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ER 4.1 9|


78 TH

$1 4











*Swiss Official Chronometer Testing Institute



Caliber 12.1. Chronometer-certified by the COSC*. 70-hour power reserve. Highly resistant ceramic watch. Swiss made. 5-year warranty.






ASIA: CONFIRMATION Europa Star 6/1992




s we wrote in 1992, facing US recession and European stagnation, “a real Chinese might is emerging that is supposed to thwart both Japanese power and non-Chinese Asian ‘tigers’ (Thailand, Korea, Philippines and Vietnam)”. The statement has been confirmed today, particularly as far as the watch industry is concerned. Swiss watchmakers have benefited fully from the In this issue’s feature opening of the Chinese market since the country’s accession to the on China, we provide WTO in 2001 – to the point of being among the luxury segments that keys to understanding are most dependent on Chinese consumers’ purchases. Even export the main upheavals figures to France, the United Kingdom, Japan or the United States inaffecting the nation clude a significant proportion of final sales to Chinese visitors. What explains the country’s “watch fever” over the last two decades? of 5G hyperIn this issue’s feature on China, we attempt to provide keys to under- consumerism, and standing the main upheavals affecting the nation of 5G hyper-consumtheir significance for erism, and their significance for the watch industry. As we saw between 2014 and 2017, when China sneezes, the Swiss the watch industry. watch industry catches a cold. Just as exports were returning to Hong Kong, the recent political unrest, which is casting doubt over the sustainability of the “one country, two systems” concept, is weakening the duty-free watch hub. And in mainland China, just as Swiss watchmakers were beginning to adapt to the new “post-gifting” situation, a trade dispute with the United States is casting its own dark shadows. Among the various articles of this report, we were also given exclusive access to the main company fighting counterfeiting in the country, and were able to follow in their tracks as they hunted down fake watches. Today, China is the world’s largest producer of both authentic and fake watches, as well as the biggest consumer of Swiss luxury watches. Watch purchases are increasingly repatriated on domestic soil. The future of the industry will depend on whatever happens there.



Arceau, L’heure de la lune Time flies to the moon.

GLOBAL EDITION | CHAPTER 4.2019 LONGINES HERITAGE CLASSIC Mechanical self-winding movement Calibre L893 (ETA A31.501) 11½ lignes, 27 rubies, 25,200 vibrations per hour Power reserve: 64 hours. Hours, minutes, small second at 6 o’clock. ø 38.50 mm, stainless steel. Silvered two-zone dial. Painted Arabic numerals and markers. Blued steel hands. Water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres). Crystal sapphire with multi-layer anti-reflective coating. Black leather and blue denim effect leather with pin buckle or blue leather and anthracite denim effect leather with pin buckle.







COMPAGNIE DES MONTRES LONGINES FRANCILLON SA Rue des Noyettes 8, Case postale 298 CH-2610 Saint-Imier, Switzerland Tel: +41 32 942 54 25








SUBSCRIBE TO EUROPA STAR | SUBSCRIBE TO THE WEEKLY NEWSLETTER | CHAIRMAN Philippe Maillard PUBLISHER Serge Maillard EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Pierre Maillard CONCEPTION & DESIGN Serge Maillard, Pierre Maillard, Alexis Sgouridis DIGITAL EDITOR Ashkhen Longet PUBLISHING / MARKETING / CIRCULATION Nathalie Glattfelder, Marianne Bechtel/Bab-Consulting, Jocelyne Bailly, Véronique Zorzi BUSINESS MANAGER Catherine Giloux MAGAZINES Europa Star Global | USA | China | Première (Switzerland) | Bulletin d’informations | Eurotec EUROPA STAR HBM SA Route des Acacias 25, CH-1227 Geneva - Switzerland, Tel +41 22 307 78 37, Fax +41 22 300 37 48, Copyright 2019 EUROPA STAR | All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of Europa Star HBM SA Geneva. The statements and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily Europa Star. ISSN 2504-4591 | |


Europa Star is offering exclusive access to over 60 years of magazine archives. The Club, aimed at both watch professionals and watch lovers, grants access to thousands of pages from more than 350 magazine issues dating back to 1959. Here is what some of the media have to say about the initiative: “The archive offers a lot more than just casual browsing pleasure. One of the most powerful features is search – Europa Star has implemented some excellent optical character recognition technology. The yearly cost is less than the cost of a strap, and to anyone seriously interested in watches and the history of watchmaking, it's really a no-brainer.” – Hodinkee “Europa Star has been the trailblazing and specialised industry press, producing global coverage professionally since 1927. For collectors, the ES digital library is a treasure trove of coverage and records of watches dating as far back as 60 years ago. Any vintage and history lovers may easily have a field day roaming around the archives.” – Fratello Watches

“It represents a fascinating and invaluable source of information to dig, browse and read thousands of articles about your favourite brands and watches or to shed light on some of the major evolutions of the watchmaking industry.” – Monochrome




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Cover Story



The renewed and growing interest in timepieces from the golden era of what we now call “vintage” watches also signals a return to the intrinsic, essential values of watchmaking, which are the precise display of the current hour, minute and second. Bringing these vintage models back to life is not always as easy as it might appear, but Longines holds a winning hand. Its trump cards are continuity, stability and a vast heritage that has been assiduously kept alive.


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LONGINES HERITAGE CLASSIC REFERENCE NUMBERS: L2.828.4.73.0, L2.828.4.73.2 CALIBRE: Mechanical self-winding movement, Calibre L893 (ETA A31.501). 11½ lignes, 27 rubies, 25,200 vibrations per hour POWER RESERVE: 64 hours FUNCTIONS: Hours, minutes, small second at 6 o’clock CASE: Round, ø 38.50 mm, stainless steel DIAL: Silvered, 2 zones, painted Arabic numerals and markers HANDS: Blued steel WATER RESISTANCE: Up to 3 bar (30 metres) CRYSTAL: Sapphire with multi-layer anti-reflective coating STRAP: Black leather and nato blue denim effect leather with pin buckle, blue leather and nato anthracite denim effect leather with pin buckle PRICE: CHF 2,000 (plus applicable taxes) 17


1935 Ref. 3818


n August 2017, the Longines Museum acquired a small Longines watch. It was made of steel, with a diameter of 32.5 mm. It featured what is known as a “sector” dial, along with a generously proportioned small second subdial at 6 o’clock. The watch sowed a seed, and the brand’s Product Department was quickly alerted. They came to take a look. The watch in question, serial number 5.239.852, dates back to 1929. According to the company ledgers, it was sold on 18 August 1934 to a firm by the name of Ostersetzer, at the time Longines’ agent for Italy. Inside beat the legendary calibre 12.68Z. It was love at first sight.

Sector dials Watches with these kinds of segmented dials have become highly sought-after by collectors. Longines, whose busy Brand Heritage Department fields around fifty information requests each day on average (see our article “A glimpse into Longines’ heritage and patrimony” from December 2018 on, has noted an increasing number of requests for pieces like this. After conducting some research in their own archives, staff exhumed several other references with sector dials in black or white, belonging to wristwatches and pocket watches from the 1930's, which gives an idea of how popular these watches were. 18

1936 Ref. 3454

1939 Ref. 3916

Many of these timepieces were equipped with the same calibre, the 12.68Z, which gives some idea of the rational approach to movement production taken by Longines from the late 1920's, when the 12.68Z was produced on a large scale. It is a very precise calibre that has proven to be extremely reliable. Its timekeeping qualities ensure a rigorous and precise time display, which is shown off to great advantage against the precision markings of a sector dial. Completely devoid of extraneous detail, their sole ornament being the markings required to measure time, these dials with their ultra-precise, minimalistic geometrical design purpose-engineered to showcase the chronometric functions of the watch were very popular between the wars.

A 1935 sectorial pocket-watch

A worthy setting for an exclusive new movement The powers that be decided that the 1934 piece, with its handsome, architectural, symmetrical sector dial, would be the ideal vehicle for a new movement Longines was then working on in collaboration with ETA. Its codename was the A31.501 (Longines L 893.5), and it was being developed exclusively for Longines. It’s a very powerful automatic 11.5-ligne movement, measuring 26.20 mm in diameter and 4.60 mm thick in the centre, with a generous power reserve of at least 64 hours, and a silicon balance spring. It doesn’t have a date function, but what it does have – at the specific request of Longines – is a particularly generous space between the two axes of the hours and minutes, and the second hands. This configuration meant that Longines could give their watches an appearance as close as possible to that of certain vintage models. The 1934 watch was clearly the ideal home for this new movement.

A vast heritage to explore Longines’ collections are divided into five categories: Elegance (quartz and mechanical), Classic, Tradition (99.6% mechanical, including the COSCcertified Record range), Sport (including the Conquest V.H.P.), Heritage. Longines didn’t wait for the vintage wave to peak before diving into its own historical archives. On the strength of its impressive heritage, meticulously collected, documented and archived for over 150 years, Longines made its first incursion with the 1987 reissue of the famous and historic Lindbergh, dating from 1927. This historical approach is greatly aided by the fact that Longines has occupied the same building for over a century and a half (removals often lead to archives being lost, as we all know), that the company has enjoyed remarkable stability in terms of management, and finally that Walter von Känel, who joined Longines in 1969 and has run the company since 1988, is well known for his dedication to history and museography.

The L 893.5 Calibre

From the outset, the philosophy of Longines has been to replicate or reissue certain historic pieces using modern technology, while remaining as faithful as possible to the original piece. For the last five years, on the strength of the rising popularity of and demand for historic timepieces, this branch of the company has become more tightly structured, regularly producing both limited-edition anniversary pieces and models destined to join the current collection. While, by Longines’ own admission, this segment accounts for only a small proportion of its revenues, it contributes substantially to the historic and heritage prestige of the brand, making it attractive to collectors, raising its social media profile and bringing it to the attention of the most discerning aficionados who, as we know, are often more purist about such things than the brands themselves.

“I love time-only watches. To me, a good time-only watch should exude practicality and beauty at the same time – something that the Longines Sector Dial does so well. There’s an air of effortlessness to it. And I like that it’s a nuanced, modern reinterpretation: it manages to stay true to its roots, while moving forward.” – Esra Gurmen, journalist and watch collector



In pursuit of perfect balance

Effortless perfection

Reworking and redesigning a historic model while preserving the spirit of its creation is by no means an easy task. Moving from a diameter of 32.5 mm to a diameter of 38.5 mm, while retaining the aesthetic balance of the piece, is far more than just a matter of simple arithmetic. You also have to achieve the correct compromise, one that satisfies both absolute purists who swear by the original watch, and aficionados for whom the diameter of the 1934 model is too small to wear today. It’s all about the relationship between the diameter and the thickness, and the geometrical balance of the dial. It’s an extraordinarily delicate task because, within the very restricted area of a watch, each millimetre, each fraction of a millimetre, counts. The smallest error can upset the balance of the whole. Here’s one very simple concrete example: the figure 6 on the dial. The position of the big small seconds in the lower half of the dial partially occludes the 6. For technical reasons to do with the distance between the axes of the hands, as well as aesthetic considerations of harmony regarding the watch as a whole, Longines’ designers must have spent a long time on this micro-detail before they found the ideal solution. In fact, compared with the original, the 6 on the updated piece is slightly more visible. Only very slightly, but this is the kind of detail that can determine the success or failure of the entire project.

Going on first impressions, the new Longines Heritage Classic is a resounding success. It stands apart from many recent (more or less well-conceived) vintage models because of the sheer effortless simplicity of its design. “What is a watch?” it asks. “It’s this,” it seems to reply, with modest but implacable self-assurance. A watch is the hour, minute and second, precisely and scientifically displayed. It is a small but faithful time machine, housed in a case that is equally simple, discreet and elegant. It could come off as clinical, but in fact it’s quite the opposite. Its simplicity, confidence and unapologetic rigour exude a charm all their own. It seems to say: this is the watch, in the sense that it embodies the essential functionality and timeless form of an object designed to tell the time as precisely as possible. And its form is perfectly appropriate: it’s a watch that dates back to 1934, a watch that doesn’t hide its age, and yet is ageless. As so many people say: “I miss the days of the ‘watch for life’.” Well, maybe this is it.

“When I first laid eyes on the new Sector Dial timepiece, I was rather taken aback. This new piece has the perfect mix of yesteryear and modernity of today. The inspiration of the case design comes from an era where these watches weren’t just mere time telling devices but actual tools and the simplicity in its design lends to its utilitarian purpose. The balance of the sector dial is pure genius, with not only contrasting tones but contrasting textures of smooth and brushed. When I looked closer and saw the slightly raised applied numerals, it was rather pleasing to see that Longines had added this detail…” – Chris Beccan, journalist and watch and whisky collector

“The history and heritage of Longines is something that astounds me, the longevity of it. Having existed, producing watches through some of the most poignant moments in time, there’s something so special about that. I love collecting these watches for that very reason, you’re collecting small pieces of history. The Longines Heritage Classic is something that remains aesthetically true to the brand’s past, bringing it to the modern day collector. The fact that each of these historically relevant pieces will now go and form new stories with people around the world is exciting to me; that’s really what this hobby is all about.” – Matt Hanson, collector

Beyond nostalgia But, if anything is to last, it has to be adaptable. Today, we expect a watch to be water-resistant (this one is, to 30 m), precise and reliable (guaranteed by its high-powered exclusive movement). But while the shape might be identical, perceptions have changed. In the translation from 1934 to 2019, its size has expanded from 32.5 mm to 38.5 mm. The “maximum” size for a watch like this, according to the purists, is also a size that will likely exert an appeal well beyond its original target audience of men, particularly in some markets.

The eye is inexorably drawn to the two zones of its silvered dial, its blued steel hands, its painted Arabic numerals and markers, its discreetly boxy sapphire crystal; the viewer is charmed by its elegant, handsome and refined overall appearance, and its beautifully clear display. The Sector Dial, to use its nickname, comes supplied with two different straps that can be changed easily using the small tool that is also included in the presentation case. There’s a blue Nubuk or matt black calfskin two-stitch strap, and a blue or anthracite leather “denim effect” NATO strap, all with pin buckle. The Longines Heritage Classic will be go on sale worldwide since October. In addition to its intrinsic qualities, and the excellent response it provides to a market still riding high on the vintage wave, its CHF 2,000 price tag practically guarantees a very favourable reception. 21

22 22






In the following pages, you will discover a 360° watch report on the watch industry in China. We investigate the power of new e-commerce platforms in Shanghai, we follow a field operation against counterfeiting in Guangzhou, we provide a round-up of the watch distribution networks based in Hong Kong, we discover the skilled artisans from Shenzhen and we recount how clocks helped European missionaries to gain entrance to the Imperial court in Beijing. From the dawn of Chinese civilisation to the emergence of Chinese millennials, this is a tale about the most important place for watches in the world, outside of Switzerland. 23






cal observation, an art reserved for the Imperial Court, than on the precise measurement of time itself, which was developed in Europe with the mechanical clock.

Watches as means of evangelisation

How did the watch achieve such an exalted status in the country? Answering this question also raises some questions about the future of this strong symbol in Chinese culture. On this fantastic journey, we meet everyone from Jesuit missionaries to Val-de-Travers artisans.

Westerners are always very curious about the reasons for the watch’s high popularity in China,” exclaims David Chang, a Beijing-based watch expert and member of the GPHG jury, when asked this question. “China is a multi-millennial civilisation, which had exchanges with the West very early on,” he continues. “Astronomical calculation was an art mastered by the scientists of the Imperial Palace long ago.” As historian Dominique Fléchon recalled in a previous edition of Europa Star, astronomy was born in China two millennia before our era and the clepsydra appeared around 500 BC, followed by water-operated astronomical clocks in the 11th century AD. But as he explained, Chinese civilisation has focused more on astronomi24

It was an Italian missionary, the Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who introduced the first chiming clocks to China, with the aim of gaining access to the Imperial Court – where there was great curiosity about these objects – and to bring his mission of evangeMatteo Ricci lisation to the heart of the Chinese power structure by persuading people of the advancement of European civilisation (a method that was later called the “indirect propagation of the faith”). In 1601, Ricci was the first European invited to the Imperial Court under Emperor Wanli, during the reign of the Ming dynasty. Following this first contact, a “Chiming Clock Office” and a “Clock Office” would appear in Beijing. In the 18th century, under the Qing dynasty, about a hundred watchmakers worked in the Forbidden City, supervised by European missionaries, where they produced imperial clocks. Why was the Chinese dynasty so interested in the chiming clocks presented by Ricci, and in Western watchmaking? “During the Qing dynasty, when exchanges between China and Europe began to increase, Chinese scholars wanted to understand the way of life of the European aristocratic elites,” says David Chang.

“And in their view, watchmaking was an important facet of Western culture, because it was a privilege of high society. Therefore, they had to master this object to better understand the West.” The development of watchmaking know-how, however, remained an art reserved for the specialised workshops of the Imperial Court, as was astronomy, the Emperor’s privilege for thousands of years in Chinese civilisation. There was no question of making it a common instrument in this immense nation, which was then essentially agricultural. The measurement of time did not have the same meaning as it did in Europe, a continent that was then just beginning its industrial revolution, which demanded production rates measured to the nearest second.

The century of the Chinese pocket watch In Beijing’s Forbidden City you can still admire some key products of Chinese imperial watchmaking, as well as a number of English, French and Swiss clocks and pocket watches that were acquired by or given to the Court during the Qing dynasty. Many are made in pairs then, as now, a very important feature of Chinese culture (“pair watches” are still very popular), because of their association with balance, integrity and harmony. All the gifts given to the Emperor were systematically presented in two symmetrical copies. A turning point in watchmaking relations between East and West occurred at "In the Chinese elite’s the beginning of the 19th century. It was view, watchmaking at that time that the Swiss pocket watch was an important experienced a boom among the Chinese elites. Europe was then starting both its facet of Western industrial domination and – a conseculture, because it quence of its military and commercial was a privilege of high might – its gradual appropriation of power in China. Switzerland, which was society. Therefore, already neutral, was more favourably they had to master received at the Chinese Imperial Court this object to better than the bellicose French or British naunderstand the West." tions, its watchmaking rivals.

Bovet Amadéo Fleurier Decorative Arts 25

The Bovet brothers from Val-de-Travers succeeded in matching their watches perfectly to the taste of the Imperial Court, and became specialists in the so-called Chinese pocket watch. Edouard Bovet left London in 1818 for Canton, where he sold four pocket watches for 10,000 francs (the equivalent of one million francs today). It marked the beginning of a specialisation. The Bovet brothers established a company dedicated to the sale in China of pocket watches manufactured in Fleurier. They acquired a form of monopoly in the 19th century, and their finely enamelled watches attracted the interest of Emperor Daoguang. Bovet’s headquarters in Fleurier was nicknamed the “Chinese Palace”! Re-launched in 2001 by Pascal Raffy, and last year’s winner of the Aiguille d’Or at the GPHG, Bovet pays tribute to its long history in China through the special Amadeo Fleurier series “Chinese Dragon”, with a miniature-painted dial.

First come, first served The fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912 was also the fall of imperial watchmaking and of the traditional Chinese calendar. It was followed by a period of unrest, the civil war and the Japanese With Western invasion. It was not until 1955, after countries stagnating, the victory of the Communist camp, and other promising that production of wristwatches began in China, under the impetus of economies having Prime Minister Zhou Enlai, who wantcollapsed or failed ed to create a national watch industry. to take off, Swiss It was from this first Chinese watch, the Wuxing model (Five Stars), that watchmaking has the startup Atelier Wen drew inspirabecome heavily tion for its contemporary creations dependent on (see page 56). The national watch comChinese buyers. pany Seagull was established in 1958 in Tianjin. Among the first Swiss watch brands distributed in Communist China, from around 1959, were Titoni (see p. 48), Enicar, Roamer and Rado. All purchases were then centralised by Beijing. A transition period followed, during which China began to open up to the Bovet Amadéo Fleurier global marketplace, culminating in WTO membership Decorative Arts 26

in 2001. The first decade of the 2000s saw a real rush on China by most luxury groups, which continues today. However, it seems that the early bird gets the worm, and the groups that established themselves first on the Chinese market pulled ahead. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the The “Swiss early presence of the Swatch Group in watchmaking China, particularly through its joint exception” will continue venture with Xinyu Hengdeli. Omega and Longines are among the leading to require careful brands on the Chinese market. nurturing in China.

