salon has become the rendezvous of luxury watchmaking during Jewelry Week that takes place every year in early June in the city of Nevada. Heavyweights like Longines or Omega, TAG Heuer or Tudor, and independent brands like Oris or Raymond Weil, Eberhard & Co. or Mühle-Glashütte were present in or-
der to meet their retailers and distributors (this is a professional event, by invitation only) and above all to try to better understand this American market. The latter remains an imposing weight for luxury, but it has experienced major difficulties in the last three years, diminishing from 2.4 to 2 billion francs of annual Swiss watch exports. Attending the show, Europa Star met Gannon Brousseau, the manager of Couture and Couture Time.
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By Serge Maillard
In the United States, more than anywhere else in the world, consumption patterns are rapidly changing, especially with the rise of e-commerce. Many watch retailers have had to close down. How do you view the evolution of the American watch distribution networks, as a B to B show?
How would you sum up the 2018 edition?
creased enthusiasm among professionals. In particular, we welcomed more international retailers to the event. What I also note is that brands have more quality time with their retail partners, allowing them to walk through their collections in very meaningful ways.
We are always striving to improve our event and make it the best business environment for our brand and retail partners. This edition has been good with increasing attendance and, even more importantly, in-
The world’s largest watch fair, Baselworld, is in trouble. It has just suffered the departure of the Swatch Group. What impact is this weakening of the Basel show having on you?
In recent years, we observed fewer and fewer American retailers wanting to travel overseas. And though we do not compete with Basel, we do believe we offer watch brands a great environment for them to conduct business with their retailer partners. And as brands have begun to embrace alternative ways to roll out new product, we have encouraged them to save a new launch for our event, especially if it is a limited edition for our market. It’s a great strategic move, especially for retailers and media!
The consolidation of watch distribution continues to unfold its effects. That said, I am absolutely convinced that physical boutiques will remain the corner stone of watch distribution. But as you have already started to see, the in-store experience will change and adapt to meet today’s customer needs. This is also true for us as a trade fair: we have to be open to change and we have to listen to our brand partners and find solutions for their needs. This year we formed a partnership with the RedBar group of collectors to attract connoisseurs and add a different dimension to our event. We are a very hands-on management team and we are constantly engaged with our customers throughout the year. For us Couture and Couture Time is a community that extends well beyond the week in Las Vegas.
JCK, a show in transformation
By Serge Maillard
In exhibition area terms, it is the largest jewellery show in the United States, standing on over one million square metres. Europa Star was present at the latest edition of JCK, held in June at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas. It comprises a multitude of “fairs in the fair”, between Luxury, Clockwork, Swiss Watch and more. Among the most important watch exhibitors at the mainly jewellery-focused fair were Citizen and
Bulova, both owned by Citizen, the Movado group, as well as Swatch Group brands such as Tissot and Mido, which held their private shows by appointment only. JCK is undergoing a profound transformation, as next year the show will move to The Venetian’s Sands Expo, closer to the Wynn & Encore hotel where the other big fair of the week, Couture (read here), is held, which makes sense given the complementarity between the two professional events. Indeed, a segmentation seems un-
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The largest American jewellery show is preparing for a major transition in 2019. After moving from the Venetian Hotel to Mandalay Bay, JCK will return to the original venue next year in a renovated exhibition hall. For retailers, the geographic proximity with the other big trade fair held during that week, Couture, is good news. Three questions to Sarin Bachmann, Event Vice President JCK & Luxury.
What is your assessment of the 2018 edition of JCK & Luxury?
der way between the two fairs, with JCK covering the entry- to midrange, Luxury and Couture the mid- to high-range. Many retailers share their time in Las Vegas between the two venues. Some exhibitors, like Wolf (read the portrait on p. 15), are even present with stands at both shows. In a way, the fair is returning to its origins, since it was held for several years at The Venetian, on the north of the Strip. Europa Star met Sarin Bachmann, Event Vice President JCK & Luxury.
We confirm our position as the largest jewellery trade fair in North America, with 2,300 exhibitors from over 100 countries on more than one million square metres and with more than 30,000 visitors attending the show. If we speak more specifically of watchmaking, 62 exhibitors are purely watchmakers and 228 sell watches and jewellery... five of which now offer connected watches! Next year, JCK will move to the new Sands Expo. What are the advantages? First of all, it is a very modern space that has been completely renovated. The total surface area will be smaller, but this is in line with our desire to act more like curators, choosing the best exhibiting brands. We already have a waiting list. With the drop in attendance at a world fair such as Baselworld, regional or national events are gaining in importance.
What do you observe on the business front, among your exhibitors and visitors, i.e. brands and their representatives? Is e-commerce now seen more as a threat or an opportunity for growth? Many retailers have had to close in recent years, but those that have resisted have a critical size or positioning that benefits them now, with a larger market share. And business is growing again this year, with a rather positive feeling. As far as e-commerce is concerned, this may seem surprising, but it is no longer as strong a theme as in recent years. I believe this is an accepted new reality. The biggest theme of the moment for retailers is rather how to create a real experience and not just be a showcase. We organised conferences on this topic and also activated forms of “speed dating” between different industry players during the exhibition. Our own role, precisely, is not simply to be a showcase or an exhibition space but to encourage business!
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Wolf doesn’t want an accessory role tate counterfeiting, the web is also an opportunity for Wolf, which has launched its own e-commerce operation and has forged partnerships with specialised sales sites. The company says it already sells nearly a quarter of its production online.
The multigenerational company based in California has conquered a place of choice in the highly specialised market of watch winders and watch cases. Its empire is now worldwide, positioned in the affordable luxury segment. Report.
The workshops are well stocked with cardboard boxes, in this hangar in an industrial part of Los Angeles. And inside these boxes are other boxes... watch boxes. Watch cases and watch winders are the speciality of the Wolf company, run by the British family of the same name for five generations. The current heir, Simon Wolf, has decided to settle on the other side of the Atlantic, in California. It’s a practical choice, given that it’s half way between the assembly lines in China and the heart of luxury watchmaking in Switzerland. His playing field is now global. “Producing a watch winder is more complicated than we usually think,” says Simon Wolf, showing us around the company’s headquarters in Los Angeles, which also serves as a logistics and after-sales centre for North America. “It is a matter of assembling hundreds of components to produce a product that is both beautiful and effective. We combine the work of leather with the mastery of electronics.”
Watch wellness But what exactly is the purpose of a watch winder? The device serves as a kind of “sports coach” for the watch, to keep it in shape when its owner isn’t wearing it. “If you leave your automatic watch on your bedside table, it will stop; it will no longer keep time, all the complications will be out of phase and it will not be good for its long-term functioning,” says Simon Wolf. “With our watch winders, you will find it in perfect working order. Otherwise, you should do like Nicolas Hayek Sr. and wear all your watches at all times, so they stay on time!” It is possible to set the rotation time, and the number and speed of the revolutions, on the electronic module(s) fitted to each rotating watch case. Like the human body, a watch should not be permanent-
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By Serge Maillard
Simon Wolf, representing the fifth generation at the helm of the company
ly “activated” – the result would be exhaustion! The module is therefore set to pause regularly. While it usually turns clockwise, some models with particular complications, notably by Patek Philippe, require counter-clockwise rotations for their continuing good health. It’s an interesting sign of the times that the cuffs produced by Wolf to accommodate watches in their rotating cases have doubled in size in two decades, to adapt to ever more muscular watch formats. (Although a counter-revolution now seems to be under way!)
Raising awareness in emerging markets Wolf’s watch winders – designed in California, made in China, like Apple – start at 250 dollars and position the company in a mid- to high-end niche. Indeed, the brand also offers safes with multiple rotating modules, costing up to $250,000. The watch winder is undoubtedly the most “intriguing” part of Wolf’s activity. The company produces more than 200,000 modules per year (one module corresponds to one watch; a watch winder can accommodate up to 32 modules). But the company founded in 1834 actually achieves nearly two-thirds of its turnover on another, more traditional activity, the production of boxes and kits for watches and jewellery, as well as other leather accessories. These are sold at specialised retailers, but also in large shopping centres. Wolf now has some 2,500 points of sale around the world, targeting both collectors who are looking for good performance in their watch winders, and people who appreciate the design of their leather goods. The United States, “probably the most mature market for the use of watch winders,” is Wolf ’s main
market, ahead of Europe. As for Asia, a new giant in watch consumption, it is still an “underdeveloped” and “high-potential” market for watch winders. Before Wolf can sell its products, it must first convince the target audience of their usefulness, and popularise their features. In a way, it’s a process of “evangelisation”.
Negotiation tool for retailers “Too often, retailers and customers still think, wrongly, that they do not have enough space to accommodate our products,” says Simon Wolf. “However, we can be very
practical for watch shops. For example, a salesman can offer one of our watch winders to his customer, rather than grant a discount on the watch itself. It’s more elegant in a negotiation!” Watch brands also buy rotating boxes directly from Wolf, sometimes as gifts, sometimes as labelled products on existing references (private label), or completely made to measure. The watch winder market has a small number of global players alongside Wolf: Scatola del Tempo in Italy, Buben & Zorweg in Germany and Swiss Kubik in Switzerland. It has also spawned an unknown number of cheap products with dubious pedigrees on platforms like Alibaba and Amazon. While it may facili-
In addition to its Californian headquarters, the company has offices in the UK and Hong Kong, close to the production site in Shenzhen (its partnership with a local manufacturer dates back some 30 years). Its watch winders rotate thanks to the silent electric motors provided by the Japanese specialised company Mabuchi Motor. The leather comes from all over the world, from India to South Korea. Wolf now even offers “vegan” leather, an interesting substitute for animal leather. With his long experience in the field, Simon Wolf has announced an increasingly strong emphasis on product aesthetics. “When I took over my father’s company, the fashion side of our production was less important. Previously, the focus was primarily on functionality. Now we pay special attention to the design. We also have an integral photo studio at our headquarters, to shoot our products.” Still, looking at the vintage advertisements for Wolf ’s old leather goods, which decorate the walls of the company’s headquarters, it’s impossible not to feel a stab of regret for the beautiful aesthetics of yesteryear!
