Category

Interviews

Category

In 1944, a Swiss engineer and employee of the Federal Swiss Railways named Hans Hilfiker created a clock that became the Official Swiss Railways Clock.

If you have ever traveled by rail in Switzerland you’ve seen the clocks at every station. Each is exceptionally easy to read with its white-dial, large black hands and markers and red seconds hand. That famous red seconds hand completes a rotation in 58 seconds and then pauses at the 12 o’clock mark for two seconds while the black minute hand jumps forward, starting its next rotation.

In 1986, this clock inspired the Bernheim family, which owns the Mondaine watch company, to turn the design into a watch collection — with official license from the Federal Swiss Railways. In 2013 Mondaine launched its Stop-to-Go watch collection comprised of watches that mimic the two-second-stop clock feature.

In 2017, Mondaine launched Essence, a so-called ‘watch of the future,’ with timepieces made with the latest in watch technology, along with seventy percent of the parts built from reusable materials.

One model from the Mondaine Essence collection.

International Watch recently interviewed Mondaine CEO Andre Bernheim about his company’s far-reaching sustainability programs. He offered updates on this topic with particular attention to Mondaine’s expansion of its Essence collection.

Ronnie Bernheim (left) and Andre Bernheim, co-managers of Mondaine.

Below is our full interview.

 

International Watch: Mondaine is among the few brands with an easily identifiable and iconic design with the Swiss Railway watches. What strategies do you use to maintain and possibly increase the brand awareness and keep momentum in the business?

 

Andre Bernheim:  The Mondaine station clock design is a Swiss icon and has remained unchanged since 1944. It first launched as a wristwatch and wall clock in 1986, and thanks to the minimalistic design is as modern as it was then. Mondaine continues to expand the collection, without jeopardizing its design.

For example, the Backlight technology, offering at-a-glance visibility in any lighting, on our Stop2Go and Giant series, is a simple but very effective and useful patent. SuperLuminova is applied on the back of the hands, so that it does not affect the design but allows the viewer to read the time in darkness, like a ghost light.

The other strong pillar of Mondaine is sustainability. Mondaine has been active in sustainability for almost fifty years. Our Essence collection is made of a castor-compound material (case and strap), alternative straps are made of recycled PET bottles and the gift box is made entirely of rPET bottles and can be used as a handy pouch.

Mondaine uses castor bean oil in Essence cases and in many straps.

All Mondaine watches are being produced in our own Swiss factory, where we generate up to eighty percent of the electricity needed for production with our photovoltaic system on our roof.

Our second family, Mondaine’s Helvetica collection, is another icon with a clean, minimalistic design paying homage to Latin word for Swiss (Helvetica is the Latin word for Swiss – what can be more Swiss than Swiss? Beside that it is the most used font in the world, created in Switzerland, of course).

Since September 2019, Mondaine has utilized its own photovoltaic solar plant on the roof of its Swiss factory.

Another innovation is our pay chip, a contactless chip, which consumers can insert easily into the strap, or a patented loop that allows them to have a hands-free payment device on their wrist.

The technology has been implemented in Switzerland, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Belgium since 2016, and we hope to introduce pay chip in the United States soon now that more and more consumers use contactless payment terminals in shops and department stores.

 

The new Essence collection integrates up-cycled and/or recycled materials. How and when was the decision made to use a more eco-friendly approach and assign this a unique line within the Railway series?

Mondaine has been focused on sustainability for over fifty years, so the Essence collection was simply an evolution of efforts. We saw the opportunity to expand on our sustainability efforts in 2015. We then produced the line and launched the Essence collection in 2016.

The cases are made of a castor oil compound, which is made up of seventy percent  natural materials. The straps come in different but sustainable materials, such as a castor-compound, recycled PET, cotton. Production of the watches is done using up to eighty percent solar energy. The gift box is made of recycled PET bottles as well and can be used as a mobile phone pouch afterwards.

 

With your new carbon neutral certification as well as the solar array producing eighty percent of Mondaine’s electricity, it’s clear that you’re addressing environmental concerns. With this in-mind, have you considered a rechargeable battery system (induction or port supplied) for your quartz watches to eliminate one-time use batteries?

Yes, indeed! The issue is that there has been no such movement available in Switzerland since  the mid 1990s.  However, back in the 90s we did produce a Mondaine railway design watch with solar cells. But we are working on something better and newer to continue our commitment to sustainability.

 

Are there other sustainability goals that Mondaine is working on?

We will always continue our path of becoming better, step by step. We are constantly reducing our CO2 footprint by improvements in the supply chain, using longer-lasting materials with lower footprint and more natural matter, reducing weight and volume of our gift boxes and using more sustainable packaging.

In 2020, we became entirely CO2 neutral, as one of the first watch companies worldwide, thanks to our reduction efforts and CO2 compensation by reforesting with Fairventures. One of our goals is to phase in the use of a leather alternative for straps, even though we are using leather from the meat production and not from so-called ‘leather cows’ which are bred for its leather only.

We do have many straps made of other materials already, such as rPET, cotton, rPET felt, and are currently testing alternative materials made of natural products which come extremely close to the touch and feel, and quality, of leather.

 

Is it more expensive to use up-cycled or recycled materials to make your cases?

It is, but cost increase is minimal. Our goal is to produce watches that are affordable, like our Essence collection, which is below $200, and prove sustainability doesn’t always need to be more expensive than materials that are not good for our planet.

Besides using better materials, we are also on our path from cradle to cradle – from raw material to the end of product lifecycle. Therefore, we introduced a watch-recycling program, probably again as one of the first watch brands to do so.

Consumers can return their old watches to our factory, and we will dismantle and dispose the components of the watch to recycling plants as good as possible. We not only take our watches back, but also other brands, except their plastic watches. We are planning to expand this service to the United States as well.

Mondaine’s Essence White collection features white cases and straps of three different pastel colors.

 

Other brands have developed straps made from various “trash” plastics using fishing nets or plastic bottles. Do you see this as an option for Mondaine?

We are looking at these developments, too. For the Mondaine brand, we are currently using recycled PET bottles for making nylon straps as well as felt. For Luminox, the other brand I own alongside my brother, we launched a watch last summer with a case and strap made of recycled ocean waste developed by the Swiss company TIDE.

Does Mondaine have any conservation or charitable partners that you’d like to highlight?

As mentioned above, we are supporting reforesting with Fairventures, which is doing really fantastic work, not only by reforesting in a bio-diverse way, but also involving the local people in a very economical way so that they can earn money now and in the future. For more information on who we support, please see our sustainability report.

I would like to add a word about green washing in the watch industry if I may, please. I am the head of sustainability at the Mondaine Group, beside the president of the board. I am deeply passionate and involved in this area. Unfortunately, the watch industry is far behind many others in this area but many realize that there is a need to be part of it.

 

With modern consumerism and pressure to be sustainable, consumers need to be wary of companies green washing. Green washing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound which happens often in our industry, unfortunately.

I am not saying we are the best or even good, but at least we are doing efforts to become better and better, step by step, along the supply chain, within our factory and headquarters for almost fifty years.

For this reason, I do strongly believe that we are one of or the most sustainable watch groups, and since 2020, we are CO2-neutral, again, probably as one of the first ones worldwide.

This is not only in some parts of our business. Our CO2 balance is calculated for all watch parts used, our factory operation, headquarters energy and our business travels.  

We are continuously improving our CO2 emissions, along with the 3 R’s of sustainability, and compensate any CO2 we still create. Our sustainability report explains more about our sustainability path.