After 400 years of seduction, what comes next? From the fascination of the Chinese Imperial Court for the chiming clocks of European missionaries to the proletariat’s enthusiasm for the “three things that turn” (bicycle, watch, sewing machine), over the course of more than 400 years, a unique interest has developed in China in the art of Western watchmaking. The new Chinese economic and political elites and the newly formed Chinese middle class, in search of strong status symbols since the country opened up to globalisation, fuelled the growth of the Swiss watch industry to double its size at the dawn of the new millennium. The accelerated digitisation of the Chinese way of life, coupled with a strong consumerist appetite, is the dominant feature of the contemporary watchmaking market. With Western countries stagnating, and other promising economies having collapsed or failed to take off, Swiss watchmaking has become heavily dependent on Chinese buyers. This also exposes it to sharp declines when events stir up this very specific clientele, whether it is the anti-corruption campaign of 2015 or the current events in Hong Kong, the world’s largest watch hub. Will the new Chinese generations, these digital natives who are the first to be born in a flourishing economy, remain fascinated by the beautiful but ancient art of watchmaking? The differentiating status of the Swiss watch is undoubtedly what creates its desirability today, with an ever-increasing push towards the top of the range. But the “Swiss watchmaking exception” will continue to require careful nurturing in China.

Fiyta Talent Collection 27






(source: FH)

1,336.8 2015



Europa Star 5/1998







1,786.2 351.6





45 2005
















A cornucopia of contemporary consumption: this is how we could aptly describe the Chinese market, which today combines hyper-consumption with oversupply of goods. On the e-commerce site, for example, you will find ten times more watch references than on Amazon. The platform employs 160,000 people and has 300 million registered customers, making it the second most popular online sales provider in the country after Tmall (Alibaba). Beyond this abundance of supply, it is above all the sales channel that best distinguishes the Chinese market today. Combining highly efficient logistics, instant messaging and virtual payment, Chinese platforms have already achieved the famous “friction-free” and “seamless” shopping experience that is so highly soughtafter today by luxury brands. Everything, including prestigious watches, can be purchased online, at any time, and delivered within 24 to 48 hours. Today, cash is disappearing in China, a society that has gone from Communist isolation to the ultra-connected world of 5G. The centralisation of power and the creation of national champions ensure the effective deployment of new technologies in the daily lives of Chinese people. China is now a digital, social and commercial laboratory. Some stores are already fully automated, with facial recognition in residential areas – a prospect that sets teeth on edge in the West, where television series such as Black Mirror raise the spectre of a dark future under the protection of new technologies. One tool now dominates all daily interactions: WeChat (from the Tencent group) with its one billion users. Watchmakers are now deploying there in force. This online sales ecosystem is organised around “influencers”, who reach levels of trust that no brand alone can claim. Considered more reliable than luxury brands, they encourage impulse and direct buying, titillating the desire of the new elites and the middle class (now larger than the entire American population) to catch up.

3 2


The corollary to this giant virtual consumerist network is the growing individualism of Chinese society. In the specific case of luxury goods, we should also mention that the anti-corruption campaign led by Chinese President Xi Jinping has meant the weakening of purchasing practices using “para-public” money (gifting). This has led to a major change in the consumption of watches. “As soon as you buy a watch for yourself and no longer for gifting, the reasoning changes,” says watch journalist Ryan Chen. “We want to know which brands have the best value. Because of that, watch information in China has increased considerably.” A good example is Xbiao, the largest watch database in China, which displays the price of watches. It has also led to a more critical and reasoned approach to Swiss watchmaking, even if the (not necessarily neutral) influencers remain an important factor in purchasing choices. At the same time, bloggers and influencers specialising in watches (who are still quite rare) provide more detailed information on the sector. And collectors’ clubs such as the Shanghai Watch Gang are part of this wave of market-building and education. What is still striking to an outsider is the confusion of genres on sales platforms, with dishwashing liquid offered alongside expensive watches. Accompanying the growing sophistication of the Chinese market, Tmall and are trying to design segmented luxury offers. They have recently joined forces with international partners including Yoox-Net-A-Porter (Richemont) and Farfetch respectively. The aim is now to incorporate luxury products into this Chinese digital “everyday life” ecosystem, for a more educated and individualistic clientele.


Although online shopping is gradually making inroads into the world of luxury in China, as it is all around the world, physical points of sale still represent the bulk of watch sales. A presence in China itself, beyond the fragile Hong Kong hub, is increasingly important. As such, although it has not taken the same digital approach as Richemont, the Swatch Group benefits from a pioneering omnipresence on the Chinese market, thanks among other things to the joint venture established with the Hengdeli Xinyu group. Presence on Tmall or cannot not yet beat this major asset: comprehensive coverage of the territory. Another advantage for the Biel group is that they have the benefit of establishe, qualified and experienced field teams in China itself. The same applies to Titoni. Another striking factor is the Chinese streets! The omnipresent young people display a pronounced casual streetwear style. No need to don a suit to attend a watch presentation by a luxury brand. Pablo Mauron, head of the Digital Luxury Group in China (who himself rarely wears a suit in Shanghai), is a connoisseur of the lifestyle of the country’s newer generations. “As elsewhere, they function a lot as tribes. The urban sartorial style is popular here but in general, the fashion is much more casual than in the West. I think Swiss watchmakers remain a little too formal for this market, where streetwear is very popular.” This advice is relevant not only to watch design, but also in terms of how to sell them. “China’s younger generations go to the mall first to have fun, then to buy! The entertainment dimension is very important,” continues Pablo Mauron. “Brands such as Starbucks or Nike have understood this and offer original and fun experiences on-site.” Given the size of the market, there is certainly no single strategy that will have all the answers. For Pablo Mauron, it’s “better to invest in a reduced number of key flagship stores while promoting e-commerce, rather than multiplying openings of fairly standard points of sale”. 29





“PROMOTE EDUCATION AGAINST FAKE PRODUCTS” Ryan Chen Chinese watch journalist and influencer “There are a lot of counterfeits on the Chinese internet. This is also the reason why the secondary market is less developed online: consumers are afraid of finding fake products (even though many are conscious of what they are buying). I’m trying to convince my audience on WeChat to opt for original watches. But some followers are counterfeit merchants! The most effective way to combat this phenomenon is to improve the level of watchmaking education in China and let people know more about the value of original quality products. However, in the face of increasing market sophistication, counterfeiters are also making technological progress. Before, it was enough to put the logo of a known brand on any watch. Today, reproductions are getting better and better, otherwise they no longer find buyers.”

There are two possible response to the huge Chinese grey market: join the Chinese e-commerce platforms, or not?




Walter von Känel Managing Director of Longines (interview published in Europa Star in 2018)

Piero Braga Director of Gucci Timepieces & Jewelry

“We have been Tmall’s partners since 2017. We are putting pressure on them to slow down the parallel market. The parallel market is my personal war! I recently had parallel market actors closed down in Italy, Germany and Austria. And I can tell you that it wasn’t a small volume. We recently made an extraordinary seizure of watches from the parallel market thanks to the Chinese customs agency, with whom we have very good relations. That way, we can track down the dies.”

“This segment is evolving rapidly, with the merger of and Farfetch, or Alibaba and Net-APorter. There is still a lot of uncertainty, so we are waiting to see how the situation will evolve. There are still many parallels and counterfeits on these platforms. They try to separate luxury on different platforms but the traffic there is disappointing. The right balance between quality and traffic remains to be found. For now, we have made the choice to grow in China through our own platform.”


“VERY HIGH MARKETING COST” Robin Tallendier founder of Atelier Wen “GIVE THE LOCAL TEAMS MORE POWER” Kelvin Sa and Daniel Sum Shanghai Watch Gang “A lot of foreign brands have a way of thinking that is too traditional and they don’t really understand how Chinese consumers buy watches nowadays. The problem is that they are generally managed from Switzerland, with only one team for the whole Chinese market. You have to think of China like a continent! Would you have the same team covering Spain and Russia? The challenge is to find elements that are relevant to millennials and that will be appealing in the Chinese culture. But to achieve this, you need to get the local teams more involved and give them more power.”

“PERSONAL ADVICE IS THE KEY TO THE MARKET” David Chang founder of Watchina and director of the Beijing Collectors' Association “In Europe, there are many boutiques with great credibility due to a long history. This is not the case here at all: purchasing decisions are based primarily on informal recommendations. What is most effective in China is word of mouth. Personal advice is the key to the market. That is why ‘influencers’ are so important: they act as ‘friends’ with personalised recommendations. Brand and model recognition is still at a relatively low level in China. The community of watchmaking enthusiasts is being built as we speak.”


“We are based in Hong Kong but it took us longer than expected to launch our watch brand in China. The cost of marketing is much higher than in Europe, where we have obtained good press coverage. In China, everything has a price! Western brands are partly responsible for the high price of Chinese influencers, as they have started a race for online traffic that is out of step with the reality of sales. The result of these campaigns is often disappointing because there are many fake followers.”

“CHINESE MILLENNIALS ARE ECONOMICALLY DEPENDENT” Thierry Huron watch consultant, The Mercury Project “In the generally tense context due to the trade dispute with the United States, the Chinese millennials, the main target of Swiss watchmakers, remain fragile: most are not financially autonomous and depend on the income of their parents or even grandparents.”

“THE PRICE IMBALANCE REMAINS SIGNIFICANT” William Bai Watch writer, founder of WatchTraveler “A persistent problem is that of watch price levels, which are higher than in the rest of the world. This is not only linked to taxes but to the policy of brands and their distributors, who add the tax onto the Swiss public price, and not onto the import price! The free trade agreement signed with Switzerland has brought only a few improvements. Even though Chinese will continue to buy watches abroad, customs have become much stricter. So consumption in China itself is growing too.”

E P IC X C HRONO M ES S I L IM I TED EDI TION A limited edition in partnership with the greatest modern football player, the sporty Epic X Chrono "Messi" Lionel Messi’s colors, his stylish logo and his number "10" on the dial side. On the other side is Messi’s signature on the sapphire crystal case back. Praised for his incredible precision and speed in the beautiful game and followed for his trend-setting lifestyle, Messi worked closely with Jacob & Co., giving his personal input when designing the Epic X Chrono "Messi" Limited Edition. This column-wheel chronograph comes in a 47mm titanium and ceramic, on a perforated rubber strap. Limited to 180 pieces. N e w Yo r k

48 East 57 Street, New York, New York +1.212.719.5887

F o u r S e a s o n s H o t e l D e s B e r g u e s G e n e v a 33, Quai des Bergues, 1201 Geneva , Swit zerland +41 22 316 0 0 9 6

H TH OW B E PR R S E A R IN O A E C NOND H U IN N S ES C E? E D APPLE 苹果 píngguǒ: “apple”. Obvious, really! AUDEMARS PIGUET 爱彼 ài bǐ: “love”, “that”. Most Chinese now just call it “AP”. BULGARI 宝格丽 bǎo gé lì: “treasure” or “gems”, “structure”, “beauty”. It rolls off the tongue rather well and the character 丽 is very feminine. CARTIER 卡地亚 kă dì yà: “stop gate” or “authority”, “soil” or “earth”, “tribal emblem”. 地 has the same sound as the character for “emperor”. CHANEL 香奈儿 xiāng nài'er: “fragrant”, “soft femininity”. DIOR 迪奥 dí'ào: “to enlighten”, “mysterious”. What if you switch the Chinese word around? It gives 奥迪 for Audi! GUCCI 古驰 gǔ chí: “ancient”, “horse” or “fast car”. 34

HERMÈS 爱马仕 ài mă shì: “love”, “horse”, “elite” or “noble”. The character 仕 evokes an ancient ideal that most Chinese are desperately trying to identify with. HUBLOT 宇舶 yǔ bó: “universe”, “ship docking”. JAEGER-LECOULTRE 积家 jī jiā: “piling crops after harvest” or “to gather”, “home”.

PATEK PHILIPPE 百达翡 丽 băi dá fěi lì: “hundred”, “to achieve”, “green jade, “beauty”. Probably the best Chinese name in the watch industry, with the implied meaning: “Every possible way to get to one's desire, power, wealth, beauty and poise”.

TISSOT 天梭 tiān suō: “sky”, “to travel”. TITONI 梅花 méi huā: “plum blossom”.

ROLEX 劳力士 láo lì shì: “working”, “power” or “strength”, ”man” or “adult”. The implied meaning is: “Something that never fails”.

VACHERON CONSTANTIN 江诗丹顿 jiāng shī dān dùn: “large river”, “poetry”, “deep red” or “magical healing”, “to stop” or “to finish”. Only the name Constantin has been translated, otherwise the brand’s name would be too long (Chinese brand names are usually no longer than 4 syllables).

TAG HEUER 泰格 豪雅 tài gé háo yǎ: “prosperity, “structure”, “wealth, “taste”.

ZENITH 真力时 zhēn lì shí: “real”, “power” or “strength”, “time”.

RICHARD MILLE 理查 德米尔 lǐ chá dé mǐ'ěr.

LONGINES 浪琴 làng qín: “wave”, “musical instrument”. Quite romantic! LOUIS VUITTON 路 易威登 lù yì wēi dēng: 路易 is the Chinese transliteration of Louis, while 威 means “power” and 登 “to be on top”. OMEGA 欧米茄 ōu mǐ jiā: “European”, “measuring unit”, “large leaf”. PANERAI 沛纳海 pèi nà hǎi: “exuberant”, “to be absorbed”, “sea”. The dominant theme is clear!

You can find the Chinese names of all watch brand on our website


Style is automatic. TISSOT gentleman automatic. POWERMATIC 80 MOVEMENT WITH UP TO 80 HOURS OF POWER RESERVE.


When we talk about watchmaking in China and Hong Kong, it’s almost impossible not to mention the power of this leading actor, whose control extends to both sides of the border: the Xinyu group, which operates more than 400 points of sale in the People’s Republic of China, and the Hengdeli group, which operates 71 points of sale including the Elegant chain in Hong Kong and mono- and multi-brand stores in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Malaysia. A turning point in the Hengdeli group’s history was its joint venture in 2003 with the Swatch Group, which is now a shareholder, as is LVMH. Its points of sale are active from entry-level to luxury watchmaking. Hengdeli, listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, had sales of RMB 2.68 billion (USD 380 million) in 2018. In the People’s Republic of China, annual sales by the Xinyu group, which is not yet listed on the stock exchange, are estimated at around RMB 18 billion (USD 2.6 billion). An IPO could take place next year. On the digital front, in addition to its own platform launched in 2015, Xinyu joined forces last year with digital giant to create online stores for the brands it represents, as well as to collaborate extensively on after-sales service.







Often originating from Hong Kong, the continent’s watchmaking hub, giant groups have formed to organise the emergence of multiple points of sale in the People’s Republic of China. At the same time, two ubiquitous platforms dominate watch e-commerce and daily life. HARMONY Controlled by the public aeronautical conglomerate AVIC, the Shenzhen-based Fiyta group owns the brand of the same name (see p. 54), but it is also an important distribution player in the country. Its subsidiary Harmony operates more than 250 points of sale in the People’s Republic, serving the entire country from Beijing to Kunming, and from Nanchang to Wuhan. One of its flagship stores, covering more than 3,000 square metres, is located in the city of Shenyang. Harmony represents most of the Swiss watch brands in China, in a range that extends from Oris, Titoni and Raymond Weil to Omega, Rolex and Cartier. The Fiyta group also operates two other retail chains in the country, Brand Gallery and Cross Time, representing more accessible brands. It maintains cooperative relations with both Alibaba and JD. In 2018, the Fiyta group had operating income of RMB 3.4 billion (USD 480 million).



This historic Hong Kong group is active in many sectors: watchmaking and jewellery, real estate, hotels, supermarkets, energy, transport and telecommunications. It is controlled by the powerful Cheng family and their conglomerate New World Development. The founder of Chow Tai Fook, Chow Chi Yuen, started out by opening a jewellery store in Guangzhou in 1929, before relocating to Macau and then Hong Kong. His son-inlaw Cheng Yu-tung diversified the activities of the business empire, which today is run by his eldest son Henry Cheng, and which operates nearly 3,000 jewellery stores in China. Listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group posted annual sales of USD 8.5 billion for its last financial year, 5.5% or USD 425 million of which represented watch sales. Watch distribution, representing most of the leading brands in the Swiss industry, is covered by a dedicated unit, CTF Watch. The first watch retail outlets were opened in the 1960s in Hong Kong and Macau, which now have around thirty stores. In 2008, watch distribution began to expand into mainland China: to date, more than 100 watch stores and after-sales service centres have opened.

The Emperor group is one of Hong Kong’s historic watch retail chains. In 1942, its founder Yeung Shing opened his first shop. Listed on the stock exchange since 2008 and headed by the founder’s granddaughter Cindy Yeung, Emperor has expanded its activities from Hong Kong to Macau, mainland China, Singapore and Malaysia. Its 2018 sales amounted to USD 601 million, 80% of which come from the watch business. Its network of boutiques (including standalone stores for its jewellery brand) extends to 94 points of sale. In total, the group has 15 watch outlets in Hong Kong, three in Macau, eight in mainland China and five in Singapore. Emperor operates boutiques or corners for Rolex, Tudor, Patek Philippe and Chopard.

ORIENTAL Established in 1961 by Yeung Ming Biu, the Oriental Group is another historical player in Hong Kong’s watch and jewellery industry. A partner of most Swiss luxury brands, it operates 11 boutiques in Hong Kong and Macau, including two Rolex stores. In 2004, Emperor became active in mainland China and then in Taiwan. Today, it has a total of 61 points of sale. A turning point in the group’s history came in 1973, when it acquired major distributor La Suisse Watch Company. Oriental was also the first watch retailer to be listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, in 1993. Turnover for the last financial year was USD 310 million dollars (2.4 billion Hong Kong dollars).

PRINCE Operating some twenty points of sale in Hong Kong, including boutiques for Cartier and Carl F. Bucherer, Prince is an important retailer in the area. Founded in 1984 and headed by Jimmy Tang, it focuses mainly on Hong Kong, unlike other groups that have invested in mainland China. Like most Hong Kong retailers, it has also opened online stores on Tmall and JD.

TMALL Although watchmaking is only a small part of the giant Chinese B2C e-commerce platform Tmall, it is large enough to make it an increasingly important player in the watch business in China. The figures speak for themselves: according to the Alibaba group, nearly 700 million consumers use its Tmall and Taobao sales platforms. Tens of thousands of dealers offer products from 180,000 brands – including around a thousand watch brands – across all categories. It’s something of a digital jungle, populated by both authorised and unauthorised suppliers. Purchases are facilitated via the group’s own payment platform, AliPay. Among the most important watch brands that have signed official partnerships with Tmall are Longines, Breitling, Zenith and TAG Heuer. Their online shops are hosted in Tmall’s luxury space, Luxury Pavilion. A major development occurred last year with the global strategic alliance between Alibaba and Richemont, under which luxury products currently offered on the Net-APorter and Mr. Porter platforms will be available through dedicated mobile applications in China as well as through online boutiques on Tmall Luxury Pavilion.

JD With more than 300 million users, JD is another major player in China’s e-commerce space. It is particularly renowned for its reliable and fast delivery service, thanks to some 600 warehouses located throughout the country. In China, more than 90% of orders are delivered the same day or the day after the order is placed, according to the company. Another strength is its strategic alliance with the Tencent group, which gives it access to WeChat messaging, which has become a key app in the daily lives of Chinese people. Watchmakers such as Tissot, Chopard, Titoni, Zenith, Carl F. Bucherer and even H. Moser & Cie have signed cooperation agreements with the platform, which has opened dedicated online boutiques for them. JD also collaborated with Audemars Piguet to launch their online sales in China. With a turnover of USD 67.2 billion in 2018, the group has established a strategic global partnership with Farfetch with a view to convincing more luxury brands to invest in e-commerce in China. JD also has a strategic alliance with Chinese watch retail giant Xinyu. Read the interview in the following pages.

Read the interview in the following pages.

Europa Star 6/1994





Lili Chen, general manager of Tmall Luxury Pavilion

Could you share some key facts and figures about the watches sold on Tmall Luxury Pavilion?

Tmall is the leading digital marketplace in China, connecting thousands of merchants with millions of consumers. Basically, you can order anything on the platform, at any time. This includes luxury timepieces. In an effort to build more trust with the high-end segment, which is wary of counterfeits and the grey market, Tmall is hoping its strategic cooperation with Yoox-Net-APorter will attract distribution and increase sales of watches on its dedicated luxury platform. We interviewed Lili Chen, general manager of Tmall Luxury Pavilion. 40

We currently host various international watchmaking stores such as Longines, Breitling, TAG Heuer and Zenith. We also host an Omega pop-up store, offering a dedicated limited collection for the Beijing Winter Olympic Games. In total, there are around one thousand watch brands on Tmall. Their presence spans the range from flagship stores operated by the brands directly, to wholesalers, with speciality stores representing the main business models currently operating on Tmall. Although we don’t share specific sales figures, we have seen high growth, particularly in the accessible luxury and super luxury segments. Why did you create a distinct entity for luxury brands on Tmall? We launched Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion in 2017 to address the growing demand of Chinese consumers for premium products from international brands. Chinese consumers are set to contribute almost two-thirds of global growth in luxury spending. According to studies by McKinsey and Bain & Co., China delivered more than half the global growth in luxury spending between 2012 and 2018, and is expected to deliver 65% of the world’s additional spending by 2025. International high-end brands cannot afford to ignore this market.

How has your general relationship with Swiss watch brands evolved?

Who are the watch sellers on the platform?

