In 2015 Raymond Weil has launched a range of watches that illustrate the Swiss brand’s passion for music like never before. WatchPro editor James Buttery speaks to chief executive officer Elie Bernheim to discuss this new strategy.
Q: Raymond Weil has always placed great importance on its musical associations but now, more than ever, that musicality is evident in the company’s watch design. Would you agree and has that been a conscious move?
A: Absolutely, this was a very conscious move by the Raymond Weil team. We have a very rich history of using music as the communication vehicle for marketing, however there was a fear that the messaging was not being delivered to the end customer therefore we decided to start incorporating a music identity into our product design. This first started with little touches like adding guitar strings and guitar rosette influences onto our dials and then has evolved to actually using cello string within our new tourbillon piece that has been crafted to look like a deconstructed cello.
Q: Raymond Weil has never produced a tourbillon before and the watch is the most expensive piece the brand has ever produced. What provoked the creation of the Nabucco Cello Tourbillon? Was there a demand for more expensive pieces? Was it in any way a response to growing competition in your traditional price segment?
A: We produced the Nabucco Cello Tourbillon, which is one of the most adventurous design processes Raymond Weil has ever undertaken, as we wanted to craft a very special timepiece that allowed us to showcase our skills as watchmakers. We have a very special research and development team in the office in Genève, who love to be challenged – this was their greatest challenge to date, working with movement manufacturer, Tec-Ebous, to create a very special tourbillon piece, inspired by our musical heritage that maintains the fundamentals of what Raymond Weil stands for – quality timepieces at accessible prices. Although the price of the Nabucco Cello Tourbillon is much higher than our usual timepieces, it is a very good price for a tourbillon timepiece that can sell for £100,000 and beyond.
Q: How has the tourbillon been received by retailers and end customers?
A: The piece was extremely well received by everyone at Baselworld where the 10 pieces that we created sold out within two days, mirroring a pattern for us this year with our special edition products such as the maestro Frank Sinatra (sold out within two days) and the Nabucco inspired by Gibson timepiece (sold out in one day).
Q: What was the design process of the Toccata with Nicola Benedetti like?
A: We met Nicola three years ago at the Classic BRIT Awards. There were so many synergies between herself and the brand, including philanthropic and educational work undertaken by both of us. We decided to approach Nicola last year to see whether she would consider working with Raymond Weil on a multitude of projects that also included designing a special edition Toccata timepiece. I spent much time with Nicola discussing her desires for the design of the watch. We took our inspiration for her timepiece from her instrument – one of the world’s rarest violins – the Stradivarius, built in 1919. The different colours of wood combined with the gold scribes on this very special instrument became the inspiration for the piece. The outcome is magnificent.
Q: What was your starting point in terms of design for the Sinatra watch?
A: We approached the Sinatra Estate and Frank Jr. and asked them to work with us to design a timepiece that wasn’t inspired by Frank but something that Frank would have actually worn. The piece is simple, classic and stylish. Injection of flashes of blue from the hands and indexes really make the watch stand out on the wrist. The watch is completed with a vintage brown leather strap to give the watch a feeling of timelessness.
Q: How do you decide on the numbers involved on a limited edition piece like the Gibson watch? 200 worldwide would seem to be very exclusive.
A: For the maestro Frank Sinatra piece, we created 1212 pieces that represents the 12th December – his birth date. For the Gibson partnership we used the Nabucco collection – our high value collection therefore we wanted to ensure that there was an exclusive feel to the special edition thus the limited quantity created. It remains our number one priority to remain accessible even with our special editions.