 

International Watch recently spoke with Omega CEO Raynald Aeschlimann, a watch industry veteran who first joined Omega in 1996 and who has led the watchmaking giant as CEO since 2016. He discussed Omega’s focus on innovation and precision, especially regarding the Master Chronometer certification process. In addition, we learn more about Omega’s celebrity sponsorships as well as its development of pre-owned Omega sales.

Read the full interview below.

   

By Vasken Chokarian

 

iW Magazine: Having been at Omega for more than two decades, how do you see your brand’s evolution to date?

Raynald Aeschlimann: When I first joined Omega in 1996, the brand was beginning to really make some important moves. It was around that time that we signed our first ambassador, Cindy Crawford, as well as forming new partnerships such as James Bond and Team New Zealand. It was a really critical era for growing our brand around the world.

Since then, I have been a part of so many fantastic changes and evolutions within the company. Especially in terms of Master Chronometer precision and the development of new materials and digital sales, we are constantly seeking to improve and lead the industry. I am very proud of the company we are today.

The new Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Black Black.

Omega invested quite heavily on in-house movement production and creativity. How important is that for the future direction of the product development and the Omega philosophy?

Precision has always been at the heart of Omega. It has always been our ambition to research, innovative and invest in better accuracy. To me, it shows the customer how much we care.  It proves that we give everything possible to improve even the smallest margins of quality. For that reason, exceptional movements are a symbol of Omega’s identity and we will continue to maintain that philosophy into the future.

Tell us about the essence of the Master Chronometer certification at Omega.

To gain a chronometer rating, most watches in the Swiss industry are certified once by COSC (The Official Swiss Chronometer Testing Institute). They have specific criteria that a watch must pass. At Omega, we believed that our standards of precision, performance and magnetic resistance were even better than the COSC criteria.

The Omega De Ville Trésor Power Reserve, new in 2021.

To prove it, we developed “Master Chronometer” certification with the help of METAS (The Swiss Federal Institute of Metrology). Today, after passing the COSC tests, our Omega watches also face an additional eight METAS tests, which are much more stringent and with even finer criteria.

For the customer, this adds trust and confidence. They can buy an Omega Master Chronometer knowing that it has been double certified and proven at the very highest level of excellence.

After twenty-two years of the Co-Axial, what have you learned from both a technical and consumer perspective about this movement?

From a technical perspective, Co-Axial has been a massive success. It has showed that Omega is able to revolutionize the watch movement, not only in terms of quality, but also doing it on an industrial scale. That was the challenge that other brands couldn’t overcome. For our customers, it’s yet another improvement on quality.

The Co-Axial system produces less friction, and therefore less wear, so you don’t need to have the watch serviced as often. But it has also been the gateway to achieving more movement innovation, such as the silicon balance spring and other non-magnetic materials. All of these improvements are the main reason that our Omega watches are given a full and impressive five-year warranty.

Back view of the new Omega Seamaster Diver 300M Black Black, showing Co-Axial Master Chronometer Caliber 8806.

There seems to be a migration of brands to the sustainable and/or carbon neutral approach. How will Omega engage if at all on these causes?

The environment is an important consideration for our brand. In recent years, we’ve partnered with organizations such as the GoodPlanet Foundation and NEKTON to raise awareness about the planet’s needs.

At a watchmaking level, we’ve also been making changes to the way we work. Our newest factory is perhaps the most impressive example. The sustainable development was built with an ingenious indoor climate and renewable energy concept, along with other beneficial systems. I think it’s important to adapt to this modern way of working.

Omega’s newest Constellation, with small seconds subdial.

Do you believe in the perception of investing in R&D is the way forward for a Swiss watch manufacturing brand? How challenging would that be with the business aspects of the industry?

I believe innovation is the key to any progressive business. Watchmaking is a traditional industry, but we still need to find ways of pushing ourselves forward and keeping our products relevant to the modern consumer. Investment is a big part of that, and the Swiss industry needs to maintain its position as the leader of global watchmaking. Every brand does it differently, but I know that Omega is always seeking to innovate. Having the support and expertise of the Swatch Group is a big part of helping us to do that.

How bad has it been at Omega with the global pandemic?

I wouldn’t use the word “bad”. Certainly, it’s been a challenging time and we’ve all ensured some unexpected months. But Omega is a company that has been going since 1848. We’ve witnessed massive global and economic upheaval during our lifetime, but we’ve always found a way to adapt and progress.

Right now, we’re adapting our strategy to what is going on, but I’m confident we’ll see more positive times ahead.

The Omega Bronze Gold Seamaster 300 is cased in a new Bronze Gold alloy with a brown ceramic bezel ring and a diving scale in vintage SuperLumiNova.

Are there plans for Omega to be involved in the pre-owned sphere of their own brand? If so, how?

Absolutely. In fact, we are already underway in this area. The interest in the pre-owned and vintage market is increasing rapidly around the world, and we feel we have a duty to help and support its growth.

Just recently, we launched the Certificate of Authenticity, which enables pre-owned Omegas to be checked and verified by our experts in Switzerland. It helps to create trust and confidence for those buying and selling, and provides a bit more transparency in the market.

The new Omega Seamaster 300.

Omega celebrity-ambassadors and sponsorships are a huge segment of Omega commitments. Do they add a lot of pressure to constantly perform year in and year out?

It’s not pressure, it’s enjoyment! The heritage and passions of Omega are unlike any other brand and they give us so much to celebrate every year. We have teams and experts dedicated to every area, so we’re always on top of each project. And with so much diversity, comes a lot of creativity. Things like James Bond, the Olympic Games and golf allow us to craft some very special timepieces that people around the world really love. If you plan well and use your time wisely, there shouldn’t be any pressure.

How committed is Omega to Swiss Made?

Omega is proudly Swiss Made, and it’s an important part of our identity. We see it as a mark of quality and a world-renowned symbol of excellence. Omega goes beyond the required Swiss Made standard, with almost every single part of our watches being made and assembled right here in Switzerland.

Inside the Omega Museum in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.

What challenges await the Swiss watchmaking industry and its future development?

Perhaps the most obvious challenge is keeping watches attractive to a new and younger generation of wearers. They have access to so much information, videos, blogs, reviews and opinions, so you have to be able to cut through. A big part of that is being authentic and having quality products they can believe in. It’s also important to build a digital presence, not only through social media and websites, but also the development of online sales and communication. I’m pleased to say that Omega is already well ahead in this regard.

Vasken Chokarian is director of iW Middle East.

 

By Laurent Martinez

I have noticed that enthusiasts, whatever their domain, generally become passionate about a subject from an early age. For Steven Posner, it started with an interest in food, then cars, and later on, watches. As a youngster, Posner wanted to become financially independent, so he worked part-time as a busboy at the fast-food joint, Nathan’s. From the front of the house he eventually moved into the kitchen where he learned how to cook, then he worked his way up to take a position at the counter where he honed his customer service skills.

Steven Posner, founder of Putnam Leasing.

After graduating from high school, Posner took a job as a driver for a Long Island car leasing company but shortly moved to work for a competitor—first as a driver then as a salesman. He continued to pursue his sales career across several leasing companies throughout the 1980s.

However, he soon realized that he wanted to venture out on his own and become a business owner. It was clear that exotic cars were Steven’s forte, so he founded Putnam Leasing and brought in Cyndi and Richard Koppelman, owner of Greenwich-based Miller Motorcars, as a partner. Today, Putnam Leasing is the leader in exotic and collector car leasing, offering cars like Ferrari, Aston Martin, Bentley, and Lamborghini, just to name a few.

Greenwich-based Miller Motorcars partners with Putnam Leasing.

Passions

Posner’s appreciation for design, beauty, and mechanics when describing cars is palatable. He waxes poetic about older cars being handmade and exalts their use of metal over plastic, genuine leather instead of leatherette, and so on. He also emphasizes that these types of cars hold their value.