For various reasons, luxury brands, including watchmakers, have been traditionally reluctant to embrace the digital transformation, mostly as a result of a desire to avoid diluting their brand equity. However, in general, luxury brands and watchmakers have realised that if they want to expand their footprint in China and engage with new, younger generations of consumers, they necessarily have to understand the market and work with a trusted partner like Tmall to build their presence, both online and offline.

On Luxury Pavilion, the brands own and operate their stores directly. We provide them with the technology infrastructure, the consumer reach and unparalleled insights into the Chinese market, and ultimately every brand chooses how to establish its presence and shape its positioning in the way that suits it best. The most important thing for the “Digitising and fully brands is to reach and connect with the younger generations who were integrating the retail born on the internet and are highly value chain from connected to digital devices. For them, merchandising and e-commerce is not just an option, it’s marketing to payments part of their lifestyle.

and last-mile delivery.”

Last year you announced a global strategic partnership with Yoox Net-A-Porter (Richemont). What is the scope of your cooperation? It aims to bring their retail offerings to Chinese consumers. Under the collaboration, Yoox Net-A-Porter and Alibaba will establish a joint venture to launch two mobile apps for multi-brand, in-season online NetA-Porter and Mr Porter stores for consumers in China. In addition, the joint venture will launch Net-A-Porter and Mr Porter online stores on Alibaba’s Tmall Luxury Pavilion. We will provide technology infrastructure, marketing, payments, logistics and other technology support to the joint venture. The partnership will also leverage Yoox Net-A-Porter’s strong relationship with leading luxury brands, some 950 of which are currently distributed through the company in China. What is the plan in the longer term? Together, we will also explore future offerings that enable the joint venture’s customers to enjoy unique and seamless online and offline shopping experiences. This means digitising and fully integrating the retail value chain from merchandising and marketing to payments and last-mile delivery. We will focus on serving consumers in China and will extend to Chinese consumers travelling abroad.

Nevertheless, a number of CEOs are complaining that there are still too many parallel actors and counterfeits on the leading e-commerce platforms in China…

More than 180,000 brands across many categories do business with the nearly 700 million consumers on Alibaba’s marketplaces every day. This is a testament to the trust brands and consumers have in us. Alibaba’s IP protection policy is simple and clear. We respect and protect all IP and require all sellers on our platforms to do the same. Our IP protection systems and technologies are among the best in the industry and we are always looking for ways to improve them. All actors in the chain of commerce – brand owners, ecommerce marketplaces, merchants, manufacturers, and even consumers – have critically important roles to play, as do law enforcement authorities, regulators, legislatures, and other government bodies. Do you have plans to open physical stores dedicated to selling watches? We consider the separation between channels to be obsolete. Alibaba is reshaping the future of commerce, and we launched our “New Retail” strategy in 2016, looking at the great potential for online and offline retail to exist in synergy rather than in opposition. That is why our partnership with brands goes beyond the online environment to look at the consumer experience as a continuum. Tmall Luxury Pavilion is an online platform, but we help brands to better understand and connect with consumers, including for instance issuing targeted invitations to customers to visit their physical stores. 41




China’s JD has over 300 million active users, making it the largest retailer in the country (it actually works as both a marketplace and a retailer), from electronics to home appliances and watches. Praised for its delivery system, JD has invested in Farfetch to leverage its appeal to global luxury brands, in the current race to the top with its main rival. Will the platform be able to extend its partnerships to more watchmakers? We interviewed Belinda Chen, general manager of JD’s watch division. 42

Belinda Chen, general manager of JD’s watch division

What is the unique selling point of JD in the highly competitive Chinese digital world, when it comes to attracting watch brands? From the beginning, we pledged to only sell authentic products. Furthermore, logistics in China can be challenging and our partners can rely on our nationwide smart logistics network: in China, 90% of orders can be delivered the same day or next day. Importantly, e-commerce also provides a platform for engagement: for example, leveraging our partnership with Tencent (WeChat) helps brands run highly targeted marketing campaigns. We can create digital pop-up stores on WeChat’s Mini Program or “super brand” days which help expand the brands’ sales. To give you an example, sales of Daniel Wellington products increased almost fourfold during the brand’s June 2018 Super Brand Day, compared with the Singles Day of the previous year.

What kind of partnerships do you have with watch brands?

How many watch brands do you carry today on the platform?

We have either a “first party model”, where we buy and sell inventory, or a marketplace model. In the latter case, brands retain their stock and JD provides services such as fulfilment and delivery, marketing, payment, customer service and after-sales services. We are aware that luxury brands have been more reluctant than other industries to go online, so we have made several efforts to address their concerns.

We have been selling watches since 2012 and now stock hundreds of brands from around the world at all price points. To name a few partnerships, we have worked with TAG Heuer since 2015, with Zenith since 2016, with Chopard since 2017 Could you give some examples of “We believe that and with Carl F. Bucherer since 2018. such actions? the line between Most recently, we launched official flagship stores for Tissot and Titoni online vs. offline We created JD Luxury Express, our (read our portrait on p. 48), which has shopping is becoming luxury ‘white glove’ delivery service, chosen JD for an exclusive worldwide to provide an end-to-end luxury shopincreasingly blurred. pre-launch of its limited edition in ping experience to online customers. celebration of the brand’s 100th an- Our partnership In addition, we often work with retailniversary. When Zenith launched its with Xinyu Group is ers to offer an experience where they flagship store, sales on the first day can buy online but try products ofa good example.” surpassed an entire month’s worth of fline. For example, the partnership we sales from the brand’s best-selling ofhave established with specialist watch fline store in China. retailer Xinyu (see p. 36) enables online customers to try on watches by having them delivered to a destination of their choice, rather than having to visit a physical How has demand evolved since you started selling retail store. Counterfeits can also be a concern: from watches in 2012? day one, JD implemented a “zero tolerance” policy towards counterfeits. Chinese consumers are becoming more sophisticated and experienced. As the middle class population in the country grows, more people are reading about Do you plan to open physical stores to sell watches? and researching products and brands, and they are increasingly seeking brands they can identify with. We believe that the line between online vs. offline shopThere has been a trend for more middle-class and up- ping is becoming increasingly blurred. Our partnership per-middle-class consumers to buy luxury products with Xinyu Group is a good example, as it gives access to in China, rather than relying on making purchases the world’s best timepieces no matter where consumabroad. We’ve also seen increasing demand for more ers shop – online or offline. We cooperate on product functional watches, such as sports watches and smart- sales, after-sales service and business development. The watches. Finally, female customers are increasingly partnership has also facilitated faster in-house watch into the mechanics of the watch, rather than purely repair and maintenance, so that clients can have their the design. watches returned as quickly as possible. 43





Pablo Mauron, Digital Luxury Group Managing Director China

WeChat or Weibo, Tmall or JD: which platform is most likely to align with the strategies of Swiss watch brands? Geneva-based Digital Luxury Group (DLG) was a pioneer in offering luxury brand services in China. We met with Managing Director China, Pablo Mauron, to discuss this digital world that stokes so many fantasies. 44


t is in a vast coworking area in the heart of Shanghai, where several startups and international companies coexist, that we find the offices of the Digital Luxury Group, or DLG as it is more familiarly known. Bright light, contemporary wall art, designer sofas, neatly arranged green plants, white tables, no neckties but plenty of sneakers – there’s no doubt that we’re in “international Shanghai”. This is where the Chinese millennials operate, the new target of all global luxury brands. They are the ones who keep marketing directors awake at night, in Paris, Milan or New York! This ecosystem is well suited to DLG, a Genevabased company that pioneered digital services for luxury brands (Europa Star has been a partner from the beginning). The Shanghai extension has now overtaken the Geneva headquarters in terms of employee numbers: there, around sixty digital natives manage the WeChat and Weibo accounts, as well as the JD or Tmall boutiques of many Swiss watch brands. The man in charge is Pablo Mauron, an associate of DLG’s founder David Sadigh. He left Geneva in 2012 to explore the possibility of expanding business in China. He never returned. What projects do you carry out in China on behalf of Swiss watch brands? We started with marketing activities via social networks, influencers and other available platforms. Over time, we developed customer relationship management through WeChat and are increasingly advising brands on e-commerce strategies and operations. We also established a presence in New York recently, to cater to new American clients. 

Is it a race for “likes”, as it is on Facebook or Instagram?

WeChat and Weibo are the two most popular social networks in the country. Which one is the most appropriate for watch communication?

Brands frequently ask us why they don’t have more followers on WeChat. I would say that, compared to Facebook or Instagram, it’s less about “vanity metrics”. In China, when you follow a luxury brand, you are fully committed, with a significant investment of time and attention. The value of a follower on WeChat is therefore higher, compared to what we find on Instagram for example. Chinese have

“Today, more trust in Tmall or JD than in any official watch brand website!”

WeChat is the natural daily tool for all exchanges in China. It goes far beyond simple messaging and offers a multitude of services, with possible e-commerce applications. In China, email is considered a purely professional tool, while WeChat is used in any situation. On the other hand, it is a closed platform: you only have access to the accounts of your contacts. Weibo operates “openly”, but it is increasingly becoming a platform celebrity gossip (including watch ambassadors).

Alibaba Group Corporate Campus in Hangzhou

What is WeChat’s business model?

Tencent, WeChat’s parent company, is profitable and derives the majority of its revenue from online gaming, ahead of advertising and the WeChat Pay online payment service. It is interesting to note that the group has put in place very restrictive rules to prevent WeChat being flooded with advertising like Facebook and Instagram. For example, a WeChat user will never see more than three ads per day.

Two e-commerce platforms – Tmall and JD – have entered into a fierce competition to attract the Swiss watch brands. Which one has the best chance of winning?

What do you make of the recent “mega-alliances” in e-commerce, between JD and Farfetch, and between Alibaba and Yoox Net-A-Porter (Richemont)?

Both have become part of daily life for the Chinese, from buying a vacuum cleaner to buying a luxury watch. Today, Chinese have more trust in Tmall or JD than in This is quite logical: there is an alliance between local any official watch brand website! The direct commu- players who attract the majority of traffic in China and nication of luxury brands can be prone to making mis- international e-commerce companies that have an takes, as we have seen with Dolce & Gabbana recently. inventory of luxury products. It remains to be seen how And luxury brands simply cannot compete with the lo- carefully these alliances will be implemented. Tmall gistical power of Tmall or JD. Compared to them, orders and JD have both created specific entities dedicated to from brand sites are often a source of disappointment. luxury, but traffic is below expectations. Their challenge In addition, the Chinese are very aware now is to convince the major luxury of price differences with other counbrands that are not yet partners, such “Many luxury brands tries, which further erodes confidence as Chanel, Burberry or Gucci. are partnering with in the Western brands’ equity. Speaking of logistics, Amazon withdrew from the Chinese market this year. Uber China has been integrated into the Chinese company Didi. Are local actors the only ones who can succeed, including in watch distribution?

Tmall and JD to 'clean up' the secondary market. Because, of course, these platforms will be much more responsive when their partners are involved.”

Over and above all other considerations, the issue of logistics alone is virtually impenetrable for a foreign player. Indeed, Chinese legislation specifies that a watch must be accepted for return up to seven days after it was ordered. An actor like JD is a world champion in logistics: if it’s over a certain amount, you generally receive your watch within 24 to 48 hours, delivered with white gloves! Its service is a reference that today determines consumer expectations. It is impossible to manage this level of logistics from abroad.

Why have “key opinion leaders” (KOLs) become so important in China?

They are essential for the activation of brand campaigns. Despite the huge traffic, it is not enough to put a product on Tmall or JD to sell it. There is a form of scepticism about messages emanating directly from brands: potential customers often place far more trust in KOLs who speak about brands, than in the brands themselves. Their remuneration levels can be staggering. The most popular KOLs usually end up launching their own e-commerce initiatives and working on a commission basis.

If Chinese e-commerce players exercise such control, why don’t they do more to stop counterfeiting? I don’t think that counterfeiting is the main problem: the issue of the parallel market and unauthorised actors is much more problematic for luxury brands. And basically, many of them are partnering with Tmall and JD to “clean up” the secondary market. Because, of course, these platforms will be much more responsive when their partners are involved. 46

Europa Star 6/2012

#t h eo r i g i n a l #u n l i m ite d #i l l u m i na ti o n




No other Swiss watch brand has a history in China comparable to that of the independent family company Titoni. Having conquered the hearts and minds of their parents and grandparents, the challenge for this long-established player in the country is to attract the younger Chinese generations.


itoni celebrates its century of existence this year. In fact the watchmaking company was launched in 1919 by Fritz Schluep under the name Felco, before becoming Felca and then Titoni. The founder’s grandson, Daniel Schluep, is now in charge of the Grenchen company, and the fourth generation has recently joined the family firm. With an annual output of more than 100,000 watches with a “timeless” design, the majority of them automatic (quartz watches represent only a tenth of the portfolio), it is one of the last major independent watch companies in Switzerland. And yet few in its na48

Daniel Schluep, CEO of Titoni

tive country are familiar with the brand. Its emblem, the plum flower (“Meihua”), enjoys a greater reputation in China, which is its main playground by some margin. “The first links with Asia were established in the 1930s,” says Daniel Schluep, “Since we could not fully develop Felca there because of an exclusive contract with a distributor, we launched a new brand, Titoni, in 1952. It was our historical partner in Asia, Mr Koh, who proposed adding the flower to Titoni’s logo: if the Chinese could not recognise the name, they could at least recognise the flower.” Gradually, the Titoni brand took over and the company’s entire production was renamed as such. The cornerstone of the brand’s development in China continues to be its joint venture with the Koh family. Titoni’s network covers 600 points of sale in the country, a pioneering presence on the Chinese e-commerce platforms Tmall and, a subsidiary in Shenzhen, and offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. It would be an understatement to say that the company feels at home in China.

“It all began with the visit to Switzerland of a Chinese economic delegation in 1959. The delegates wanted to visit a watch company.�

Yet the country is changing at an accelerated pace, with the arrival of a new generation that no one really understands. Will they be as attached to Titoni as their parents and grandparents were? And how is the brand managing the growing competition in a market where, until the 1990s, it had a direct partnership with government offices? We met Daniel Schluep to discuss these issues and to review Titoni’s history in the Chinese market. To celebrate the centenary, the brand has also introduced its first in-house calibre, the T10, which was naturally first unveiled at an event in China.

You are one of the most established Swiss watch brands in China, with a presence dating back long before the country opened to globalisation. How did your distribution start? It all began when a Chinese trade delegation visited Switzerland in 1959. The delegates wanted to visit a watch company, but Red China, as it was called back then, did not have a good reputation within the Swiss

The new Line 1919 collection by Titoni is equipped with the first ever in-house calibre by the Swiss brand.

watch industry and all the brands refused to accept them... except us. Following this visit, they brought back some of our watches to Beijing. Then we started to take their first orders.

That was the beginning of direct cooperation with the Chinese government. How have your business relationships evolved over time? There were three main stages: the state economy for thirty years, then a transition period until China joined the WTO in 2001, and finally the contemporary era. Until 1990, we had an annual collaboration with the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, which included the delivery of watches according to a specific budget. We negotiated with the official distributor of optical and watchmaking products in China. This system applied to Titoni as well as to other Swiss watch brands already present in China, such as Rado, Roamer, Enicar etc.


How did it work exactly? It was simple and efficient, because the orders were always for the same models. The annual negotiation was the most delicate part, as they drove a hard bargain, but once an agreement was reached it was then followed to the letter. This stability has helped us to overcome difficult periods such as the quartz crisis in the 1980s. We were allowed to do some advertising in China itself. However, we had no detailed information about the distribution of our watches into the provinces. When did this system start to change?

It was mostly after China’s entry into the WTO that luxury brands arrived in the country. For you, it was also the end of a form of monopoly on the Chinese market... The competition is indeed much stronger today, but it is also an opportunity because all these brands contribute to watchmaking education in China, which allows us to sell more expensive models. On the other hand, I believe that there have been too many store openings by Swiss watchmakers, who have been affected by a somewhat senseless “fever” for bigger spaces. As a result, supply began to exceed demand. For our part, we have chosen not to deliver quantities that we felt were excessive.

From the 1980s onwards, we began “Suddenly, 'semito see parallel imports, as official im- private' companies Several observers are increasingly ports were still taxed at over 100% from were allowed. We saw alarmed by a downturn in watch reHong Kong to China. In the south of tail sales in China this year. Are you the emergence of many also aware of this? the country, retailers bought watches from both the government and par- new actors. It was a allel importers. These watches were time of great confusion.” The decline in watch sales in China cheaper and payment was made in (including Hong Kong) is due to three cash. This phenomenon then spread to the north of main reasons: excess inventories after a bullish period the country and began to really affect official state in the market, the trade dispute with the United States distribution. Then, in the 1990s, a transition period and the change in status of the watch, whose imporbegan. Suddenly, “semi-private” companies were al- tance as an indicator of social standing is eroding. lowed. We saw the emergence of many new actors. It However, the mainland market remains vital for the was a time of great confusion. industry, especially as the Chinese government intends to repatriate its citizens’ spending back home. Import taxes have been reduced to 11% in our price category. But When did the situation stabilise? the tax remains at 31% for “luxury products”, i.e. those worth more than 10,000 RMB. With China’s entry into the WTO in 2001. It was then possible for us to set up our own office in China, initially only for information purposes, not for sales. Because of your early market introduction, you It was a period of modernisation and we made good are well known to the parents and grandparents agreements with local retailers, because we were help- of the Chinese millennials. What do these younging them renovate their stores at the same time. The sters think of Titoni? 2000s were the best time to enter the Chinese market. Local watch distribution groups were formed, such as You know, we have been told for 30 years now that we Xinyu-Hengdeli (see p. 36), to structure this market and must attract the new generation in China. We do not watch imports. only want to focus on these new generations, which are very temperamental in their purchasing habits. That said, we are present on Tmall and, which allows us to reach a new audience. And we have developed a new version of our Cosmo model for the new generations. But the traditional version of this very popular series remains important for our sales.




What is your assessment of the world watch market today?

Is that why you decided to introduce your own inhouse calibre, the T10, this year?

I joined Titoni during the quartz crisis, and the current situation reminds me a little of that period, with many questions about the future of the industry, the smartwatch, the Chinese market, as well as distribution methods. Everything is changing rapidly and the Swiss industry is more and more focussing on the very high price segment and partly neglecting the mid-price segment. Furthermore, the fact that luxury brands tend to open their own stores naturally has an effect on the traditional multi-brand stores.

Well, we started with the development of our first inhouse calibre more than five years ago. Titoni did not have its own culture of watch movements back then. The announcement of restrictions on the supply of ETA movements at that time came as a shock to us. Therefore, the idea back then was to first build up experience and gain technical competence in the production of a watch movement. Creating your own movement not only needs a high degree of technical knowledge, it also requires manpower, and above all, financial resources. Developing one’s own movement and getting it ready for serial production is a different ballgame. In the future we will still rely on our two main partners for the supply of watch movements.

Another major uncertainty is the supply of ETA movements. You are an important customer. Do you have any visibility on what will happen in the coming year? As is the case with other independent brands as well, we don’t know exactly how ETA is going to treat us in the future. We have a good and long-standing relationship with ETA, and we trust that they will value this cooperation equally. Besides ETA, we also have Sellita as an alternative. We need both movement suppliers for the production of our watches. For some specific types of calibres there are really no alternatives.

Europa Star has covered Felca/Titoni’s expansion into Asia for decades.

Europa Star 1966 52

Europa Star 1966

What were the main criteria for the development of the T10 calibre? First of all it was our aim to design and produce a mechanical movement that is robust and stable. Quality was therefore one important criterion. This means reliability and reduced complexity, for instance through the reduction of the number of components. Another criterion was the thickness of the calibre, in other words we needed a movement height that allowed us to produce slim dress watches for gents. And of course, cost-efficiency was also very important in the project, as our T10 has to match the overall positioning of the Titoni brand in the middle price segment. After all, our watches equipped with the T10 movement should still be affordable for all our clients.

Europa Star 1/2011

Europa Star 1/2014


TANTUM one of the 11mm



slimmest mechanical watch collections worldwide




Jean Marcel Montres GmbH Birkenfeld, Germany +49 7231 / 76 93 131




As part of a group that controls a large proportion of China’s watch distribution, Fiyta represents the best of what the local industry has to offer in terms of watchmaking prestige. It has always shown a willingness to export, but the label “Made in China” is not yet synonymous with quality, internationally.


here are very few Chinese watches at the International Watchmaking Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds, which has catalogued the “best of the best” in the sector since its inception. One of them is Fiyta’s Space Watch, which equipped China’s first manned space mission in 2003, and was introduced in a public version in the Aeronautics collection, which won a RedDot Design Award. This anecdote says a lot about the position of the brand founded in 1987, as part of the Chinese national watchmaking industry. Particularly so since it has recently absorbed the Beijing Watch Factory, another historical name that is now part of the same group. Based in Shenzhen and listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the Fiyta group also owns Swiss brand Emile Chouriet, and controls Harmony, a giant in watch distribution in China, which operates several hundred stores covering all price ranges. Its majority shareholder is Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), a public aerospace conglomerate. One of Fiyta’s latest models in its Mach collection is inspired by the J-20 fighter aircraft developed by AVIC. As one of the largest customers of Miyota calibres, Fiyta has an annual production of 1.2 million watches, 80% of which are automatic, at a core price range from 180 to 500 euros. It also uses ETA movements, as well as its own calibres.

