If you’re looking for the most inappropriate time to launch a new brand of watch, then you couldn’t do much better than deLaCour. Their first collection was presented at BaselWorld 2003 when SARS was creating chaos and everyone was focused on the outbreak of the Iraq war. Not ideal timing for a hitherto unknown watch brand offering an ‘outsize’ watch. But these were elements that were not controlled by the brand. What they did control however, and very seriously, was every single element concerning the timepieces - technique, design, comfort and the individuality of the timepiece.
Using only the finest artisans and watchmakers, the deLaCour watches were, from their very beginnings, produced in limited series. Each piece is entirely assembled by hand and certain of the watch’s elements are unique, such as the dials made of wood or a Havana tobacco leaf. For a perfect finish, the watches are hand-polished and each dial carries the words ‘individually crafted’.
The Bichrono was the first of the ‘outsize’ deLaCour creations, an avant-garde double chronograph equipped with two tiny ETA automatic chronograph movements. Since then, the brand has introduced innovative and eye-catching timepieces ranging from the Quantième Perpetual Parabolique to the Bitourbillon grande complication and the sensational sounding Répétition Minute seen here, crafted as a musical instrument using a unique movement and a piece of five-hundred year old bronze from an ‘airain’ bell discovered in a Swiss foundry.
With 67 points-of-sale throughout the world, last year saw 2,500 deLaCour timepieces sold, which gave a 35% increase in sales over the preceding year. Not surprisingly, the brand is continuing along the same path of originality of movement, fine craftsmanship and a unique visual vision of its ‘look’.
Coming up at this year’s BaselWorld, deLaCour’s ‘Night Flight’ an exceptional timepiece that has been specially designed for travellers: 4 chosen time zones for the four corners of the earth along with two chronographic functions for two simultaneous, but independent events.
No wonder the brand is using the ‘Since tomorrow’ slogan for its creations!
* An introductory article on deLaCour ‘Making it big with OUTSIZE’ appeared in Europa Star 1/2004.
Cuervos y Sobrinos
Stainless steel watch (44 mm) equipped with a Dubois Dépraz Calibre 2073 based on an ETA 2892 movement. Hours, minutes, small seconds, chronograph with 12-hour and central minute register, 24-hour indication, pulsometer and tachymeter.
ROBUSTO TRICALENDOGRAFO AND LUNAR PHASES
Stainless steel watch (43 mm) equipped with a Dubois Dépraz Calibre 9000 movement based on an ETA 2892-A2 movement. Hours, minutes, seconds, day, date, month and complete lunar phases. 42-hour power reserve, water-resistant to 100 metres.
ESPLENDIDOS MONOPULSANTE GOLD – Limited Edition
18 pink or white gold watch (37 x 47 mm) equipped with a Manufacture Calibre CyS 2450 hand-wound movement. Single-push chronograph – 30 minutes and 60 seconds – hours, minutes and seconds functions. 42-hour power reserve, sapphire crystals front and back, water-resistant to 30 metres.
The original Cuervos y Sobrinos shop in Havana, Cuba, dates back to 1882, where for many years sold many of the important Swiss brands - Patel Philippe, Rolex, Longines and Omega and later began producing its own Cuervos y Sobrinos brand watches that were manufactured in La Chaux-de-Fonds, imported into Cuba and then re-exported throughout North and South America. When Castro came to power, the company’s watch business basically died.
In 2003, the brand name was taken over by a group based in Lugano, Switzerland and using original documents from Cuba, the brand’s watches were given a new lease of life with a more modern veneer carrying names of cigar shapes and sizes such as Robusto Buceador, Esplendidos Dualtime and Torpedo Chronograph.
Massimo Rossi, the brand’s Managing Director, recently confirmed that since the re-launch of the Cuervos y Sobrinos brand, there has been a very positive development in terms of product and geographical distribution. Preferring not to divulge sales figures, Massimo Rossi stressed “… the sales volume is developing every year and for 2007 in particular, we have very ambitious targets!”