He has the same type of passion for watches too, as illustrated when he spoke about his first Seiko chronograph.

Posner’s appetite for fine watches began when he was in his late-20s. He purchased a 1963 gold Rolex Oyster with a black dial for $1,600. After six years of wearing the watch daily, he got $3,000 for it. Steven realized that just like old cars, old watches could gain value as well—as long as you pick the right ones.

A snapshot of Posner’s collection.

As his Rolex and Patek Philippe watch collection grew, so too did his appreciation for vintage watches. While new models are certainly beautiful, vintage pieces are what capture his attention. He diligently checks the Instagram accounts of his preferred dealers every morning to see what they have available. He understands that developing genuine relationships with key dealers is how he can get his hands on exceptional timepieces.

A Rolex Milgauss in Posner’s collection.

Considerations before buying

Posner approaches buying watches much the same way he examines cars, which is to say he considers condition, price, rarity, and design. He doesn’t believe in buying a watch “at a good deal” if it needs too much work to get it right.

Whether cars or watches, his mantra is to always buy the best you can find, even if that means paying a higher price now because, in the end, these examples will always be worth more when reselling.

Posner’s Rolex GMT Master.

As a long-time collector, Posner always advises new collectors with limited budgets to stick to popular brands. He asserts that brands like Rolex, Patek Philippe, Omega, F.P. Journe, and A. Lange & Söhne are generally sound acquisitions as there will always be a market for them. He also adds that it’s important to buy something you will enjoy wearing instead of a watch that will stay in the safe.

A Patek Philippe 5070 in platinum.

When I asked him what cars, watches, food, and wine have in common, he pointed out that wearing a nice watch, driving a nice car, or sharing a meal with friends and family in a nice restaurant can make us feel good. These are ways to enjoy the finer things in life. 

Demand will remain

Even if the world is changing, Posner believes that the world of antique cars, watches, and wine will remain largely the same in twenty years. People will continue to pay attention to status. He also believes that fine machinery, whether a car or watch, will be worth even more in twenty to thirty years than they are now.

The big brands have created the market, and demand will always be there, he says. Of course, some companies are stronger than others and Posner thinks that a brand has to offer something special to last. There will always be enthusiasts that appreciate the smells and sounds of vintage cars or the beauty of a grand complication.  

(The full interview with Steven Posner and his analysis of the exotic car market and vintage watches is available here and at blog.laurentfinewatches.com.)

Laurent Martinez is the proprietor of Laurent Fine Watches, Greenwich, Connecticut. Read more by him at blog.laurentfinewatches.com or visit his store’s site at www.laurentfinewatches.com.

 

 

iW spoke with Zenith CEO Julien Tornare during LVMH Watch Week 2021 in January. He detailed how Zenith developed the hot new Chronomaster Sport and why the watch is an especially important launch as Zenith continues expanding its appeal globally in 2021 and beyond.

The new Zenith Chronomaster Sport.

IW: How important is the Chronomaster collection to the Zenith identity?

Julien Tornare: It is clear that Chronomaster is a key product collection for us. You may remember that in 2017 we launched the new Defy, and not everybody was pleased that we were emphasizing that Defy collection. At the time I had issues with the Chronomaster collection because it was going in too many directions at once. This made some people confused. It had a variety of size, shape, colors, and it was too much of a patchwork.

But Defy was selling well; we have been fortunate. Defy was giving the brand fresh air, exactly what we – with Mr. Biver – wanted at that time. And it gave me time to sit back with my friend Romain Marietta (products development, heritage director at Zenith) and think about the key design elements for Zenith, specifically for Chronomaster. We started to show some new designs in 2019 with the 50th anniversary celebration of the El Primero.

Of course we were scheduled to launch the new Chronomaster Sport this past June. Plus, we were to launch a new classic version later during 2020. So now we are on a slightly delayed schedule.

Are you pleased with the reaction to the new Chronomaster Sport?

We knew that we would bring back an iconic watch with the Chronomaster, which many people were waiting for.  We expected a good reaction, but put the reaction since it was launched has been incredible. We did not expect the enthusiasm to such a great extent.  I am very happy and proud and I congratulate our entire team.

The morning after we launched the new Chronomaster Sport I had messages from all over the world. I had so many retailers I have known call and say they needed this new Chronomaster.

Does the Chronomaster Sport complete the collection?

Now it is very clear what Chronomaster is.  We have the Revival, we have the Chronomaster Sport, and coming up next we’ll have the Classic side. This repositions Chronomaster very clearly for us. Chronomaster for me is the past and present.  And Defy is the present and the future. So they are connected and complementary.

How did you approach development of the Chronomaster Sport?

We looked at three pieces in 2018 to help us design the new Chrono master sport.

The Zenith A277 was made in 1965, four years before El Primero. But you can already see this sporty influence on the new watch, especially with the sporty bezel and a bracelet. Then, a few years after that, we launched the Luka. This was also a big deal for us. Here you see it again the black bezel, the sporty chronograph look, and the same basic bracelet.

And finally, we looked at the Rainbow, which was also very important for us in the 1980s in the 1990s. That case, and again with the sporty bezel, were influential.

Three historic Zenith watches informed the new design.

All three of these watches help us create the new Chronomaster Sport.

Of course we added the Zenith three-color chronograph counters.  We worked on those colors to have them elegant and more beautiful­ – not too flashy.  The blue and the grays are quite light and very slightly shiny.  The watch is 41mm in diameter and 13.6mm thick, so still elegant and not too thick. Easy to wear.

The new El Primero 3600 caliber offers a 1/10th of second display from the 5 Hz (36’000 VpH) escapement, as well as an extended power reserve of 60 hours.

And you used a new movement inside?

Of course, we worked on the movement, which is the El Primero 3600.  The upgrades from the earlier El Primero include the column wheel in blue, which makes it clearly visible.  We added ten hours to the power reserve to reach a total of sixty hours of power reserve.

And for me a real chronograph should be one-tenth of a second, like the El Primero. When you get 36,000 vph, which is 5 Hz, you can measure one-tenth of a second exactly.  With 3 Hz and 4 Hz you measure the one-sixth or the one-eighth of a second, which is not really how we measure any event. And here we really wanted to show off our ability to measure one-tenth of a second.

Zenith can now showcase three different watches with chronograph hands rotating around their dials at three different rotation speeds.

What were the biggest challenges to making the new Chronomaster Sport?

We wanted to keep the identity of our caliber very clear.  I also told Romain that I want it to be most comfortable watch available in the industry.

I still believe that is very important to put any watch on your wrist to see how it feels. I am too often disappointed by the way certain watches feel on your wrist. This new watch is smooth as silk.  It is super easy to wear.

I wanted a very simple way to measure the one-tenth of a second. And with one of the very first samples, like took it home and gave it to my ten-year-old son.  And he looked at it and he could explain how it worked. I wanted this watch to be that easy to read.  On many watches it is easy to get lost, especially if you’re not familiar with watches.

Of course, here we have a counter for the seconds, a counter for the minutes, and the one at 9 o’clock for the small seconds.

Can you tell us more about other 2021 Zenith debuts?

The Zenith Chronomaster Revival A385.

Our new brown-dialed A 385 Revival watch is also quite interesting. We have done some research, and it seems that this original watch in 1969 is the first gradient type dial. When we launched the A384 Revival in August 2019 it became immediately a bestseller, in part because of its original 37mm size. 

You might remember that ten or twelve years earlier we had lunched this in a larger size (42mm) which I thought lost the proportions of that original. At 37mm you get perfect proportions.

The new Zenith Pilot Type 20 Silver Chronograph.

Will we see additional sports watches from Zenith?