The example of Grand Seiko

Europa Star 2/2002 54

Ever since it first set out its stall in Hall 1 of Baselworld in 2011, Fiyta has sought international recognition, unlike the majority of Chinese brands, which are content to stay with the huge domestic market. During our visit to the brand’s booth this year, we were impressed by the beautiful craftsmanship of the pieces presented, which pay tribute to the city of Dunhuang on the Silk Road and its Buddhist caves.

But international results remain elusive, despite the investments made: the domestic market still accounts for more than 80% of total sales and most exports are concentrated in south-east Asia, for Chinese visitors. As we reported in detail in our June issue, the Japanese brands themselves, which are much older than the Chinese watch companies, are only now starting to promote a more upscale façade internationally – as seen in Grand Seiko’s recent independence. Are Fiyta’s international efforts perhaps premature, given that the average export price of Chinese watches remains at 3 dollars, compared to 859 dollars for Swiss watches? Is it realistic to want to compete in the field of fine watchmaking in the most mature markets?

Global ambitions Oscar Madriles, Head of Brand Development for Europe, is aware of the complexity of the task at hand: “It starts by gaining the confidence of retailers, by positioning ourselves as a credible alternative for mechanical watches, at a time when distribution is being reconfigured and the quartz segment is stagnating. France is by far our largest market in Europe, and we are the number one brand in some stores.” The brand currently has over 200 points of sale in Europe, as well as its own e-commerce platforms in France and Germany.

Fiyta doesn’t try to hide its Chinese origins. It wants to stand out as “the brand of the East with a spirit of the West”. Oscar Madriles adds: “Most Chinese brands consider themselves first and foremost as producers, while we are building a brand. The desire to export has been present since the company was founded in 1987. It is part of our identity, it defines our strategy, the composition of our teams and the choice of our designs.” Although the brand is not subject to the “existential” export pressure that has always weighed on Swiss watchmakers with their tiny domestic territory, it does have to overcome the poor quality image conveyed by the Made in China label. And, unlike the Swiss, it can count on the support of the state, within a public conglomerate. This seems to have sealed Fiyta’s international fate so far. But Fiyta is only the watchmaking component of China’s global “soft power”, which is beginning to gain a firmer foothold. The company was recently selected by the trade ministry as part of a programme to improve the perception of Made in China around the world. More than thirty years after its creation, the export objective still stands, in a global market where the might of China is stronger than ever.

Fiyta Talent Collection Dunhuang-themed enamel watches





Wen brand, want to break this curse on the ParisShanghai axis – the global fashion capital and the global consumer capital. “Unlike projects that have been carried out so far, which targeted a more affluent and older clientele, our focus is millennials, who emerged much more recently,” says Robin Tallendier.

Modern Chinese design The two entrepreneurs met at Warwick Business School and quickly hit it off on the basis of their shared passion Some big names in luxury have for China. Following an exchange at Peking University, already tried to launch Chinese avatars Robin Tallendier took up a position at the China Horology Association, which introduced him to the and had their noses bloodied. The world of Chinese watch movements and enabled him obstacles are formidable. Startup to build up a good network of suppliers, which was essential to the launch of Atelier Wen. In the meantime, Atelier Wen is making the Made in Wilfried Buiron identified talented designers in Beijing. China label its own, as it takes its Technical and aesthetic: the foundations were laid. turn at promoting Chinese culture Like many startups, Atelier Wen began with a crowdfunding session in the autumn of 2018. In return for an through watchmaking and lifestyle. initial investment of 12,000 francs to submit the project to the Kickstarter and Indiegogo communities, everal global luxury houses, hoping to capital- Atelier Wen received 120,000 francs in funding. “This ise on the growing influence of Chinese culture was the defining moment, because it convinced us to and cater to local taste, have launched brands continue this adventure, at the same time as pursudedicated to this giant market. One of the best ex- ing our own individual job opportunities,” says Robin amples is Shanghai Tang, a fashion firm acquired by Tallendier. At the end of 2018, the company moved to Richemont in 1998 with high ambiHong Kong. tions. But its creations ended up being The brand’s objective is to produce a bought mainly by Western tourists, not “We actually see “modern Chinese design”, as opposed by the Chinese themselves. The luxury classic Francoto simply affixing Chinese imagery group sold the brand two years ago. to contemporary objects. The two enSwiss design at the Hermès launched its Chinese brand trepreneurs asked themselves the folorigins of Chinese Shang Xia in 2008, with more measlowing question: if we went back to ured ambitions and greater success. watchmaking!” the first modern Chinese watch, what But each time, the same obstacle rears would it look like? Robin Tallendier its head: the Chinese themselves are not really fans explains: “The production of wristwatches in China of Made in China. And especially not when foreign began in 1955 with the ancestor of the Seagull, which brands claim to “embody” Chinese culture... was inspired by the brand... Enicar. So we actually see Robin Tallendier and Wilfried Buiron, the two young classic Franco-Swiss design at the origins of Chinese French co-founders of the Hong Kong-based Atelier watchmaking!”



Network of local suppliers From this initial inspiration, the brand adapted certain elements. The dial (white or blue) is made of porcelain and the motifs reproduced on it are inspired by traditional Chinese time measurement systems and Taoist symbols. The back of the watches bears an engraving of the mythical creature Kunpeng, which also inspired the brand’s logo. The mechanical movement of this first series, called “Porcelain Odyssey”, like all the components, is Chinese. It is supplied by Dandong Peacock Watch Factory. Atelier Wen timepieces are available for a little under 1,000 francs – more expensive than the average Kickstarter brand but cheaper than the global brands that have already dipped their toes in Chinese-inspired fashion. It’s an “in-between” option for millennials that the entrepreneurial duo hopes is well calibrated. Atelier Wen also aims to be as much a lifestyle brand as a watch brand per se. Its adventure may have begun in watches, but the aim is to branch out into jewellery, accessories and fashion. “Our long-term ambition is that 50% of our income will be generated in China and 50% in the rest of the world,” emphasises Robin Tallendier. Will it be the first successful example of a Chinese-inspired lifestyle brand? That will be for the Chinese themselves to decide!

Porcelain Odyssey combines elements of Chinese design and craftsmanship such as porcelain dials in the style of traditional Chinese ceramics. It uses a movement produced by the Dandong Peacock Watch Factory, the SL-3006, adjusted in five positions and with a daily variation not exceeding +/-10 seconds.




Beyond mass production, an ecosystem of independent watchmakers has emerged in the Shenzhen area. Several of these craftsmen have joined the renowned Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants. But these very creative artisans have to deal with limited resources. We met them. 58


nstantly, when we think of China and watchmaking, we think of large-scale mass production, “the world’s factory”, cheap products... And of course, this is a good part of the reality on the ground. But given China’s ever-increasing importance, both in watch production and in watch purchasing, a much more complex and nuanced ecosystem is being established in the country. In Shenzhen, the nerve centre of China’s watchmaking industry, we have seen the emergence of several highlevel craftsmen, many of whom used to work in the region’s many production workshops before starting their own businesses. They often have decades of experience. As proof of this effervescence, the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI), a watchmaking talent incubator since 1985, has a growing number of members based in China. Their names are Lin Yong Hua, Ma Xushu, Ming Guo and Tan Zehua. We met them.


LIN YONG HUA Lin Yong Hua, a native of Shenzhen, began working in the watch industry at the age of 18 in 1991. “I worked particularly in watch polishing in the workshops of the region,” he explains. “Fifteen years later, in 2006, I opened my own watch repair shop. In my spare time, I created watch designs. Gradually I began to produce my own models, which became known for their very particular style.” A piece that perfectly illustrates Lin Yong Hua’s work and philosophy is a jumping time watch inspired by a record player. The watchmaker made 70% of the components of this watch, named LYH n°1, himself. He imported the rest from Switzerland. “Music influences me a lot,” he explains. But not just music. LYH n°2 is in the shape of a dragonfly, and also represents the lucky number 8. The watchmaker created three pieces, at a price of 20,000 dollars each. The latest model for 2019, the Wirepuller LYH model n°3, remains with the theme of nature. It represents a spider. “On this model, I tried to play on the effects of transparency. I designed an edition with a case in 18k white gold, at 63,000 dollars, and a titanium edition at 80,000 dollars.” Lin Yong-Hua has the capacity to produce only six watches per year. But what watches!

Tan Zehua comes from a family in which watchmaking is a tradition. In 1966, at the age of 16, he began to learn it from his father, before working for a national watch company for 14 years. In fact, before 1980, it was not even possible to start up a private company in China. In 1980, Tan Zehua opened a watch repair and restoration workshop, before moving on to creating his own models, a little over ten years ago. Since then, the watchmaker has made a name for himself by designing four movements. His new “di-axial” escapement increases the power reserve, and he has filed a patent for it. “This invention attempts to improve two aspects of the watch’s escapement: using less oil for lubrication, and improving the stability of the escapement fork by using upper and lower wheels of the same size and shape,” says Tan Zehua. Some key elements of traditional Chinese culture can be found on his Melody watch. The bridges on the movement symbolise the five tones of early Chinese music. In addition, an old time measurement algorithm unique to China is also represented on this watch. Tan Zehua’s intention is to convey the country’s traditional culture to his customers. His models cost between 50,000 and 60,000 dollars.


MING GUO A student of the Swiss master watchmaker Frank Jutzi, Ming Guo now finds himself in the shoes of his teacher, at the Shanghai Industrial Technical School. In addition to teaching, he designs his own watches. One of his main pieces features a very old Chinese mythological scene, depicting the Goddess of the Moon, Chang’e, accompanied by a rabbit. Ming Guo works patiently on his hand-wound models – it takes him up to six months of work per piece – even crafting the hands in his workshop. This year, the watchmaker is launching a new model called Blooming, inspired by fireworks and set with nearly 500 diamonds, with a power reserve of 60 hours. Its price is 30,000 dollars.


MA XUSHU “As a child, I lived in the mountains and it was difficult to get books or watches. But one day, I found an old 1955 watchmaking manual at my grandmother’s house that helped me develop my knowledge.” Fascinated by watchmaking from a very young age, Ma Xushu never went to a technical school: he learned everything by himself, particularly by observing the work of watch restorers. “At first, I repaired watches for free, to practise,” he explains. “I didn’t have any spare parts so I started to make some components myself.” Ma Xushu designed a tourbillon model on the basis of nothing more than a photo. He then went to Beijing to present his work and was hired at the Beijing Watch Factory, where he worked for two years. “All over the world, it is believed that the Chinese only make copies. But I wanted to chart my own course by creating my own movement,” he says. The independent artisan has to make the most of the available resources, and deal with his own attachment to some of his models – despite several offers, he keeps refusing to sell his Pic-Vert model, agreeing to deliver only the design. One of his most striking models is a timepiece with a cylindrical movement, lateral tourbillon and a display with a cursor on top. Today, Ma Xushu produces between one and two watches per year. He recently started working on a moon phase model. Due to a lack of resources, the complication currently exists only on paper.

Watch cases, bracelets and buckles for Haute Horlogerie.

Vicenza, Italia




It’s a very closed world, but we were able to follow the field work of a company specialising in intellectual property, which collaborates with the Chinese authorities. The seizure of counterfeit watches is a daily occurrence, but counterfeiters are ever more skilled in their copying and ingenious in their distribution methods. E-commerce has increased the size of their playground tenfold.


n a street in Guangzhou, we are approached by a man holding several signs with the names of some rather attractive luxury watches, including many limited series. We follow him. He leads us behind the scenes of this open-air market. After climbing the rusty stairs of an old building, we pass “through the looking-glass”. We enter a bright, well-appointed lounge with the neon-lit logos of prestigious brands. And hundreds of watches by Swiss brands. Several salesmen present the models to us. Particular emphasis is placed on the best finished models, with the special name “Noob”. 62

During our visit, two tourists from the Indian subcontinent also enter the shop. Suddenly, we hear violent blows at the door. “Police!” a voice shouts on the other side. The sellers freeze for a moment. Then, as the shouts and blows continue, they resign themselves to opening the armoured door. Uniformed officers appear. Then begins the meticulous sorting, by brand, of the models. The salesmen and their watches end up at the station, while a crowd of curious onlookers gathers outside the foot of the building, smartphones in hand. We keep a low profile and head straight to the local administration building for a debriefing. The scene we have just witnessed is one of the many daily seizures of counterfeit watches made in China by the Selective Trademark Union (STU), a company representing the interests of luxury brands, in cooperation with local authorities. The organisation conducts an average of 50 raids per day throughout Asia. Almost all Swiss watchmaking companies are STU customers. However, during the day’s operation, which the organisation had been planning for several weeks following field investigations, a few watches were not seized. This was the case of the Breitling models. We were told why: following the acquisition of the brand by CVC Capital Partners in 2017, its contract with STU was not renewed. Similarly, none of the fake Hublot or TAG Heuer watches were seized. “We cannot seize counterfeits of brands with which we do not have a partnership, or if we do not have time to obtain their agreement,” says Thierry Dubois, STU’s Director. Rolex, Omega, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Longines, Richard Mille, Vacheron Constantin and Panerai copies, brands that are particularly popular with counterfeiters, were duly seized that day. The showroom will be demolished in the coming days. And the timepieces will be destroyed between one and three months after the seizure.

Partnering with Chinese authorities, the Selective Trademark Union (STU), a company representing the interests of luxury brands, makes an average of 50 raids per day throughout Asia.

A display at an event organised by Stop Piracy, the Swiss Anti-Counterfeiting and Piracy Platform. (Photo: Stop Piracy) 64

The copy closely resembles the original

In the nerve centre of counterfeiting

For Thierry Dubois, who is also the representative of Back in Guangzhou the next day, we go to the Southern the Swiss Watch Federation in Hong Kong, this game Watch Market, which is probably the world’s largest of cat and mouse with counterfeiters is a family affair. market for wholesalers of fake watches. This time, it STU was founded in 1984 by his father, Charles Dubois. is not so much a question of seizing fakes, more of Thierry was born in the midst of the Biafra conflict in observing the progress that has been made in the reNigeria, where his father was in charge of the Lagos production of iconic Swiss models. An expert watchwatchmaking school. He grew up in Côte d’Ivoire and maker, hired by STU, has just arrived from Switzerland in Lebanon. “We left because of the Lebanese civil and is accompanying us. We discuss some of the dewar,” he explains. “In 1975, we moved to Hong Kong, tails and nuances of the counterfeits, which are not where I spent most of my life.” That’s what you call ex- easy to spot. perience in the field… We stop at a stand operated by a family of “craftsmen”. When STU started out, China was still a closed country A lady presents us with the latest watches that have arand Shenzhen, just across the border, rived. Many of them catch the eye of was mainly known for its agriculture When we talk about our expert. When it is not an official and duck farming (the city now has 12 mass production, raid, and a warrant is not available, million inhabitants). Back then, the the company doesn’t hesitate to pay the watchmaking production of affordable watches and the asking price to acquire a particucounterfeit watches – two attributes ecosystem is not larly “successful” model, and send it to that generally go hand in hand – was segmented; where the headquarters of the Swiss Watch mainly concentrated in Hong Kong. genuine watches are Federation in Biel, or to the partner It was only when “official” manufacbrands, for analysis. turing migrated to the mainland that produced, copies are On that day, nearly 2,000 dollars were counterfeiting became established usually also found. handed over in exchange for two good there too. When we talk about mass quality counterfeits: the dial, the production, the watchmaking ecosystem is not seg- engraving of the ceramic bezel and the magnifying mented; where genuine watches are produced, copies glass were studied in detail. “I’ve never seen a watch are usually also found. so well copied,” exclaims the watchmaker as we leave “In our early days, we were mainly involved in the the market. As a result of this exchange, a particularly markets, targeting sales of fake watches. But over time advanced counterfeit network could be traced back to our customers asked us to also intervene at the source, its source and dismantled. during the production of copies,” says Thierry Dubois. The STU expert gives us some advice on how to recogSTU therefore also carries out operations in sweat- nise a fake watch. On some models, the hands are not shops, and has agents who can now operate in more mounted in the right order. If you can open the watch than 100 Chinese cities. easily, that's another clue. And, on the dial, small imFrom Hong Kong, the company, which now num- perfections might be visible, such as poorly attached bers 150 employees, expanded into Taiwan, Thailand, Superluminova. But the problem is that these kinds of South Korea, mainland China, the Philippines, Macau, imperfections can also occur on a real watch. Recently, Vietnam and Singapore. It has also extended the fields brands have introduced a new trick: an identifying it covers from watches to leather goods and more engraving on the watch glass. But counterfeiters are recently to jewellery and glasses, which are also fre- starting to reproduce those too. quently counterfeited in Asia. A new field of operation “The main technical defects that will eventually apis being set up: writing instruments. pear are due to the fact that the counterfeits are not As a true barometer of counterfeiters’ activity, the com- waterproof. Also, since they have no oil in the movepany is currently experiencing a busy period, and relies ment, they will stop working,” the expert points out. on the exchange of information between investigators covering several fields of activity to increase its efficiency. And when a watch investigator gets “burned” in a given city – that is, when his face becomes familiar to counterfeiters – a jewellery agent can always replace him. 65

Copies or fakes?

ficers’ practices, in order to identify the points where there are the fewest controls,” stresses Thierry Dubois. There are currently two types of copies on the market. A recent documentary broadcast on French television The majority of the models, which are generally cheap- followed an order for two fake watches, and then their er, are presented as “replica watches”: the customer is delivery by parcel post, hidden inside a “Made in China” aware that he is buying a counterfeit. The other case, toy. “At the moment, networks often go through South generally for the best reproductions, comprises mod- Korea to deliver counterfeit goods to the United States,” els sold as authentic, which are much more complex says Thierry Dubois. “And of course, they don’t send a to produce, and which do even more harm to brands. small number of large packages but a large number of “The person who makes the most profit on a single trans- small packages, which are more difficult to control.” action is the one who buys an 800-dollar fake watch in More and more orders are being placed for single China and sells it for 18,000 dollars in Europe,” stresses items. This is the result of the great “counterfeit suThierry Dubois. “I have already dealt with the case of an permarket” that is the digital world. Coupled with the owner of a fake watch who had paid that kind of price. production capacity of the workshops of the “world’s The high value placed on some modfactory”, the networking capacity of els on the secondary market, as well as Coupled with the the internet has boosted sales of coptheir rarity, encourages counterfeiters ies, which were previously more comproduction capacity of plex to acquire. In e-commerce, counto tackle these types of very well reprothe workshops of the duced models.” terfeiters’ networks are also one step According to the expert, the quality of “world’s factory”, the ahead of the legitimate industry in counterfeits is increasing. “Sometimes networking capacity terms of efficiency. better quality components are found in According to the European Union of the internet has copies than in originals, when brands Office for Intellectual Property, countersupply themselves in China.” Thierry boosted sales of feiting (all categories of products comDubois remembers the case of a fash- copies, which were bined) costs the EU 83 billion euros and ion watch brand that asked for the con790,000 jobs every year. The latest US previously more tact details of the component supplier customs figures indicate a significant for their counterfeit watches, which complex to acquire. increase in annual seizures of counterwere particularly successful... feit watches and jewellery, estimated at In the majority of cases, however, counterfeiters pre- $460 million (representing nearly 40% of the value of all fer to limit themselves to the sale of less well-executed, products seized in the United States). According to the mass-produced copies, which allow for a higher total OECD, trade in counterfeit goods is also on the rise, and turnover. Here, the sophistication of counterfeit prod- now accounts for 3.3% of world trade in goods. ucts reaches its “natural” limits.

The biggest beneficiaries of e-commerce Most of the counterfeiting workshops are located in Guangdong province. Much of its output ends up at the Southern Market in Guangzhou, where wholesalers take orders from representatives of counterfeit supply chains from all over the world. Within this international crowd, bilingual officers act as a liaison between the operators of this vast web of counterfeiting. The market is only the visible part of the many showrooms where transactions take place behind the scenes. In this highly globalised business segment, transport logistics is also becoming increasingly sophisticated. “Counterfeiters are constantly refining their postal mailing systems, in line with changes in customs of66

Networks of project managers How to dismantle this global forgery machine? The task is made more difficult by the multitude of sweatshops and the opacity of the supply chain. “There is not a single large counterfeiting factory or group controlling the market, as we sometimes like to fantasise, but a complex ecosystem of subcontractors often delivering both authentic brands and counterfeits,” explains Thierry Dubois. “A multitude of project managers collaborate with these supplier networks.”

