features


FACES IN TIME

Español
June 2015


Baselworld is intrinsically about watches, but without people neither the event nor the timepieces would exist. This is about some of those faces.

Each and every year, Baselworld entails days of strolling around the myriad corridors in search of that Horological Grail, the scoop that everyone will read, the watch that will make headlines. Yet, what often tends to get overlooked is that behind every aspect of the watch’s existence, its creation from drawing board to prototype, the innovation of its multiple complications, the assembling of hundreds of minute parts, the PR hype, the marketing and retailing, not to mention the years of financing prior to its launch, behind all of these … there are people.
Dedicated, dynamic, creative and innovative people that bring the time to your wrist, they are the ‘Faces in Time’.

 CINDY LIVINGSTON - SEQUEL AG

Cindy Livingston - CEO and President of Sequel AG
Cindy Livingston - CEO and President of Sequel AG
Guess - Connect watch
Guess - Connect watch

An attractive lady, business-like, vibrant and always convivial, Cindy Livingston is the CEO and President of Sequel AG, the Swiss company that has the exclusive distribution rights for Guess and Gc watches in more than 100 countries.

The large Gc/Guess booth on the top floor of Hall 1 was buzzing with excitement when I arrived – almost everybody seemed to be connected to somewhere or other using the new Guess Connect watch – a standard Guess timepiece with a strip display between 5 and 7 o’clock that uses Bluetooth to display notifications from your smartphone. Nevertheless we found a room far from the madding crowd.

“I was on the retail side of the business working for Federated Department Stores (Macy’s, etc.) dealing with cosmetics, watches and jewellery when Swatch launched their first models at the beginning of the 80s. Mickey Callanen, who launched Guess watches in 1984, asked me to join his company and kept on at me for five years until I finally agreed in 1989,” Cindy Livingston explains.
“Two years later, I was asked to head up Callanen International, a former subsidiary of the Timex Group. I travelled the world from 1991 to 1998, introducing our fashion watches to retailers as if they were a high-end product. Swatch was selling its plastic watches at around $38 and we were selling our metal watches at $42 offering three different movements and various funky straps. It was all go, go, go, but it was the best job I ever had! Then in 1997 we started Gc, a new wave of timepieces for us. Starting with the premise of ‘what will kids buy before eventually moving into the Rolex world’ we created legitimate Swiss watches at affordable prices. We considered the brand to be a bridge leading to fine watches.”
The rest is history: today Gc is in the upper half of the top ten in Swiss watch production, no mean feat when you consider the massive competition for watch retailer space and the short time it has existed.

In addition to the business side of Gc, Sequel established ‘Faces to Watch – Time to Give’, its charitable arm that selects a different children’s charity each year to support the health, education and welfare of children around the world.

I met Cindy Livingston the first afternoon of this year’s Baselworld and, sadly, discovered that just two weeks earlier, Ira, Cindy’s husband, had passed away after a very short illness. The pain of her loss was obvious but, like the trooper she is, the show had to go on – and it did. Truly, a remarkable lady.

 DEREK CREMERS - L’EMERAUDE

L’Emeraude is a charming family-owned boutique situated at 12, Place Saint-François in Lausanne. Established in 1909, it soon became renowned for its prestigious pocket watches, many with multiple complications – often made to order – and important collectors’ jewellery. Royal families were regular visitors in the 1920s.

In 2004 Patrick and Marina Cremers purchased the premises and set about establishing the boutique as one of Switzerland’s leading watch retailers specialising in brands such as Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Panerai, IWC, F.P. Journe, Voutilainen, Hublot, Breitling, Ulysse Nardin, De Bethune, Romain Gauthier and H. Moser & Cie. Derek Cremers, Patrick’s brother, took over the management of the boutique in 2010 when his brother was made an offer he couldn’t refuse – that of Director of the Patek Philippe salons in Geneva.