THE 72 PRE-SELECTED WATCHES
16 | WATCH AFICIONADO
BOVET Amadeo Fleurier 39 Fan
BULGARI Lvcea Tubogas Skeleton
Tefnut Twist Classic
CHANEL Boy-friend Skeleton
Possession Lapis Lazuli
Legacy Machine Split Escapement
DB28 Steel Wheels
Historiques Triple calendrier 1942
H. MOSER & CIE
Endeavour Flying Hours
Singer Track1 Hong Kong Edition
Diva Finissima Minute Repeater
Kalpa Tourbillon Galaxy
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
Lady Arpels Planétarium
Octo Finissimo Tourbillon Automatic
Neo Tourbillon With Three Bridges Skeleton
Galet Annual Calendar School Piece
H. MOSER & CIE
Endeavour Perpetual Moon Concept Vantablack®
Overseas ultra-thin perpetual calendar
1858 Monopusher Chronograph Limited Edition 100
Defy El Primero 21
DB25 Starry Varius Chronomètre Tourbillon
Star Legacy Suspended Exo Tourbillon Limited Edition 58
Carrera Tourbillon Chronograph Executive Tourbillon Free Wheel Defy Zero G Tête de Vipère Chronometer
GRAND PRIX D’HORLOGERIE DE GENÈVE (GPHG) 2018 MECHANICAL EXCEPTION
ANDERSEN GENÈVE & KONSTANTIN CHAYKIN
Minute Repeater Tri-Axial Tourbillon
Récital 22 Grand Récital
Octo Finissimo Minute Repeater Carbon
Trillion Tourbillon of Tourbillons
Visionnaire Chronograph Dynamique
1858 Pocket Watch Limited Edition 100
Seiko Prospex 1968 Diver’s Recreation
Pilot Cronometro Tipo CP-2 Flyback
Serpenti High Jewellery
High Jewellery Cuff Watch Dentelle d'Or
Bouton de Camélia
VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
Secret de Coccinelle
Ecritures de Chaumet - limited edi- Clover tion inspired from Renoir's work
Altiplano Tourbillon Malachite
Métiers d'Art Les Aérostiers Paris 1783
Arceau Robe du soir
Ballet in Blue
WATCH AFICIONADO | 17
Tycho Brahe "série" T2 Anthra
Longbridge British Racing
Conquest V.H.P. GMT flash setting
Seiko Presage Shippo Enamel
Tangente Neomatik 41 Update
Black Bay GMT
18 | WATCH AFICIONADO
Bulgari and the classical ’80s
By Serge Maillard
Fine jewellery and some exclusive timepieces were on display last June in the sumptuous setting of the Villa Farnesina in Rome, built at the beginning of the 16th century for a banker of the Pope and decorated with frescoes by Raphael. In the evening, the supermodel era was recreated in the equally monumental setting of the 1932 Stadio dei Marmi, right next to the Olympic Stadium on the Foro Italico, its 64 colossal Carrara marble statues vibrating to a thumping 1980s soundtrack. These were unique pieces for the most part, in a “clash of contrasts” reminiscent of what Jeff Koons has done in the past, exhibiting his XXL lobster figurines and inflatable balloons in Versailles (and today, put-
ting the Mona Lisa or Van Gogh on Louis Vuitton bags). Classical art is juxtaposed with pop, which thus symbolically becomes a “modern classic”. The 1980s, albeit not as distant as the Renaissance, have already become something of a lost golden age. Bulgari has seized upon this classic era for its annual creative theme, entitled “Wild Pop”, against the backdrop of installations by Andy Warhol and performances by Duran Duran. Globalised luxury no longer belongs to one territory or chronology – it evolves beyond space-time, merging, intertwining and mixing eras from which it seeks to extract the aesthetic and spiritual essence, exploding all space-time borders, from Raphael to Duran Duran and from the old Roman city to the new megalopolises of the Chinese hinterland.
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How can a big fashion house overhaul its collections without bowing to the diktats of social networks? One solution is to rediscover times that, although not particularly old, are already considered “classic” in our accelerating world. With its Wild Pop theme and 1980s vibe, Bulgari Jewellery has sketched out an answer. The globalised luxury industry is now playing with the boundaries of space-time.
Jean-Christophe Babin, President of Bulgari since 2013
The customers, too, as in a game of mirrors, no longer bother with the codes dear to the old bourgeoisie. At a time when everyone wants to be different, and when luxury products have never been copied so much or distributed so widely, a jewellery set costing several thousand francs no longer necessarily looks out of place over a T-shirt worn with jeans and vertiginous heels. All major luxury brands are trying to identify this phenomenon, torn between the need to evolve in
the face of volatile tastes, a growing financial appetite with the extraordinary expansion of the potential customer base (just look at the recent annual reports of groups like LVMH to observe this unprecedented growth*), but also the risk of dilution, losing exclusivity and thus their role as “prescriber”. At Bulgari, director Jean-Christophe Babin found the right word, in Italian of course, to capture this new world: the quotidianità (which could be translated as “everyday re-
Classical art is juxtaposed with pop, which thus symbolically becomes a “modern classic”. The 1980s, albeit not as distant as the Renaissance, have already become something of a lost golden age. The pace is accelerating... ality”). The milestones of life where one “had to” wear jewellery, from marriage to a child’s first communion, have lost their sacredness in our secular and consumerist societies. People have ceased looking heavenwards, preferring to focus their full attention on themselves. Conversely, through social networks such as Instagram, it is daily life that is now consecrated, with rewards for originality in composition and colour. The selfie that “deifies”... The iconoclasts, who opposed idolatry through images, have lost the battle! “Today, there is less and less segmentation,” notes Jean-Christophe Babin. “It also gives us more opportunities to express ourselves, more
variety of designs, because jewellery is not just for birthday or wedding gifts any more.” Between diva Grace Kelly, a literal and figurative princess of the 1960s, and Bella Hadid, Insta-Beauty Queen of the 2010s, Bulgari clings to the 1980s as an “intermediate” ground of expression in this transcended space-time. It was a decade where the colours, shapes and conventions of yesteryear were shaken up, but where fashion was still entirely in the hands of brands in a “top-down” hierarchy. Today, luxury houses have to deal with consumers who want to be creative themselves and who, via social networks, probably produce as many images in a day as a brand of the 1980s did in a year. It is by playing with the versatility of materials that Bulgari intends to make its mark in this new configuration of luxury. Yellow and pink gold, for example, are less formal than white gold or platinum. “As early as the 1960s, we insisted on versatility in wearing jewellery,” recalls Jean-Christophe Babin. “Yellow gold means more quotidianita!” “New generations wear jewellery in a relaxed way,” adds Fabrizio Buonamassa, creative director for Bulgari watchmaking. “It is very important to follow these evolutions, and we always differentiate our products according to the public. For example, the black onyx Serpenti has a more formal side than the new pixellated Serpenti.” The Roman house, which opened a large jewellery centre in Valenza last year, relies on its craftsmanship for these exceptional pieces with bold shapes, bright colours and rare stones, imprinted with the extravagance of the 1980s. It was definitely not a minimalist decade: these were the years of disco, yuppies and XXL – a world depicted in the movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”. A necklace created
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by Bulgari reproducing cannabis leaves sets the tone for this highflying decade. “The Wild Pop theme is very interesting when it comes to exploring all sorts of geometric shapes, colours, combinations and constructions,” says Jean-Christophe Babin. “The 1980s were a hedonistic period.” As far as watches are concerned, we noted in particular a new Serpenti with “pixellated” structures (perhaps a wink to the pixels that are now omnipresent and invisible?). Bulgari’s favourite animal has the ability to quickly change its skin... “This watch is composed of small gold balls mounted by hand and is inspired by a piece from the 1970s,” says Fabrizio Buonamassa. The “new technologies” don’t always favour automation; in the 1970s, the balls were soldered, whereas today
WATCH AFICIONADO | 19
they are assembled by hand. “It’s animated jewellery, which gives the watch a completely different design.” And then, somewhat hidden amid the profusion of high jewellery proposals and a little out of step with the dominant theme, there’s an ultra-technical timepiece that incorporates the greatest number of complications to date for Bulgari, including Grande and Petite Sonnerie! Let’s hope we see it again soon in another context. Because in terms of the House’s watchmaking, this year is more “Finissimo”, futuristic and ultra-flat, than exuberant Wild Pop! With its chameleon-like ability to look both ahead and behind, while adapting its colours and strategies, always returning in one way or another to its Roman roots, Bulgari carries the jewellery activities of the LVMH group. It’s a sector expe-
riencing rapid growth, while watches still encountered a “difficult market” last year, according to CEO Bernard Arnault, who notes the “excellent year” 2017 achieved by the brand, with “market share gains”. Although the jewellery market is larger than the watchmaking market in terms of income, there is no monopoly on origin, as is the case with Switzerland for watches. “The jewellery market is developing structurally and it is truly universal: from the beginning of humanity, jewellery and precious stones were revered,” notes JeanChristophe Babin. “Jewellery has grown in importance as humanity has developed.” Another important social factor for the development of the House is contemporary nomadism. “If you are born in Geneva, marry in Tokyo and live in New York, the notion of
‘local jeweller’ loses its meaning. In this cosmopolitan environment, global brands like Bulgari become a reference. They build trust. The growth differential is therefore favourable to global brands.” Jewellery, being far less ‘branded’ than watches, has always had a large pre-owned market, which is only now taking off in watchmaking. “Inventory management is very different in jewellery than in watchmaking... because the materials are recoverable. We can even make money, depending on what happens to their market price! As a result, with this guarantee, one can also risk more than in watchmaking on new designs for example.” Watches are also limited by functionality. And jewellery is turning into a “locomotive” when watchmaking is in decline, whether it is Bulgari at LVMH, Cartier and
Van Cleef & Arpels at Richemont, or the world leader in the jewellery sector, Tiffany & Co, which also has a long history in watches. While watchmaking regularly faces threats, from the quartz crisis to the arrival of the connected watch or more generally to the programmed obsolescence of its functions and status, jewellery advances without this sword of Damocles.