In a special report in 1963, Europa Star was already investigating the counterfeit market in Hong Kong. 67

The movements used in counterfeit products are of- officers of the Public Security Bureau (PSB), which acts ten Chinese automatic calibres (Seagull, Nanning or in criminal cases and can impose prison sentences – it other) or Japanese movements acquired via interme- currently covers about 30% of watch seizures. diaries. On cheaper copies, a quartz movement is sim- How does the Chinese government view a company ply incorporated into a counterfeit mechanical watch. like STU? “We are considered a positive element by the ETA’s emblematic 2824 movement is itself much cop- authorities, because we are complementary,” replies ied. Even the name “Noob”, which is supposed to refer Thierry Dubois. “We help their teams identify seized to higher quality counterfeits, has been copied. No counterfeits, trademarks and designs.” honour among thieves… STU enjoys a kind of de facto monopoly on internaAccording to Thierry Dubois, suppliers sometimes ben- tional legitimacy against counterfeiting in China, and efit from leaks that come directly from Swiss factories to is the privileged interlocutor of the authorities on the copy the most difficult components. Even vintage watch- ground: “Few global companies like ours are active in es, given the current frenzy around this category, are cop- the country,” Dubois continues. “China wants to change ied. Then there are are the so-called “Frankenwatches”, its international image and no longer appear as a counwith a mixture of authentic components and additions... try producing counterfeit goods. But there is a huge job “In Thailand, I also saw a number of counterfeiters buy- to be done because the territory to be covered is huge.” ing real models and setting them with diamonds to sell them,” the manager Energised by the continues. Will counterfeiting opportunities in

At the crossroads of several administrations

today’s digital jungle, the counterfeiting ecosystem now even has its own specialised blogs, which provide in-depth comparisons of the quality level of replica products.

At the local administration station, it is time for the daily operational debrief. We meet a local manager, who is leaving to take up a promotion in another department. The fight against counterfeiters is currently the subject of a major administrative reorganisation project in China. Historically, the State Administration of Industry and Commerce (SAIC) was in charge of this mission. But it was in a clear conflict of interest, since this body is also in charge of the commercial register, and owns several shopping centres itself. To change this situation, in 2018 the Chinese government created a new entity – the Market Supervision Administration (MSA) – which is in charge of supervising the fight against counterfeit watches. However, the administrative transition is not yet complete, which means that both authorities are simultaneously active on the ground, a situation that will persist until Beijing’s decision can be implemented in every district of this immense country. “Today, in some cities, about half of the cases are still treated by SAIC and the other half by the MSA,” says Thierry Dubois. In the field, the majority of raids are carried out by MSA agents, whose actions are purely administrative: confiscation of counterfeit products, withdrawal of the sales licence and fines. Operations can also be carried out by 68

remain in China?

One of the biggest questions is the possibility that watch brands may eventually relocate part of their production to neighbouring countries with cheaper labour, such as Vietnam or the Philippines. This has already been observed in other industries such as the textile industry. If watch mass production were to migrate again, counterfeiting would certainly follow, as has already been observed in the past. As with other illegal or parallel activities, a complex system has developed, with a large number of intermediaries, commission systems and, in some cases, “protections”. At Beijing’s Silk Street and Pearl Market, for example, counterfeits are on display in the heart of the capital. Some of STU’s clients have taken numerous legal actions, at great expense, to stop this activity. Nothing has been done about it. Energised by the opportunities in today’s digital jungle, the counterfeiting ecosystem now even has its own specialised blogs, which provide in-depth comparisons of the quality level of replica products. The people we met often did not see where the problem was, and stated that these “replicas” were mere “tributes” to rare and inaccessible models. When the 3D printer holds out the promise that anyone can easily design objects at home, intellectual property will undoubtedly be one of the great battles of the 21st century – in watchmaking as in all sectors with high added value!

Germany’s Big Watch Exhibition  High-quality watches up close 

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October 25 - 27, 2019 Rheinterrasse | Düsseldorf



HIGHLIGHTS This sponsored section gives our partners the opportunity to introduce their latest developments. Be it exclusive timepieces, legends of watchmaking or disruptive models, it shows a variety of designs, techniques and proposals. In a nutshell, it offers a glimpse into the incredible creativity present in the watch industry.


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In this second episode about the AMC, we investigate the core of this innovation by Urwek: its atomic clock. It offers stunning precision within of one second in 317 years!


he Urwerk AMC is a hybrid timekeeping construction that consists of two autonomous, but linked, systems. The first part – the Atomolith – is a fixed base unit, a 35kg aluminium-housed atomic clock with roughly the same dimensions as a mid-sized computer tower. The second part is a mobile unit, a purely mechanical watch that can be worn on the wrist or securely docked within the base unit. Developed in collaboration with SpectraTime, the atomic clock interacts with the mechanical watch in three ways. The first, and perhaps the most challenging technically, involves regulating the rate of the watch. When the mobile unit is docked with its base unit, there is a synchronisation option that sets the time of the mechanical wristwatch according to the atomic clock and regulates the mechanical oscillator. The rate of a watch is controlled by the regulator. The regulator usually takes the form of what is known as an index, which controls the effective length of the balance spring. If a watch is found by the owner to be running too fast or too slow, the index can be moved to adjust the effective length of the balance spring, to essentially speed up or slow down the rate of the watch. Here, the base unit activates a pusher on the mobile wristwatch unit, which causes a sensor mechanism within the wristwatch to detect the positive or negative deviation of the mechanical seconds indication from the hyper-accurate atomic clock. This sensor mechanism consists of a pair of callipers that close around a half-moon cam rotating co-axially with the seconds hand. The variable positioning of the calliper jaws around the half-moon cam then causes a 72

connected peg component to move along a preset arc. The peg is directly in contact with the regulating index, and the distance moved by the peg, as determined by the cam-callipers sensor mechanism, changes the effective length — and consequently the oscillating frequency — of the hairspring. The second operation, which is distinct from the rate adjustment, is the exact synchronisation of the minutes and seconds display of the watch with that of the atomic clock. The mechanism to set the minutes and seconds, like that for the rate adjustment, is activated by a pusher triggered by the atomic clock. This pusher causes two sprung levers within the wristwatch to press against eccentric heart cams associated with the minutes and seconds hands on the wristwatch time display. These heart cams are calibrated so that when contacted by their levers, they return their associated hands to their respective dial-side zero marks. The third operation for winding the watch is straightforward: a shaft extending from the base unit acts on the crown to wind the wristwatch when the latter is placed in its cradle at night. With the AMC, Urwerk has broken the technological limits of mechanical watchmaking and reinstated the mechanical oscillator at the apex of chronometry. The mechanical oscillator is not perfect — perhaps it never will be — but in the AMC, it is self-perfecting! In the last episode of this series we will focus on the mobile part of the AMC: the watch itself.


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FLYING GRAND REGULATOR OPEN GEAR RESEC THE NEW FACE OF AN INDEPENDENT HOUSE With the Flying Grand Regulator Open Gear ReSec, a limited edition of 50 units worldwide, Chronoswiss presents for the first time a regulator timepiece in a striking 44mm case with an automatic movement, available in five different versions. The C.301 is an exceptional automatic calibre developed by Chronoswiss and the refined Open Gear construction makes the regulator mechanism a prominent design element. It is placed in the spotlight on the face of the dial, where the gear train bridges governing the off-centre hour display have been skilfully skeletonised and screwed firmly to the dial, which in turn becomes part of the movement. The retrograde seconds hand that gives the watch its name sweeps along the tracks of a 120 degree scale and every 30 seconds jumps back instantaneously to the start. The 42-piece dial is also worth a second look through the double-coated sapphire crystal. Regardless of the intriguing play of colours, which make each variant something special, it impresses with its high level of sheer craftsmanship: the dial surface is elaborately hand-guillochéd for each individual timepiece in the series. Other noteworthy features include the intense indexes that glow persistently in the dark, made of a mix of Super-LumiNova and ceramics, whose massive cylinder shape provides a perfect match for the 3-D design of the dial. The hands in the shape of elongated triangles, which are also inlaid with Super-LumiNova to ensure optimal night readability, were specially designed by Chronoswiss.

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One particularly eye-catching version of the Flying Grand Regulator Open Gear ReSec, is this model with an entirely “Electric Blue” case. The components used for the complex dial construction are also coated with blue DLC, including as the skeletonised gear train bridges and the hour gauge funnel.

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HIGHLIGHT Sponsored content


ROBERT MÜHLE MONDPHASE CELEBRATING 150 YEARS OF EXISTENCE For five generations, the Mühle family has been producing high accuracy instruments in Glashütte: first measuring tools, then marine chronometers, and finally wristwatches. To mark this important milestone, the brand is launching a new complication: a moon phase. Mühle-Glashütte has been dedicated to achieving precise measurement for 150 years. In celebration of this fact, the manufacturing workshop based in the German town of Glashütte is launching a special edition aligned with the moon in its anniversary year of 2019. The newly designed moon phase display of the “RMK 04” Robert Mühle calibre is so precise that an impressive 122 years must pass before it deviates from the actual position of the moon by even a day. The moon displayed on the disc is the result of meticulous work by the watchmakers at Mühle-Glashütte, who have carefully reproduced the large and small craters of this astronomical body located 384,000 kilometres from the Earth. This impressive feature is surrounded by the night sky in a dark blue that makes it stand out even more. It is produced using an anodised aluminium plate onto which the intricate details of the moon are laser engraved. The new Robert Mühle Mondphase is limited to a total of 150 timepieces.

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Alongside its new moon phase display, the 42 mm diameter platinum, red gold or stainless steel case of this special limited edition also houses the company’s very own up/down display and the Mühle hand date.

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Revised extract of a Breitling ad published in Europa Star 2/1950






hese thoughts might not be expressed openly, but traditional watchmaking is having serious doubts about its future. What for five centuries has essentially been the art of measuring time in the most sophisticated, practical, transportable and then portable manner is now struggling with existential questions. It made the industrial revolution and the first wave of globalisation possible, but it's now functionally obsolete and thus ultimately replaceable. Some of it might well, it is feared, be destined for the scrap heap. This being the case, you might expect to see the number of new watchmaking initiatives falling. But in fact, the digital revolution has been a game-changer, and the exact opposite is taking place. At the end of August 2019, there were 443 projects for new brands on Kickstarter alone. Compare that with the number of watchmaking companies based in Switzerland: 694, employing 60,000 people (source: Convention Patronale de l’Industrie Horlogère Suisse, September 2018). And most of these new projects are for mechanical watches. An aberration in this digital world? Or an antidote?

Even better, we’re seeing a burgeoning of haute horlogerie projects by watchmakers, many of whom have worked with the big names, built networks of expertise and are now taking the plunge and creating their own brand, or making a name for themselves as individuals. It would seem that, unlike the vaguely threatening smart devices with their infallible, cold and clinical accuracy, mechanical watchmaking still has something intimate, vibrant, inaccurate perhaps, but warmer about it. Which is why its value, whatever its price, transcends its purely pragmatic utility. The upshot is that from the Joux Valley to Kuala Lumpur, from the Jura to San Francisco, whether in the Balearic Islands, Saint-Germain or Hong Kong, watchmaking is putting out myriad new shoots. And most of them stem from young people. But let us not forget, as our Archives demonstrate, that the cemeteries of horology have always been littered with lost promises.* * Let's be stoical, like watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin who, for his new brand, has adopted the maxim of Seneca, the Stoic philosopher: nothing is ours except time.



INTERVIEW WITH XAVIER DE ROQUEMAUREL, CEO Is it reasonable or even feasible in the current context to launch a new and ambitious classic, high-end watch? The challenge is tough and the questions numerous: what product, what strategy, and to what end? How to finance it? How to distribute it? But also: how to stand out, evolve, overcome obstacles, cross thresholds and achieve critical mass? Czapek, a brand launched scarcely three years ago, seems to be overcoming these challenges step by step and finding a successful response to these questions. All the more reason to interview the vibrant and enthusiastic Xavier de Roquemaurel, the mastermind of Czapek’s renaissance, for this special feature. A simple question: why launch a “new” top-end brand when the market is already cluttered and overflowing with all kinds of offerings? And, how do you go about it? Xavier de Roquemaurel: I’ll be frank. To launch or relaunch a brand means you’ve first of all hit rock bottom. In my case, I’d just left Ebel and I was out of work. In cases like that, you simply have to get back in the saddle. And you can’t do it on your own. You have to be transparent, surround yourself with the right people and give everyone a chance. You also have to be prepared to struggle, to start by studying, thinking, assessing. And in the process of doing that, the very story of Franciszek Czapek became our main inspiration. There were three of us in the beginning, our chairman Harry Guhl, the watchmaker Sébastien Follonier, and myself. Between 2012 and 2015, the year we presented our first watch, we 80

focused on the story of Czapek, his heritage, values and so on. We had the impression that he was the fourth man, always sitting at our side. And we realised that in him we had a real treasure at our fingertips that was going to help us make something really beautiful.

FRANCISZEK CZAPEK 1811 Birth of Franciszek Czapek in Semonice, in the kingdom of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). He emigrated to Poland with his family in his youth, retaining Czech and Polish citizenship. 1832 Franciszek fled to Switzerland following the collapse of the Polish uprising, in which he actively participated. A gifted watchmaker, he soon founded his first company, "Czapek & Moreau", with a local partner, and gallicised his name to François.

It’s one thing to have a beautiful dream of creating a brand, but actually achieving it calls for more than just the product; you have to have a strategy, sufficient funding… We took three strategic decisions right from the start, although they were largely intuitive (I’m not a fan of Excel tables and Powerpoint presentations). First of all, not to depend on a strong shareholder or billionaire so as to keep our independence and be able to grow at our own pace. Secondly, not to place our egos at the centre, but the product itself. The product should be everything. And thirdly, to start at the bottom and gradually work our way up the market. These three principles have always been our guide.

1839 François Czapek and Antoine Norbert de Patek, both Polish emigrants, survivors of an insurrection that had forced them to flee, met in 1836. This encounter changed their lives. Czapek invited his countryman Patek to delve into the realm of watchmaking. Together they founded the company Patek, Czapek & Cie on May 1. 1839. 1845 The partnership between François Czapek and Antoine Norbert de Patek lasted six years, during which they created several exceptional timepieces. At the end of their contract, in April 1845, they dissolved the partnership. Both men continued producing timepieces. Czapek founded Czapek & Cie on May 1st, 1845, with a new partner, Juliusz Gruzewski. 1850 Czapek was quickly recognised as one of the greatest watchmakers of the nineteenth century. Purveyor to the Imperial Court, Watchmaker of His Imperial Highness, Prince Napoleon. At its height, the company had boutiques in Geneva, Warsaw and Paris, Place Vendôme. He wrote a book on watchmaking, one of the first of its kind ever written in Polish. 1869 Czapek disappears mysteriously.


Place Vendôme Tourbillon Ombres

In line with your first principle of independence, you launched a crowdfunding operation in 2015, which is quite rare at the high end of the market, especially in haute horlogerie. We ruled out the idea of a reference shareholder from the start. We said to ourselves we had to create as large a circle as possible of brand lovers. Our objective was to find 1,000 shareholders. Today, we’ve reached the 200 mark, but it isn’t the number that counts, it’s the quality of the exchanges that arise from this amplifying circle. Each and every one of our shareholders has become an ambassador of the brand, each and every one has opened up their network to us, expanding our address book. So Czapek is growing, gradually and organically, rhizome-like, through networks. Of our shareholders, we expect them to become advisors, to give us their ideas and to assess and weigh up our own. One additional virtue of this way of working is the obligation it imposes on us to be transparent. That naturally results in a culture of collaboration. 82

The second principle: keeping your egos under control… It’s Franciszek Czapek who inspired us, his modesty. Although he was a great watchmaker, he never put himself forward. It was the product he put forward. And then he was a young man, a man of his own time, who disappeared mysteriously in 1869 at the age of 58. We didn’t want a burdensome past, a huge personality weighing on the brand. We wanted to be both classic and very modern. Principle number three: start at the bottom… Starting “at the bottom” – which is a very relative notion – with a very beautiful, seven-day watch priced at CHF 10,000, was a must, because we were using crowdfunding. In any case we couldn’t aim too high. But above all, we knew that it was more important to succeed in selling a watch than to build the brand right away.

It’s through sales that the brand was going to be able to go upmarket and prove itself. In 2016, after our first Baselworld, we’d sold one watch. One! By the end of the same year, we’d sold 88. In the meantime, we’d also won the Public Prize at the 2016 GPHG. What better for us than recognition by the public. We put everything we had into the product so that the buyers really got their money’s worth. From the outset, the first two models were equipped with very fine, proprietary movements, developed and built for us by JeanFrançois Mojon of Chronode (read his portrait below). To put everything we had into the product, we were very frugal, working with very low fixed costs, and we asked our partners to make a special effort. Lastly, I’d like to add a fourth principle: to make something beautiful. The compulsive quest for a product of beauty down to the slightest detail. Giving shape to modern elegance. This strategy, to use a word that’s not really to your taste – let’s rather say this attitude – has it borne fruit? We haven’t attained our targets, but profits were higher than anticipated. To make things absolutely clear, we’ve been working since 2012, our first fiscal year being 2014. Together with 2015 that was the period during which we established (and re-established) the name and brand of Czapek. It was the period of preparation. 2016 was our first year of trading and 2018 our first profitable year. Our culture is like that of a tortoise that moves slowly forward day after day, without making any strategic 90° turns. There’s no reason for it to run, but you thought it was there, under that lettuce, and suddenly you find it over there at the bottom of the garden (laughs). And how would you define your profile in the watchmaking landscape today? An independent brand has to choose between a niche approach, price or differentiation. You have to be clear about where you stand in a market of high-end, independent brands which, okay, is continuously expanding, but which today accounts for about 1 percent and will never exceed 3 percent. But within that, there’s room for manoeuvre. Watchmaking know-how has spread worldwide, it has grown incredibly. People are thirsting for genuine quality, beauty, authenticity, beyond the slogans. I would say that we offer haute horlo-

gerie at a different price, between CHF 10,000 and CHF 30,000. Incidentally, our average price is CHF 18,000. So we really opted for differentiation. By nature, we can’t be an ultra-niche watchmaker, we have to grow by volume, by means of differentiation. But let’s be careful when we talk of volume, we’re talking of sales of 100 to 1,000 watches a year. But before that, you still have to cross successive thresholds, face issues of critical mass… Yes, but if you stop, you’re dead. It’s very intensive work. You go through learning phases, especially how not to rush as if your tail was on fire (laughs). You have to avoid cash-burn like the plague, be wary of bottlenecks. What we’re seeking with our product is a horological ideal, half-way between artisanal and industrial production. As far as rising volumes are concerned, one quite crucial threshold is that of 350 items. At that stage, decisions need to be taken, because you can start thinking about integrating additional activities. I’m thinking of laser engraving, certain types of polishing and other things. That kind of integration helps save time, for example. At the next stage, you can start producing internally elements on which you can make real savings. So you make efficiency gains. These are all critical choices that the “tortoise” will take when the time comes. Are you also thinking of the holy Grail of any independent watchmaker, building your own movement? Since we’re purists, of course we’re thinking of it. More than that, we’re already working on it. It will be a basic movement, 36-41mm, for men and women, and it is being designed in-house. And the watchmaker Emmanuel Bouchet is building the prototype. On the basis of this movement, which we’ll present at Baselworld 2020, we want to develop of series of complications that will also enable us to present a new “smart and sporty” style of watch, a new segment at Czapek. So how would you define Czapek in nutshell? (Thinks and concentrates): It’s the spirit of a great nineteenth-century watchmaker, his culture of beauty and his shared passion, which have made it possible to make something unique today. 83



INTERVIEW WITH REXHEP REXHEPI, FOUNDER OF AKRIVIA He is 32 years old, has already won a GPHG award, sells his entire, small output to collectors and the keenest watch lovers, has fingers of gold and a good head on his shoulders, and shows no sign of slowing down. Children, when they state their age, add fractions. So is Rexhep Rexhepi still a child at heart when he replies “7-and-a-half” on being asked the age of his brand, Akrivia, founded in early 2012 when he was 24-and-ahalf years old (the question was put in August 2019)? His childhood desire still burns as strong as ever too – that of becoming a watchmaker, which emerged at the age of just seven or eight when he insisted on opening his father’s Tissot “to see what was so mysterious inside”. He has, so it seems, also retained from childhood an unbounded taste for freedom and independence. His birth in Kosovo – where he lived up to the age of 12 with his grandmother, until his family was forced into exile by the war, joining the father who had already emigrated to Switzerland – might have something to do with his unbridled desire for freedom and autonomy, which he ceaselessly invokes. “Disembarking for the first time at Geneva Airport, I was dazzled by all these corridors filled with posters showing magnificent watches, and that just catalysed my wish to become a watchmaker.” An apprenticeship at Patek Philippe was followed by two years casing up and assembling watches. Then came three years with BNB Concept on tourbillons and, after just one year, responsibility for 15 watchmakers. After that came a stint at MHC, then with FrançoisPaul Journe, where he worked on the Chronomètre Souverain, as well as the Chronomètre à Résonance. An impressive career, initiatory and practical. The year is 2012. He decides to launch Akrivia (from the ancient Greek ακριβεια, meaning precision, care, meticulousness). 84

The law of the workbench “Freedom? It’s being able not to want to kick yourself. And to do that, you have to do things little by little. With precision, care, meticulousness. You have to know where you’re going. Hurry, but slowly. Aim for the long term. Move forward without ever deviating from your initial choice. Mine was, and still is, simply to make my watch. Not to make money, not to set up a business, not just for the sake of setting up a new brand. No, to make my watch. Quite simply, when I’m at my workbench I’m happy. It’s the process that counts. It’s the making.” Even so, the early days were no piece of cake: freedom has to be conquered. Rexhep, who launched his business with patiently garnered savings, had to wait two years before finally selling his first watch in 2014. “I must admit that by then, after two years of waiting, I’d started to have doubts. But that first sale was a huge relief. Straight away I told myself: it is possible! And then starting in 2015, it all clicked into place. Something was set in motion and in 2017, things exploded.” The next year, in 2018, Rexhep won the GPHG in the Men’s Watch category, not with his first watch, but with

The CCR-01 Chronomètre Contemporain

his Chronomètre Contemporain, aka CCRR-01. This is already his seventh model (after a tourbillon monopusher chronograph, a time-only tourbillon, a chiming jump hour, a tourbillon regulator, the tourbillon “Barrette-Mirroir”, and a three-hander model with a 100-hour power reserve) – but the first to bear not the Akrivia brand, but his own name, Rexhep Rexhepi. “In 2012, I told myself that starting to put my own name on my brand would come across as pretentious. I thought it might be frowned upon, especially as it doesn’t really sound like a traditional watchmaking name. But that was just my perception. Today, for my seventh watch, I feel easier about it. And since it’s really my watch from every point of view, why not put my name on it? But that doesn’t mean it’s the launch of a second brand, not at all. It’s simply an affirmation.”