Derek Cremers - L'Emeraude
Derek Cremers - L’Emeraude
L'Emeraude
L’Emeraude
Boutique situated 12, Place Saint-François in Lausanne

I met up with Derek Cremers at the coffee bar of the Palace. He is an amiable man who has that enviable characteristic of making you feel immediately at ease, giving you his undivided attention. Having honed his horological prowess with two high-end watch brands he is now passionate about the direct contact he has with clients and refers to it as ‘an emotional experience’.
“We have a very loyal local clientele, eighty percent of whom are Swiss, but we have an important international group of clients for whom we have also made unique timepieces with certain brands, and we consider it an obligation to be there for them. We have an excellent team of eight people, each with their own clients, to ensure a personalised and professional continuity. They offer an irreproachable service since they all have a deep knowledge of our products and they transmit their passion for watches to their clients.

“We also consider our after-sales service to be of primary importance. We have a watchmaker on the premises and another who specialises in antique models, probably one of the only boutiques in Switzerland offering that service.

“L’Emeraude is a family business and for us it is hyper-important that our clients feel genuinely welcome when they visit us, whether it is for a battery, a watch strap or a watch. They enjoy talking about watches and many come into the boutique just to chat about watches with no specific intention to purchase. And as a sort of thank you to them we organise dinners and special events such as we arranged with Breitling for a client to do a wing-walk in flight on one of their 1940s bi-planes.

“We also have a long-term vision concerning the brands that we sell, we’re not after the ‘quick buck’, we want to maintain a steady growth with a knowledgeable clientele. And as a development of that strategy we are currently working on a project to enlarge our boutique, an all-important factor in the eyes of the brands we represent.”

And with a smile and a firm handshake Derek Cremers dashed off to yet another appointment.

 GUILLAUME TETU - HAUTLENCE

Guillaume Tetu - CEO of Hautlence
Guillaume Tetu - CEO of Hautlence

Hautlence (an anagram of Neuchâtel) was founded in 2004 by Guillaume Tetu and Renaud de Retz. (Five years later, Retz left Hautlence and is now CEO of Ernest Borel timepieces.)

An amiable man of rugby-sized proportions with a good-humoured temperament, Guillaume Tetu fell in love with watches when he worked for a Rolex supplier. He then joined TAG Heuer where from 1997 to 2004 he was involved in everything from Cad-Cam ProEngineer work to Product Development Manager.

We talk about one of our mutual vices – cigars, usually Cuban – although this time Guillaume spends time telling me about his latest discovery, a Gurkha Cellar Reserve cigar whose tobacco is aged for 18 years. This may seem irrelevant to many, but I discovered that in addition to having been named after the famous Nepalese warriors, the company was acquired by Kaizad Hansotia in 1989 with the intention of giving the cigars as unique gifts to customers of his family’s watch business. The business has since expanded to become an exclusive brand and now holds the record for the world’s most expensive cigars, retailing at $25,000 a box – the price of one of the superb Hautlence timepieces in the Invictus or Destination collections that Guillaume proudly showed me.

Be that as it may, today, Hautlence, along with Moser, is one of what Guillaume Tetu refers to as Baselworld’s ‘official rebels’ – his reference to participating in the off-Broadway section of the event at the Ramada Hotel alongside Hall 2. Since its inception, Hautlence has been at the forefront of offering a different manner of reading the time that combined what seemed like a classical case, through which much of the movement was visible on the side, with innovative mechanical perfection.

“We have had to rebuild the image of the brand,” Tetu explains, “because after the launch of Hautlence, we didn’t have enough product to satisfy demand. Having established a solid sales network the crisis hit. We had been just selling watches, but we hadn’t really had the time to build and develop the brand.

We are enjoying a resurgence now since Georges-Henri Meylan joined the Board as Chairman, and with the addition of Eric Cantona – ex-footballer, actor, artist and collector – as an ambassador with a hands-on involvement on the creative side, we are underlining our prowess as an example of an inventive and dynamic team.”

Long live the rebels and Vive la Rébellion!

 FRANCK DUBARRY - FRANCK DUBARRY WATCHES

Franck Dubarry - founder of Franck Dubarry Watches
Franck Dubarry - founder of Franck Dubarry Watches
Franck Dubarry - Crazy Balls
Franck Dubarry - Crazy Balls

The last time Franck Dubarry was at Baselworld was back in 2007, the year he sold Technomarine, his adventurous company that introduced the world to an audacious combination of plastic and diamonds. But that was way back before the turn of the decade.