*Growth of major luxury groups’ turnover between 2013 and 2017: LVMH: from 29.1 to 42.6 billion euros; Kering: from 9.7 to 15.5 billion euros; Hermès: from 3.8 to 5.5 billion euros. Watchmaking shows a different picture: Richemont: from 10.1 to 11 billion euros (2012/13–2017/18 deferred financial years); Swatch Group: from 8.5 to 8 billion francs.
20 | WATCH AFICIONADO
Bell & Ross, Business & Rupture interview The proudly independent Franco-Swiss brand has brought the aeroplane cockpit to the wrist. It has followed a very precise trajectory. A pioneer in the XXL format, extreme readability, new materials, new designs such as the Skull, and even e-commerce (as far back as ten years ago), it is one of the rare brands created in the 1990s that really took root in the watch world, with the support of a powerful mentor with an elegant philosophy, Chanel. We talked to brand co-founder Carlos Rosillo. By Serge Maillard
Bell & Ross is a duality. Not just the name, which is linked to its founding duo, childhood friends Bruno Belamich (the designer) and Carlos Rosillo (the developer). Virtually everything about this Franco-Swiss brand seems to come in twos. This duality takes several forms,
such as its original round watches and the later square watches that have been welcomed into the collective imagination; breaking with shapes and materials while seeking to take root in the old Swiss watchmaking tradition; managing both the high expectations of the original military clientele and the aesthetic requirements of civilians;
even its Instagram account, which plays around with short time and long time, as we pointed out in a recent column. The brand was founded in 1992, and operates mainly in the CHF 2,000 to 10,000 segment. It breathed new life into French watchmaking at a time when its last remaining pillars were crumbling. The company likes to swim against the tide. It started out doing vintage in the 1990s, when watchmaking was trying to throw off the shackles of the past... and today it’s betting on futuristic disruption, notably via new materials, when the rest of the industry seems to have been teleported back to the 1960s! But why choose, when you can have both? “Today, we are working in parallel on extending our Vintage line and experimenting with our BR-X1 line,” explains Carlos Rosillo. “We stand between the temptation of vintage and that of exploding all the codes... The paradox, no doubt, is that we’re trying to express our creativity in subtle but also disruptive
ways. It’s just the dosage that varies!” The ampersand that unites Bell & Ross is “the symbol of combined skills,” as Carlos Rosillo explains. While the brain and the heart of the brand are in Paris, its arms and legs are in Switzerland, at the G&F Châtelain watch manufacture in La Chaux-de-Fonds, owned by Chanel, where high-added-value collections are produced (notably the “experimental” BR-X1 and BRX2 lines with in-house movement). Bell & Ross also calls upon local assemblers for watches equipped with ETA or Sellita calibres. Carlos Rosillo and Bruno Belamich were supported in their early days by German brand Sinn, the custodian of a long tradition of aviation watches. Helmut Sinn, who died this year at the enviable age of 101 personally took them under his wing. Today they continue to call upon outside skills, be it Vincent Calabrese for jumping hours or Pierre Favre at MHC. And, unlike many others, they have no interest in hiding it.
Bell & Ross, which still supplies the elite RAID and GIGN troops, is structured around four solid design principles: legibility, reliability, functionality and precision. It is one of the few watch brands to have contributed to the modernity boom that has transformed the
“We started to take an interest in vintage 25 years ago, using contrasting black and white on the dial, at a time of bright colours.” watch industry over the past twenty years. And it remains today a fine example of what an independent watchmaker can be, although we can well imagine that, in these times of consolidation and takeovers, some tempting offers must have landed on Carlos Rosillo’s desk.
Bell & Ross BR 01 Laughing Skull
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BUSINESS Where are Bell & Ross’s main markets, and how many retailers do you have today? We have 750 sales outlets in over 80 countries. Europe is one of our most developed regions. Two years ago, we took over distribution in Asia internally, and we already have a subsidiary in North America. Today, our most buoyant markets are the United States, France and Southeast Asia.
“Our own shops aim to serve the market... and above all they are profitable, it’s not just about marketing or ego!” Which are the markets where you feel Bell & Ross’s potential is still underdeveloped?
Carlos Rosillo, co-founder of Bell & Ross
RUPTURE Whether it’s true disruption or simply a return to the past, today we see vintage inspiration and reissues almost everywhere in watchmaking. You even have a collection called Vintage, which includes the BR V2-94 Racing Bird Chronograph released this year. And yet, you are a relatively new brand. What’s your approach to this phenomenon? We started to take an interest in vintage 25 years ago, at a time when it was not necessarily well received. It was a period of colour. We specialised in round military watches with white numerals on black dials. Some very well-established brands no longer had any models of this type! Vintage, in the form of black dials in particular, was not popular. What was most interesting to us was the readability, with the positive-negative contrast. But when we started out there wasn’t a fashion for vintage or military watches, like there is today. How did the idea for the square watch come about? We initiated something with our models... and were in fact quickly overwhelmed by the trend that it generated. How do you stay distinctive enough? After producing only round watches, we introduced square models in 2005. Our inspiration was aeroplane cockpits, which systematically feature “circles on squares”. In very concrete terms, we put this cockpit on the wrist. Today we offer pocket watches, round watches and square watches.
At the same time, you are also a pioneer in the use of new materials in watchmaking, through the BR-X1 experimental line. Indeed, we have always practised the art of disruption and innovation, while trying to respect the most traditional aspects of watchmaking, based on four principles: readability, reliability, functionality and precision. We have introduced forged carbon and reinforced titanium, among other materials. We also try to spread these innovations over different collections, although the issue of cost does come into play. Our sapphire watches start at 69,000 francs, which is quite affordable compared to other models on the market. And I believe that this is the first time a watch brand has produced a watch without a case, since the two sapphire plates are placed directly over the movement of the BR-X2 Tourbillon Micro-Rotor! You have also played a major role in the oversizing of watches over the past two decades, shocking the industry at first with your XXL watches. The trend now seems rather to be in favour of downsizing. But it’s hard to imagine a “mini” Bell & Ross! The trend is certainly no longer towards gigantism, but sports watches still need to keep a certain size. We are necessarily rather large, because we are miniaturising something voluminous to start with. Moreover, a certain size is in keeping with our principles of legibility
and precision. But very few of our watches are “oversized”: today we go from 39 mm to 46 mm in diameter. Rather, we have worked on reducing the thickness of our watches. Thus, the BR-X2 Tourbillon MicroRotor model has an extra-flat automatic flying tourbillon movement that is only 4.05 mm thick... and it is a square movement.
“We stand between the temptation of vintage and that of exploding all the codes.” Another trend that remains strong despite the passing years is the skull. There’s been a lot of talk about your Laughing Skull, which debuted at the CoutureTime show in Las Vegas. Who is this type of product for? We launched a Skull in 2009, when we were in the middle of a watchmaking crisis. It leaves a mark on people’s minds. The symbol of the skull is particularly potent for the military; it’s a talisman that represents the courage to face death. At first, it was a bit of a scandal! This year we are launching the Laughing Skull, which is very special with its spectacular movement, visible through the case back. It is also the first time that we have released an automaton. This timepiece asks an existential question: should we laugh or cry about death?
China, most certainly. We have “sown the seeds”, but not overinvested. The Chinese market boom has begun with more classic watchmaking proposals, but our turn will soon come. Many brands have opened their own stores in the last decade. Some retailers may have felt overwhelmed... You have 13 shops in the world. What is your strategy in this regard? We have been restrained in opening our own stores, which are intended primarily for the brand’s pure aficionados. We have never
competed with our own representatives. Our own shops aim to serve the market... and above all they are profitable, it’s not just about marketing or ego! How do you see the internet for your brand: as a communication tool or a sales tool... or both? I believe we were the first luxury watch brand to launch an e-shop 10 years ago. We considered at the time that digital was going to be a major factor, and we could not leave that segment to third parties. We have published the prices of our watches online for a long time. We have also established partnerships with serious companies including Mr. Porter and Farfetch. It is the best strategy in the face of the effervescence of the web. Today, digital is a source of growth. We have more than 2 million visitors per year, with an average of 6 to 7 minutes spent on our site, and sales are beginning to be consistent. We also include retailers in the process. Where does your relationship with Chanel stand today, both in terms of production and participation? Chanel holds a minority stake in Bell & Ross and brings a wealth of expertise. For example, they are very strong in the legal field. Chanel’s approach to us is “collaboration without obligation”. What I find remarkable is that they really have a long-term vision of luxury. They are giants with an artisanal core, avoiding the standardisation or the dilution of the brand. Theirs is a good example to follow.
