Blacksand readies for take-off

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October 2011

Freed from the constraints of the family firm, Alain Mouawad launches a new brand with a focus on the minutest attention to detail in a design that adds a new twist to the classic round watch case.

The private group of the Mouawad family has long been a major player in the luxury market, especially in the Middle East. Primarily active in the jewellery and diamond business, the group also launched its own watch collections, Robergé and Trebor. It was whilst working in the management of the Robergé brand that Alain Mouawad cut his teeth in watchmaking – an area of the group’s activities that had been his passion since childhood.
“I was born into a jewellery family and our father pushed us to follow the family tradition,” Alain Mouawad admits. “It was always our father who had the ultimate say in the company. Furthermore, our main market was the Middle East and we always did what the market asked for. As a result I was never able to do what I wanted.” The turning point came in 2010, when Alain’s father Robert retired and his two brothers, Fred and Pascal, took over the reins of the family-owned group. This was the perfect opportunity for Alain Mouawad to go his separate way and set up his own brand.


A strong product focus
Blacksand’s debut collection is called Uniformity and features combinations of brushed and polished gold, tantalum, titanium and ceramic in a round 46mm diameter case with a classic three-hand display that is dominated by two unique wrap-around lugs. Great attention has been paid to developing a strong product that sets itself apart with a number of small but significant details. A double case back is secured first by four screws and a separate screw-on ring is added afterwards. The models with Arabic numerals use moulded SuperLuminova numerals that give a relief effect on the dial and offer excellent readability in the dark. Different types of hand are used for the models with Arabic numerals and those with hour markers to ensure that the time can be read clearly at a glance. The brand has also gone to the trouble of registering their unique symbol for indicating water resistance – the turtle.
The Uniformity collection is powered by the Blacksand calibre 1970, which uses a Technotime movement for which the new brand has the exclusivity in its COSC-certified version. “It would be tough to sell a watch of this quality with an ETA movement,” Mouawad concedes. “This is why we chose to use Technotime. It is one of the few big movements on the market and it has some good features, such as the twin barrels that offer a 120-hour power reserve.” The most striking feature of the movement is its dark finish, which is dominated by a tungsten carbide rotor that is decorated with an exclusive ruthenium treatment, Côtes de Genève decoration, a cut-out hourglass emblem and the company’s slogan “SEMPER FIDELIS” (“always loyal”) engraved in purple block capitals.
Blacksand has set up an atelier in Carouge, on the outskirts of Geneva, in order to assemble the Uniformity models in-house. The first pieces will be delivered in the final quarter of 2011 at an entry-level price of CHF 9,800 – a figure Mouawad claims is their cost price after the original price was revised downwards in order to prove that the brand is “here to stay”. Production in the first year will be around 200 pieces, rising only gradually to 300 pieces next year.

Blacksand readies for take-off UNIFORMITY JOAILLERIE

The way forward
Europe and the USA promise to be the brand’s main markets, according to Mouawad, since the Asian consumer is more brand-oriented and, after concentrating solely on the product, the company is only now starting to work on its communication. “We focus on the product,” he says, “and the product should speak for itself. Unfortunately, nowadays this is not enough and we need to guide people and focus their attention on the product.”
In terms of distribution, Blacksand’s objectives are very clear. “The Uniformity is made for connoisseurs and collectors,” Mouawad says. “These people go to the top retailers, so that is who we will be targeting. People who understand watch culture.”
Future owners of the brand’s timepieces will be able to join the “Purple Club”, which – aside from allowing them to register their timepiece and benefit from a six-year warranty – will provide a discussion forum about the brand and offer priorities for limited editions. In addition, and given the limited production of the brand, Alain Mouawad even sees the possibility of offering a more personal service to customers. “For example,” he says, “if we know that a customer is coming to Geneva, we could recommend certain addresses or establishments to him.”
For the medium term, Blacksand is already working on developing its own movement and, in the shorter term, is preparing new models for Baselworld 2012, which are set to include a single-pusher chronograph version of the Uniformity and a dedicated ladies’ model with a re-worked version of the case. In addition to the jewellery version of the Uniformity shown above (on which the lugs are fully paved with 276 Top Wesselton diamonds totalling 3.60 carats), further jewellery models are planned, and a jumping hours model is also on the drawing board.
It’s clear that Alain Mouawad is in no hurry to expand the brand and prefers instead to concentrate on producing a well thought-out, high-quality product in keeping with the company motto Semper Fidelis, which he interprets as being loyal to the Swiss watchmaking tradition. Despite launching the brand during a difficult economic period, he believes that, “If you’re determined and you are respectful in terms of philosophy and business transactions, then you have a place in today’s market.”

Source: Europa Star October - November 2011 Magazine Issue