Looking tanned, fit and as enthusiastic as ever, Franck Dubarry brought me up to date on the last eight years: “When I sold Technomarine I went to Hollywood where I formed a film company called Red Dragon and produced a couple of movies. It was there that I fully realised that I needed to reinforce my MBA and develop my skills in finance and economics, so I returned to HEC Paris (Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Paris).

“I have also spent a lot of time in Argentina because I love the freedom of open spaces, horses and polo. Consequently I purchased 250 acres of land in Argentina, created Technopolo, a development of several polo fields where people who love the game can live and play. I also started breeding polo horses, one of which, Emocionada, won ‘Best of the Year’ polo horse, which is quite something in Argentina.

“I also developed and patented an idea I had for a ‘smart unit’. It’s an anti-theft/loss system that is connected to luggage that allows you to follow it and locate it by GPS and, since it recognises take-off and landing through changes of pressure, it can be traced and tracked down.”

Although he had a ten-year non-competitive clause in the sales contract of Technomarine, Franck Dubarry negotiated a return to business this year. He managed to obtain a booth in Hall 2 where, under the new patronymic brand name and a complex logo based on his initials, he displayed inside the stand – there were no external showcases – collections of jewellery and, in particular, his new ground-breaking timepiece … Crazy Balls.

Crazy Balls? “The watch has become a social attribute,” Dubarry continues, “and this model is a complication that is meant to please and entertain. It creates life in the form of meditation, energy and chaos depending on the movement of the wrist: ‘meditation’ is when the 12 balls are inactive; ‘energy’ when the wrist is more active and the balls move slowly around the watch and return to their position alongside the indices; and ‘chaos’ when they spin wildly around before settling down again. All of this functions with a complex magnetic system on the outer section of the dial without it affecting the movement.”

The watch comes in various combinations of metals, balls and precious stones and heralds a welcome return to the watch world of a man of many talents. “This is a collection of watches to remind us that freedom lies in our relation to time,” Franck Dubarry concludes. Crazy? Who knows, it’s for you to decide.

 SERGE AEBISCHER - SNYPER

Serge Aebischer - CEO of Snyper
Serge Aebischer - CEO of Snyper
Snyper - IRONCLAD – BLACK – BICOLOR
Snyper - IRONCLAD – BLACK – BICOLOR

For a man who has been in a few hot seats within the watch industry for close to thirty years, Serge Aebischer looks too well. Fit, hyper-active, yet always smiling, he manages to convey his enthusiasm and passion to both clients and curious journalists.

He carries with him an impressive compendium of positions: two years with Cartier in distribution and sales; five years with Tiffany & Company in New York and Lausanne as Production Manager and Logistic Supervisor; two years with Marina B as Product Development Director; two years with Gérald Genta in Geneva and Monte Carlo as Sales Director; three years with Mauboussin Joaillers in Paris and Geneva as Development Director Horology, where he replaced Richard Mille; a return to working with Gérald Genta at Gérald Charles in Monte Carlo for three years as Sales Director; two years at Jean-Mairet & Gillman in Geneva as Sales and Product Development Director; eight years with Franc Vila as Director of International Sales and Marketing rising to CEO; and as of this year, Snyper Watches Genève as CEO, Sales and International Marketing Director.

His booth in the Palace at Baselworld was buzzing with clients and visitors and during the few minutes at my disposal he was up and down greeting them with a handshake here and a bear hug there.

“I am looking to accentuate and develop the identity of the brand in horological complications and continue to exploit the use of new materials in our watches,” he confides. “The brand was established in 2008 after the brand’s founders met a Special Forces Sniper and realised that there was much in common with their respective worlds – the demand for high quality, robustness, precision, technology and functional design.

Since then four collections have been created, including a tourbillon and the new Ironclad, a self-winding chronograph with day/date, small seconds and a 48-hour power reserve.”

The unusual feature of all the Snyper collections is that on the left of the watch there is a bar to which modules such as a cigar lighter, a laser and a torch can be attached as and when required.

Our talk ended there as a group of very excited and athletic-looking clients arrived, some of whom could easily have been snipers in every sense of the word.