Yes of course. Overall, we have a Revival, the soon-to-be released Classic, and then the Sport. This is a very clear organization within the Chronomaster collection. There’ll be additional sport variations.

How did you choose the newest Zenith ambassador Aaron Rodgers?

In 2019 I went to the United States several times to meet various possible ambassadors. I was in search of someone who could represent the philosophy of ‘time to reach your stars’ for the Zenith. And I didn’t want a celebrity who would just show up on the red carpet with the watch.  I wanted someone who could talk about his or her story and who could explain what kind of a star he or she has been following over the years to reach an objective. We have done this in China and Japan, and in Europe.

It’s more about the personality. I met actors and singers and other sports celebrities, but when I met Aaron Rodgers I thought he was just a great guy. He’s a good spirit. Nothing to prove anymore.

NFL great Aaron Rodgers is the new Zenith brand ambassador for the U.S.

Can you preview any additional watches for 2021 from Zenith?

We will have the third category of the Chronomaster collection.  This will be about elegance, thinness and an A386 spirit, because Chronomaster would not be complete without that particular offering as well. Also look for a new Defy. That will be an amazing watch also. For the United States that will be a big one. 

And of course we do not forget high complications within the Defy collection. This year we will present some of our iconic high complications – and in a crazy material. This will be in a very small edition and it will include an experience that I can almost guarantee none of the future owners have done in their lives.  It will allow him to really feel what a high complication is in real life.

The new Zenith Defy Urban Jungle.

Will we see new watches for women?

I don’t like to talk about women’s watches particularly at Zenith because we focus on making beautiful, authentic watches with our own movements with our own philosophy, and then make them beautiful. 

We don’t really separate them as men’s watches or women’s watches.  I think we make beautiful watches that can be worn by men and by women. Diamonds are used sometimes yes, and in some parts of the world diamonds are very popular among men, and in some others less. If you look at the Chronomaster Sport, it is a typical 41mm watch that can be worn buy a man or woman.

At Zenith we like to live in a balanced way between the past, present and the future.  Between tradition and innovation. And it is clear that we are gaining market share in terms of vintage.  You just need to follow the recent auctions.  We have launched the Zenith Icons program to great success. Chronomaster Sport is bringing a contemporary dynamic into the collection. This will live perfectly alongside the vintage, or Revival, collection, as well as the more classic directions that you will soon discover.

 

After the Horological Society of New York appointed its former president Nicholas Manousos to a new position as the Society’s Executive Director (succeeding Edwin Hydeman), and with the addition of actor and horological designer Aldis Hodge as its newest Trustee, we thought it might be a good time to catch up on the latest news from the Society.

Below you’ll find our recent interviews with both Manousos and Hodge.

Nicholas Manousos
Horological Society of New York Executive Director

Nicholas Manousos, Horological Society of New York Executive Director

What issues have been the most challenging for the Horological Society of New York during the COVID 19 pandemic?

The necessary cancellation of all our in-person events has definitely been the biggest challenge for HSNY. HSNY has a reputation for holding standing-room-only lectures, sold-out watchmaking classes, and a packed annual gala. Very quickly, COVID-19 made our consistent ability to attract large crowds into a problem.

Our annual Gala & Charity Auction was canceled, as well as our May and June lectures and all of our watchmaking classes. Although our Gala was canceled, HSNY still awarded its Henry B. Fried Scholarships, Howard Robbins Awards, and Working Watchmakers Grants ($155,000 in total).

Even with these difficult cancellations, HSNY remains a resilient organization. Looking back at history gives some context. HSNY was founded in 1866 and has survived through the 1918 flu pandemic, the Great Depression and both World Wars. HSNY will continue to serve watchmakers, clockmakers, and the interested public during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.

David Walter speaks at an HSNY event in 2019 at the General Society Library at 20 West 44th Street in New York.

How has HSNY been keeping in touch with its members?

HSNY has an amazing marketing and Public Relations director (Carolina Navarro) who has been doing a great job communicating with our members and the public, even through the most difficult part of New York’s lockdown. Our monthly newsletter, The Horologist’s Loupe — which began publishing in 1936 and is one of the oldest continuously running horological publications in the world — has continued publishing throughout the pandemic, keeping everyone up to date on HSNY’s activities. HSNY maintains an archive of vintage copies on our website offering a fascinating look back at watchmaking history in New York.

Watchmaker Joshua Shapiro speaks at HSNY in 2019.

Are the virtual tutoring classes working out for HSNY?

HSNY’s new Virtual Horological Tutoring classes are working out really well! Our instructors are all professional watchmakers who teach for HSNY on a part-time basis, and all of them had their day jobs affected by the lockdown. This left a lot of time for our traditional in-person class curriculum to be adapted to online classes.

The multi-camera setup that the instructors use is impressive. It allows for students to look at the instructors as they explain certain topics and also get a close-up view of the movement as it is being worked on. The Virtual Horological Tutoring classes complement our in-person New York classes and Traveling Education initiative allowing HSNY to reach anyone in the world with an internet connection who wants to learn what makes a mechanical watch tick.

Our instructors are based throughout North America allowing us to accommodate people in different time zones and we even offer courses in French upon request.

Can you tell our readers about the Working Watchmaker’s Grant program?

In April, when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak in New York, I began hearing stories of watchmakers around the country who had been furloughed or lost their jobs, and it made me think about the origins of HSNY. HSNY was founded as a guild by and for watchmakers, similar to what we today call a union. Benefits were offered to help colleagues in times of need, and no one was turned away.

With this in mind, I approached HSNY’s donor network with the idea of giving grants directly to working watchmakers in the U.S. who were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In just a few days, $100,000 was raised, and the program was announced. In one day, all grants were reserved, and HSNY staff began the large project of issuing one hundred $1,000 checks to working watchmakers.

Today, HSNY has evolved into a non-profit organization that welcomes enthusiasts and collectors, but the spirit of generosity and support of professional watchmakers from our early years is still there. The Working Watchmakers Grant is today’s version of the altruism that led to the founding of the Society in 1866.

Are the newest goals of the HSNY based on necessary evolution?

I think of it more as an accelerated evolution. For example, we had been looking into offering virtual classes and live-streaming lectures for quite a while as we now have members from all corners of the world.

Watch fun at the Horological Society of New York.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the timeline for these now very important projects. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, the amount of financial assistance HSNY distributed in 2020 was over five times what it was in 2019 ($155,000 in 2020, versus $30,000 in 2019).

Behind the scenes, HSNY is working on a number of other projects that have also been accelerated due to the pandemic, and I look forward to sharing them with everyone soon.

When do you expect to start scheduling events again?

Luckily, HSNY has only experienced one true month of inactivity. On March 2, we held our last lecture before lockdown with François-Paul Journe and Osama Sendi lecturing on the Phenomenon of Resonance.

I remember that night vividly; it was a great lecture and a good note to pause on as New York entered lockdown later in March. In late April, HSNY started offering its Virtual Horological Tutoring classes and on September 9, our world-famous lecture series will resume in an online format.

As far as in-person events, only time will tell. Not only are we complying with New York City and state guidelines, but we are also seeking our members’ feedback on how they envision HSNY reopening.

Watchmaker Bernhard Stoeber addressed the HSNY in January about the Omega Calibers 321 and 861.

Are any HSNY classes nationwide (or worldwide) currently in operation?

No, all in-person classes are on hold for the foreseeable future. New York is doing well with the coronavirus at the moment and its reopening plan is moving forward. We will continue to monitor the situation and will restart our in-person classes only when it is safe.

Our traveling education classes will likely take longer to restart because of travel restrictions in place around the world. Our Virtual Horological Tutoring classes are filling in the gap quite nicely during this time.