Over the coming twenty-four months, the brand will be giving a consistent support to the existing key markets rather than a further geographical development. The key markets for Cuervos y Sobrinos in Europe are Italy, Spain and Russia with particular attention now being paid to Switzerland, the brand’s home market. In the Far East the brand is doing well in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the South East Asia countries, as well as China. Cuervos y Sobrinos’ major market however, is the USA.
Elegantly designed, in 18 carat gold or stainless steel, the watches have various sophisticated coloured dials and offer interesting complications with Dubois Dépraz and CyS mechanical movements.
A lesser known brand in the busy watch world, but one that merits a closer look if only for its ‘Latin soul and Swiss heart’.
* Cuervo y Sobrinos was mentioned in ‘And the Shows go on … and on… and on … ‘ in the Fairs Overview, Europa Star 3/2005.
Ladies model in stainless steel (40.30 mm) equipped with an ETA 2895-2 automatic movement. Slightly off-centre mother-of-pearl dial, bezel set with 66 diamonds, onyx cabochon set into crown, water-resistant to 50 metres.
Stainless steel watch (40.30 mm) equipped with an ETA 2895-2 automatic movement. Slightly off-centre dial with hour, minute seconds and date indications. Water-resistant to 50 metres.
Chronograph in stainless steel (40.30 mm) equipped with an ETA 7750 automatic movement. Slightly off-centre dial indications, water-resistant to 50 metres.
Originally founded in 1931, Louis Erard was re-launched in 2003 after a period of relative inactivity. Based upon a meticulous study of the overall watch market, Alain Spinedi, the Director of the company, decided to place Louis Erard in a very specific category: Haute Horlogerie mechanical watches at an affordable price.
The result is that the Louis Erard brand has created for itself an ideal niche manufacturing men’s watches between 600 and 2,500 Swiss francs – although the recent introduction of 18 carat gold models range from 4,750 to 5,950 Swiss francs. The brand’s first collections quickly caught the vigilant consumer’s attention and by year-end 2006, business sales had increased by 45% over the previous year.
Alain Spinedi’s aims for the present are to reinforce the presence of the brand and continue to develop its presence in other markets. Having shown remarkable results, both creative and commercial, within the short period of its new life, Louis Erard is at last reaping the rewards of being a credible manufacturer of mechanical timepieces.
* A more complete article on Louis Erard, ‘Louis Erard and The Spirit of Time’, appeared in Europa Star 6/2006.
Jean-Mairet & Gillman
Stainless steel case (42 mm) equipped with an automatic JMG 2006RAC/8162 COSC chronometer movement. Big date at 12 o’clock, 30- and 60-minute counters, column wheel chronograph, 48-hour power reserve, sapphire crystal front and back, rubber strap.
18 carat white gold case (43 mm) equipped with a JMG 2006 MP/5000 mechanical movement. Column wheel chronograph with 30-and 60-minute counters, 42 power reserve, opaline dial.
In the year 1999, César Jean-Mairet founded the company Jean-Mairet & Gillman offering watch aficionados Limited Edition timepieces of 25, 50, 100 and 500 pieces depending on whether the watch was in stainless steel, platinum or yellow, white or pink gold.
A watchmaker by training, César Jean-Mairet has an horological link that goes back to the 1700s with the Mairet family and in the not too distant past with Robert Gillman and Caroline Bovet (great-great grandparents). With a passion for watches, he soon established the brand in Spain, Moscow, the Middle East and Turkey, adding major points-of-sale in Asia after the brand’s first participation at BaselWorld in 2003.
There are three exclusive collections: Around the World, Sports and Careée. Each collection has its own character offering some classical timepieces and ladies’ mechanical watches and are created using fine traditional craftsmanship and excellent mechanical movements from such leading names as Dubois Dépraz ; Jaquet and Piguet.
Today, Jean-Mairet & Gillman is doing well with a 50% increase in sales over last year. The Russian and Asian markets continue to develop, the French market is consolidating and has opened up the Swiss, Japanese and UK markets have opened. The USA, the rest of Europe and the Arab countries are the markets to be established within in the foreseeable future.
In terms of watches, this year will see several new models including a monopoussoir chronograph, a universal time, a new sports watch for ladies, a power reserve model and a tri-retrograde perpetual calendar.