 JEAN-PAUL GIRARDIN - BREITLING

Jean-Paul Girardin - Vice-President of Breitling
Jean-Paul Girardin - Vice-President of Breitling
Breitling - Galactic Unitime SleekT
Breitling - Galactic Unitime SleekT

Fort Knox is probably easier to enter than the massive Breitling booth with its imposing aquarium sitting above the reception area, sometimes with sea bass, sometimes with sharks, today with thousands of tropical fish darting around in seventeen thousand litres of water.

Equipped with a loupe on a chain around my neck as my pass, a massive minder opens the door to the stand where I’m met by Charlène Reynaud the charming PR Coordinator who with a disarming smile leads me ever upwards to my appointment with Jean-Paul Girardin, the brand’s Vice-President.

Elegant and softly spoken, we’ve met like this for many years, except this time my intention is to get him to talk about himself – something that isn’t obvious since all he wants to talk about are the latest and greatest of Breitling’s watches, one of which is the Galactic Unitime SleekT, an eye-catching world time timepiece with a Manufacture Breitling Calibre B35 self-winding movement and the new and meaningful B55 smartwatch with an app that simplifies and annotates work for the pilot – such as flight plans – which can then be downloaded or printed out.

We have thirty minutes before his next meeting and the first few are taken over by a few niceties and an excellent ristretto accompanied by a delicious chocolate in a Breitling wrapper.

“I was born into a watchmaking family, my father and my grandfather were in the industry. I studied mechanical engineering and specialised in machine tools since I’m one of those people who like and need to understand how things function. My first real job was with Honeywell where I worked for seven years as a Development and Design Engineer. I travelled,around Europe and then in 1990 obtained my MBA and joined the watch industry with the Swatch Group in case manufacturing since they made me the best offer.

“I’d known the Schneider family for years, mainly through flying; consequently when I was asked to join the firm in 1992 I didn’t hesitate. I liked the fact that Breitling specialised in watches for pilots and that precision was a necessity – especially since flying doesn’t sustain mediocrity.”

Breitling remains an independent brand, and in keeping with its owner Teddy Schneider and the company’s philosophy, Jean-Paul Girardin is also discreet. I don’t recall where I read this quote from him: “At Breitling, we may not always say what we do, but we always do what we say,” but in the final analysis, he certainly didn’t give too much away. He didn’t even mention that he flies a helicopter between his meetings around Switzerland.

 ISABELLE THOMAS - TAKE NO TIME / SNYPER

Isabelle Thomas
Isabelle Thomas
PR & Communication Manager of Snyper watches / Director of Take No Time SA

‘Take no Time’ is a company that was founded by Isabelle Thomas in 2000 essentially to offer PR expertise to watch and jewellery companies. Of course Isabelle’s real claim to fame is that for three years (1996 to 1999) her pretty face and joie de vivre brightened the Europa Star offices where she worked on the production side of the magazine.

“When I was at Europa Star I was also responsible for the promotion of GIE (Economic Interest Group) Pearls of Tahiti. For that I worked with Didier Brodbeck who was in charge of the GIE in France. I had to propose types of supports – brochures, displays for the pearls. Not only did I discover the universe of those magic pearls, but also I had the luck to attend the auction of pearls, visit the farms of Robert Wan and visit his museum in Tahiti … a wonderful memory.
“After Europa Star I joined the editorial team at A World of Dreams and Heure Internationale magazines which were based in Paris, but in the year 2000 I decided to start my own PR company which I called ‘Take no Time’ and, slowly but surely, developed a client list working for companies such as DMC Consulting with Jean-François Ruchonnet, Jean-Mairet & Gillman, Romain Jerome, Azzaro, Peter Tanisman, Blacksand, Mouawad, Franc Vila and my latest client, Snyper.”

Married to Jean-Marc who works for one of the world’s leading watch manufacturers, they have two lovely children, Charlotte who is now a young teenager, and Erwan who is pushing six, but Isabelle still finds time to visit Baselworld.