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WatchBox: when a retailer successfully goes digital
Danny Govberg, founder of WatchBox
Danny Govberg is the heir to an illustrious family of Philadelphia watch retailers. In just a few years, the American has shaken up his business model to focus on two main areas: e-commerce and pre-owned watches. This year, the entrepreneur is targeting sales of over $200 million with his WatchBox platform. He is also expanding internationally, starting with Switzerland. By Serge Maillard
We arrive at a superb nobleman’s house on the shore of Lake Neuchâtel to be welcomed by Susanne Hurni and Patrik Hoffmann. This renowned duo from the Swiss watchmaking world are naturally associated with Ulysse Nardin, having spent several decades there. However, we will need to get used to seeing them in a new light: that of the online second-hand watch sales platform WatchBox. In the United States, Danny Govberg,
who came up with the idea for and co-founded WatchBox with Tay Liam Wee and Justin Reis, is also an important watchmaking figure. He is the heir to a family of retailers based in Philadelphia since 1916, and was recently visited by Europa Star in his hometown. Govberg has a plumper address book than most in the industry - he represents the best of watchmaking in the United States, including Patek Philippe, Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Omega, as well as ultraexclusive brands like Greubel Forsey, for which he is a key reseller.
Danny Govberg’s two hunches
$60 million in watch inventories
other States in the USA. Yet Danny Govberg has chosen to remain “confined” to the Philadelphia area, where he now runs two stores. The businessman had a (correct) hunch that the wind of change was blowing towards digital: an ambition that was global rather than national in scope. He also suspected that online watch sales are inseparable from secondhand or pre-owned models. After all, watches last much better than cars. Brands have also tended to over-stock in recent years, creating sometimes staggering levels of unsold stock. We need think only of Richemont, which spent over $200 million buying back excess stock last year. Here too, Danny Govberg has proved his sound judgment: with
How does WatchBox work? Quite differently from most online platforms that simply link up sellers (most of the time dealers whose job this is) and private buyers. The company launched by Danny Govberg buys the watches itself from private individuals “often within 24 hours” before selling them to its contacts, via traders specialising in watchmaking (around twenty are in Philadelphia, six are in Hong Kong and two are based in the new Neuchâtel office). “We only sell what we have in stock,” says Susanne Hurni, Marketing Manager at WatchBox’s new Swiss subsidiary. ”We are neither a market place nor a consignment site, but currently own watches worth about $60 million.” "It actually all began with a segment of the WatchBox app which enabled customers to register their collection online to find out about
WatchBox is positioning itself as a pioneer at You would have thought that some- the forefront of a major one of his calibre and dynamism change in the long would have gradually expanded to history of watchmaking. vintage booming, the pre-owned market is seeing itself legitimised. One example is the recent takeover of the specialised online platform Watchfinder by Richemont. The stars seem to be aligning for this entrepreneur who took an early gamble on the digital and preowned sectors. Having opened offices in Philadelphia and Hong Kong, new premises are launching in Switzerland at the heart of the watchmaking world. Until now, pre-owned watches almost exclusively found their way onto the grey market. But here they are in all their glory, just a stone’s throw from the manufacturers. The symbolism is undeniable.
E-VOLUTION and monitor the popularity of their watches. It was a bit like the first thing a trader does... With new tracking tools and Big Data, we can easily identify and cross-check which watches from which collector interest which other registered collectors.”
Reassuring investors WatchBox traders can then leap into action with customers registered on the app to match supply and demand at a “fair price calculated like a share value”... Interestingly enough, this means the site adds a visible, “human” step to the impersonal digital “invisible hand” that guides other intermediary platforms (many of which have a similar system for recording collections online). The issue of finding the best possible balance between man and machine certainly remains a broad topic.
The businessman had a (correct) hunch that the wind of change was blowing towards digital: an ambition that was global rather than national in scope. However, the key difference with Watchbox is the fact that the company buys the watches itself, “taking a risk” which in return gives it greater control over current operations and reassures potential investors. “When you put your watch up for auction, you put it on consignment but you’re not sure if it will find a buyer,” says Susanne Hurni, “That said, if you call us, you often receive your payment within 24 to 48 hours.”
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Items still need to be assessed, of course. “We’ve hired a watchmaker to do these assessments. If we find that the watch is not in the condition promised, it may lose value. In addition, we don’t specialise in watches dating from before 1985.” What about the warranty on timepieces acquired and resold? “We provide a new 15-month guarantee,” explains Patrik Hoffmann. “Interestingly, we trace the history of the watch as soon as it comes to us. This means it will be even easier to maintain and repair, if necessary." WatchBox’s after-sales service for Europe is located in Neuchâtel.
Convincing retailers... and brands In the short term, WatchBox’s goal is to put the successful trial carried out in the United States into practice in Europe and Asia via the new local offices. In the medium term, the platform aims to involve retailers in what it does. Retailers are a tremendous potential resource in the pre-owned watch sector and are currently under pressure to change their business model. In the long term, the objective is to forge partnerships directly with the brands, which are certainly not lacking in stock... Hence the strategic importance for WatchBox of establishing itself in Switzerland. “We are already in very advanced negotiations with retailers in Switzerland,” says Susanne Hurni, “We offer them an attractive price and it is our name that is displayed since we buy the watches ourselves; on other platforms, resellers can find themselves in an awkward position with the brands they represent.” Of course, WatchBox hopes to bring the brands on board with
WatchBox's trading room in the company's new premises in Philadelphia
Susanne Hurni, Marketing Manager of WatchBox's new Swiss subsidiary in Neuchâtel
what it does. The initial signs are there: “We offer a form of market cleansing that also keeps the brand image strong, rather than asking for knock-down prices or destroying watches. Letting retailers resell last year’s watches 40% cheaper or destroying stock only weakens the brand image and annoys collectors.”
Bringing consumers on board For Susanne Hurni, the grey market remains symptomatic of a mismatch between watch supply and demand. With its “valuation” system, WatchBox intends to offer the “right market price”. It is therefore the use of Big Data and collecting information that most closely matches the real expectations of real buyers that really changes things... CEOs are certainly beginning to realise the full potential of the second-hand market. “How can we have turned a blind eye to this phenomenon for so long? The brands have been a little arrogant in wanting to impose new watches. Young
people have changed their consumption patterns and no longer necessarily want to own items for the long term. With platforms like ours, they can buy and sell watches easily,” says Susanne Hurni. A sociological as well as a commercial turning point? The platform does not intend to remain a mere trader or financial intermediary: it wants to become a trendsetter...via its own content. In Philadelphia, WatchBox has already created a video studio where it produces watch presentations and reviews, among other things. It is preparing to do the same in Switzerland. “We will increase interest around certain models, whether through our content or through partnerships with influencers,” says Patrik Hoffmann.
more than anyone standing behind a counter,” Patrik Hoffmann points out. “Such trust will certainly take longer to achieve in Asia and Europe than in the United States. But in China, consumers are already getting used to receiving packages at home bought through WeChat.”
Building a market The company is ambitious: more than 200 million dollars in preowned watch sales this year i.e. annual growth of 40% and an aim of 500 million dollars in turnover for WatchBox “in the years to come”. Today, 160 people work for the company worldwide. “In Neuchâtel, we will have between 12 and 15 employees by the end of next year.” The new director of WatchBox’s Swiss subsidiary is aware that this is a market still to be built “with a good dose of education for brands, retailers and collectors”. The other major hurdle is persuading consumers to buy online. “Americans already trust American Express
The other major hurdle is persuading consumers to buy online.
Patrik Hoffmann, former CEO of Ulysse Nardin, heads the new Swiss subsidiary of WatchBox
As far as distribution is concerned, it is possible to have a watch purchased on WatchBox delivered to your home or go to a local subsidiary to collect it in person. In the future, successful retailer partnerships could enhance the concept of proximity, via a kind of watchmaking “glocalisation". Through its platform, WatchBox is therefore positioning itself as a pioneer at the forefront of a major change in the long history of watchmaking. After the technological breakthrough of the quartz watch in the 1970s, the mechanical watch boom of the 1990s and watchmaking globalisation in the 2000s, now comes the digital revolution, sweeping along everything in its path, from the productions of yesteryear to those of tomorrow.
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Watchmaking and the blockchain New virtual currencies like the famous bitcoin are just early arrivals in the huge revolution promised by web libertarians: a decentralised encrypted data exchange system outside the control of fallible and corruptible human beings. And why not involve watchmaking too? The first timepieces inspired by this new world or even certified in the blockchain have been launched. All can be purchased with... bitcoins of course! By Serge Maillard
This is a new stage in the digital revolution: the one that should finally set us free from human intermediaries in our daily transactions. What if currencies, private data and trade exchanges could be secured in a fully encrypted and decentralised space, with information so split up that it becomes forgery-proof? This is the promise of the “blockchain”, the new gold standard of the fourth industrial revolution. The latter is a form of digital disruption whereby intermediaries are gradually disappearing and a Business to Consumer world is being created click by click (with Consumer to Consumer being gradually brought back into line), free of any “friction” between the provider of a service or product and its receiver – an area which watch retailers know only too well… The blockchain is also a real revolution in contemporary dogma, thus achieving the libertarian dream of creating a system that is both confidential at the micro level (ensuring individual anonymity) and transparent at the macro level (with all transactions traceable)... Today, individuals can lack privacy, notably when they (voluntarily) display their private lives on social networks. However, companies, banking institutions and states can still keep their activities confidential (but for how long will this remain the case?). In future, will we be spying on the NSA instead of the other way around?