Full maturity It is an affirmation also that his watchmaking has fully matured. With his five fully-fledged watchmakers and one engineer, today everything is built and prototyped in-house. The components are machined exter-

nally, then, after inspection, each Akrivia watchmaker is responsible for his own watch from A to Z, including all the decorations – and they are numerous and sophisticated. The work is carried out entirely by hand with the aid of a whole panoply of manual machines, with which everything can be accomplished “to the nearest micron”. Akrivia is committed to continuing down this path, as the most recent “integration” – production of their own watch cases – demonstrates. Rexhep Rexhepi has succeeded in head-hunting a genuine star of the casemaking scene: Jean-Pierre Hagmann, 78, whose legendary mark is feverishly sought after by the keenest collectors and sends auction prices soaring. “This will be my last show,” says Hagmann, for whom Rexhep Rexhepi has just set up a complete atelier a stone’s throw from his own at the heart of Geneva’s historic centre. There is no doubt that this magician, known mainly for his minute repeater cases, made for Patek Philippe and reputed for their unparalleled sound,


But all the watches currently in production are presold and the waiting time is 18 months. “I’m not working on a single watch that is not already sold. And today, I know exactly what I’m going to be doing over the next seven years. I even have the issue dates. But what is also certain is that I don’t want to expand. I am absolutely determined to keep production of our watches as strictly manual as it is now.” As for distribution, besides direct sales, it is based on three retailers worldwide: The Hour Glass for Asia, Seddiqui & Sons for the Middle East and A Collected Man, an ultra-exclusive site based in London that works a lot with the US.

The exemplary Chronomètre Contemporain

Akrivia AK-01 Tourbillon Chrono - Blue Dial - Steel Case

and who sold his atelier to Vacheron Constantin, will be whetting people’s expectations as to his future work with Akrivia. “I’m a strong believer in transmission,” says Rexhepi. “You never know everything, you learn little by little and you’re always learning. That’s what the workbench teaches you. The aim is to make all our future cases with Jean-Pierre. What’s more, since 2015 and the AK-04, a tourbillon regulator, all our movements have been our own. And we’re not stopping there…” We can winkle no more out of him.

Total financial independence Entirely self-financed – “not even the smallest bank loan” – even from the very beginning, Rexhep ploughs everything back into his ateliers and brand. Everything means 150 watches sold to date, at a starting price of 55,000 CHF excluding tax, for the CCRR 01, and as much as 260,000 CHF and more for the AK-02. All his collections are limited to either 12 items (for the AK -01 to the AK-05), or twice 25 for the AK-06 and the CCRR 01. He is emphatic that “no discount will be given, ever. My prices are calculated with the lowest possible margin and granting reductions would be to depreciate the watch. I don’t give in on that point, even if the temptation is great sometimes.” 86

But let’s not forget the essential thing: his watchmaking style. After all, his success is first and foremost thanks to that. “It was actually the decoration more than anything that made me want to create a very personal style of watch, but inspired by grand tradition.” His latest creation, the Chronomètre Contemporain, signed with his own name, is a textbook example of his own special approach to watchmaking. This 38mm model is inspired by the clear, elegant lines of 1940s officers' watches and the legibility and precision that make them absolutely timeless. But he revisits them, passing them through the filter of his own contemporary codes that he developed as his creations evolved. Symmetry, whether that of the dial or the movement, plays a crucial role here, conferring on them a touch of classicism. This same symmetry, this search for balance, is perfectly visible in the original movement of the RR-01, which was custom-built for this model. It is a threehander with a large small-seconds dial, equipped with a hacking second and zero-reset function via the crown, which allows you to reset it with great precision. With an exceptional power reserve of 100 hours, one single barrel, a perfectly symmetrical and balanced architecture and a click-spring rewinding system, it takes its inspiration from pocket watches. Its entirely manual finish is exemplary in every respect, harmoniously combining anglage, black polishing and Geneva stripes. Its chronometer status is attested by a certificate delivered by the Besançon Observatory, which requires 16 days of testing. For a seven-and-a-half yearold, it is quite simply remarkable.


THE NEW HAUTE HORLOGERIE They’re called Genus, Petermann Bédat, Cyrus, Sylvain Pinaud, Krayon, Alchemists, Trilobe, David Candaux, Tournemire, Ming… These names, still unknown to the public at large, are those of established master watchmakers or young horology geeks. Their ambitions are diverse, as are the paths they have chosen, but all of them, each in their own way, are trying to add their stone to the edifice and inscribe their name on the Haute Horlogerie map. A brief reconnaissance tour.

GENUS THE NEVER-ENDING CATERPILLAR OF TIME This timepiece is surprising to say the least, and at first sight you scratch your head, wondering how on earth it can fulfil its basic task of telling the time. It was born, probably during a sleepless night, in the head of Sébastien Billières, a master watchmaker described as an “original talent”, who has his own peculiar way of designing 3D movements “in his mind”, as Catherine Henry, the young entrepreneur and co-founder of Genus, explains. Fascinated by the symbolism contained in the figure 8 – eternity, but also the analemma, the ‘8’ shape traced by the sun during the course of a year as seen from a fixed point at the same time – and eager to see a mechanical component moving freely around a watch, when horology is traditionally based on fixed components driven by moving gears, he dreamed up and produced his Genus (from the Latin meaning type, family, but also zero position, departure point). The result is a free-moving display which is at first bewildering, then amazing, then, suddenly, captivatingly legible. It’s nothing short of miraculous, mechanically speaking, to watch the little “caterpillar” of the minutes, made up of 12 separate parts, shunting along in ten-minute increments, crossing over itself to trace a perfect loop and forming an upper rose window at 15’ and a lower one at 45’. What’s more, the hour markers move around the outside of the dial – the hour pointer is at 9 o’clock – and in doing so orient themselves towards the reader, pivoting four times by a quarter of a turn. An absolute first!

“To read the exact time, just note the displayed hour (at 9 o’clock) and add the precise minute (at 3 o’clock) to the tens of minutes shown by the constantly travelling Genus,” as the watch manual explains. 87

10 years of cogitation Ten years of cogitation, three years of development. Everything was kept confidential up to its presentation for the 2019 GPHG, to be decided in November, trade secrecy oblige. But confidentiality is also a habit, because with his watch subcontracting company GMTI, founded in 2007, Sébastien Billières specialises first and foremost in assembling Geneva Seal calibres – a domain that calls for the strictest secrecy. Having done a stint in his early days with Roger Dubuis in person, he continued to frequent the very best schools, with Félix Baumgartner on the Opus V project, for example (which already featured mobile parts) and then Svend Andersen (which top watchmaker has not passed through the workshop of the founder of AHCI?). Sébastien Billières is now passing on his know-how in turn: he has taught horology at the IFAGE vocational training school for adults in Geneva since 2006.

An audacious attempt Devising completely new ways of displaying the passage of time has tantalised watchmakers down the ages. But they have never succeeded in permanently ousting the ineluctable three central hands. It is a new challenge every time. This extremely audacious attempt features a movement (with neither dial nor hands) produced and finished “in absolute compliance with watchmaking rules”. From a watchmaker specialising in Geneva Seal watches, one expects no less. All the components are designed and cut by hand. The steel is black-polished, the flank drawing done by hand and the movement in is 18ct ethical gold. The standard of finishing is extremely high. As for the time-telling itself, it is truly captivating. The first white “genus” – the name given to the ten-minute pointer at the head of the “caterpillar”, followed by its train of 11 pale blue “genera” – traces its double loop of time in space by crossing over itself. The exact minute is read at 3 o’clock, the hour at 9 o’clock. The hour markers turn without you even noticing. Everything is in orbit. Everything is in a state of flux, like time itself. There will be eight Genuses in white gold. Price: CHF 280,000. For immensely wealthy collectors attempting a double world first in the shape of an eight. 88

CYRUS “BUILDING A CONTEMPORARY BRAND” The man behind Cyrus is Jean-François Mojon (co-owner of the brand together with “a wealthy Swiss family”), an innovative and expert movement manufacturer and watchmaker who won a top award at the 2010 GPHG in the independent watchmaker category and whose list of creations with his Le Locle-based manufacture, Chronode, (same co-owners) reads like a Who’s Who of contemporary haute horlogerie. Judge for yourself: MB&F, Czapek, HYT, Harry Winston Opus X, MCT, Urban Jürgensen, Trilobe and, more recently, Hermès have all collaborated, or are still collaborating, with Chronode. And that’s not counting other major brands who demand confidentiality about the developments entrusted to the manufacture. Twenty people work there, building and developing in 2D and 3D, delivering complete movements which they decorate, or even building an entire product which they deliver in its finished state. “We control the entire chain, from the concept to customer service,” explains J.-F. Mojon, “but we don’t make the components. We entrust that part to a select circle of local subcontractors, which aren’t lacking round here. But we do all the finishing, decoration and assembling.”

Why Cyrus? Founded in 2005, Chronode, which has grown impressively over the last three or four years, is also an innovating force for the brands, whether in terms of movements, functions, or the exteriors. It devises its offerings together with a small group of designers, always centred on “the universe of the brand we are addressing”. So why launch Cyrus, out of the blue? The answer: “With Cyrus, we aim to build a totally contemporary brand free from all previous history and all watchmaking heritage. Hence the name of Cyrus, a great conqueror who founded the Persian empire. Like him, we want to explore new frontiers – horological ones – and offer unique and exclusive creations. Each and every one of our models has to constitute a new take on timekeeping.” The inaugural model, Klepcys Moon, launched in 2015, expresses this ambition very well, with two patents, three completely new functions and two functional crowns, which have become the Cyrus signature. It has an imposing 48mm case resembling the walls of a for-

tress embedded between four spectacular lugs, a retrograde hours hand which changes colour depending on whether it is day or night, central discs for the minutes and seconds, indication of the date by means of mobile and retrograde parts and, lastly, a spherical moon of jawdropping realism, the phases of which are indicated by a black lacquer cover that gradually veils the surface.

Vertical tourbillon Having hosted the Solo Tempo (a three-hander), a closed or skeletonised Chronograph, and an Alarm (which chimes like a minute repeater), this very same highly recognisable Klepcys case – the 44mm version is illustrated here – this year hosts the Vertical Tourbillon Skeleton. Placed for the first time at the centre of the watch on a vertical axis inclined at 90° and appearing between the two arches of a decorative bridge inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, the tourbillon, on which the seconds can be

read engraved on tiny plates, is flanked by the retrograde hour indicator on one side and that of the minutes on the other. A spherical 4-day power reserve is displayed at 12 o’ clock. Two functional crowns – one conventional one for setting the watch and the other, at 9 o’ clock, to adjust it forward by one jumping hour at a time – round out the perfect symmetry of this rather monumental, three-dimensional whole. The central position of the vertical tourbillon reveals the entire space occupied by the movement to the observer’s gaze. Reasonably priced for horology of this exclusive standard of innovation and build (the Solo Tempo starts at CHF 8,500 / Valjoux Chronograph at CHF 13,000 / Alarm at CHF 39,000 / Vertical Tourbillon from CHF 100,000), in just a few short years Cyrus has already built a strong presence in Asia (Japan, HK, Macau, China), Italy (10 outlets), France and London, and is now also in the US.


Dual influence

DAVID CANDAUX THE CALL OF THE VALLEY When, like David Candaux, you were born and raised in the Joux Valley, the historic home of complicated watchmaking, when you’re the son and grandson of master watchmakers, and you live and work in Le Solliat, the same tiny village as the famous Philippe Dufour (who lives just next door to you), there’s no escaping destiny. Having worked for many years with Jaeger-LeCoultre, another neighbour, restoring historic timepieces, David Candaux was unable to resist the call of the Valley and the temptation to launch his own brand, under his own name. Presented in 2017 on the AHCI stand, his first creation, the “1740 The First 8” – begun in 2001 (!) – made a striking impression thanks to its mastery, originality and incredible standard of finishing. This year, David Candaux is presenting a new, more futuristic re-interpretation, one might say, called the DC 6 Solstice Titanium Half Hunter “1740”. 90

The very name of the watch reflects the influences behind it: “1740” is a nod to the year of the first documented presence of a master watchmaker in the Joux Valley. The term “Half-Hunter” harks back to the highprecision captain’s watches, of which the dials, visible through small apertures, and the movements were jealously protected by a metal cover. This specific arrangement can be found in the watches by David Candaux: on the left, beneath a domed sapphire glass you see the 60-second flying tourbillon, inclined at an angle of 3 degrees and combined with a balance spring inclined at an angle of 30 degrees inside the grade-5 titanium cage. Hence the name “bi-plan flying tourbillon”. The hours and minutes are displayed on the right, indicated by two hands curved over a spherical micro-dial that follows the convex shape of the small sapphire dome protecting it. Right at the top, the power reserve can be read beneath a third, arc-shaped sapphire crystal. The influence of the Joux Valley shines through in the very special guilloché finish on the watch face. This

is a virtuoso hand-guilloché pattern called Pointe du Risoux. It recalls the sky as seen through the tops of the pine trees in the famous forest bordering David’s workshop. The watch’s calibre was designed from start to finish by David. Without going into all the details (which would take several pages), let us just note that the calibre is inclined at 3 degrees from the horizontal to be able to accommodate the secret, retractable crown and its winding system. And everything else is in the same vein: the escapement was entirely developed and produced in-house, inspired by the antique guilloché inking chronographs from the Joux Valley that, unlike modern escapements, were non-equidistant, signifi-

cantly increasing their efficiency. The balance spring is in beryllium copper with four screws in 18-carat gold for variable inertia adjustment. The wheels are chamfered, bevelled and circular-grained on both sides, and the pinions are polished on a wooden grinding wheel and grooved behind the pivot, ensuring that the lubricating oil remains in place – an ancestral technique. Coming after the first, very classic watches, the new DC6 Solstice Titanium Half Hunter, with its bright colours – orange, blue or red – brings surprising modernity to haute horlogerie, as well as excellent chronometric precision, despite being grounded in the noblest of traditions and one of the oldest watchmaking terroirs.

PETERMANN BEDAT DEAD SECONDS TO START WITH Quartz watches beat dead seconds quite naturally, so to speak: the seconds hand jumps neatly in 1-second intervals. Contrary to this, in mechanical watches the seconds hand seems to glide. Making it jump forward by one second may seem simple to the uninitiated. And yet it is a genuine – and rather rare – complication. Dead-seconds hands were found in the regulator clocks in watch workshops because of the precision they provided, but they were driven by the pendulum movement. In a wristwatch, it is quite another matter. Gaël Petermann and Florian Bédat got to grips with it for the first watch of their budding brand, called simply Petermann Bédat. These two young watchmakers first met at the École d’Horlogerie de Genève watchmaking school and then, by a circuitous route, met up again at A. Lange & Söhne: “one heck of an apprenticeship, demanding great rigour and a very high standard of practice,” they explain with undampened enthusiasm. After four years, Gaël came back to Switzerland and took up an independent workbench at Svend Andersen’s – yes, him again. Florian joined him two years later and the two moved to Renens, near Lausanne, to premises provided by the “master”, Philippe Renaud, who was working on his revolutionary escapement project, the DR-01.


They founded their own company there and made a living mainly by doing restoration for Christie’s. But they had one nagging wish: to create their own watch. The opportunity presented itself when Dominique Renaud asked them to decorate two kits of his incredible blade regulator and to assemble a non-functional movement for his DR-01 project. Instead of being paid, they exchanged hours of work with Frédéric Magnard, Dominique Renaud’s engineer, and together designed a new, dead-seconds calibre, entirely “home-made” except for the escapement (wheel and pallet fork). This comes from a Valjoux 72, chosen for its large balance and excellent vibration rate of 18,000.

A very classic vision By their own admission, the movement takes its inspiration from Lange and Patek Philippe “vintage” models and is made in traditional nickel silver. They chose the dead seconds system despite the problems this poses in terms of energy – “because it demands quite a bit of amplitude and force” – because the calibre of this design would enable them to produce their second timepiece, a monopusher chronograph. “We have a very classic vision of watchmaking. Our number one reference is the Chronographe 130 from Patek Philippe, for the sobriety and beauty of its movement. Our watchmaking is also strongly inspired by our restoration work, especially as regards simplicity: every movement should be easily repairable.” Having designed the movement, they collaborated with external service providers to produce the components and got started on the extremely complex decoration, which requires two full months of work for each item. “We take the quality of the decoration and finishing to the limit. For example, we even decorate the inside of the mainspring barrel, which no one will ever see, except a future watchmaker who might open it, once!” Young and enthusiastic, they make no secret of their ambition: “We admire people like Kari Voutilainen. One day we’d like to be able to do everything ourselves like him, with a small team. And for the dials, we’d love to collaborate with someone like Anita Porchet.” While waiting for their dreams to become reality, their greatest wish is to “remain free and independent at all costs. Even if it means struggling…” 92

SYLVAIN PINAUD AND HIS “CHRONOGRAPHE MONOPOUSSOIR ARTISANAL” Sylvain Pinaud was one of the more exciting discoveries to be made at this year’s Baselworld, in the “Incubator” section. As he himself states in his own simple, transparent way: “I love this timepiece, I think it’s beautiful… So why not make it available to people who love fine watches!” Quite incidentally, this object of his affection won him first prize in the French national “Meilleur Ouvrier de France” (Best Artisan in France) competition. Since it was created for a competition the timepiece is, again simply and transparently, styled “Chronographe Monopoussoir Artisanal”. Given his talent and the driving enthusiasm he radiates, I would be very surprised if we had heard the last of Sylvain Pinaud. Pursuing his independent path, in late 2017 he set up a business in Sainte-Croix, a genuine watchmaking incubator which has hatched names such as Denis Flageollet from De Bethune and Vianney Halter, as well as numerous automaton specialists and high-flying artisans. Today, he is offering to produce his Chronographe Monopoussoir to order, with the proviso that “given the artisanal production method and high degree of finishing, a very limited, numbered amount of watches will be produced.”

Taken apart and redesigned The competition rules stated that watches had to be based on an ETA 6497 movement. Of this movement, Sylvain kept only the gears and the escapement. The rest – the balance wheel, winding system, bridge and base plate – he re-engineered and rebuilt himself so as to be able to integrate the monopusher chronograph with its horizontal clutch and column wheel. This modification was, in his view, self-evident, given that it was “beautiful, simple and effective”. He redesigned everything – springs, jumpers, levers – endowing the delicate functions and other functions with strong constraints with ruby bearings. The great majority of the parts were made by hand and on conventional machines. The tempering, bluing, decorating and polishing was all done the traditional way. All the steel is black polished and hand-bevelled, the wheels

are bevelled and with circular graining, the main plate is grained and the upper bridge is straight-grained.