“This year is my twentieth Basel. The world of watches and jewellery has really changed in that time, the event gets bigger and bigger. I am amazed at how many new brands there are and I admire the effort and energy they use in attracting people to discover their timepieces. It’s really difficult to find a place in the midst of these mastodons if horology since points of sale are rare.
“Even if today’s technology drives the limits of precision further and even if the innovative movements make my head spin and require an instruction booklet to tell you how to read the time, I still love the simple, classic watch without useless complications.
“This is a terribly masculine universe and it has difficulty in accepting the point of view of women. Whether it’s for the development of products that they say diamonds are a girl’s best friend, the majority of women don’t wear them. Cliches die hard!

 GUIDO BENEDINI - ALPINA

Guido Benedini - CEO of Alpina
Guido Benedini - CEO of Alpina

Born in the Netherlands, studied at Reading University and the Scuola di Direzione Aziendale Bocconi in Milan where he gained his MBA, Guido Benedini is a youthful forty-seven years old and is the energetic and experienced CEO of Alpina, the company re-established as a leading sports brand by Peter and Aletta Stas.

Having asked about his business career to date, I have to admit I was surprised to learn how hands-on his involvement has been in the marketing of several leading Swatch Group brands. “I joined the Swatch Group in 1993 as Brand Manager for Blancpain in Italy, then two years later Nick Hayek convinced me to move to the home of the Swatch Group in Biel as the International Communications Manager of Swatch.
“It was there that I was privileged to learn how tough the business side of the watch industry is and the importance of design to the brand. Three years later I was involved in the marketing of Longines, after which I became Marketing Director for Tissot, Blancpain and Rado.
“Then in 2008 I decided to leave the industry and set up my own e-business, marketing and selling branded artworks whilst also working as the CEO for Classicdriver.com, an on-line classic car market and magazine. That was an exciting period.”

Guido Benedini was appointed CEO of Alpina in 2012 and accepted the challenge of seeing the brand’s development as a genuine manufacturer of the brand’s sports watches. “There’s only so much you do on the design side of watches and in the past that was considered to be the most important aspect. Today the content of the watch has become the most important feature. Now with the development of smart watches the scope is enormous. Apps are a part of life now and consequently apps in watches is potentially even more of a growth area than the introduction of quartz movements was in the 70s. It has opened up a whole new market because it’s what the younger generation are used to, apps have become a way of life, its joy plus technology.

“Alpina has taken an elegant watch that looks like a watch, not like a computer on the wrist, and developed practical and meaningful apps for it. The advance we’re making is inside the watch, not in its appearance and I think that that is what will attract the younger generation as well as watch aficionados.”

 JEAN-PIERRE LUTGEN - ICE-WATCH

Jean-Pierre Lutgen - Founder of Ice-Watch
Jean-Pierre Lutgen - Founder of Ice-Watch
Ice-Watch - Ice skull
Ice-Watch - Ice skull

Jean-Pierre Lutgen, like his brand Ice-Watch, is colourful, unpretentious and fun. And like his collections of watches he is difficult to keep up with, because he talks as fast as his watches sell.

Jean-Pierre Lutgen founded his brand in 2007 and unless you’ve been living on another planet you cannot have failed to notice the amazing development and success of the brand: around four million watches sold a year; more than 500 different watches for men, women and children; 7,500 points of sale and 12 flagship stores in 97 countries; 5,000 collaborators around the world and the construction of a new 6,000 m2 stock and distribution centre in Bastogne at a cost of six million euros.

So to what does he attribute his success?
“Colour. I have always been attracted to colour, especially in paintings, which is why I opened a small art gallery called Les Trois Ours (The Three Bears) in my home town. I was creative and had a good artistic eye, but I wanted to be independent, to have the freedom to do what I wanted, which is what led to me starting a company selling promotional products to businesses. That folded when internet began to flourish, which is when I had the idea of creating colourful silicone bracelets engraved with messages. Their success was almost immediate and soon became a worldwide phenomenon. I sold millions.

“From there it was a small step to add a watch, which resulted in my first collection of inexpensive yet trendy, colourful silicone watches in 2007.”

