Mr Raymond Weil, founder of the eponymous brand, passed away on 26 January this year, at the age of 87. For the brand Raymond Weil, headed up by his son-in-law Olivier Bernheim, assisted by his two sons Elie and Pierre Bernheim, his death marks a turning point. It is undoubtedly a significant one, but above all it is symbolic, because Raymond Weil had not been actively involved in the brand for a few years. Europa Star met Olivier, Elie and Pierre Bernheim to talk about the legacy of this cordial and visionary man who was unanimously respected, as well as about the future of the family-run brand.
- From left to right: Pierre, Olivier and Elie Bernheim
Europa Star: With the passing of Raymond, a new page is turned, on a personal level, of course, but also for the brand…
Olivier Bernheim: First of all I would like to say that we have been touched by the messages of sympathy that we have received from all over the world, not only because of their number but also because of the incredible human warmth that we felt. What we saw in what the distributors, retailers and even individual sales people wrote is that they owe all their success to Raymond Weil. It is thanks to this man and his brand that they were able to grow. And they will not forget this.
Pierre Bernheim: He really was an exceptional ambassador and a visionary. For example, we received stories from sales staff at Macy’s who told us that they have been telling their customers about Raymond’s life for 30 years, that this was their main sales argument and that they had the impression that they knew him intimately.
Elie Bernheim: There was an identification between the brand and the person. His legacy is there, in this incredible network that he built up around the world, with sobriety, simplicity and kindness.
OB: It’s true. He managed to get people to identify with the brand without ever pressuring them. Today, most people talk about “my brand”. This is a unique form of solidarity with retailers. The strength and solidity of this network are a colossal legacy.
Especially now, when we know the pressure that retailers are under…
OB: Vertical integration in retail is obviously a significant issue, but it has slightly less of an impact at our price point (editor’s note: the core range is between 1,000 and 3,000 Swiss francs). But a lot of retailers have lost brands from the groups and really need us in order to keep growing and make up the difference.
- Nabucco Rivoluzione II by Raymond Weil
- Carbon, titanium and, for the first time, ceramic give and urbane and contemporary look to this all-black 46mm model, punctuated with crimson red details such as for the chronograph hands, the date and the stitching on the rubber strap. One of the emblematic features of the Nabucco collection, the figure 12, is the only numeral on the dial. Engraved tachymeter scale on the ceramic bezel, three counters at 3 o’clock (30 minutes), 6 o’clock (12 hours) and 9 o’clock (small seconds) and circular date window at 4.30. Delivered in a special box with Sennheiser audio headphones with unparalleled acoustics.
So you intend to keep on the same track and keep the family nature of the brand?
OB: Absolutely. This is our DNA, this passion that we share to make the brand blossom.
EB: We were brought up on Raymond Weil. For us it’s only natural.
PB: I think I have always been doing this. Coming to work for Raymond Weil was quite simply normal, evident and… motivating.
EB: We who represent the third generation are strongly committed to keeping the brand in our own hands and developing this family legacy. But nobody knows to what extent we will be able to face up to the enormous pressure of the groups and continue to grow the business. What is certain, however, is that we will never be the “grave diggers” of the brand and that if we feel, one day, that too many clouds are building up, we will not destroy the brand by trying to cling on to it simply out of personal megalomania.
What are your main axes of strategy for the future?
OB: We should focus our efforts on the areas where we are strong. This is the first thing. We should not spread ourselves too wide, we no longer need to be present in 120 countries and we should instead concentrate on the regions where we are dominant, to respect what we are, the heart of our profession, Swiss watchmaking, with great elegance and unbeatable value for money.
PB: We have never claimed to be something that we are not. We have never wavered from our main business, because this is where we bring productivity, traffic and growth for our retailers, with beautiful, chic, elegant and affordable products.
OB: “Stick to what you are good at,” is what Raymond always said. Our strength lies in what we are: a name recognised worldwide, a clearly defined positioning, elegant and affordable products. We are here and not elsewhere. And, a key point, we have an extremely efficient customer service. Anything can be repaired, at any time, anywhere.
EB: Recently, someone said to us: your communication is beautiful, it looks like the watch in it is worth 25,000 Swiss francs! For us, this is a double-edged compliment, because we do not want to project an expensive image. On the contrary, we want to convey the message that our products are affordable, their beauty notwithstanding.
What can we discover at BaselWorld this year?
OB: A nice continuity. We also need to reassure the markets, some of which have been shaken – psychologically – by the death of Raymond. EB: Among the new products we will have a new chronograph in the Nabucco collection. With a reworked case and interesting choices of materials – a ceramic bezel, titanium case, rubber and carbon fibre. One striking detail: in the box for this chronograph the customer will find a pair of Sennheiser headphones, one of the best manufacturers of professional audio headphones. All this for 4,500 to 6,500 Swiss francs depending on the model.
OB: But this is not our core range. We will also have another very nice chronograph in the Freelancer collection, our best-selling line, which accounts for 75 per cent of our sales. Furthermore, apart from some new models and evolutions in our Maestro and Jasmine collections, we will also present a new collection, called Toccata. It is an entry-level quartz collection that will sell for 650 Swiss francs, with round cases and a very classic design, with a domed crystal, for ladies and gents. This is something that sells well. We always come back to this: Raymond Weil is there to create traffic at the retailer.
EB: And friends of the brand will also discover a limited edition of 100 watches dedicated to Raymond Weil. It will be a masterpiece in his honour, a 45mm COSC chronograph in a Maestro case in platinum.
Elie and Pierre Bernheim launched an elegant and contemporary brand in 2012 that offers retailers “something that is no longer available in the Raymond Weil range,” in other words a collection positioned between 300 and 1,000 Swiss francs. This horological start-up has already sold 25,000 watches in 18 months, in 500 points of sale in 34 countries. “A lot of the long-standing partners of Raymond Weil have supported us, like Macy’s, Tourneau and Selfridges, as well as independent retailers,” explains Pierre Bernheim, who is directly responsible for the brand. “The idea is for this brand to develop turnover in stores that needed a good quality Swiss watch at the entry-level price. It is also thanks to the knowledge we acquired from our grandfather and our father that we were able to create a collection that is so elegant and has such refined details but at a price that is unbeatable.”
Source: Europa Star April - May 2014 Magazine Issue