What opportunities from HSNY are available to any International Watch reader eager to expand his or her knowledge about horology?

HSNY’s YouTube channel is a great resource for anyone interested in expanding their horological horizons. Our lecture series has been running continuously since 1866, attracting the world’s brightest minds to share their expertise.

For 150 years, the only way to experience a HSNY lecture was to attend in person. In 2016, HSNY started video recording its lectures, and we now have 33 lectures available to watch for free. Lectures cover technical, historical, collecting, business, and cultural topics so there is something for everyone.

What are the benefits of an HSNY membership?

Joining HSNY as a member shows that you care deeply about advancing the art and science of horology. HSNY’s vast membership is what allows our non-profit to offer such a wide range of educational programs and deliver its critical financial assistance every year.

In terms of tangible benefits, all HSNY members receive an exclusive lapel pin. Members also receive priority access to lectures and special events, immediate access to video-recorded lectures, and library access in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

What have been some of the highlights of your tenure as the President of HSNY, and how does your role now change?

Every year in late March, I make a number of phone calls to watchmaking students across the country to let them know that they have been awarded the Henry B. Fried Scholarship. These phone calls are a definite highlight for me, as I know how difficult it is for students to balance studying and paying their bills.

Every year in the U.S., more watchmakers retire than graduate. HSNY will continue to do everything possible to help watchmaking students, including expanding our financial assistance programs. I also greatly enjoy meeting the lecturers that travel to New York to speak at HSNY. I have learned so much from our world-class speakers, and I am very much looking forward to restarting our lecture series in September (in an online format).

As Executive Director, my responsibilities will now include all of the operational aspects of the organization. This year has been very challenging for the entire watchmaking industry. I am looking forward to meeting those challenges with HSNY, and making a positive contribution to the art and science of horology.

 

Aldis Hodge, HSNY Trustee

How did you initially learn about the Horological Society of New York? 

When I began teaching myself how to design watches at around nineteen years old, I sought every way to self-educate. I started studying the history of horology, which is how I stumbled upon HSNY.

Aldis Hodge,HSNY Trustee

 

I would fly back and forth to New York City often for work, and whenever I was there I’d try to attend the meetings to learn. I wanted to begin establishing my own connective community within the city so that every time I went there, I’d be able to maintain a constant state of educational growth.

I knew of Nick Manousos and his accomplishments, and as I remember it, I met him at one of the meetings. I approached him really as an admirer of his prior and current work. We kicked up a conversation, which turned into a friendship and the rest is history.

What has your involvement with the Society been up to this point? 

I’ve been a proud member of HSNY since 2016. My travel schedule is demanding but luckily requires me to be in New York City often, so I attend lectures whenever possible. I remember the day I received my membership lapel pin and I still wear it proudly today.

How will that change now that you are a Trustee? 

Now that I’m a Trustee, I have the opportunity and responsibility to directly impact the Society. I can use my voice to represent HSNY and contribute to its growth. I’m excited about the challenges that lie ahead and I’ve already discussed several of my ideas with the board. I’m determined to accomplish the goals set forth within the time frame of my tenure.

What do you see as the Society’s responsibility to the watchmaking industry? 

Education, education, education! As a seasoned designer, I’ve realized that the primary challenge of maintaining the validity of traditional watchmaking is obtained through education.

I love having conversations with people that may spark a newfound interest in horology or a new way to appreciate our artistically mechanical world from a refreshed perspective.

I really enjoy teaching people about ways to understand value and quality regarding the many difficult techniques that we as horologists apply when creating our work. And my joy is equally matched when I get to introduce someone to the world of “independent watchmaking”.

I also see a great opportunity for HSNY’s continued efforts to be a major asset towards the resurgence of American horological manufacturing. This, I would dare to say, is the potential accomplishment I’m most ambitious about being a part of.

My mind overflows with ideas about the jobs and opportunities we could create, the horological wonders we could develop, and the history that we could establish. There was once a time when America was known for great watchmaking and that time has come yet again.

 

We know Jeff Stein as a leading collector of vintage Heuer chronographs, who occasionally dabbles in the newer TAG Heuer models.  It caught our eye when, twelve hours after he received his Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph in July, Jeff posted on Instagram that this watch was his “favorite TAG Heuer chronograph, ever . . . and even though you won’t see the name on the watch, the best looking Autavia-inspired chronograph, ever.” 

Below,  Jeff tells us more about his infatuation with this very interesting watch.

The new TAG Heuer Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph.

Can you give us the “elevator version” of the Fragment Design Heuer 02 chronograph?

The watch was designed by Hiroshi Fujiwara, a god in the world of streetwear and the creator of Fragment Design. Fujiwara has designed all sorts of interesting things such as guitars for Eric Clapton, sneakers for Nike and Converse, and headphones for Beats. In the watch world, he has designed watches for Rolex and Zenith, as well as a Carrera for TAG Heuer, in November 2018. 

On the Heuer 02 chronograph, Fujiwara incorporated the design language of a 1970s Heuer Autavia into a TAG Heuer Formula 1 chronograph case, with the watch powered by the Heuer 02 movement. 

Why has the Fragment Design Formula 1 chronograph been controversial among the vintage Heuer enthusiasts?

Much of the controversy probably arises from the fact that the watch was inspired by the 1970s Autavias, but resides in the modern case that TAG Heuer uses for its Formula 1 chronographs.  There is no model name on the dial, neither “Autavia” nor “Formula 1,” so some traditionalists might see the watch as something of a Franken, which may be lacking the pure pedigree of either model.

Hiroshi Fujiwara

So how do you come to terms with these issues? 

For years, I have listened to the debates about what is and is not properly identified as an Autavia, a Carrera or a Formula 1.  Some traditionalists say that an Autavia has to be a chronograph, rather than a three-handed watch, or that a Carrera cannot have an outer bezel, because these were the rules when the models were launched in the 1960s. 

I have pretty well gotten over these hard-and-fast rules.  If Jack Heuer had felt constrained by such rules in the 1960s, the Autavia would have never made it from a dashboard timer to a chronograph and we might never have seen Heuer’s automatic chronographs.  Right now, I am more impressed with a brand making great looking, high quality watches and less concerned about the model name on the dial. 

Perhaps there is no requirement for watch models to be binary, so that the brands can incorporate elements of one model into another one.  We saw this recently when TAG Heuer incorporated the colors and style of the 1970s Montreal chronograph into a 1960s-based Carrera, and people liked the result.

The Successor – The last version of the Autavia produced by Heuer in the mid-1980s (Reference 11063, at left) and the Fragment Design Heuer 02 Limited Edition, introduced by TAG Heuer in June 2020.

As a physical object, what are your favorite elements of the Fragment Formula 1 chronograph?

I am a big fan of minimalist design, in general, and like the matte black and charcoal gray tones.  This is a great look in cars and Fujiwara has followed a similar approach with the new Formula 1, using a matte black dial. 

The hands and bezel are taken directly from the 1970s Autavias, but Fujiwara has deleted the elements that made those watches busier — the contrasting white registers, the concentric ridges in the registers and the frame around the date window. 

This is like deleting the chrome on a blacked-out car, and it makes the expanses of black more dramatic.  The red and white accents on the dial are the final touches that give the watch its pop. For several years, the Formula 1 chronographs have been housed in a case with geometry that is very close to the c-shape cases of the 1970s Autavias, so this Autavia color scheme from the 1970s looks right in the Formula 1 case.

And what are the intangibles that you enjoy with the new Fragment Design Formula 1 chronograph?