Jean-Pierre Lutgen then showed me the latest collections: the Ice Flower, a kaleidoscopic series, the dials decorated with flowers and names like Paradise, Botanic, Daisy and Wonderland to name just a few; Ice-Heritage, a muscular looking watch with a stainless steel case and strong hand-stitched leather straps; Ice-Fly with birds and butterflies and luminous colouring in mint, mango cream and lavender; Ice-Carbon, an ultra-light collection with carbon fibre dials and carbon composite cases, and a new BMW Motorsport Collection with stainless steel cases.

Sitting on the table during our meeting was a ceramic skull decorated in bright colours. “A supplier of mine from South America brought me this today and I couldn’t believe it because my other new collection is called ICE Skull and the dials are decorated with skulls. Quelle coïncidence, non?”

 PETER AND ALETTA STAS – FRÉDÉRIQUE CONSTANT

Peter & Aletta Stas - Founders of Frédérique Constant
Peter & Aletta Stas - Founders of Frédérique Constant

The Frédérique Constant watch brand was founded in 1988, its name emanating from combining the names of the great-grandparents of Peter and Aletta Stas – Frédérique Schreiner and Constant Stas who founded a watch dial production company in 1904.

From the very first time the brand exhibited its watches in Hong Kong where the couple had been living whilst Peter Stas was employed as Product-Marketing Manager for Royal Philips Engineering, the brand has developed along a controlled, sustainable growth path in what they call ‘the accessible luxury segment’ of the industry.

“We were both born in Holland,” Peter Stas explains, “and after we had completed our university studies we lived initially in New York where I worked as a consultant and then moved to Hong Kong where I worked for Philips in consumer electronics. We both had a hobby and a passion for watches and we decided to form our own company in 1988, we participated in the HKTDC trade fair in 1991, showing six models fitted with Swiss movements that had been assembled by a watchmaker in Geneva. A Japanese wholesaler ordered three hundred pieces and we delivered them in 1992.
“We relocated to Geneva, participated in Baselworld for the first time in 1995, and by 1997 we were selling 12,000 watches a year. We moved premises three times before eventually building our own production facilities in Plan-les-Ouates, and in 2005 our sales figures had reached 48,000 watches a year. By 2006, the industry was taking notice of us when we achieved 60,000 sales.
“In 2002 we acquired the sports watch Alpina brand, which we saw as a logical complement to the Frédérique Constant watches, whose raison d’être is the production of high quality classical watches at sensible prices. Last year Alpina’s growth was 60% (12,000 watches) and our combined sales for both brands were 133,000. This year’s goal is 145,000.”

Because of the conflict around movement supplies that watch companies in Switzerland were facing in the early 2000s, Peter and Aletta Stas decided to ensure their independence by developing and producing their own movements. Today this family-owned company is capable of producing movements from a chronograph to a tourbillon.

The Frédérique Constant slogan is ‘Live your Passion’, which is exactly what the Stas family are so successfully enjoying.

 AMARILDO & BARBARA PILO - PILO & CO., DAVID VAN HEIM AND LOUIS A. LEUBA

Amarildo Pilo - Founder of Pilo & Co.
Amarildo Pilo - Founder of Pilo & Co.

Smiling, sympathetic, sociable and welcoming, which included a ristretto, a chocolate and a small glass of mineral water, Amarildo (named after a Brazilian footballer) and the lovely Barbara Pilo exhibit at Baselworld with their three brands: Pilo & Co., David Van Heim and Louis A. Leuba.

“My father was a diplomat and when we arrived in Geneva in 1991, he introduced me to the owner of a Swiss watch distribution company. I had a six-month work experience period before plunging into a full-time job with the company working in the Eastern European countries – notably in Poland – selling several well-known brands.
“Barbara, who is Italian and studied interior decoration in Florence, joined me in Geneva 1998 and we married in 2001, which is the year I began the distribution of our inexpensive quality Pilo & Co watches. We also found the time to have two children, Davide and Ariana.
“I opened our second Geneva boutique opposite the Parc des Bastions in 2006 and Barbara has been responsible for that since its opening. That year I also developed the David Van Heim brand, spent a lot of time working on the designs and the first collection of watches, and finally they saw the light of day in 2009.”