Sober design Architecturally, this is a beautiful watch: balanced, harmonious and delicate. Light penetrates joyfully, playing with depth. Inside, the chronograph sequence – clutch, declutch and zero reset – is easy to observe. The whole thing was designed and built around the chronograph function, reading it and watching the show as it plays out. Placed under a broad sapphire crystal and enclosed in a case “of simple design”, as he says, which is machined from a grade-5 titanium

block, the chronograph remains sober in design, “in the style of marine chronographs”. The case back reveals only the balance spring and its bridge. The timepiece presented in Basel is a prototype, and Sylvain Pinaud intends to make further “tiny adjustments and minor modifications, including shortening the crown, which is a bit long, and accentuating the contrast of the minute counter. But each piece produced will be customisable, in particular the colours of the dial and the rhodium plating.” Here’s to the success of the Chronographe Monopoussoir Artisanal!


TRILOBE A CHANGE OF REFERENCE “Love to be different”, “overturn concepts”, “take time”… These are all precepts – or pieces of advice – that could well be applied to Trilobe’s approach to watchmaking. The Trilobe watch is proof of this. It tells the time in an unmistakeably different way. It effectively overturns concepts, because it is no longer the hands that move over fixed time markers, but time which rotates endlessly around itself. Lastly, it takes time with a pinch of salt, because absolute accuracy is not its holy Grail. While it is accurate (you can depend on the chronometric know-how of Jean-François Mojon, who designed the movement, for that), even so it takes its time. Time, indeed, is shown by three rings which rotate, each at their own pace, opposite the three “trilobes” that indicate the passage of the hours, minutes and seconds. 94

But these three rings, counter-intuitively, turn anticlockwise and the trilobes are deliberately out of alignment with one another, underscoring the poetic character of this timepiece and the reading of it. But reading it rapidly becomes totally intuitive, visual and sensorial. It’s a very beautiful offering, launched by Gautier Massonneau. It’s classic and, refined, with a wealth of subtle poetic, architectural and horological allusions, and also a watch absolutely in line with the times. “Between rupture and continuity” is how Gautier Massonneau sums it up. This young man has had an unusual career. Having graduated from Paris Dauphine University with a Master’s degree in civil engineering, and worked as an international specialist in financing infrastructures, he fell under the spell of watchmaking. He radically changed direction to make the kind of watch he dreamed of, and also to give free rein to his artistic bent. And in doing so, with Trilobe he opened up a new path in fine watchmaking. The challenge of subtle innovation, offering a new means of intuitively reading time, has been convincingly met here.

ALCHEMISTS THE ALCHEMY OF THE CUPRUM 479 At the last Baselworld, three Alchemists presented their highly ambitious project and an astonishing watch. One is Hervé Schlüchter, a maker of complications until he became general manager of the Dimier manufacture (Bovet) before founding his own creative brand. Another is Fabrice Thüler, a natural leader, the creator of Swiss Finest and a bar-turner of renown, who is also capable of “developing, rendering accurate and producing a watch calibre from start to finish”. More surprisingly, the third is Denis Vipret, a “magnetiser and healer” whose reputation extends far beyond the family farm where he practises his art. The holders of the “secret” are a handful of people in the region between Fribourg and the Jura. He is the one who created the “secret recipe” of Cuprum 479. Fabrice Thüler developed it and Hervé Schlüchter gave it shape.

Cuprum 479 is a patented blend of gold, silver and more than 80 percent copper. This sustainable metal has no need of surface treatment and can be machined to infinitely tiny tolerances. It is then hand-polished and is ultimately “more stable” than 18-carat gold. But in addition to this, it is said to offer “beneficial qualities for the body, powerful antibacterial action thanks to its high copper content, a metal which is a major catalyst for the formation of red blood corpuscles, not to mention its contribution to the immune system and protein and lipid metabolism”. The Alchemists’ inaugural piece is, quite naturally, named Cu29. For their first release, the Alchemists set themselves innumerable challenges. In this sense, the CU29 is a demonstration watch, demonstrative of technology, know-how and ambition. It has a variable-inertia balance and weight screw at 8 o’clock, a 72-hour power reserve indicated by a cursor moving along a peripheral gear bar and set at 12 o’clock, and a function indicator (W for wind and S for set) between 2 and 3 o’clock. The hour dial in Grand Feu enamel or customised stone (such as black obsidian, lapis lazuli, or jade with its various virtues – a kind of “lithotherapy”, say the Alchemists) is placed at 12 o'clock and displays the hours (red hand) and minutes (white hand), while the seconds are displayed off-centre at 6 o'clock. Their ring, calibrated into 60 trailing seconds, covers the Cu29’s two barrels. The calibre is 100% in-house. But the Alchemists’ ambition is vaster yet, a global project going far beyond watchmaking alone, however highend. It is nothing less than to “to incorporate a whole ecosystem into their first watch collections [with] projects related to sustainable development, professional reintegration and philanthropic activities”. Not to mention the “therapeutic qualities” of the Cuprum 479. A surprising project, utopian perhaps, but one that stems from a genuine Jurassian horological terroir and is led by men who know their stuff.


DE TOURNEMIRE A HEART OF STONE The fine jewellery workshop of the Marteau family is renowned among connoisseurs far beyond the confines of Place Vendôme. Under its protective shade, three generations of jewellery makers have discreetly succeeded one another. Swarms of “necklaces, tiaras, mystery boxes, pendants…” created by the Marteau family for more than 60 years have left this place for destinations all over the world. Jean-Jérôme, 31, who grew up within the walls of this family workshop, has carefully transposed this highend jewellery-maker’s know-how to haute horlogerie. He has succeeded in perfecting a special technique for setting stones in crystal that enables the stone or diamond to be fully apparent in all its shining glory at the centre of a domed sapphire covering a watch dial. This innovation spawned the first watch by De Tournemire, nicknamed “One stone, one tourbillon”. 96

Spreading its glittering rays from the centre of the watch, the stone (diamond, sapphire, emerald or ruby, from two to seven carats) sits above the tourbillon, the cage of which is set with diamonds. The tourbillon is flanked on one side by a retrograde jumping hours indicator and on the other by a trailing minutes indicator. This openworked timepiece exposes its superbly built and finished mechanism (hand-bevelled, mirror-polished tourbillon and barrel bridges). The 44.8mm case in 18ct white or 5N pink gold, or in titanium, is water-resistant down to 3 ATM and mounted on a black alligator strap, or alternatively on a strap of hand-stitched shagreen. Whether it’s a jewelled watch or a jewel in watch form, this timepiece from De Tournemire is also an ideal subject for the decorative arts, coming in a self-winding Métiers d’Art version with an aperture display, or a disc display, or a display with two hands emerging from beneath the central diamond. A very broad range of expression providing scope for any number of variations, all sharing the common feature of a central diamond or gemstone.

MING THE CREATIVE BREATH OF KUALA LUMPUR Behind the name Ming is a “watchmaker collective” of six “enthusiasts” of diverse origins led by the photographer, business strategist and watch geek Ming Thein from Kuala Lumpur. “We don’t claim to have a history and we are not weighed down by one. We simply think up the watches we’d like to have in our collection, watches that excite us and give us a sense of discovery. What’s more, we’re the first to admit that we don’t build them ourselves. But we’ve set up a close partnership with partners such as the Schwarz-Etienne manufacture, and Jean Rousseau in Paris for the straps.” Ming watches are all assembled, regulated and tested in Switzerland, “but we do the final quality inspection individually in Malaysia,” explains Ming Thein. Having been nominated for the GPHG in 2018 with the Ming 19.01 – a “simple watch for wearing every day”, but with a strong and highly original design that left

an impression – this year Ming is presenting a more sophisticated version: the Ming 19.02 Worldtimer. In it, you find the same design elements as in the 19.01, including the signature box sapphire crystal, a transparent-to-black-graded dial and a 39mm grade-5 titanium case. But whereas the 19.01 came in very contemporary monochrome shades, the 19.02 is more “conventional” in appearance, so to speak, thanks to the 5N pink gold-coated movement visible around the edge of the dial. The world time – including that of Kuala Lumpur – is visible in an opaque section, indicated by a rotating 24-hour disc. All this is driven by an automatic microrotor calibre in tungsten from Schwarz-Etienne, which provides a power reserve of 70 hours. The bridges are skeletonised and hand-bevelled. The skeletonised barrel allows the wearer to determine the level of winding by observing the spring. The whole watch is mounted on Jean Rousseau straps in Alcantara and calf leather. All in all, another successful and unique design, seductively and unabashedly modern while remaining balanced and harmonious. A landmark watch. Price: CHF 11,900. Sold directly through the Ming website.

Ming 19.02 Worldtimer 97



INTERVIEW WITH YVAN MONNET Most new brands are launched by watchmakers or young entrepreneurs in partnership with a designer, a watchmaker and an assembler. The case of Yvan Monnet, who has given his name to his brand – Yvan Monnet Genève to be exact – is quite different and as far as we know somewhat unique. Reason enough for Europa Star to decide to meet him. Especially since Yvan Monnet has taken on a real challenge: that of creating a new shape of watch. Which, after Gérald Genta, is no mean task.


e were expecting to meet a card-carrying “designer”, but this unusually modest man corrects us immediately, presenting himself as an “industrial draughtsman”. It was only after a long and varied career, which took him from the chemicals industry to bio-medicine and from industrial consumer goods to machine housing design, that he ended up in watchmaking via Prodor SA, a gold foundry at that time owned by Piaget. Patek Philippe then recruited him for its case design workshop, which was managed at that period by a certain… Laurent Ferrier. In another coincidence, the movement engineering workshop just next door was directed by Didier Faoro, a close acquaintance of Yvan’s who today is director of its Haute Horlogerie division. Yvan Monnet stayed with Patek Philippe for ten years, becoming Haute Horlogerie customer service manager and also launching projects for archiving and storing antique items. And anyone who has visited that department at Patek Philippe knows that it is a genuine treasure trove, fully documented and absolutely unique (see Patek Philippe The Manufacture Within a Manufacture, Europa Star 1/2016)


Hooked on horology “It was there that I made the acquaintance of the genius watchmaker Paul Buclin. I had the luck to see the famous Packard, among other wonders, open right in front of me, and I was literally bewitched by the magical quality of the company’s minute repeaters. In short, I was hooked.” Sought out by Vacheron Constantin to reinforce the exteriors workshop, he accepted the new challenge and began designing case architectures. He became a project manager and moved to the Métiers d’Art department then flourishing at Vacheron Constantin. “I stayed there eight years and came into contact with watchmaking at its most artistic, notably with the watches made in collaboration with the Japanese masters of Maki-e. There I met numerous top artisans, such as Anita Porchet, a real star when it comes to enamelling.” Unfortunately, his career at Vacheron Constantin “ended badly” and Yvan Monnet found himself unemployed for the first time.

Something no one had ever done… “I was passionately interested in watchmaking and giving up was out of the question for me. I’d got to know all the best artisans and I wanted to make use of my skills in watch exteriors. So I put together a press book to present the best pieces I’d worked on. But I also wanted to come along with different pieces. So I explored past watches: every shape had already been done – round, oval, square, rectangular, hexagonal… All except one: the pentagon. No one had ever made a

five-sided shape. I should add that the pentagon is an especially difficult shape to design. So I got to work. I analysed all the proportions, I honed this pentagon to the extreme, searching for subtlety, finesse, harmony, avoiding any showiness because if there’s anything I loathe, it’s bling-bling…”.


Great elegance This is when Yvan Monnet reveals his first model to us, a women’s watch called Mina. It was the first time we had seen it in the flesh and we have to admit, we were struck. It is a piece of great elegance and its shape, theoretically so new, endows it with an instant and undeniable aura. The sense of proportion it bespeaks and the extreme attention to detail make it immediately familiar to us. “I tried to optimise the slightest detail, even those you don’t see straight away but are simply felt as part of the globality of the watch,” explains Yvan Monnet, visibly enamoured of his creation, and rightly so. All the elements of the watch seem to be the natural result of the pentagon: the marker appliques are a pentagon drawn into an arrowhead shape, the openworked hands have identical proportions, a fine groove between the bezel and the case underscores and refines the whole. The case back is embedded in the middle so as not to overlap it; the opaline dial, an immaculate white, blue or cocoa colour (made by Les Cadraniers de Genève), subtly changes colour, reacting wonderfully to the light. “I see details that no one else sees,” says an emboldened Yvan Monnet, adding that the pentagonal case, which fits into a 35mm circle (one doesn’t talk of diameter here) is extremely complex to produce and can only be made with the help of a 5-axis CNC machine. “And finished by the five fingers of the hand.” Inside the Mina beats one of two Sellita movements, either a beautifully finished mechanical, hand-wound movement, or an automatic version “for everyday wear”.

The Five, the pentagon for men After Mina, launched less than two years ago, Yvan Monnet – whose ambition is indeed to build an entire brand – recently unveiled a men’s model, the Five, like the five fingers of the hand or the five sides of the pentagon. But this is no homothetic transformation. He reworked the design from start to finish. “The pentagonal bezel is built around five tight curves which intersect, this time with sharply marked angles that are echoed on the case and lend it greater vigour, as does the satin-polished finish that reinforces the geometric effect.” The codes and inspiration are borrowed directly from Gérald Genta, as Yvan Monnet avows, confessing his great admiration for the famous Geneva designer, who also created new shapes. Sporty and extremely elegant, waterproof down to 200m (with a sapphire crystal case back!), driven by 100

a new automatic Sellita movement and fitting into a 43mm-diameter circle, the watch is mounted on a rubber strap and equipped with chunky baton hands treated with Superluminova so that they resemble miniature New York skyscrapers sailing over the applique figures moulded directly in Superluminova. The Five is a cogent demonstration of the real potential of this new, pentagonal shape.

A shape begging to be explored “The pentagon is a very unforgiving shape. The slightest imperfection stands out,” stresses Yvan Monnet. “Producing it demands great rigour at every stage, from the choice of materials down to finishing. I’m just an orchestral conductor implementing my creations. I know the instruments and the emotions they convey, but I don’t play them. I let the experts express the best of themselves. They are at the wellspring of inspiration and I strive to give them centre stage. Consequently, 80% of all production takes place in Geneva thanks to a dense network of extremely high-quality suppliers. All close friends of mine, whom I met during my 20 years in fine watchmaking. I sell a product, not a history! It’s the product that should take pride of place.”

Independence Entirely self-financed, Yvan Monnet assures us that only an independent, artisanal approach like his makes it possible to offer products with the look and finish worthy of haute horlogerie, but at a price that is still very affordable. The steel Mina costs around CHF 3,000 and the steel Five CHF 4,700. His objective for the three to five years ahead is to produce and sell around 1,500 watches a year. To succeed, Yvan Monnet intends to expand his offering little by little. For example, the Mina is just crying out to be set with stones and other precious materials. And Yvan Monnet is looking forward to being able to offer customisations, especially on the dials, playing with mother-of-pearl or coloured stones, or moving on to movements with more precious materials for future limited editions. Introducing a new shape is not easy, far from it, but the pentagon, lovingly refined by Yvan Monnet, surely has further surprises in store for us. All the potential is there.


NEW STYLES Timepieces by new, high-quality independents often have the merit of opening up new paths in form and engineering. Here is a selection of such initiatives by designers, stylists, micro-mechanics specialists, collectors or simple fans of horology, chosen on a purely subjective basis by Europa Star from the plethora of new designs on offer.



A French brand but Swiss-made in La Chaux-de-Fonds, launched in 2015 by François Moreau, a former banker who left after 25 years and a collector of counters and gauges from his most tender youth, Reservoir has the distinguishing feature of being directly inspired, in the way it is read, by antique measurement instruments. It has a 240° retrograde minute counter in the style of a rev counter, manometer or depth gauge, a jumping hours aperture reminiscent of a milometer, and a power reserve which is a reproduction fuel gauge. The display is powered by a patented proprietary module based on an ETA 2824-2. After collections dedicated to automobiles and aeronautics, this year Reservoir presents the diving collection Hydrosphère. The dual scale of its unidirectional rotating ceramic bezel enables decompression stop times to be read at a glance. It also has a helium valve and a rotating seconds indicator, showing that watch is running, positioned at the base of its single hand. €4,250.

The new brand Laventure appeared on Kickstarter in July 2017 with a debut collection of 150 watches called Laventure Marine. In 48 hours, 120 contributors helped it raise CHF 201,400. A resoundingly successful operation, thanks no doubt to the quality of this contemporary reinterpretation of the marine watches of the 1960s, right in line with millennial tastes. Clément Gaud, the man behind Laventure, is a Neuchâtel-based designer who, after five years in a watch design agency, decided to take the plunge. After this first success, he is back this year with Laventure Sous-Marine, a new limited series immaculately designed and built from start to finish in La Chaux-de-Fonds. A 41mm stainless steel or bronze case, a screw-down crown guaranteeing water-resistance down to 200m, a totally vintagelook, super-domed sapphire crystal, a pared-down, ultra-legible “sandwich” dial, an ETA 2824-2 automatic movement, a screwed, engraved back in stainless steel, one strap in calfskin and a second one in rubber; all of this set in a case inspired by antique editions of Jules Verne and selling at CHF 2,350. 101

NORQAIN ALL ABOUT ADVENTURE, FREEDOM AND INDEPENDENCE Norqain, founded by Ben Küffer in Nidau (Biel) not far from Tavannes, where the family has worked in watchmaking through four generations, had a formidable sponsor in Ben’s father, Marc Küffer, CEO of Roventa Henex, a major manufacturer of private-label, Swiss-made watches from 1988 to 2012. This accumulated know-how, a well-filled address book and large production capacity have enabled Norqain to offer from the outset three collections of contemporary watches, for men and for women, all assembled in-house at Tavannes and exclusively mechanical, priced from CHF 1,500 to 4,500. The names say it all: Adventure Sport, Freedom 60 and, at the top, Independence, a limited, COSCcertified edition showcased at this year’s Baselworld. This still youthful brand is already asserting its ambitions regarding distribution with the announcement of a network of 50 retailers, not counting the web, by the end of 2019. Illustrated here is the Adventure Sport Chrono Auto DLC (with the brand’s characteristic “Norqain pattern”).

SINGER RECONSTRUCTING THE CHRONOGRAPH Singer was born of an encounter between Rob Dickinson, the founder of Singer Vehicle Design, and Marco Borracino, a watchmaker-designer, joined by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht of Agenhor. This master watchmaker supplied the AgenGraphe, a revolutionary chronograph with indications of extraordinary legibility and outstanding features. No more subdials: the chronograph function is now displayed by three central hands, while the hours and minutes indicators are relegated to the dial periphery and take the form of two rotating discs and a pointer at 6 o’clock. All 477 components of this very beautiful movement are visible through the sapphire on the watch back, as the central position of the chronograph left enough room to place the rotor on the dial side. This central display fits perfectly into the tonneau-shaped case in grade-5 titanium. Slender, curved and with polished and satinbrushed surfaces, it has a crown at 4 o’clock and two ergonomic pushers on either side of the case. In its latest edition, the Singer Track1 London Edition sports a deep blue dial and orange hands. It is mounted on a dark-coloured calfskin strap with eyelets in brushed titanium. 102

LYTT LABS THE FOUNTAINS OF SINGAPORE Founded in 2014 by Edwin Seah, an industrial entrepreneur working in hardware and a keen watch collector, together with a partner, Lytt Labs aims to offer very urban-style timepieces at affordable prices for city dwellers with an affinity for traditional watchmaking, but still firmly grounded in their own time. No nostalgia for things vintage here: instead, a determination to assert their contemporaneity. After a first model, Inception Version 1, in which the hours, minutes and seconds were indicated by discs with arrows pointing to the figures, the new Inception model is quite a different proposition. A central disc indicating the seconds is placed over two very broad, central hands indicating the hours and minutes. Inspired, according to its creators, by the public fountains which are havens of peace and tranquillity in most cities, this watch has retained the 45mm tonneau-shaped case in steel and sapphire crystal. Inside beats a Seiko NH 35 automatic movement. From €459.

FOB PARIS RADICALISM WITH ROOTS Three young qualified engineers, Sari, Laurent and Aurélien, who were also childhood friends, fell under the watchmaking spell when one of their friends inherited a pocket watch from his grandfather. Fascinated both by the technical aspects and the aesthetics, they founded FOB Paris back in 2012. They made the reinterpretation of this pocket watch the signature product of their “French watchmaking studio”. And they insist on the “French” epithet, stressing that “everything is made in France and assembled in Besançon in a family workshop where four generations of watchmakers work”. With a self-winding or solar-powered movement, made in PVDcoated stainless steel and equipped with sapphire crystals, their watches display a somewhat radical aesthetic, minimalist but not without emotion, rigorously geometrical and stripped to the essential in a wholly contemporary style. FOB Paris is already present in a large number of countries from France to Japan, as well as Russia, London and the Middle East.