The bitcoin boom The most famous symbol of the digital revolution is the “bitcoin”, an evolving blockchain cryptocurrency introduced in 2009 which experienced a speculative surge last December taking it to a unit value close to 20,000 dollars... The mysterious “inventor” of bitcoin and the first “block chain” calls himself Satoshi Nakamoto, but he is probably a kind of figurehead representing an individual or group. Every bitcoin holder stores their currency
with a code in a digital wallet. It’s important not to lose or have your account key stolen, because no insurance is going to come to the rescue! The virtual currency remains controversial and is accused by many economists (and even by the “Wolf of Wall Street”, Jordan Belfort) of being something of a speculative gamble, creating a bubble that is always on the edge of bursting. Like the dark web, it is also criticised for being used for illicit activities in places where the state cannot easily watch. In addition, several cryptocurrency thefts have been recorded, with the Pirate Party’s favourite currency itself being pirated on occasion. With anxious banking institutions at the helm, a counter-revolution is now underway against this process that challenges how our monetary, commercial and economic systems function…
An end to corruption? Nevertheless, bitcoin has become popular since its surge widely reported in the media last year and interest in the blockchain has also percolated beyond “insider” circles. For example, there are promises of encrypted personal medical information in the blockchain that could make it possible to standardise the world’s medical systems. As things stand, it is not even possible to issue a prescription in Switzerland that would be recognised in the United States. Another dream is to end corruption via trade exchanges that would be both transparent and forgery-proof. A good summary of the issues at stake can be read here and here. The main aim of the blockchain, a globalist tool par excellence, is therefore to remove all intermediaries from transactions, which will in future be performed directly and instantaneously via decentralised, encrypted and secure networks. For onlookers, this new digital revolution veers between promising a “smoother” and “more efficient” world thanks to digital networks and suggesting a frightening dehumanisation process that could
Chronoswiss Flying Regulator Open Gear Bitcoin Edition
be straight out of an episode of the futuristic Netflix series “Black Mirror”*. In this new world without a controlling body or public authority serving as an intermediary, can we avoid both anarchy and reducing human beings to their functional value? These are huge questions...
The blockchaincertified watches of Gvchiani Now to return to watchmaking! We have seen some online resellers (usually quite far from official and authorized distribution channels) start accepting bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies a payment for watches.
A system that is both confidential at the individual level and transparent at the macro level. In future, will we be spying on the NSA instead of the other way around? Most importantly, blockchain is taking its first steps in the sector with manufacturers. Setting specialist Shant Ghouchian, who founded his own watch brand Gvchiani a few years ago, has just joined forces with Cryptolex to launch a certified watch in the blockchain, which he has called the “MasterBlock”. This mechanical timepiece is protected by a certificate linked to the blockchain and issued by Cryptolex, thus making it “forgery-proof ”. Each numbered MasterBlock will have its own blockchain address. The first edition is limited to 2010 timepieces from numbers 0000 to 2009, the year the bitcoin was launched. 2008 pieces will be sold
on www.masterblock.ch and two customisable pieces will be auctioned: the 0000, named “Genesis”, and the 2009, named “Satoshi” in homage to the bitcoin creator. Each MasterBlock watch’s unique blockchain address is inscribed on its dial. How exactly is a watchmaking “block chain” created? Every numbered MasterBlock watch is linked to the timepiece with the previous number. Each production stage is “engraved” into the blockchain, meaning that the full history of the watches can be traced. Indeed, the blockchain provides both confidentiality by protecting watches from forgery, and transparency for the products integrated into the network... The watches themselves are worth 16,500 Swiss francs (or two bitcoins at the current rate...). They have a rather unusual design which stands out in the crypto-world, with the large X characteristic of Gvchiani on the casing which “opens” onto the dial! The watchmaker has integrated several references to the blockchain, such as a DLC titanium “block”, a leather strap representing a decentralised network and the X line which in this context could be seen as evoking the bitcoin monetary code (XBT). As you might expect, payment can be made in bitcoin or in another lesser-known exchange protocol called the “Ethereum”.
The cryptodesign watches of Chronoswiss Another watchmaker launched a series of watches inspired by cryptocurrencies: Chronoswiss joined forces with Tech Bureau Europe to create five “crypto-design watches”, that have been manufactured in a limited edition of 101 pieces each. They are available exclusively via the cryptocurrency exchange platform Zaif.
“Cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology are a dazzling aspect of our future. With its homage to cryptocurrencies, Chronoswiss links the roots of traditional watchmaking with the digital revolution of new world currencies,” said Oliver Ebstein, owner and CEO of Chronoswiss. Two features link more precisely the watches to the blockchain: their design is directly inspired by cryptocurrencies and they can be acquired with the likes of the bitcoin. First series have been sold through online auction last April. The names of the series, all based on the Flying Regulator Open Gear? “Bitcoin”, “NEM”, “Ethereum”, “Zaif”, “COMSA”. Among their features, the logo of each crypto-currency is skeletonized in the small seconds and in the logo print on the dial.
Will blockchain become mainstream? As watch labels are subject to heated debate with watch authenticity and traceability constantly questioned, and watchmaking e-commerce has only just begun to emerge (and is already considered by blockchain experts as part of the “old world”), this first foray of watchmaking into this futuristic network offers some radical but very interesting prospects. We are required to totally rethink watch production, certification and distribution. “The future is about seeing watchmaking develop in the blockchain,” exclaims Shant Ghouchian, the creator of the MasterBlock. However, it is hard to imagine this rather traditional industry adopting the blockchain very quickly. In this respect, the MasterBlock can be considered a pioneer. Yet, our planet is experiencing digital globalisation and things are ticking along faster than they are in the Swiss watchmaking industry. If virtual currencies (and more broadly blockchain technology) are to convince on a larger scale and succeed in dispelling people’s many doubts, then it will open up a whole new chapter in history... and in watchmaking! *Incidentally, Netflix is one of the best examples of a giant of the new Business to Consumer world. It produces films and series itself, broadcasting its products directly to the consumer, eliminating old video rental stores and reducing Consumer to Consumer “piracy” by organising and facilitating access to legal content. You could draw a comparison with the watchmaking world, where brands want to produce and distribute their watches directly to consumers, eliminating the “old” independent retailers and distributors and attacking parallel networks, the grey market and counterfeiting, which have been boosted by the arrival of the internet in the same way as audio-visual piracy…
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A new e-retail formula in the United States
By Serge Maillard
In terms of the e-commerce of watches, no one has yet found the magic formula. This is to be expected, though, as we are still in the infancy of the web, in which we are seeing the gradual digitization of all of our daily acts. The digital Big Bang has burst, but solar systems and planets have not yet formed. As a result, the e-commerce of watches resembles a great hotchpotch, between brand platforms, second-hand sites, authorized third parties and the mass of networks with obscure origins. A real nebula!
Troverie, which has just been launched, aims to reconcile brands with their retailers and with customers’ new expectations. Fred Levin, arguably one of the greatest living experts of the watch distribution chains in the United States*, proposes to put some order in this digital anarchy, via the new Troverie online sales platform, bringing together brands and their retailers in the United States.
E-commerce: dream and reality He started with one basic observation: watchmakers and their representatives have not yet managed to agree on how to proceed online. The former have massively launched their own e-commerce platforms, while the latter, who legitimately demand a form of exclusivity in the territory they cover, are often prevented from switching to online sales. Another observation nourished the reflection around Troverie: that of the current mismatch between the expectations of the final customers, who, according to the study carried out by Fred Levin, would favour an “official” system of online sales, and the reality of sales, which remains dominated by the “brick-
and-mortar” and where the official online circuits represent barely 1% of the total, compared to 18% for unauthorized platforms. Troverie, which has just been launched, aims to reconcile brands with their retailers and customers’ new expectations. The sales platform intends to create online opportunity, in particular for regional or local retailers which constitute the basic element of the watch distribution chain in the United States. Often in family hands, many have had to close their doors in recent years, faced with the takeover by brands of their distribution channels and competition from the web.
All rights reserved
An expert of the American watch retail network has come up with a system where brands and representatives could finally cooperate in terms of online sales. The result is Troverie, a platform that puts the local and regional retailer back at the centre of the e-commerce game. Major brands have joined the adventure, which could be a precursor of what will be done tomorrow on a global scale.
Fred Levin, the founder of Troverie
Troverie works with 16 brands in all price ranges – from Hamilton to Breguet – and retailers in over 50 cities. el of their choice among the watches offered on the platform. Then they decide whether they want to receive it online or pick it up at a partner retailer’s boutique. Only then do they enter their address and the partner in question is displayed. Obviously, the network is still under construction. For example, when testing on the platform, it is currently impossible to find a Nomos Club Campus model in Miami - but in
Critical mass The official Troverie site is thus only the visible part of the system... However, brands are rather capricious when it comes to preserving their image and their “universe” on-
“New technologies allow us to analyse and use it very efficiently, but we also need the trust of our partners to access the data.”
The omnichannel model Those which have resisted this wave of reorganization nevertheless appear solid. Troverie is therefore addressed at this local and regional “elite” of the American watchmaking network (see the list of partner retailers here), and not at large national chains like Tourneau or Tiffany & Co, which generally already have their e-business platforms. Troverie functions as an “omnichannel” networking of retailers’ resources, all the while being authorized by the partner brands (see the list of watchmakers which have joined the platform in the following chart). The customer will first look for the mod-
perhaps the most important stumbling block, up to now, between watchmakers and their retailers. They often end up feeding the famous “parallel markets”. The system requires more transparency, hence, for better stock management. “We give retailers the opportunity to join our system via their e-commerce which they can extend, via our platform or via both channels. Once implemented, the system can integrate with any retailer or brand site. What is really important is that when a customer searches on Google, they immediately come across sales platforms authorized by the brands, instead of players operating on the grey market."
