This ‘romantic’ brand with a strong client base in China, known for its logo of a dancing couple, is now hoping to revive the spark with its old flames in Europe and the USA. We take a look at its history.
"It is not as easy as one might think to treat these matters as one would wish, particularly when one is embarking upon such a complex endeavour.” The letter is dated 1859, but the content remains highly relevant as far as the watch industry is concerned. The letter was signed by Jules Borel and Paul Courvoisier, who three years earlier had got together to set up a watch workshop that would become one of the oldest manufactures in the town of Neuchâtel.
The two entrepreneurs were new to
watchmaking, and had neither inherited
savoir-faire nor extensive networks
to rely upon, yet they were determined
to set themselves up as producers of
meticulously crafted watches, as we
can see from another letter from the
time: “The Maison will concern itself
mainly with good watches, preferably
gold (...); we have no intention of producing
dross.” Watch manufacturing in
Neuchâtel at the time was not necessarily
synonymous with high quality, and its products had acquired a somewhat
poor reputation. The new brand
was hoping to distance itself from this.
The first foreign buyers, in 1859, were
companies based in Hamburg, Genoa, London and the United States, which was a particularly important market. Members of both families travelled widely and made the most of all available
distribution channels, including
local Swiss consulates! It was around
that time that the company began to
forge links with China, which would
eventually become its main market. The
strong relationship would later prove
decisive. The Communist regime, which
came to power in 1949, was in favour
of domestic production, but the personal
contacts Borel had built up over the
years enabled the company to maintain
its relationship with China.
The brand had a strong focus on the Middle Kingdom well before the boom of the noughties, and its trajectory over recent decades has been marked by the surge in the Asian market. Today the company has a solid customer base in Hong Kong, but it is hoping to re- establish itself outside its historic hunting grounds. Under the influence of its current CEO, Renaud de Retz, it has turned its attention back to the United States, India, the Middle East, Europe and Oceania.
- Jules Borel 160th Anniversary model of Ernest Borel
Ernest Borel is readily identified by its logo depicting two dancing figures, inspired, we are told, by a waltz its founder once enjoyed with a gracious damsel. The brand’s communication and identity continue to focus on a romanticism that has become a symbol of the company. Even today, Ernest Borel still offers many watches for couples in its (numerous) collections. Other references are more sporty: Ernest Borel is one of the major clients for COSC certification. To celebrate its 160th anniversary the brand has unveiled a collection designed as a tribute to its founder, Jules Borel, with ten new models, including one in a limited run of 888.
Source: Europa Star February/March 2016 Magazine Issue