he last time we sat down with Robert Punkenhofer, CEO and shareholder of Austrian brand Carl Suchy & Söhne, and Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, his co-shareholder and chief advisor, and former chairman of Nestlé, was at lunch during the final Baselworld, just before the pandemic. “The watchmaking world of yesterday”, you might say, paraphrasing the title of Stefan Zweig’s magnificent memoir, in which the Viennese author chronicles the demise of a certain European ideal that existed before the two world wars.
The end of this “world of yesterday” coincided with the last in the Suchy line − a family of illustrious Austrian watchmakers and purveyors to the Imperial Court. Relaunched in 2017 as “The Emperor’s Choice”, Carl Suchy & Söhne intends to revive this tradition of fine Austrian watchmaking. After the elegant Waltz N°1 with its rotating disc at 6 o’clock, also available as a skeleton version, and the Table Waltz clock, this year sees the introduction of the Belvedere, a luxury sports watch that is certain to add a new dimension to the brand.
A key model
“Five years after launching, our greatest achievement is that people no longer ask us why we embarked on this project,” says Robert Punkenhofer. “Instead they’re interested in our new products, because we’ve earned the trust of collectors, retailers and the media. This was the most important point when building – or rather rebuilding – the brand.”
The Belvedere represents a major step forward in this process. Not as niche as the brand’s earlier releases, it is ideal for daily wear. In a word, “the best illustration of what Carl Suchy could have made in the twenty-first century.” Because here, too, there is a twist: each day, the date display on this 40.8mm model in steel “jumps” to a different position, giving the dial a fresh appearance every 24 hours.
The Belvedere is fitted with the CSS201 calibre on a Dubois Dépraz base, which provides 42 hours of power reserve. With sport in mind and water resistant to 10 ATM, it comes mounted on an interchangeable rubber strap. This new watch reveals a whole new facet of the Austrian brand. The initial production run is a series of 100, with versions in blue (“Danube”), white (“Day”) and black (“Night”), priced at €6,400. More versions will be released in the future.
In addition to serving its domestic market, Carl Suchy & Söhne ships its watches to Japan, France, Switzerland and Germany, and has forged relations with retailers that focus on independent brands, such as Chronopassion in Paris and Lavish Attic in Hong Kong. And this is just for starters: in the longer term, the brand plans to expand production from around one hundred watches a year to five hundred.
“The watch industry over the past five years has been on an upward trajectory,” notes Peter Brabeck-Letmathe. “For a brand such as ours, first you must know exactly why you exist. You must have clear positioning that differentiates you from others and never be content to bring out an ordinary watch. The rest will follow. However, this also means taking clear decisions and adapting every last detail accordingly, down to the elegantly textured interior of the Belvedere’s strap!”
- Belvedere - Danube
- Belvedere - Day
- Belvedere - Night
Another takeaway from the past five years has been: don’t dream too big; live within your means so you are never “chasing after money”. Also, know how to create products such as the Table Waltz clock that will attract a new category of customer. “Ultimately it all comes together and you establish a quality dialogue with your customers,” the entrepreneur concludes. “When you’re starting out, nothing is more important than winning that trust.”