New York, yes. Over time, the offer will grow. Troverie currently works with 16 brands in all price ranges – from Hamilton to Breguet – and retailers in over 50 cities. Fred Levin states: "Our platform will offer a solution to a number of current problems: the grey market, the lack of online connection with the new end-customer and the situation of many independent retailers who, for the most part, do not have the authorization of the brands they represent to develop ecommerce.”
ity to buy on their own terms, in store or online.” Orders are not allocated solely according to geographical criteria. Indeed, the allocation system works on the basis of an algorithm that also takes into account factors such as service level or stock availability. “We evaluate what retailers are doing, including through consumer surveys. It’s all about the quality of the data we collect – new technologies allow us to analyse and use it very efficiently, but we also need the trust of our partners to access the data.”
Solving several complex equations
Towards more transparency?
The expert continues: “As far as brands are concerned, they seek to reproduce online a form of luxury experience that can be found in their stores; but they are not sure how to proceed. As far as retailers are concerned, they are in a situation where they have exclusivities in given territories, while e-commerce is global. As for the customers, they wish to have the possibil-
The word is out: restore confidence where, until now, suspicion has reigned supreme. This implies a new level of transparency between brands and retailers. In this sense, the Troverie project is disruptive, as it rests on the goodwill of all its actors, involving a real change of culture. In particular, technology makes it possible to track the location of inventories very precisely –
line. How can they be kept satisfied? “That is an important point, indeed. We have tried to design a platform that meets the design requirements of brands, in order to offer a true luxury online experience. Of course, brands have their own graphic environment. We work closely with them to find the best possible balance." The Troverie business model is based on a fixed and variable commission. The start-up needs now to convince more brands and retailers to join the network in order to offer the most complete coverage possible both of the American territory and of the watch landscape. This is the great strength of giants like Amazon, which have so far taken advantage of a form of “universal digital coverage” to swallow any competition... but which, by buying up supermarket chains, are now also speaking in favour of the omnichannel model, seeking the best balance between presence in the physical and virtual worlds. We could also call it omnipresence! *Before launching Troverie, Fred Levin founded LGI Network, a company specialized in market research on the jewellery and watch industries in the United States. In 2010, he sold the company to the NPD Group and continued to lead it until his departure this year to start Troverie.
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Watchfinder: a turning point for the pre-owned watch market
On June 1st, Richemont announced the acquisition of 100% of the British pre-owned watch reseller Watchfinder.co.uk. Launched just over 15 years ago and employing some 200 people, the platform has established itself as one of the largest players in the preowned field, with several special features that distinguish it from other giants in the sector such as Chrono24 or Chronext: it has eight stores in the UK and, significantly, a service centre in Maidstone, ap-
Watchfinder has succeeded in generating a form of recognition from established brands, in addition to choosing a strategy combining bricks and clicks, the famous “omnichannel” model.
proved by brands such as Omega, IWC, Cartier, Audemars Piguet and Officine Panerai. Its turnover exceeds 100 million francs. Online and offline, Watchfinder has managed to generate a form of recognition from established brands, in addition to choosing a strategy combining bricks and clicks, the famous “omnichannel” model that is on everyone’s lips in the industry. This was the case despite the fact that the parallel market for pre-owned watches was and still is seen mainly as an outlet for unsold stock, discreetly supplied by retailers. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
The beginning of a new era The acquisition of Watchfinder by Richemont is therefore a turning point for the pre-owned market, which is now entering the official orbit of watch brands. The watch is an ideal object for this type of market, and all the signs point to it getting bigger. Much bigger. In ad-
dition to collectors, it is also a meeting place for investors and semi-official dealers. For the industry, it’s now time for them to “clean their windows”. This is only the beginning of a great clean-up, which will no doubt bring with it many acquisitions and mergers. The pre-owned market is on the move, as shown by the recent installation of WatchBox in Switzerland or Chrono24’s desire to forge partnerships with brands. This echoes the vintage wave, which sees the old and the new markets becoming one. Several other signals confirm this turning point and the gradual legitimisation of the second-hand watch market, a situation that has long been the case in the automotive sector. As Johann Rupert,
The disruption caused by the internet did not benefit the new watch as much as the pre-owned watch. The market only validates this new reality. President of Richemont, commented when he announced the acquisition of Watchfinder, this is “a complementary, growing and still relatively unstructured segment of the industry.” It should also be noted that his son, Anton Rupert Jr., has been appointed as a director of Watchfinder.
At Audemars Piguet, FrançoisHenry Bennahmias has already announced that the brand will launch a second-hand operation this year. And this also applies to small brands... and the media. MB&F has just launched its own second-hand activity. And a good portion of the specialised media in watchmaking, such as Hodinkee and Revolution, are also turning into second-hand platforms. The disruption caused by the internet has not so much benefited the new watch market as it has second-hand watch sales. The market only validates this new reality. The acquisition of Watchfinder turns Richemont into one of the biggest second-hand Rolex dealers.
“We quickly realised that no one wanted to talk about trade-ins. It has become the heart of our The second-hand market is a col- business.”
Pre-owned or never worn?
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By Serge Maillard
All rights reserved
The pre-owned watch is the “next big thing” for the watch industry. The takeover of the British second-hand watch platform by the Richemont group legitimises a market that is still largely outside the official segment, and was for a long time considered part of the parallel economy. Stunned by the explosion of demand for second-hand watches, the brands want to regain control of operations. And there will also be a golden opportunity to revalue their (considerable) unsold stocks. This is the first phase.
lector’s paradise, but the reality is that a majority of watches sold through this medium are almost or completely new. In addition to “optimisation” of inventory management and better control of brand identity, the acquisition of a dedicated platform thus also gives watch companies the possibility of reaching customers who would never set foot in a store. Within Richemont, Vacheron Constantin already has its preowned specialist service. As for other major players, Georges Kern recently stressed to Fratello Watches that there was an “urgent need to structure the secondary market, now totally dominated by the grey market.”
In an interview with the Financial Times, Watchfinder’s co-founder Lloyd Amsdon explained how he had simply capitalised on the conclusions he had drawn running a pre-owned website he first launched in the automotive sector: “I saw how second-hand Ferraris and Porsches were sold by the dealer network. The similarities with watchmaking were numerous. (...) We quickly realised that no one wanted to talk about trade-ins. It has become the heart of our business.” History is often nothing but recycling... both watches and ideas!
THE MYTHS OF COMMERCE
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What the heck does that damn consumer want? We are at a turning point in the history of retail. Many youngsters propose new models they deem “customer-focused” in the digital age. But their focus has probably never been harder to grasp. How about a seamless customer journey? By Andreas Felsl
I have finally decided to start writing about what keeps my brain busy. And that’s commerce: specifically in the realm of consumer goods. Typically, commerce involves someone who makes a product – called the brand manufacturer – plus their suppliers, and someone who wants to buy that product, for his or her personal wellbeing. This person is called the consumer.
Because investors see Amazon’s stock continuing to rise, they worry they might lose out on the next big thing, and dump wads of money into sketchy e-commerce projects. In between the maker and the consumer is a multitude of people trying to bring these two parties together. Of course, this service provided by intermediaries is not free; these people believe they add something that increases the likelihood that a product can find a customer. To become part of that process, some of the intermediaries invest some of their resources (time and money) into the product, betting on its future sale. And they do this because they believe they can make a profit from this transaction, somewhere between supply and demand. Most of them do this to make a living, or perhaps even to get rich. This process, called retailing or trade, seems to have been around for as long as people have been talking to other people. Sometime around 3000 BC, the emergence of what we today call money helped to make this trade between parties more comparable.
Sketchy e-commerce projects Trade, or retailing of consumer goods, constitutes perhaps the greatest proportion of human economic activity, which is why it’s
worth gaining a better understanding of how it works. That’s particularly the case at a time when many are predicting the demise of the corner store, the fall of the mall, and city centres where nobody will be able to buy anything without having it shipped from a central warehouse. Honestly… that’s not a nice outlook, and we should think hard about whether we can do better than that! Not infrequently, such bold predictions come from some 30-year-old computer whizz kid, who perhaps successfully talked some investors into betting on his e-commerce business. And because these investors see Amazon’s stock continuing to rise, they worry they might lose out on the next big thing, and dump wads of money into sketchy e-commerce projects. These kids tell everybody that they are customer focused and that they know exactly what the consumer wants. Often, it turns out that the underlying business model’s primary goal was to get investors’ money, and that the customer wasn’t interested in that revolutionary new idea after all.
The fear of friction Since so many of these businesses are based on the assumption that their young entrepreneurs, with their rich life experience, know exactly what the future consumer out there wants, in order to look better, some of the reasoning will be justified by a clutch of survey monkey statistics, creatively interpreted, accompanied by glossy business plans. Nowadays, the smartphones in our pockets allow us to browse the world of consumption 24/7. Why don´t we just ask ourselves what we the consumers want, when it comes to shopping? It’s a simple enough question, isn´t it? The answer is that, in the process of buying stuff, we don’t want any friction. And this high expectation cannot be reduced to a parcel being shipped to my doorstep within a few hours after I pressed the checkout button on my phone. Especially when I find out that I might have chosen the wrong thing. Because all the AR and VR stuff provid-
ed by the e-commerce community cannot yet replace the feeling of my fingertips, the ability of my nose and the unrivalled skills of my eyes to accurately judge the shape and colour of an object.
All the AR and VR stuff provided by the e-commerce community cannot yet replace the feeling of my fingertips. Having to pack that stuff up and send it back is friction par excellence… and that’s not even going into the cost for the brand manufacturer of handling all that, and the trucks and planes circling our planet producing CO2, and millions of tonnes of wasted packaging material.