* An introductory article on Jean-Mairet & Gillman ‘An elegant tribute to the mechanical watch’appeared in Europa Star 4/2004.
Platinum case with mokame gamé folded layers of silver and white gold, 18 carat rhodium-plated dragons, hand pierced and sculpted, diamond-set eyes. The two dragons
face anti-clockwise to give the impression of movement. Dial engraved and signed by Kees Englebarts, blued stainless steel hands, automatic movement, sapphire crystal front and back. Unique piece.
QUANTIèME PERPéTUAL CALENDAR
Stainless steel watch (42 mm) with an 18 carat gold dial, blued steel hands, automatic mechanical movement, sapphire crystal front and back.
18 carat red gold case (42 mm) equipped with an automatic movement. White enamel dial with Arabic numerals, blued steel hands, sapphire crystal front and back.
Peter Speake-Marin (pronounced Speak-Marine) is an Englishman who studied in Switzerland at the WOSTEP School in Neuchâtel, joined Watches of Switzerland in Oxford and then London, then worked for an antique company overseeing the antique watch section.
Peter joined Renaud & Papi in Switzerland and worked on complications for four years during which time he purchased watchmaking machinery “… as a form of insurance for the future, which is how I began to make my own pieces.” He exhibited his first watches on the AIHH stand at Basel in 2003 and by 2004 he had sold around a hundred watches. By the following year, Peter Speake-Marin had developed his own distribution network and produced and sold 150 watches with various complications.
In 2006 he created his second watch for Harry Winston, a 44mm self-winding tourbillon in Zalium® entitled Project Z3 and began working on unique pieces that involve engraving and lacquered dials. A new range of 42 mm watches has seen the light of day in both 18 carat gold and stainless steel.
Speake-Marin watches range from a simple three hands to a tourbillon and a magnificent minute-repeater to a perpetual calendar with moon phases. Prices, depending on the materials and the complications range from 12,000 to 450,000 Swiss francs.
The Speake-Marin brand has enjoyed a slow, but methodical growth since Peter Speake-Marin tends to only work with like-minded people, nevertheless, his creations are made to last technically and in terms of fashion … they are quite simply timeless.
* An in-depth article on Speake-Marin ‘Speake-Marin: creating something people want’ appeared in Europa Star 1/2006.
Founded in 2004 when several professional golfers admitted there was a place for a genuine golfer’s watch, Romain Jérôme produced its first niche watch, the Hole in One Golf Counter. This wristwatch displayed a golfer’s score throughout the 18 holes, enabling players to follow their own progress along the course, count the strokes played for each hole and add them up in the process. Aesthetically designed to feature symbols such as clubs, tees and golf balls, the brand quickly established itself within this niche market.
The Hole in One (42 mm) is in 18 carat pink or white gold and is equipped with a Calibre RJ92 self-winding movement. There is a power-reserve of 42 hours, a silvered Clous de Paris, black or white mother-of-pearl dial. Water-resistant to 30 metres, the watch comes with a hand-sewn alligator strap in various colours. This Limited Edition is available in 99 pieces per gold colour.
Since then Romain Jérôme has also moved into the sophisticated horological echelon of the tourbillon with its ‘Honor Tourbillon’ (42 mm) available in 18 carat pink or white gold and equipped with a hand-wound La Joux Perret movement personalized with an invisible bridge fastening. There is a half-skeleton dial with the tourbillon at 6 o’clock, a power-reserve of 90 hours and watch is also available with a diamond-set bezel. Limited Edition of 9 pieces per gold colour.
There is also a 5000 G Chronograph in 18 carat pink or white gold, equipped with a self-winding Calibre RJ94 movement with a silvered Clous de Paris, black or white mother-of-pearl dial. Again, this Limited edition is of 99 pieces per gold colour.
And for the ladies there is the diamond-set Precious Marvel (38 mm) watch in pink or white gold and fitted with a self-winding movement with a power-reserve of 42 hours. Water-resistant to 30 metres, these elegant timepieces are also limited to 99 pieces per gold colour.
After its success in the Middle East were the original batch of watches were oversold four times, Yvan Arpa (ex-Hublot and Richemont) and Bernard Gautier (ex-Hublot) are preparing for BaselWorld 2007 with two new product families.
