Baume & Mercier has changed a lot over the past few years. While the brand’s outward identity is now characterised by the appealing seaside escape images inspired by the Hamptons on the eastern tip of Long Island in New York State, an enormous amount of work has been going on behind the scenes to make its distribution more exclusive. The latest new collection, which Baume & Mercier will present at the SIHH 2013, continues the seaside theme with a name taken from the affluent seaside suburb of Cape Town, South Africa – the Clifton.
Inspired by an historic model found in the company’s museum, the Clifton slots perfectly into one of the main axes of the brand’s product strategy, as Baume & Mercier’s CEO Alain Zimmerman explained to Europa Star. “We work along two main lines: Firstly, we have a balanced offer between gents’ and ladies’ models, which is an historical strength of the brand. Secondly, we also keep a balance between classic and sporty models.”
The new Clifton collection is firmly positioned in the classic segment, with a carefully reworked interpretation of the round case of the 1950s original that inspired it. “The original piece caught our eye for three reasons,” says Mr. Zimmerman. “The first is that it has a strong design signature, for example with the recessed lugs. The second is the purity of the dial and the third is the ‘chimney-style’ bezel, which is on two levels and gives the watch a vintage look.” The 41mm stainless-steel case of the new gents’ Clifton model houses a self-winding Sellita SW260-1 movement with a personalised oscillating mass, circular-grained bridges and black and rhodium-plated screws. Visible through a sapphire crystal case back, the movement provides hour, minute and small seconds display at 6 o’clock, as well as a date window at 3 o’clock. Despite a high level of attention to detail that includes elegant applied Arabic numerals, blued-steel hands and a new folding clasp that does not have to be inserted into the holes of the alligator leather strap (and thus reduces wear on the strap and allows better adjustment), the collection has an aggressively positioned entry-level price of 2,500 Swiss francs. The aim is to appeal to customers looking to trade up into the luxury segment. Or, as Mr. Zimmerman explains, “someone who will progress from a watch that he may have purchased spontaneously to what we could call a ‘real’ watch. Someone who makes this step wants a watch that will last, so they need a classic design. They want a mechanical movement and they want to be able to see it. These are the considerations that went into the design of the watch.”
Nevertheless, Baume & Mercier also reaffirms its fine watchmaking credentials with an 18-carat red-gold version of the Clifton. Slightly larger at 42mm diameter, it has a more rounded, “chevé”-style sapphire crystal and a domed dial that more closely mimics the 1950s aesthetics of the original model. It is powered by the manual-winding La Joux-Perret calibre 7381, with 90 hours of power reserve, whose circular-grained main plate and bridges with Côtes de Genève décor are visible through a transparent sapphire crystal case back. Smaller 39mm Clifton models, as well as a moon phase variation, are being kept under wraps for presentation at the 2013 SIHH in Geneva.
More exclusive distribution
The sweeping changes at Baume & Mercier over the past few years have included a drastic reduction in the size of the brand’s distribution network. “Over the past few years we have massively reduced our distribution network, from around 3,000 to around 1,600,” says Zimmerman.
As a result, the brand is in a phase of construction that is incomparable with other more established brands within the Richemont group and suggests an above-average potential for growth. While the brand has been traditionally strong in markets such as the USA (for many years, Baume & Mercier was the only watch brand other than Patek Philippe to be carried in all Tiffany stores), other regions, such as Asia, still require a lot of work. Even with Europe, there is still room for improvement. “In the UK we are far behind the level that we should be at,” explains Zimmerman. “We have practically had to start from scratch and need retailers who will give us the space.”
“Our business model is different as well,” he continues. “We have a different positioning in terms of price and in terms of distribution, since we are focused more on wholesale, while other brands in the group are more focused on retail.”
Meanwhile, plans to expand the Clifton collection are already in the pipeline. Look out for a version with two different dials at the SIHH, as well as some new ladies’ models in the Linea collection.
Source: Europa Star December - January 2012-13 Magazine Issue
See the other SIHH 2013 previews in this issue:
- “Audemars Piguet: infusing a new way of thinking”
- Roger Dubuis leads the way in self-sufficiency
- Cartier’s new manufacture chronograph
- Panerai’s celebration of classic yachting
- Piaget’s strident voice from a slender body
- Ralph Lauren’s Sporting World Time in steel
- Richard Mille’s support for road safety