Hyperactive, a very regular traveller, especially in China, Amarildo Pilo recently opened another boutique in the main street, Morges in the Canton of Vaud, and has extended his brands’ visibility with a showroom and a boutique in Italy, 11 boutiques or shop-in-shop mono-brands in China and another multi-brand boutique in China in January of this year.

As if he wasn’t busy enough, in January of this year he organised the first Swiss Independent Watchmaking Pavilion (SWIP) at the Casino du Lac in Geneva, close to the airport and the Palexpo where the SIHH is held at the same time.

“Fifteen independent brands, including Kari Voutilainen, Vincent Calabrese, Vianney Halter and Rebellion – not to mention Pilo and David Van Heim – took part and we welcomed 1,600 visitors along with most of the specialized media. With very flexible opening hours, a good security system and the gaming tables not too far away, the event was a success and it will take place again next year,” Pilo confirmed.

Having finished my coffee and after listening to Pilo’s busy travel schedule, his demanding work agenda and watching his constant leaping from his seat to greet clients, I left the booth exhausted, but in admiration of the evolution of his brands.

 FREDI BRODMAN - NORMALZEIT WATCH

Fredi Brodmann - Normalzeit watch
Fredi Brodmann - Normalzeit watch
Normalzeit watch
Normalzeit watch

I have known Fredi Brodman long enough not to be able to remember when we met for the first time. Friendly, polite, a mine of information about everything from watches to cartoons, he is a man of many parts.

Born in Vienna in 1956, he is from a “family of derailed musicians and opera singers” – his father was Viennese and his mother Hungarian. His home is now in New York. He published his first cartoons when he was around twelve years old and he is a self-taught designer with a neurosis for perfection.

“I published many cartoons about the physical and philosophical aspects of Time, which actually led me to designing my first watch collection – ‘Watch Me’ – in 1985. In 1987 I co-founded Ventura with Pierre Nobs [which may well have been where I first met him] and I broke away in 1994 to Parallel Worlds, creating The Fish watches, and sold 40,000 pieces.
“I brushed up on licensing and began producing watches for the army, navy and marines.
“Then one day I was playing paddle tennis with my kids and I suddenly had the idea of creating paddles without handles – a sort of double-sided glove made of lightweight EVA foam that you put your hand into and use instead of an orthodox bat, which I called a ‘Hit Mit’. This was financially a winner and I eventually sold the company but remain on as a consultant.”

In an aside he also told me that the mother of Andy Murray the tennis player recently purchased 800 of the Hit Mits to teach children how to play.

“My current project is a watch called Normalzeit. There are four very famous clocks around Vienna that were built in 1907 and are synchronised to show the exact time wherever you are and I managed to obtain the right to make a Limited Edition of 1907 wristwatches using their design. It is a 50 mm watch in stainless steel with an automatic movement, a fully fluorescent dial based on the clocks being lit from the inside for clarity. It is being launched on June 12 and costs only 350 euros.
“I’m also working on a series of 24 different models of watches in a collection called ‘Time Flies’ with names such as Bomber – a satirical aviator timepiece inspired by the B52 plane. The prices range from 199 to 795 euros dependent on the model and its movement.”

Fredi doesn’t exhibit at Baselworld, he simply spends a week there talking to people, showing his designs and formulating new ideas and concepts. Next time you’re there, keep an eye open for him, he’ll be delighted to talk to you and I can assure you that you’ll come away feeling exalted at having spent a few minutes with this dynamic, highly original and likeable designer.

ALL PEOPLE PICTURES IN THIS REPORT BY ROBERTO & DAVID PIACENTI:
two different photographer’s visions in a single work

These two brothers, each with his own trajectory – technique for the first and creativity for the second – are living their passion for photography and creating a unique body of work. Their collaboration was born from this dual perspective, which gave rise recently to a joint venture: fabrik5 (www.fabrik5.ch). Located in the historic Suchard Chocolate Factory No. 5 in Serrières-Neuchâtel, the venue, as well as being a photographic studio, will host artistic and creative events.
Roberto Piacenti: www.bastardpixel.com
David Piacenti: www.snapshotphotography.ch

Source: Europa Star June 2015 Magazine Issue