Buy wherever, whenever, whatever But that’s not the only uncomfortable feeling which is slowly creeping into our lives. There’s also the idea, touted by some e-commerce fortune tellers, that someday we may no longer be able to walk into town to look around the shops, and instantly take what we want to buy. And it’s not just about buying; it’s about observing the economic activity performed by people who just want to make a living, who make up a large part of our global population. All these people should be banished to warehouses or deliv-
ery trucks, and be forced to actually ship the goods that we are being presented with in polished online shops or bloodless showrooms. I somehow doubt that this is what we consumers really expect. Isn´t it about having the freedom of choice to buy wherever, whenever, whatever and from whomever we prefer to, without having to worry that we paid too much? About paying a fair price? From our viewpoint as consumers, this seems to be a simple and logical thing. But for the manufacturers, the trade and retail community, the concept of creating a seamless customer journey for us, in which we still have freedom of choice while respecting the needs and expectations of parties involved during a sale and its supply chain, seems to be a herculean task.
For the manufacturers, the concept of creating a seamless customer journey seems to be a herculean task. Many experts proclaim e-commerce (or more precisely, “online shopping”) to be the holy grail, offering the best possible shopping experience. Personally, I have nothing against online shopping at all, but, according to my and many other people’s expectations, it will take much more than that. The pinnacle of e-commerce perfection may well be a state of “omnichannel retailing”. And because
the nature of omnichannel is that all available commerce channels are blended into one unified and seamless shopping landscape, it is important to understand these intertwined channels and retail systems. And since each channel comes with its own baggage of myths, as well as success stories, I decided to name my first “Pentalogy” on this elaborate topic “The Myths of Commerce”. As always… just a snapshot of a pretty complex matter.
Andreas Felsl – creator and thinking brain behind BrandCloud Andreas Felsl has founded, built and run companies in the world of mechanical watches, sporting goods and the software industry. He has among others founded the watch brand Horage. With his new project BrandCloud, he now works hard on answering the “28-trilliondollar” question of how to reach the state of Omnichannel-Retail. A state in which there is no difference between online and offline commerce, relieving us from today’s shopping paranoia caused by commerce out of control.
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The quirkiest alarm clocks The most ignored, despised, or at least forgotten timepiece is the humble but essential alarm clock – probably because it is also a totally pragmatic object devoid of all romanticism and secretly detested by one and all. Alarm clocks also have the knack of instilling a hint of guilt into us every morning – it’s time to get up!
er you’re just pulling a face or truly smiling. So my advice is to let it ring and freshen up first. Then say cheese.
Muscle power But there are more physical solutions too, such as these dumbbells H from Gadgetsandgear.com, which have to be raised not once, but thirty times to reduce them to silence. Now there’s progress – doing your workout before you’re even awake.
By Pierre Maillard
During the course of history, people have dreamed of a thousand and one highly inventive ways of waking themselves up. Think of Salvador Dali who, when not painting melting watches, demonstrated how Benedictine monks managed to cat-nap without falling into complete oblivion. They held a large key above a plate. If ever they dropped off, the clatter of the key on the pottery called them immediately back to order. It was these same monks who invented the graduated candle that showed the time of night as they melted.
Brain power C
Are you more brain than brawn? Then opt for the IQ Clock I, which won’t stop ringing until you’ve solved a different brainteaser every morning. For those who feel the need to check their IQ immediately upon waking. For the others, there’s a safety exit: press the button –devilishly difficult to find in the dark – for a full 30 seconds. You choose.
The sound barrier But in this brave new 21st century with its keen appetite for technological solutions, we have – almost literally – broken the sound barrier. This is the case of the Sonic Bomb B, for example, sold on walmart. com, which emits an ear-shattering 113db, the equivalent of a chainsaw or a major country-rock festival. Reserved for chainsaw professionals and the hungover. But if even that is not enough, you can add a few appendages, such as flashing lights that no amount of eye-screwing will keep out, or even a special unit that will shake the bed.
Lowering our sights, so to speak, another alternative is the laser gun alarm clock J. Point the laser at the target. When you touch the centre, the clock lights up – then shuts up. Distributed by Amazon. Sells with a discount for members of the NRA. E
Lost in space
Bacon & coffee If you prefer coffee aromas to vibrations, combined – why not? – with the smell of grilling bacon, all you need is a two-way plug for two different alarm clocks: Oscar Meyer
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Ring ring There are gentler, more "romantic” solutions, so to speak. Such as this alarm for two C, by Ring!!Ring!!. Example: one of you has to get up at 7.30am, the other at 9.30am. How to get solve this dilemma? The answer is two different “vibrations”, each of which buzzes one without disturbing the other. For lovers of mild sensations. Smart bracelets provided. (Alternatively, rings).
has developed a cartridge that you plug into your smartphone D and synchronises to your alarm clock, then, at the designated time, releases a strong smell of grilled bacon. “Incredibly powerful” says the inventor. The Barisieur Coffee Brewing Alarm System E takes charge of the coffee – “freshly ground” – by supplying your statutory dose of caffeine, aroma included. The only downside is that it takes up quite of bit of space! Where are you going to put the bacon?
Waking is a gift Feeling guilty? Do you feel bad about grouching first thing in the morning when so many people are suffering in this world? Then this alarm is for you. Going by the name of Snuznluz F, it is connected to the Internet so that each time you press the Snooze button to sleep another five minutes, you automatically make a donation to the charity of your choice (for example, Dormice Anonymous). Not recommend-
ed for those who have real difficulties getting up in the morning. They might be in for a shock.
Cheesy smile Yankodesign.com offers a wake-up app G that I personally feel poses a problem. To end the unbearable racket of the ring tone, you have to smile into the eyes of the emoticon that pops up on your smartphone. Thanks to its face recognition tools, it is capable of recognising wheth-
The list seems endless. Another example we might cite is the Clocky Rolly K, which runs all over the room on its two all-terrain wheels. Pursue and hit to subdue it to silence. Even worse is this irritating flycum-drone L found on muddlex. com, which flies all around the room. You have to corner it, at the risk of gaining a few bruises in the process, then replace it in its ugly little nest that resembles an eggboiler from the Soviet period. Neovintage look, high tech pretensions.
Half-closed shutters But for the nostalgic or lucky ones among you, there is also that simple glow behind half-closed shutters that gradually intensifies and tells you, gently, that it’s time you were getting up. And that you’re back in the real world.
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No price bubble for the Rolex Bubble Back
In 1933, the engineers at Rolex modified the Oyster case back by giving it a distinctive, rounder, more chubby shape. This was aimed at making room for the newly patented and revolutionary rotor that transformed manually wound watches into automatic ones. By Lorenzo Maillard
Origins At the end of the 1920s, the race to create an automatic powered movement was raging among watch manufacturers. In 1931, the brand with the crown logo created the so called “Auto-Rotor”, based on a model produced by Aegler, a calibre manufacturer for Rolex (bought back by the brand in 1930). The movement pioneered what later became the automatic winding system as we know it today. By adding to their manual movement a winding mass capable of rotating in a 360° arc both clockwise and counter-clockwise, the engineers had found a simpler, more robust and reliable solution than the “bumper” movements in contemporary use. Although they were highly regarded and sought-after by Rolex collectors from the 70s to the 90s, Bubble Backs are largely neglected today in favour of sportier models of the brand such as the Daytona, Submariner or Explorer. However, Japanese collectors are still on the hunt for such timepieces and, as always, their sharp and tasteful eye is once again right. Bubble Backs are indeed reminiscent of a particular era in watchmaking (1930s-1940s) when art deco design, combined with the purest and most elegant shapes, formed the cornerstones of this majestic period for watches.
Italian collectors are also tracking down timepieces born during the two most interesting decades of watchmaking, in terms of design purity and audacity. They like to call these Bubble Backs “Ovetto” or “little egg” in Italian, referring to the odd rounded shape of the redesigned Oyster case. For more than twenty years, the Rolex Bubble Backs were the bestselling models of the brand, and became the foundations of what Rolex watches were known for: elegant yet robust daily beaters, leaving a true legacy cherished by their more dressy offspring, the Datejust and Day-date.
Designs and versions Given that “Bubble Back” was just a nickname for various references of Oyster Perpetual with a rounded case back, many dial and movement variations exist on the market. In the same way, the highly influential and aesthetic Art Deco style can be seen in the different dial combinations found on Rolexes of this era. Some of them have impressive sector dials, while others were designed with a mix of Roman and Arabic numerals, also referred to as the Californian dial. The same goes for the hands; some used the overly famous Mercedes/ rising star hand, while others came with more subtle ones.
The 30s/40s were a testing ground for design and originality; the sheer freedom and willingness to experiment, along with a certain futuristic imagination, led to some incredibly beautiful creations that are still today regarded by most as the pure definition of style. Nonetheless, when we talk of Bubble Backs, we consider every automatic/perpetual Rolex watch, built around the famous Oyster case and the screw-down crown.
For more than twenty years, the Rolex Bubble Backs were the bestselling models of the brand, and became the foundations of what Rolex watches were known for. Because they were incredibly tough for their day, thanks to their case construction and breakthrough water resistance, as well as being extremely popular, these timepieces can still be found in relatively good condition for the old grandmas that they are (approaching the 90-year mark). Once again, calibres can also vary slightly in terms of technical performance and features. The majority of Rolex Oyster Perpetuals came with chronometer certification, but some rare examples proudly avoid mentioning it on the dial. In my mind, the ones with the little seconds display are even more aesthetically pleasing, compared with the more contemporary central seconds hand. Bubble Backs were offered in stainless steel, but they also came in 14k or 18k yellow gold and pink gold cases, and in various sizes from
32mm to 34mm. Although small by modern-day standards, these watches still have an elegant and somehow original presence on the wrist, and aren’t in any way shockingly ridiculous to wear. Note that the latecomer 36 mm case watches, also known as jumbo Bubble Backs, are already closer to what would eventually replace the previous generations, and later become the Datejust series. A marked bezel was added to some references, and it was available in steel or rose gold. The metal piece sometimes resulted in unusual but nonetheless beautiful two-tone combinations. Complemented with a “vitello martellato” leather strap or with a Gay Frères riveted steel bracelet, these watches can be worn with practically anything. However, if you want to go one step further, I recommend you wear your Bubble Back during your next summer trip to Italy. With a linen shirt, sleeves rolled up, you will undoubtedly be mistaken for an Italian watch dealer.
