“We are trying to create a special brand,” Alessandro Braga, the Sales manager of Armand Nicolet explains. "Our aim is to develop something special in a niche market, for people who want something different.
“With today's difficult economic situation, we have probably entered the market at a good time since retailers and consumers are looking for an alternative niche product. On top of everything else, the groups are cutting their profit margins for retailers and often dealing directly with the consumer through their own outlets. They are offering the retailer less with more product impositions. We are offering a genuine alternative: a good product that is surprisingly inexpensive for the quality.”
The price ranges of Armand Nicolet watches are 1,200 to 4,000 Swiss francs for the stainless steel models and 3,500 to 14,000 for the 18 carat gold models.
Maintaining concept and style
As Rolando Braga, the General Manager of Armand Nicolet explained to us last year, “In reality, it is the creative skills of the designers that give our watches their harmony and personality, whilst at the same time maintaining the original Armand Nicolet concept and style.”
Armand Nicolet died in 1939 but his work, styling and personality lived on through the watches that were produced first of all by his son and now today through the current owners who are dedicated to reproducing authentic timepieces that reflect the original details and personality of Nicolet's work.
During its first year of production and following the well-established guidelines developed by its founder, Armand Nicolet sold 3,000 watches. This year its aim is to sell 6,000 with an eventual maximum ceiling in the future of 30,000 pieces. Remaining specialized and relatively small and compact, is one of the company's major assets and means that it can be very flexible with their team of distributors - it can supply the very individual needs of specific markets. “For example,” Alessandro Braga suggests, “the Arab markets prefer more gold models than stainless steel, so it is important that we are capable of servicing those requirements.”
Discovering the complications
“We offer a realistic analysis of what we are,” Brago continues. "We certainly don't want to give the impression of being something we're not. In the development of our brand I want people to first of all discover and learn about our complications. Then, when we are established and people believe in and trust our products, we'll develop more models with different complicatons.
“We could, if we wanted to, make a tourbillon now, but it would be wrong because people would certainly ask 'Are they really capable of producing a tourbillon after just a year of manufacturing?'”
Armand Nicolet watches come in three families, Hunter, Arc Royal and Sloop Royal. However, there will be new models and special editions using mechanical movements from the 1950s that were in the company. For one collection there are about 150 movements that will be modified and put in 18 carat gold watchcases. As Alessandro Braga proudly admitted, “We don't have to go out and try and find old movements for modifying, the movements already exist, they were in our stocks.”
In addition to developing new collections, Armand Nicolet is also restoring many of the old production machines and elements from the past that will be used to create their own museum in Tramelan.
The product first
Having successfully created its collections, the company developed a resourceful distribution policy that mixes direct contact with retailers in Switzerland and the Middle East and the use of distributors in countries ranging from the USA to China and Cyprus to Russia - all of whom were discovered during the Basle Fair.
“We are very much aware that the only way we can survive is to find good distributors capable of developing a niche brand like ours offering only prestigious mechanical timepieces,” Alessandro Braga confides.
Last year Rolando Braga said, “We have only one purpose and that is to ensure that the Armand Nicolet watches are faithful companions to their owners, offering sheer beauty, optimal performance, simplicity and elegance, quality and comfort, day after day.”
It's difficult to add to that, except perhaps to say that the brand has structured its new Hunter collection, and more generally its offer, with a view to making it more appealing to a worldwide market, offering retailers and consumers a more comprehensive choice. Since the ladies are also taking an active interest in the Armand Nicolet complications, a little additional colour has been added by way of the special spring-bar interchangeable leather straps. The watches, thankfully, remain as unique as before.