The Autavias of the 1960s and 1970s were the chronographs worn by the top drivers in motorsports.  We see them on the wrists of Mario Andretti, Jo Siffert, Graham Hill, Derek Bell and many other racers.  Beyond the top professionals, Autavias were popular among the amateurs and club racers, particularly with the Viceroy promotion, which offered a $200 Autavia for $88 with proof of purchase of ten packs of Viceroy cigarettes.  

The tachymeter bezel is the symbol of a racing watch, whether on the Autavia, or the Rolex Daytona or the Omega Speedmaster.  TAG Heuer is positioning the Formula 1 collection as the brand’s racing watches, and there is no better flagship for that collection than a watch that incorporates the design elements of the Autavia, the ultimate racing watch of the 1960s and 1970s.

People in the watch world may think of the Formula 1 as TAG Heuer’s “entry level” model.  How do you reconcile that with the $6,150 price tag on this model?

Essentially, this watch, and a couple of other Formula 1 models recently released by TAG Heuer, serve as a clear statement that the TAG Heuer collections will no longer follow a price hierarchy.  There is no entry-level collection or high-end collection.  Instead, the collections are defined by their aesthetics and purposes. 

The Formula 1 is TAG Heuer’s racing watch and the Autavia will be positioned as the watch for adventure.  To me, this is a much more sensible way to position the collections than just based on their price ranges.  TAG Heuer now offers its in-house Heuer 02 movement in four of its six collections, confirming that no model is relegated to “entry-level” status. 

How do you compare the new Fragment Formula 1 with the other Autavias that have been re-issued by TAG Heuer?

With the arrival of this Fragment Design chronograph, there are basically three series of Autavia re-issues.

The TAG Heuer Fragment Design Heuer 02 Limited Edition flanked by the first of the automatic Autavias, Reference 1163 (circa 1970), and the last one produced by Heuer, Reference 11063 (circa 1983).

In 2003, TAG Heuer offered two versions of a cushion-cased Autavia, one with the black / orange colors and the other with the white / black / blue Siffert colors. 

In 2017, TAG Heuer offered a new Autavia, modeled after the Rindt model from the late 1960s.  After the initial model with the black dial and white registers, we have seen several limited editions, incorporating other color schemes into this same case. 

I like these watches, but the case lacks the real connection to either the manual wind models of the 1960s or the automatic models of the 1970s. 

Every collector will have their own favorite, but to my eye, the Fragment Formula 1 captures the spirit of the 1970s Autavias, with the color scheme, the hands and bezel, and the case geometry. There’s no “Autavia” on the dial, but there’s no doubt about the origins of this watch.

How is the watch on your wrist?

It’s a big watch at 44 millimeters, and I have a small wrist, but it’s a great fit.  The more important measurement might be the thickness, and TAG Heuer has shaved the case to 14.4 millimeters.  That’s not exactly thin, but it makes the 44 millimeter case very wearable.  The bracelet is entirely new, and is relatively thin with a butterfly clasp, which also makes the watch wear smaller.

TAG Heuer has created a new style bracelet for the Fragment Formula 1 chronograph. It’s a five-row stainless steel bracelet, with a folding butterfly clasp.

Why does this watch have the TAG Heuer logo on the dial rather than the Heuer shield?

I believe that TAG Heuer is reserving the “Heuer” shield for re-issues of the heritage models, like the Carrera 160 Years models that we saw earlier in the year.  This Formula 1 is not a re-issue of a heritage model, but a new creation for TAG Heuer.  So it gets the TAG Heuer shield rather than the Heuer shield.What are your personal preferences, as far as the re-issues that so many brands seem to be offering in the year 2020?

In recent years, there has probably been more hand-to-hand combat in the vintage community on the subject of re-issues, re-editions, homages, tributes and the like than on any other single topic.  We see everything from one-to-one recreations of some of the classics, like Breitling and Omega have done with great success, to watches that carry the name, but bear no resemblance to the original models. 

I really like the approach of the two Fragment Design models: take an iconic model, boil it down to find the essence of the design, then punch up the elements that provide the style and feel of the original period. 

Echoing the TAG Heuer Fragment Carrera, Fujiwara also places thunderbolts at the center of the case back and the word “Fragment” between 4 and 5 o’clock.

On the Fragment Carrera, we see the power of the oversized registers; on the Fragment Formula 1, we see the dramatic black paint and the red accents, with the distinctive hands and bezel.  These elements defined the racers chronograph in 1970 and, fifty years later they continue to capture the excitement of racing.  To me, capturing this timelessness is the ultimate success of a re-edition.

Other than the Fragment Design models, which are your favorite of TAG Heuer’s heritage-inspired models?

I like the Limited Edition Skipper that was a collaboration with Hodinkee back in 2017, and the Carrera 160 Years Montreal Limited Edition from earlier this year. 

The Skipper captured the colors and spirit of one of the Heuer grails, the original Skipper from 1967, but took some liberties (for example, having a 30-minute register rather than the 15-minute count-down register). 

The Carrera Montreal took even more liberties, incorporating the colors and vibe of a wild-looking 1972 Montreal chronograph into a Carrera case. Once again, the traditionalists may frown, but if you like the look of these watches and enjoy the connection with the Heuer heritage, these are fun watches. 

If you could only have one of the Fragment models, the Carrera or the Formula 1, which would it be?

My first instinct is to dodge the question. The same way that the 1960s Carreras were different from the 1970s Autavias, the choice between the two Fragment models comes down to a matter of the mood and look that you want on a given day.

Fragment Design has developed two limited edition chronographs for TAG Heuer, the new Heuer 02, which draws from the Formula 1 and Autavia models, and the Carrera Heuer 02, from November 2018.

The quiet elegance of the Carrera is very different from the loud excitement of the 1970s Autavias.  Looking at my collection of vintage Heuers, I probably have four times as many 1970s Autavias as 1960s Carreras, so the Fragment probably gets the nod. 

If there will be a third Fragment Design chronograph for TAG Heuer, what are you hoping for?

Fujiwara has done a Carrera and an Autavia, so his third model will have to be a Monaco.  It would be fantastic to see what he would do with the extra-large canvas of the Monaco.

(Click here to read Jeff Stein’s “On the Dash” post about the TAG Heuer Fragment Design Heuer 02 Limited Edition.) 

 

By Gary Girdvainis

Chrono24 is a marketplace for luxury watches that offers buyers and sellers the opportunity to buy, and sell, pre-owned, vintage, and new luxury watches.

As iW recently discovered in an interview with Chrono 24 CEO Tim Stracke, Chrono24 does not consider itself strictly as a watch dealer, but instead call itself “a marketplace that provides a service with the technology to connect buyers and sellers, to provide transparency to the market and to make transactions safe through the platform.” Below we excerpt the highlights of our interview.

iW: How long has Chrono24 been in existence?

Tim Stracke: The website was established in 2003, and my partners and I took over the site in 2010. We were able to turn it into a real business at a time when online business was starting to evolve. Today, we have close to 300 employees as our headquarters in Karlsruhe, Germany, and we also have satellite offices in Berlin, Hong Kong, and New York that run Chrono24 as a global business. However, besides operating this company together, we are also very enthusiastic about watches.

The vast majority of our employees owns at least one watch that means a lot to them – altogether, we have quite a versatile watch collection. Through this, we probably reach one out of every three luxury watch lovers worldwide (including 9 million unique viewers every month), providing them access to more than 470,000 watch listings from over 100 countries.

When you took it over in 2010 – what changed?

Tim Stracke, CEO of Chrono24

For the first seven years, Chrono24 was pretty much a classifieds site where you could find watches and contact the seller, leaving the transaction entirely between buyer and seller. We converted this into a transactional marketplace, investing a massive amount of energy into make the transaction process secure. Now, the buyer transfers payment to our escrow account, and we make sure that the buyer is happy before forwarding payout to the seller.