Broad price range The prices of Rolex Oyster Perpetuals from that era can fluctuate enormously depending on the condition, quality of the dial, originality, features and working order. Although not really Bubble Backs, some Oyster Juniors, reserved back in the day for a younger or more feminine clientele, still capture the look and feel of their automatic big brothers, and come with a notable discount, approaching the 1,000 CHF mark. After that, for between 1,500 CHF and 2,000 CHF you could possibly find beaten up examples, but I suggest you stay away from those pieces. From 2,500 CHF to 4,000 CHF, and with a sharp eye, you can find
a good, respectable piece without too much trouble. Over the 4,000 CHF mark you can aim for the range of full gold examples, rare dial versions, retailer signed dials and, potentially, period correct steel bracelets.
What to look for Condition, condition, condition! Given that they are hard to repair, due to a lack of original furniture, I highly advise you to look for watches that look great and work great. Be alert to fake or repainted dials. Check that watches are not overly polished (rare because of the long lifespan of these models) and have the correct hands. A lot of literature exists on Bubble Backs, so do your homework and double check if the dial version you’re looking for exists somewhere else. Don’t bother about the box and papers, which are nearly impossible to find and just bump up the price. The holy grail for me would be in stainless steel with the marked bezel, sector dial, radium painted Mercedes hands, sub seconds counter and, of course, Gay Frères stainless-steel bracelet, something similar to this model:
Conclusion By establishing the two pillars for which Rolex would become renowned – the automatic movement and waterproof case – the Bubble Backs are what launched and set in motion the now most recognisable and unstoppable crown machine that is Rolex. Even today, the screw-down crown, the Oyster shaped case, the automatic movement and the Mercedes/ rising star hand still form a prominent part of Rolex’s contemporary offerings.
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Israel: in search of a new direction The centre of Tel-Aviv
In their narrow local market, Israeli retailers are counting on the rise of tourism to boost watch sales. Geopolitical tensions however jeopardise this ambition. Europa Star travelled there to get a feeling for the market in the company of two renowned local retailers. And to meet a fiercely independent Israeli watchmaker... By Serge Maillard
In the Old City of Jaffa, at the heart of the world’s oldest civilisations – among the first that ever attempted to capture the passage of time – stands the friendly workshop of Itay Noy. He carefully assembles just under 200 original watches each year. That’s right, Israel does include at least one fiercely independent watchmaker! Itay Noy is fascinated by the concept of “duality”, to which a number of his creations make reference. Beginning with the series Duality, of which each design features two sides that tell the time. The Part Time operates on a day/ night theme: the left side of the dial reveals the hours between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., when daylight dawns; while the right side of the dial takes over and comes to life at sundown. As for the Full Month, featuring Arabic or Hebrew digits, traditional hour markers are replaced by the days of the month for another different take on the traditional watchmaking codes. This independent Israeli watchmaker is never at a loss for creativity, and he also has a keen interest in the notion of “transparency”. While on the theme, we cannot resist citing the Open Mind, a memento mori that goes beyond the habitual skull to reveal what is concealed within the mind itself: in this case, the mechanical activity of the cogwheels and a continual tick-tock. And of course the wellnamed X-Ray, with a dial decorated to reflect the gear trains of the movement concealed within the depths of the timepiece for a cross between mise en abyme and a subtle unveiling... Itay Noy is certainly one of the most truly creative watchmakers of the moment, and moreover he occupies a very interesting and unusual niche for such a limited pro-
duction, at under 10,000 francs a piece. And he hopes to create a following. As an instructor at the establishment that he himself attended, the Bezalel Academy Of Art and Design Jerusalem, he attempts to encourage upcoming generations to get involved in watch design. “I don’t want to remain the only independent watch designer in Israel!” he states.
“Zero watch culture” But what, precisely, makes up the Israeli watchmaking ecosystem? With just over 80 million francs in imports last year, the Israeli watch market is situated just outside the top 30 world destinations for Swiss watches, behind Malaysia and ahead of Greece. It is therefore a medium-sized market: not insignificant, but not exactly a prized opportunity for the sales departments of Swiss watch brands. “You know, Israel is a land of refugees, and they came here penniless. When it was established, the wealthy Jews remained in the world’s capitals such as Paris, New York City and London. Moving to the desert certainly did not appeal to them! That is why there is not a major watch tradition among the people who came to live in Israel,” states Benny Padani, a true “memory keeper” of the country’s watch trade. He is in charge of a chain of nine boutiques today, and is probably the most prestigious watch retailer in Israel, particularly as a representative of Patek Philippe. He recounts a juicy anecdote from his long professional experience in perfect French (being born in Brussels): “I remember a Breitling report from the time that described Israel with one definitive sentence: ‘Zero watch culture!’ However, thanks to new information technologies, the inhabitants of Israel –
ers that more affordable watches are purchased by locals and the most expensive are bought by foreigners. “The major clients do not come from Israel. Israelis prefer to purchase their watches abroad because they are reimbursed the VAT. The irony is that foreigners tend to purchase here, and locals purchase abroad!”
No competition from own-brand boutiques
like people elsewhere on the planet – are learning an increasing amount about watches.”
Medical tourism and high-tech industry So who are the essential clients of the luxury boutiques of Israel? The situations are different for Padani – whose clientèle is predominantly foreign – and Chronotime, a retailer with one boutique in Tel Aviv and another at the prestigious King David Hotel in- Jerusalem, and which among others represents Zenith, IWC and Vacheron Constantin: “Our clientèle is about 70% Israeli,” explains its director Ro’i Aharoni. “In particular, the high-tech industry, which is currently booming in Israel, brings in a lot of clients.” Indeed, a local version of Silicon Valley (called “Silicon Wadi”) has become established in the surroundings of Tel Aviv. For example, Israeli engineers invented the USB device concept in 1999! Benny Padani is also quite familiar with this new hightech clientèle... But he insists that this generation is difficult to fathom: “Some turn towards the Apple Watch, while others do not change their consumption habits when they begin to earn a lot of money. They are very different from previous generations.” The two retailers agree on the increasing importance of retail tourism and in particular medical tourism, a prosperous field in Israel. “We often receive calls from Russia or the United States from clients who announce that they will be visiting Israel in the next month,” explains Ro’i Aharoni. “Today’s world has become a global village. And by
investing in the Israeli market, Jews abroad feel that they are supporting the country. In the long run, I believe that prices throughout the world will become equal. It is service that will make the difference.” In fact, the retailer runs a Service Centre located in City Garden in downtown Tel Aviv.
Attracting more tourists? Tourism therefore appears to be the best way to breathe new life into the watch industry in this cramped territory. With nine boutiques throughout the small country, Padani ensures a form of omnipresence: “Nine might even be too many, since the territory is not that big!” considers Benny Padani. “You especially need to be quick on your feet, ready to cover the most strategic areas. For example, Eilat is no longer a true ‘hot spot’ for watch sales.” Today, the country is attempting to attract more tourists, between Tel Aviv – the “Miami” of the Mediterranean – and Jerusalem, with its unparalleled cultural and religious legacy. For example, the first three stages of the recent Giro d’Italia were hosted in Jerusalem, with millions in sponsorship. But it all depends on the geopolitical situation. “The tourist industry has never been as great as it could be,” pursues Benny Padani. “Many people still fear coming to Israel.” Despite the arrival of low cost companies such as EasyJet, the country continues to be considered an “exotic” destination by Europeans, compared with Greece, for example. The retailer generally consid-
As you travel through the country, you get an idea of the high cost of living. “Everything is expensive in Israel,” complains Ro’i Aharoni. “We try to adapt by proposing more affordable prices for higher volumes of sales. But in my view, the general level of watch demand is unfortunately stagnating. And that has an effect on everyone. We have a Hebrew saying: ‘When it rains, everyone gets wet!’” The small Israeli market, under the influence of regional and worldwide pressure, remains a difficult terrain for watch sales, according to the retailer: “Clients have various demands. Even the presence of the Maltese Cross on a Vacheron Constantin dial can pose a problem for some.” The limited space of the territory could, however, be an advantage for well-established retailers, since they do not have to deal with the forceful confrontation of ownbrand boutiques on their territory, unlike their foreign counterparts: “Even though business is sensitive overall, because retailers’ profit margins are diminishing, we have not had to face that particular phenomenon,” confirms Benny Padani. “But the limited space of the territory is also a limitation in terms of sales: moving 20 to 30 pieces more or less per year can make the difference.” The web is also changing the daily lives of watch retailers, in Israel as elsewhere in the world. At Chronotime, Ro’i Aharoni launched the Chronoclub, a digital watch club that enables him to gather precious information on the clientèle. “We have to use all the means available to us. But we do not try to ‘educate’ them or reinvent the wheel! In the end, there are two approaches: you can do it all from your iPhone, but you’ll lack a human touch; or you can come speak with a connoisseur. My impression is that people do seek out information on the internet, but they still want to come and see the watch in the store before purchasing.”
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