* An introductory article on Romain Jérôme, ‘The Golf Master Time of the newcomer: Romain Jérôme’ appeared in Europa Star 3/2005.
FVa12-9A CHRONOGRAPH QUANTIEME ANNUEL AUTOMATIC
‘Esprit Unique’ Grand Sport timepiece in black DieHard extreme steel. Self-winding movement annual calendar and chronograph function, guilloché and mother-of-pearl dial, crocodile strap, sapphire crystal front and back, water-resistant to 100 metres.
FVa N1 TV PR TOURBILLON with 120 Hours (5 Days)
Founded In 2004, Franc Vila launched his first collection of complicated and highly-limited mechanical watches at BaselWorld 2005.
Having been passionate about watches from early childhood, as time went by, Franc Vila realised that “I needed a watch not only technically perfect, but also built to the highest quality standards, that reflected the contem-porary spirit. We live now, in our time and our watches should be contemporary, but respecting the tradition and exclusivity, the principle characteristic of luxury, together with excellence.
“Thus I started to think about creating my own watch, but only for me and my friends. Initially my idea was not to sell them. And even now I design my watches to satisfy my needs and tastes – which fortunately match my clients wishes. I have never designed a watch to satisfy the needs of my clients. I can’t and I won’t. I just do watches I love to wear myself,” Franc Vila explains.
Born in Spain with his offices in Geneva, Franc Vila’s aims are to create timepieces that are innovative and exclusive, but ones that are anchored in the past ... as Vila puts it, “When I started designing my watch I had one foot in the past and the other one in the future.”
Concerning the future of the Franc Vila brand, the watchmaker himself sees there always being a limited production due to the complexity, the vast amount of hand-crafting and his uncompromising insistence on the highest quality. However, having said that, as of this year, 5 models will be launched using movements from some of the finest advanced movement manufacturers, of these, four will incorporate a tourbillon equipped with a minute repeater with cathedral gongs, one with a mono-pushbutton chronograph and another with with a second time zone.
Franc Vila will maintain a very selective point-of-sale distribution and, in the near future, will open his own boutique in Geneva’s old town.
* A short article on Franc Vila, ‘The unique spirit of Franc Vila’ appeared in Europa Star 3/2005.
Variations on a theme … (parenthèses, French for brackets) watches with an ETA 2824 automatic movement with an interchangeable case (42 or 46 mm), from stainless steel with or without diamonds to black PVD and 18 carat gold with or without diamonds. Sapphire crystals front and back, water-resistant to 30 metres.
Tellus (founded in 1926) watches are designed by Hovel Chenorhokian and distributed by the Hexagone company which was founded in 2005.
From an Armenian family that moved to Lebanon, Hovel’s father learned watchmaking from one of his brothers and then in addition decided to open his own business distributing Swiss brands such as IWC, Blancpain and Breitling in the Middle East. The outbreak of the 1975 civil war in Lebanon caused the collapse of his father’s business and Hovel, along with his brother, both of whom were born there, interrupted their studies and took refuge in France.
In the late 1970s with the development of the quartz movement and the beginning of the consumer revolution whereby the watch became a fashion accessory, Hovel and his brother continued the family tradition and founded a small watch distribution business in France that has since flourished and grown to 80 employees.
Hovel’s first own watch creation was the Moog collection of ladies’ watches with a variety of multi-coloured easy-to-change straps. The ‘interchangeable’ concept of the straps was clearly one that he felt could be extended and when he took on the design work for Tellus watches, Chenorhokian came up with another concept whereby elements attached to the watchcase were interchangeable thus giving the timepiece a completely different appearance. Launched at BaselWorld last year, the first deliveries have now been made in France as well countries as distant as Dubai, Kuwait and Australia.
Last summer, whilst on holiday in Groix, an island off Brittany, Hovel Chenorhokian was in a local market when an artist selling sculptures saw his Tellus watch and began discussing it with him. The artist found it fascinating and persuaded him to sell it there and then. The rest of the holiday was watchless, but one imagines that he hopes this little anecdote is but a foretaste of what’s to come commercially …
Source: Europa Star February-March 2007 Magazine Issue