We also offer a lot of additional services around the purchasing process. We have a magazine, as well as a lot of data you can use to easily compare prices. One of our more interesting features is the Chrono24 Watch Collection, which enables users to upload their watches and track their watch portfolio like they would their stocks.

In addition to this, we recently added two new functions to our app: The first is our Virtual Showroom, an AR tool that allows you to try on 12 very popular models virtually. These include the Rolex Submariner Date, Omega Speedmaster Professional, Patek Philippe Nautilus, and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.

The Chrono24 Watch Scanner allows the user to simply scan any watch and automatically identify it.

Our latest addition is called the Watch Scanner, where you can simply scan any watch with your camera to automatically identify it. From there, you can add it to your Watch Collection or even create a listing.

 

How do you gather the data for estimated watch values in the Chrono24 Watch Collection?

We extrapolate the data from the tens of thousands of transactions made on our platform every per month to establish a fairly accurate range of values. For this calculation, we include actual sales prices from past sales, as well as current listing prices on Chrono24. If we don’t have enough data to make a valid estimation – for example, for rather rare reference numbers – we also include listing prices from the past. This calculation is refreshed daily and provides a representation of a watch’s performance over time.

Also, our algorithm ignores any extraordinarily high or low sales prices to avoid inaccurate estimated values. An added value for the user here is that if they’re worried about paying too much for a watch, they can follow it in a separate section of their Watch Collection and immediately see its current and historic value to help make the decision as to which watch to buy even easier. Plus, once they’ve made the purchase, they can add it to their own digital collection to monitor its financial performance over time. We’ve done this with some of our employee’s watches. It’s fun to use.

Is the condition very important?

Of course condition matters, but with watches, it is more about the rarity than the condition in many cases. This is especially true when it comes to limited editions like the Omega Speedy Tuesdays and rare vintage models; it’s quite fascinating how these timepiece perform over time. 

You also provide a Watch Scanner tool in your app. How does it work?

It’s actually pretty easy to use: Once you’ve launched the Watch Scanner tool in the Chrono24 app, simply take a picture of the watch you want to identify. The tool compares the photo with a database of around 15,000 watches and almost 2 million images from more than 6.5 million previous and current listings on Chrono24.

Based on this data, the tool can recognize the model and provides the user with other information like the reference number and its estimated market value according to the Chrono24 Watch Collection.

So far, the tool is able to identify around 15,000 different watch models, which is a lot. But that’s just a small percentage of all existing luxury watches out there. However, since it is based on a learning artificial intelligence program, the Watch Scanner is constantly evolving. We will soon be releasing an improved version that will include a feedback function and be able to identify more models. So far, the tool has been used more than a million times – and it’s only four months old.

Do you envision a physical location (permanent or pop-up) as part of the Chrono24 formula?

Looking back ten years ago, I never could have imagined that Chrono24 would be as big or as relevant as it is today. We acquired one of our retail partners about a year ago. We did this mainly to learn what life is like on the other side of the “screen,” so to speak. We also see the potential for other services. We have partnered with Fratello Watches, and we now sell limited editions through Fratello.

As of today, we are not looking for retail locations; instead, we count on our partners and look to help them sell online. That said, we are an agile business, so it’s hard to predict the future.

What are the strongest markets for Chrono24?

Historically, Germany was our strongest market, but this was obviously due to the fact that that is where Chrono24 started. Today, Chrono24 is a global entity, with the United States and Europe leading the way, followed by Asia, which is growing very fast. That being said, the United States is one of our top-three markets in many aspects, including sales and visits. We are very proud that we have around 900,000 unique visitors from the United States every month and that there are more than 120,000 American user accounts on Chrono24.

Does Chrono24 sell more new or used watches?

It’s about two-thirds pre-owned – or “pre-loved,” as we like to call it – and one-third new watches.

Is Chrono24 a tool to help dealers move aging inventory?

We work with close to 3,500 dealers worldwide and dedicate entire teams to these strong and important partners. While many of our partners have existing storefronts, Chrono24 is becoming a more relevant part of their business, and some of our partners actually sell exclusively through Chrono24. Most dealers offer all of their inventory on Chrono24, and not only aging pieces. 

What trends do you see in the U.S.?

Overall, we see a polarization of price points. The very high end remains strong –especially among well-known and recognized brands like Rolex, Omega, and AP – while the lower end of luxury watches (let’s say under $1,000) is not as strong as it could be. Also, our American users mostly buy from sellers that are also based in the United States – more than sixty percent of all U.S. sales are domestic. Surely one of the reasons for this is the high number of American dealers on our marketplace.

Globally, it’s a different picture: Approximately seventy percent of sales on Chrono24 are made across international borders.

Chrono24 keeps tabs on global watch market. Here are just a few results of last year’s pre-quarantine figures.

What about smartwatches on Chrono24?

Based on what we are seeing, smartwatches are acting like a gateway into more traditional mechanical watches. That said, not many people are searching for Apple watches on Chrono24. It seems our customers are searching for something special, and when they want to buy a smartwatch, they go elsewhere to do their research and make purchases.

How has buying a luxury watch online evolved over the last decade or so?

I remember before Chrono24 started I would spend hours and hours researching watches online and feeling like the platforms at the time made had more of a flea market atmosphere. You would have to search site after site and numerous retailers. If each site had a few hundred options, you might have to search for a long time to find the watch you really wanted to have.

You also needed to have a lot of confidence that the individual or company that you were buying from was legitimate. We are now in a situation where we can provide global transparency, a huge selection, and create a platform that makes for secure and comfortable purchases.

How safe is it to buy a watch from Chron24 with regard to authenticity?

Authenticity is our number one priority, as is the safety and security of the entire transaction from placing to order to when it’s on your wrist. First of all, our global sales team verifies and vets every dealer before we let them on the platform – and not everyone meets our high standards.

Second, we created Trusted Checkout, a free escrow service. Once you’ve found your dream watch on Chrono24 and have come to an agreement with the dealer, you transfer the amount due to an escrow account. We only release the funds to the seller once you have received the watch and are happy to keep it.

If there are issues, our multi-lingual support team is there to help buyers and sellers and guarantee a smooth transaction. Should conflicts arise, we even have a mediation team to guide buyers and sellers toward a mutually satisfactory solution. At this time, we don’t perform physical checks of the watches; instead, we offer a no-questions-asked return policy as part of Trusted Checkout to safeguard ultimate safety for the transaction.

Do you consider Chrono24 a disruptor in the industry?

This is our role: changing the industry, changing the way people purchase watches, especially pre-owned and vintage watches. Considering our global transparency, huge inventory, and market data paired with the low cost for the service of selling a watch, I would say we are creating a new and possibly disruptive platform for buying and selling watches. Several years ago, industry leaders wouldn’t even talk to us, but this has quickly changed as they have seen the service we provide – and probably also the passion for luxury watches we share.

At LVMH Watch Week in mid-January, Zenith debuted a new Defy collection made specifically for women. 

Called Defy Midnight, the line of 36mm steel watches is wide-ranging, with a selection of star-flecked dials on gradient blue, grey and mother-of-pearl dials. Every watch includes a steel bracelet and three additional leather straps, a set that represents a level of customization previously not found with any Zenith collection.    

We spoke with Zenith CEO Julien Tornare about Zenith’s path to the Defy Midnight collection. Read his comments below, in which Tornare also teases us just a bit about upcoming Zenith debuts.  

 

iW: Why launch a new collection for women? 

Julien Tornare: From the moment I came on board at Zenith, I was asked about creating new watches for women. This took time because first we addressed changes needed in the Elite and Chronomaster collections. I couldn’t do it all at the same time for many reasons, but we did address those once we saw that the Defy collections were a success. 

