Arcadia – A blast from the past

November 2010

The watch industry of the early 19th century was a booming trade in Switzerland with movement manufacturers counting in the hundreds. The landscape couldn’t be more different today (See Pierre Maillard’s in-depth report on the current movement industry in this issue). However, every now and again a little bit of history is revived and modernised for consumers to enjoy once again.

Arcadia was one of five watch brands created by the Fleurier Watch Company in the 1850s. The company was founded by Jules-Samuel Jequier, a young man born in Fleurier who had devoted his young life to horology. Jequier started his career working at Bovet at a time when the company was operating a flourishing Swiss-Chinese commercial enterprise. Later, with the help of his five sons, he started the Fleurier Watch Company and in 1855 established the Arcadia brand.
Arcadia started as a movement manufacturer before becoming a watch brand and was by far the star of the Fleurier Watch Company. 155 years later, two friends, Claude Sanz (owner of the prestigious jewellery setter Bunter SA) and Richard Baldwin (Arcadia’s CEO) have decided to revive this gem of watchmaking history.
In the 1990s Claude Sanz discovered the amazing heritage behind the Fleurier Watch Company and its Arcadia brand and decided to take over the name as it had fallen into the public domain. However, he didn’t quite know what to do with it, that is until he met Richard Baldwin, a fellow watch enthusiast and together they decided to render homage to the brand and “light the light” as he puts it.
These two charming gentlemen, who share many common interests, have decided to have some fun and do things their own way, which shows and shines through the new Arcadia collection. Firstly, they decided to produce every single piece of their 275 piece limited collection before contacting any retail partners. So that when a store places an order, the timepieces can be delivered immediately. In an age when many retailers order from prototypes with no realistic idea of a delivery timeline, this is surely going to be a huge hit.
In addition to thinking about the retailers, Arcadia started by concentrating on the client and put all its research and development money into the product - there is no fancy box, no lavish paper bag, no gold embossed instruction booklet – the watch comes in a “you can throw this down the stairs” protective rubber pouch (although we wouldn’t advise it – you never know!) and all the technical instructions and guarantee etc are on a USB key - leaving a product that has been designed and created to a high standard.

Arcadia – A blast from the past Richard Baldwin and Claude Sanz, Historic Arcadia model from the 1950s

The watch, called the AC01, may be a revival of an old collection, but there is nothing old-looking about it. The rounded shapes of the split level, carbon fibre dial and its counters are to be found in a 42 mm tonneau case made out of titanium and stainless steel. The case is a complicated affair with chronograph pushers that are cleverly worked to appear like they are part of the case. Other features include double-jointed lugs, a technological fibre strap and secure folding clasp to ensure a comfortable fit on the wrist.
On the inside, Arcadia has used an ETA 2892-A2 automatic movement with a Dubois Dépraz module that together feature: hours and minutes, small seconds at 3 o’clock, 40-44 hour power reserve, two-way 18-carat rose gold rotor, chronograph with centre seconds hand, 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, date at 4 o’clock and GMT. The crown has three settings for manual winding, quick date setting and time setting and there is a pusher for the GMT time-zone setting.
All this for around the price of CHF 10,000, which took many journalists pleasantly by surprise as they sipped their Swiss wine and tasted delicate canapés at the brands luxury launch luncheon!

Arcadia – A blast from the past

There are some big names and tough competition at this price level, but the watch is attractive (it looks even better in the flesh than in the pictures, which isn’t always the case) and the company appears to be financially sound (especially as there are 275 pieces waiting to ship). So if you are looking for something new, have some space in your window displays and your customers prefer more watch than box, this is certainly a brand to consider.

In addition to the AC01, Sanz and Baldwin have plans for another collection, a ladies line and they are talking openly about a project to revive the Arcadia movement for themselves and possibly others. With the technology and energy at hand, it looks like Arcadia is not just a blast from the past, but a brand for the future too.

Arcadia – A blast from the past

Source: Europa Star October - November 2010 Magazine Issue