HEGID NOT REVOLUTIONARY, EVOLUTIONARY How do you make an object, intended from the moment of its creation to be unchanging, evolve? The French start-up Hegid has developed a concept of watch heads which combine with a series of different casebands and straps. The identity change should not take more than 10 seconds – thanks to an exclusive system – which makes the notion of “evolutionary watch” sound far less formidable. With this project, the brand hopes to recast the very foundations of wrist sociology. Seizing on the fashion for modularity, which is increasingly popular in watchmaking, Hegid has applied it to mechanical watches and is pushing the exercise to the very limits. These evolutionary watches start at 2,400 euros for a capsule called Neo or Retro, equipped with a Swiss-made movement. The casebands, round or square, cost between 250 and 400 euros. Lastly, the straps in calfskin, alligator, ostrich or buffalo skin are available at 80-200 euros. There is even a new selection of straps in SuperLuminova (made in collaboration with Atelier du Bracelet Parisien) and Squama, an environmentally friendly material made from marine leather (in partnership with Cuir Marin de France). Each watch comes in a box precisely designed to accommodate the different modules, casebands or straps. Hegid has already announced new modules for its capsules: a power reserve indicator, date, and even a second time zone. (S.M.) 104

“My debut watch – the Paon – is neither completely round nor completely oval. It’s a new shape. The strap is made up of 55 links, each individually cut and assembled. You’ve never seen a crown, dial or hands like these before; they’re unique!” says Vincent Rouillard, founder and CEO of Menintime. This designer, whose interest in watchmaking was born in his grandfather’s repair workshop in Nantes (FR), wanted to create “a jewel for men, sober and contemporary at the same time”. To do so, he got in touch with a network of subcontractors in La Chaux-de-Fonds and produced a 100% Swiss-made watch. With its oval case melding with the beautifully composed strap of 55 individually cut and assembled links, the Paon – French for “peacock”, but no strutting here; all sobriety and delicacy – has a shape unlike any other. With its vertical signature on dials pared down to the essential or featuring geometrically arranged figures, the Menintime, powered by an ETA 2895-2 automatic movement, presents itself as “a new brand in Swiss watchmaking” and indeed resembles nothing we have seen before. An elegant proposition, understated, contemporary and beautifully designed.

MAURON MUSY A WATCH AND MANIFESTO “Robust, sporty and sleek, yet also refined, intriguing, sophisticated…” all these adjectives are used by Mauron Musy, founded in 2013 by Eric Mauron and Christophe Musy, both experts in precision mechanics, to describe the new Armure MU03. Its design, described as “industrial”, is expressed in an imposing 44mm case carved from a titanium block. It comes equipped with the patented sealing system featuring a nO-Ring® waterproof seal, which guarantees water-resistance to 300m, making the MU03 the only mechanically sealed, gasket-free watch. The 36 technical components that go to make up this case have a characteristic impact on the design. Delivered with two straps, in rubber and leather, which can be changed without tools, the MU03 is equipped with an automatic in-house movement, the MM01. This hours, minutes, seconds and power reserve (55 hours) watch was developed in collaboration with movement manufacturer Lajoux-Perret and elaborately finished to give it a highly contemporary, industrial look. It comes with the label “Swiss Crafted”, signifying that it was designed, manufactured and crafted exclusively in Switzerland. A kind of “industrial manifesto” promoted by the brand’s two creators.

DAVID RUTTEN THE ANTIDOTE TO NEO-VINTAGE Born in Brussels in 1974, David Rutten was quite naturally inspired by Art Deco, the city of his birth being a centre of that movement. Like many others of his generation he was also influenced by Japanese sci-fi anime films – Cobra, Ulysses 31 and Albator. Having graduated from La Cambre design school after producing a portfolio based on a collection of watches inclined at 15°, he was looking to produce a “total oeuvre”: in his words, to “perfect every aspect of a watchmaking project, from the storytelling and the philosophy to the style, shape, ergonomics, graphic universe and also the typography and packaging”. The result of this “total” dream, the DR01 Streamline, is intended as a manifesto of his approach to watchmaking: “a brand entirely based on cases made of a material virtually unexploited in this context: the metal meteorite.” He is talking about the Muo Nio Nalusta, a meteorite that landed in Scandinavia around one million years ago. Discovered in 1906, it is 4.6 billion years old, which makes it the oldest known material on earth, dating from the very beginnings of our solar system. The generously sized 37mm aperture display allows the fluted, retro-futurist case carved from this meteorite to express itself to the full. Displaying the hours on a jumping disc and the minutes and seconds on a trailing disc, the watch is powered by a “round mechanical calibre (which is not an ETA 2892 !)” [sic] that occupies all the space in the case and has a five-day power reserve. 88 items available solely by subscription, priced at €8,500. 105


THE WATCHMAKING INCUBATOR Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites have provided unexpected new opportunities for watchmaking launches often on the basis of just a couple of simple 3D software programmes and a good sense of communication. As for ideas, there is no lack of those, as proven by the hundreds of brands, or trial brands, that are hatched every year. To find out the exact status of subscriptions to this watchmaking exchange, open 24x7, the best plan is to look directly at the sites devoted to the uberisation of horology. The situation changes daily. And if you look closely enough, you can also see that projects which did not

succeed in collecting the anticipated sum, or were just abandoned by their owners, are still in there. For some, it’s a paradise, for others a long purgatory, and for a great majority a fatal slide into the cemetery of stillborn ideas. There, watchmaking does or dies, publicly. But it also continuously reinvents itself, and the show goes on. Here are eight examples among the hundreds of ongoing projects.

DEPANCEL “FABRIQUÉ EN FRANCE” CULEM SOLD ON GMT Launched in May 2019 by Matthew Cule, “passionate about travel [he writes a travel blog] and fine watches”, Culem quite logically devotes its first collections – Portal, Lights and Frame – exclusively to GMT watches. The dial features a three-dimensional world map, while on the back are engraved 24 destinations in GMT and BST zones. The watch is powered by the inevitable automatic ETA 2893-2 and encased beneath a sapphire crystal in an elegant and sober 40mm stainless steel case. 106

Clément Meynir, originally from the French Jura region and a graduate of the Arts et Métiers science and technology school, launched Depancel in 2018. A contraction of Delage, Panhard and Facel Vega, famous French cars no longer in production today, the name says everything about his inspirations: cars and the industrial vision, and expertise “made in France”. And he provides a perfect demonstration of these with Renaissance, an “anti-conformist” collection, the case of which echoes the superb grille of the Delage DB-120 of 1936. It is crafted, assembled, regulated and decorated in France. The movement is the excellent Miyota automatic calibre 9120. €499 if pre-ordered, retail price €649.

LARUZE TOTEM CARRIES IT OFF Laruze first saw the light of day on 1 September 2015 after a modest, but “400% successful”, international crowdfunding campaign (€37,216) by Audrey and Cindy, two project creators who work for a fashion communications agency in Paris. In June 2019 they launched their first signature collection, the elegant Totem, comprising a three-hander automatic plus date, and an automatic chronograph, both powered by Seiko. But what really catches the eye is the interesting 40mm faceted steel case with a domed sapphire crystal. Rounding out the watch is an interchangeable strap system. Retail price: €495.

RICHARDT & MEJER NORDIC BEAUTY Born of a friendship and a shared passion, Richardt & Mejer was founded in Copenhagen in 2015. As its two founders say: “We make watches without any pretentions but are uncompromising as to their geometry, craftsmanship and design.” A wholly Scandinavian attitude and aesthetic. Of this, The Lineup, their first collection, is a textbook example. Take the Automatisk / Moss, (Swiss-made calibre STP1-11) and its dual-layer dial in moss green, both matte and with sunray brushing. The case design is impeccably balanced in its Nordic simplicity. A great achievement, for sale on the site by subscription at $656. Future retail price $875. 107

SEQUENT THE TESLA AUTOMATIC OF SMARTWATCHES A genuine Swiss star on Kickstarter, having raised more than 1.2 million dollars in pre-orders in 2017, crowned this year with a Red Dot Design Award and already delivered to 135 countries, Sequent can pride itself on being the sole smartwatch to have a battery powered by an automatic movement. It converts the kinetic energy of your wrist to electrical power. Designed and perfected by the Zurich-based start-up Sequent, a leading smart-tech enterprise in the consumer health sector, the Sequent-SuperCharger2 explores the path of hybrid technology and solves – ecologically, brilliantly and tastefully, because the smart watch is simple and beautiful – the thorny problem of battery autonomy. A new and highly innovative sector that could also turn into a lifeline for the struggling segment of mass-produced mechanical watches. Price: from $179.


TEMPORE LUX VINTAGE FROM MAJORCA Based in Majorca, David Ramirez ran an online watch boutique for ten years before throwing in the towel and launching his own brand which, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, will be kicking off in November 2019. Still online though, because you have to “remove all the costly intermediaries who are often responsible for the fact that product quality is not as high as the price. I know what I’m talking about”. His first collection, The Vintage One, is a robust diving watch (down to 300m) with a steel cushion case, sapphire crystal and a rotating ceramic bezel. It comes in two versions: a three-hander plus date and a chronograph. Both are equipped with a Seiko or, for a supplementary charge, Sellita automatic movement. From €349.

XERIC WITH THE SUPPORT OF NASA In August 2019, Xeric, San Francisco, announced that its timepiece, the NASA Trappist-1 had received the support of 17,974 contributors, which made it the most popular watchmaking project on Kickstarter, with 5.4 million US dollars raised. It's a fine achievement for this young brand, now on its tenth successful Kickstarter campaign, whose aim is to flout the rules and shake things up with surprising watch propositions. Take the astonishing Trappist-1, for example, which has a grille on the dial inspired by the seven-panelled porthole, the Cupola, recently installed on the International Space Station. There are dozens of models in limited editions, with an automatic Miyota (retail price $450) or quartz (retail price $250) movement. Approved by NASA.

JW WATCH THE JW-EX, STANDING FOR “EXAGGERATION” JW Watch was founded in Hong Kong by Jason Chan, a watchmaker-designer, and William Shun, the founder of Memorigin, a brand specialising in tourbillons, and a shareholder in a major manufacturing outfit that “has produced mechanical movements for Swiss brands for 30 years”. This marriage of a creator and major manufacturer allows JW Watch to offer highly innovative watches equipped with an original and exclusive skeletonised automatic movement, a beautiful and original finish and a power reserve of 80 hours. The chunky, polished steel case has three sapphire windows beneath which are displayed, on discs, the minutes (at 12 o’clock), the hours on the right and the seconds on the left, side by side with the – visible – balance. From €780 (retail price)




The crowdfunding platform is not just about success stories: fewer than half of the watch projects submitted reach their objective. But those startups that do succeed can teach us some lessons, at a time when the whole industry seems to be looking for its community.


n his latest report, watch consultant Thierry Huron, on Kickstarter last year, raising over 1.5 million francs. founder of the Mercury Project, focused on one This project was nevertheless destined to remain a of the most significant disruptions in the watch one-off, as the brand’s manager Niels Eggerding exindustry in the last decade: the emergence of dozens plained to us in an interview. – hundreds – of new watch brands each year on crowd- We might also mention French brand ZRC, founded in funding platforms such as Kickstarter. 1904, which raised more than 500,000 francs from 300 “Since 2009, Kickstarter has established itself as the contributors two years ago for its “North Adventure” most popular and respected crowdproject. The brand achieved more than funding platform for the watch in- “Kickstarter is a tough twice its initial goal. The reissue of a dustry,” says Thierry Huron. “Today, dive watch from the 1970s by another exercise, which really young creators, designers, but also esFrench brand, Yema, raised more than tablished brands use it.” For example, forces you to sell your one million dollars this year for the concept, your idea. ” Alpina launched its AlpinerX model Superman Heritage Bronze model.

Alpina AlpinerX model


ZRC, founded in 1904, raised more than 500,000 francs from 300 contributors for its “North Adventure” project.

More failures than successes These cases are pretty rare, however. According to Thierry Huron, failures are more frequent than successes on Kickstarter. By listing all the watch projects submitted in 2018, the consultant noted that 51% of them had not achieved their initial objective. The proportion of failed projects reached 57% in the first quarter of this year. The success of a fundraising campaign is not necessarily a sign of great solidity in itself. Remember Pebble? The smartwatch brand raised over 30 million dollars in two campaigns on Kickstarter, before going bankrupt and being sold to Fitbit. More recently, Klokers, another crowdfunding hit which managed to find a niche with watches inspired by calculation rules, also had to cease its activity after five years of existence. The challenge for yesterday’s fashion watch brands, as well as for tomorrow’s Kickstarter brands, remains that of longevity.

Two examples Despite these warnings, the platform is a valuable tool for new watch projects. Those that take the plunge are forced to deal from the outset with a rather fickle community of buyers. While the industry as a whole likes to talk up the idea of direct contact with end customers, lessons can be learned here. We recently met the creators of two watch brands that have managed to make the most of crowdfunding: Code41 in Switzerland (3 million francs raised in two

campaigns) and LIV Watches in the United States (3.8 million francs raised in four campaigns). North America remains the dominant market for crowdfunding. According to Thierry Huron, for the first quarter of 2019, more than a third of the watch projects on Kickstarter were generated from the United States or Canada. Headquartered in Miami, Esti and Sholom Chazanow positioned their brand in the men’s sports watch segment from the very beginning. Their idea was to offer Swiss made quality at a more affordable price than what was available on the market at the time. That was in 2014. Sholom Chazanow already had a solid watchmaking background dating back to 1992. “Nothing we do is traditional,” he explains. “We started by launching an online competition to find the best design for our watches. More than 200 designers from around the world participated.” “Kickstarter is a tough exercise, which really forces you to sell your concept, your idea,” continues Chazanow. “There are so many microbrands and so many ideas: the environment is ultra-competitive. Our first experience proved that the project was viable. It allowed us to prepare the second campaign as well as possible.” In February 2017, the brand introduced its new collection, Rebel, with an unconventional rectangular shape. The project raised 1.7 million dollars from 3,000 contributors. The brand decided to move up the range with its latest Kickstarter campaign, which has just ended. A series of automatic models in titanium and ceramic has generated a result of 800,000 dollars.


The power of data mining A defining element in the success of the LIV Watches project is the collection of customer data. Forced to fight fiercely to survive, new brands often embrace practices that are destined to become widespread in the industry. This is the case here, at a time when major brands are looking for a more direct relationship with their customers and a better understanding of their profile. “The data collected through Kickstarter, our newsletters and our website allow us to segment customers and make targeted offers,” says Sholom Chazanow. “For example, we noticed that our customers are also very interested in brands like Breitling and Panerai.” Claudio D’Amore is better known in the Swiss watch world, since his project to impose transparency in pricing has caused many teeth to gnash. A first campaign on Kickstarter enabled Code41 to raise more than 500,000 francs at its launch in 2016. The latest crowdfunding campaign, conducted on the brand’s own website, with the aim of “democratising Haute Horlogerie”, is the X41 project, a mechanical watch with a peripheral rotor. The 500 X41 Creator models launched have sold at a price of 4,000 euros, as have the 100 standard models, for a total of more than 2.5 million francs. To achieve this result, Code41 relies on the power of its community. The brand claims more than 200,000 “members” and has already sold 10,000 of its Anomaly timepieces. “A key to success is building and nurturing a community, and keeping them engaged with regular teasers,” says D’Amore. We often hear that our planet is now functioning in “tribes”. For better or for worse, one of the tribes of today’s watch planet is Kickstarter. Like other social networks, this platform is complementary to online stores and to traditional retailers in the new omnichannel model being currently developed.

Rebel GMT by LIV Watches



1 756 993 20


2 141 515 27


1 192 954 16


386 055 13


3 448 371 32 2 675 603


39 12/18

801 242 22


371 263 13


212 573 7


863 832 16 1 456 638


20 5/19

770 848 16 2 371 159 16

6/19 Funding (CHF) Number of projects

(Source: Kickvalue Tracks & Facts / The Mercury Project)

INDEX AHCI 58, 59, 60 Akrivia 84, 85, 86 Alchemists 95 Alpina 110 Apple 36 Atelier Wen 32, 56, 57 Audemars Piguet 6, 7, 34, 62 Bovet 24, 25, 26, 31 Breitling 38, 40, 62, 78 Bulgari 34 Burberry 46 Carl F. Bucherer 38, 43 Cartier 34, 36, 38 Chanel 4, 5, 34, 46, 113 Chopard 37, 38, 43 Chronoswiss 74, 75 Code41 111, 112 Culem 106 Cyrus 88, 89 Czapek 80, 81, 82, 83 Daniel Wellington 42 David Candaux 90, 91 David Rutten 105 Depancel 106 De Tournemire 96 Dior 34 DLG 44, 45, 46 Dolce & Gabbana 46 Fiyta 27, 54, 55 FOB Paris 103 Frederique Constant 15

RECOMMENDED READING BY FABRICE MUGNIER, WATCHPRINT.COM Genus 87, 88 Gucci 30, 34, 46 Hegid 104 Hermès 11, 34, 113 H. Moser & Cie 38 Hublot 34, 62 Ice-Watch 51 Jacob & Co 33 Jaeger-LeCoultre 34 Jean Marcel 53 JW Watch 109 Laruze 107 Laventure 101 LIV Watches 111, 112 Longines COVER I, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 30, 34, 38, 40, 62 Louis Vuitton 113 Lytt Labs 103 Mauron Musy 105 Menintime 104 Ming 97 Mühle-Glashütte 76, 77 Norqain 102 Omega 34, 36, 62, 113 OneOf COVER III Oris 36 Panerai 34, 62 Patek Phillippe COVER IV, 34, 37, 62 Petermann Bédat 91, 92 Raymond Weil 36

Reservoir 101 Richard Mille 34, 62 Richardt & Mejer 107 Richemont 38, 40, 41 Rolex COVER II, 3, 34, 36, 37, 62 Salin 61 Seiko 39 Sequent 108 Singer 102 Stoic 79 Swatch Group 36 Sylvain Pinaud 87, 92 TAG Heuer 12, 34, 38, 40, 43, 62 Tempore Lux 108 Tissot 34, 35, 38, 43 Titoni 34, 36, 38, 43, 48, 49, 50, 52 Traser 47 Trilobe 94 Tudor 37 Urban Jürgensen 8, 9 Urwerk 72, 73 Vacheron Constantin 34, 62 WatchTime Düsseldorf 69 Xeric 109 Yema 110 Yvan Monnet 98, 99, 100 Zenith 34, 38, 40, 43 ZRC 110, 111


Omega Seamaster Vintage By Alberto Isnardi

This book looks at the most iconic models with the highest water resistance, with one additional section dedicated to chronographs and military models. These are all vintage models that are at least 25 years old. Variants and models have evolved and overlapped. Time has dictated shapes and materials. Omega has given us ingenuity and good taste, and the result is that today its output is sought after by collectors and enthusiasts, who appreciate and have fallen in love with cases and dials that time has rendered unique. The Omega Seamaster is a line of automatic winding chronometer and quartz watches that Omega has produced since 1948. Size: 320 x 250 mm | Pages: 384 Price: CHF 260

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A last word to start



hen 3D computer-generated images of watches first appeared, we took the decision not to publish any watch that was not already genuinely produced “in the real world”. Synthesised images – too facile, we thought! You have to start by creating something real, then showing what you’ve really produced. Otherwise, anything is possible – or seems to be. We can start selling digital air. Needless to say, we were very soon overtaken by events... The quality of these images made up solely of pixels improved at an astounding pace. And the day we realised that, despite due examination, we had published a watch that existed only on someone’s hard disc, we told ourselves that a new era had begun. Welcome to the world of virtual watches. Today, it is possible to launch a brand without even having the actual watch on your wrist. From the 1990s onward, this technological evolution went hand in hand with the emergence of “storytelling”, a marketing – and management – method which, according to Stephen Denning, who expounded the theory in his book The Secret Language of Leadership, is based on the following triad: “Get attention, elicit desire and then (only in the final stage), convince with the use of reasoned argument.” For that, virtual imagery seems tailor-made. First of all, get attention with a totally new, virtual shape, a shape tantalising enough to elicit a desire for change and then, after this “emotional” approach, and only as a final resort, advance concrete arguments to convince. Talk about the quality of the movement, the beautiful finishing, the hand-crafting; boast rupture while respecting tradition, invent manufactures, exhume ancestors. In short, build an entire story around the 3D image. The watchmaking industry has been transformed into a storytelling jungle. Authentic stories, part-inventions, untruths and barefaced falsehoods exist side by side in the grand circus of digital communications. Today, a watch itself is not enough. It has to be accompanied by a story, and the story has to be thought through from the outset. The story of the watch that does not yet exist is now a pre-requisite, a tool serving the virtual image which is in the process of being created. The details of the design of a given timepiece have to echo the story, provide material corroboration of it. In this context, the task of the journalist is to sort the wheat from the chaff, check the facts, set the record straight. A difficult and delicate task, but crucial at a time when real watches and watches that are purely virtual or in the process of becoming a reality inhabit the same space somewhere in the same grand watchmaking cloud. This is exactly what is happening in the nebulous world of Kickstarter. It is full of promises, some of which will be fulfilled and others which might just as easily end up in the digital dust of oblivion. To find out more, read our special feature on “new shoots” on the previous pages.


Some people think they’re always on time. Actually, they just wear magnetized watches.

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