For women, we had models in Elite and in the Pilot collection.  But for a long time we didn’t have a complete strategy on women’s watches. 

 

What were your primary considerations when approaching the Defy Midnight design? 

My first thought was to create watches for women of the 21st-century, for today. That meant we needed to do that within Defy, which is our modern-focused collection. We needed to combine emotion and something rational. By that I mean a good tool for 21st century women.  

We worked within the ‘Time to Reach Your Star’ Zenith marketing concept, which focuses on achievement, being someone very active. To represent that we wanted to have the sky on the dial, so we have the sky and the stars on the dial. And among these stars is your star, the one you are looking for – the one you want to grab, to reach. This could be in your private life or in your business, your sports or your arts. We all have stars we want to reach.  

This is the emotion of the collection, the story. So first I wanted to have this dimension to the new collection.

Then we realized that women of the 21st-century often have four lives in one. My wife reminds me of this quite often, that women are quite better at multitasking than men. So I wanted a watch that women could use in different circumstances.  

We did not invent interchangeability for straps.  But we may be the first to sell the watch with a bracelet and an additional three straps. 

A woman of the 21st-century has many lives, and her day moves quickly.  Perhaps going to the gym wearing the bracelet, then changing it to the strap for a cocktail in the evening. We are offering four watches in one.

 

What about the technical aspects of the watch? 

I have always been against using quartz movements only for women’s watches and mechanical movements for men’s models. I think that is totally old-fashioned and wrong.  We do have more and more women telling us they want a mechanical watch, something sophisticated, and not with a battery. 

For the Defy Midnight Dials, we first thought about the starry sky that you can see when you visit our manufacture. And, our logo is a star. So we placed a sky on the dial in several colors, but it’s always with the stars. The star symbol is very positive around the world in many different areas. Ratings are given in stars.  Hollywood has stars. Zenith is lucky to have a star as its logo. We want to capitalize much more on that. 

 

How will you support the collection in your marketing?

‘Dream Her’ is a concept we’ll be doing this year in which we invite women who have achieved great things in very different fields to discuss their lives.  We will host events where this takes place. We are going to accompany these events with huge exhibitions. We will do these around the world, and they will each last about a week. 

 

(Zenith’s Elite Classic )

How have you changed the Elite collection?

We needed to update the design of the Elite collection. As you know I used to work for a classic brand, so I know what I wanted for Elite. It was a good thing that we had a successful Defy collection, which gave us the time to work on Elite, as well as Chronomaster. 

If you want to do a classic watch, which by the way can be the most difficult to design, we have to go for elegance. If you buy a watch like that, it is because you want an elegant watch. 

We worked on the case, the lugs, and looked within our own history. We refined the lugs and made a thin case– and added more value to the dial.  I thought that some of the earlier models were a bit flat and without emotion.

This is why we settled on a sunburst dial that is actually quite costly to create. I am so happy to relaunch this, because I believe there are always clients for an elegant watch. 

(Zenith’s new Elite Moonphase)

Can you offer our readers a peek at upcoming Zenith debuts? 

This will be a very interesting year for Zenith. Remember that last year we had all the 50th anniversary celebrations where we launched all of the revival limited editions for Chronomaster. The massive interest in Chronomaster leads us to our April debuts this year. 

You will also see another version of Defy coming this spring. This is the collection where we can play with colors and with limited editions. But Chronomaster must be linked to our history, so it will remain as you know it.  

During LVMH Watch Week, Bulgari made it clear that women are a priority audience for the brand, even as many of its recent award-winning Finissimo watches are targeted to male collectors. This explains in part why Bulgari debuted a new set of Serpenti watches during the debut event. 

But Bulgari also took the opportunity to enhance its offerings to women with a renewed attention to technical breakthroughs that in some ways match the cutting-edge thinness of Finissimo. 

Indeed, Bulgari’s highlight debut earlier this month, the Serpenti Seduttori Tourbillon, features the world’s smallest tourbillon, a technical coup that does double duty for the jeweler and watchmaker. In addition to emphasizing its collections for women, the new watch symbolizes Bulgari’s plans to expand the use of mechanical movements within a broader range of its feminine collections.

 As Bulgari Managing Director, Watch Business Unit Antoine Pin explains below, “Since we are a fully integrated manufacturer, why shouldn’t we make high-end complications for ladies?”

We discussed this and other topics with Pin during the Watch Week debut event.

(The new Bulgari Serpenti Seduttori Tourbillon features the world’s smallest tourbillon.)
   

iW: Why is it important to place mechanical movements inside watches for women?

Antoine Pin: We have two important reasons.  First, Serpenti was born with mechanical movements. And today there are very few mechanical movements in small sizes.

Secondly, we have built up incredible experience in micromechanics in our quest to reduce the size of movements while maintaining their performance. With this experience comes the appetite to go further. To see what we can do.

 

Why focus for now on complicated movements? 

It is somewhat easier to work on a small size tourbillon in limited numbers then to work on large mechanical movements. It is more technically complicated, but because of the production process, the questions you are tackling are different. 

Being a fully integrated high horology company, we have a better understanding sometimes of these smaller volume, highly complicated movements. Underlining this is the fact that we have a majority of clients who are women.  And since we are a fully integrated manufacturer, why shouldn’t we make high-end complications for ladies?

(The new Bulgari Divas’ Dream features a peacock feather dial and a mechanical movement.)

Some would say that there are no clients for this, but we get requests for this. We especially saw this with the Divas’ Dream. So what we are trying here very much fits in with our philosophy.

 

(Bulgari’s Divas’ Dream Lapis Lazuli)

Will you extend this work into additional, simpler movements?

We should clearly. It makes sense. Yes, a few movements of the small size do exist, from Rolex and Jaeger-LeCoultre, but these are very limited.

Will you continue with movements like the thin repeater inside the Divas Dream Finissima Minute Repeater?  

We will arrive with new innovations every year. It is also a matter of matching new markets.  But again, there is no market until there are products to offer. This is something we are monitoring. We do have demand for simpler complications, mechanical pieces with one or two functions. It is less of a collector’s spirit and more of a regular users spirit.

The new Bulgari Octo Finissimo Automatic in Black Sandblast and Polished Ceramic.

How did you decide to launch the new steel Octo Finissimo Automatic? 

It was obvious.  We have this amazing success with the titanium Finissimo collection and we had pushed to the ultimate stage in the innovation. 

The Finissimo has such high recognition from all of our partners, so there was no question of the idea to expand the product to meet the today’s standards with steel on steel, gold on straps, which are basics in ninety-five percent of watch company collections. It is also a way for us to expand our reach with watch connoisseurs. 

 So we have launched this well-known category of products while maintaining our standards for the Finissimo collection. This is also another way to introduce Bulgari as a watchmaker.  This gives our staff more possibilities to present Bulgari as the watchmaker against other watchmakers in the same classic categories.

 

Can you offer us any hints as to the April Bulgari debuts?

We have additional debuts in April and in September. We are now showing you pieces that are available very soon, not many months down the line. Clients can get confused when they hear about new products but don’t see them in stores.  

We will be debuting more jewelry pieces, plus new pieces in the other collections as well. 

What is interesting about the pieces we are showing right now is that they highlight our capacity to innovate both from a design perspective and from a mechanical perspective. We are not a jeweler making watches; we are true Swiss-born watchmakers making watches for more than 100 years, including more than forty years in Switzerland.  

The leadership we have on micromechanics like the small tourbillon is a way to say look at us for what we are.  We are a watchmaker with a different origin, with a different perspective on watchmaking that gives us new designs. We have a talent for creating designs that are different.