Laurent Rüfenacht is an anarchist when it comes to watch design, having created two of the most unconventional brands of modern times in SevenFriday in 2013 and, more recently in 2017, The Electricianz from his design agency Studiodivine. SevenFriday is no longer part of the group, so his irrepressible creative and commercial energy is all going into building a global customer base for his strikingly original Electricianz watches, as WatchPro discovered in conversation with the punk entrepreneur.
WatchPro: How did The Electricianz team come together? What experience do you bring to the company?
Laurent Rüfenacht: I’ve always had in me a serious need for self-expression! In time, meaningless activities and unquestioned routines fired up frustration, which appears to me to be a viscous disease and a wide spread source of sadness.
Instead of moaning and complaining, I turned all this into gasoline for my creative engine.
In 2003, after years in Swiss watch companies (CK Watch, Maurice Lacroix), I created Studiodivine (SD), a creative design agency. Amongst various projects for customers, SD conceived, developed and launched the now well-known brand Sevenfriday (SF).
The Electricianz, introduced in 2017, is the 2nd baby of the team. Early 2019, the collaboration with my business partner ended up. The Electricianz & SF are now no longer part of the same group.
WatchPro: How did the unique concept of the watch style, technology and architecture come together?
Laurent Rüfenacht: I want to encapsulate positive energy in a cool, meaningful and -to certain extend- arty item and let people walk away with it. The Electricianz conveys this sort of vitality. On top, I wanted The Electricianz watches to be affordable self-esteem boosters.
What we initially conceived as a retro-playful collection with electrical energy at its core, will evolve very soon into proper electrical phenomenas. The story has just begun.
WatchPro: Would you say that you follow the old Bauhaus rule of form follows function, or have you turned it on its head?
Laurent Rüfenacht: In our world, watch design, form & functions, too often, blindly follow habits, references & undisputed rules. Despite these ideas-killer factors, some brands such as ours, keep trying to reconnect people with their inner true feeling, this little voice that says “wahou” before mother-rationality and father-conformity come in and start knocking down any creativity attempts.
You like it? Is it fun? Does it make you feel good? If the answer is yes, go for it. Period!
The old continent of Europe is a heavy pudding, while other areas of the world are more of a softer jelly. We’ll do our best to have a slice of the pudding too though.
WatchPro: It is rare to see a businesss take such an alternative route into watchmaking. Did you ever fear this would be more commercially challenging that a more mainstream direction?
Laurent Rüfenacht: Sure! The core of our initial models is housed in a stainless steel case in turn wrapped in thermomoulded nylon sheath recalling insulating materials. Our top class-10 nylon is hard, resistant to abrasion & insensitive to stress cracking. It gives the designers access to a wide range of colors; nuances that no other classic metal coating would offer.
Furthermore, its Paraffin-like structure guarantees the “beast” a soft touch and a silky look. In the end, some love it, some don’t; we took a risk but that’s what creativity is all about? Isn’t it?
Having said that, we are not tied to it; we’ll be releasing very soon a complementary collection with no nylon sheath. It doesn’t mean we’re giving up, “compromising” is not a word we feel attracted by, we’ll always give our pieces a special twist.
WatchPro: How do you sell the majority of your watches: direct to consumer or wholesale?
Laurent Rüfenacht: 70% wholesale, 30% direct.
WatchPro: What is your commercial strategy and how do you perform in Germany, the United States and UK?
Laurent Rüfenacht: Well, our main B2B markets are currently China & South East Asia, B2C ones are USA & GCC. European countries are still largely untapped. Europe, with its wide variety of languages and cultures, is a dense market where novelties often encounter resistance. Europe’s demographic aging is also a cause for a certain inertia towards non-traditional proposals. The old continent is a heavy pudding, while other areas of the world are more of a softer jelly. We’ll do our best to have a slice of the pudding too though.
WatchPro: What are your key business objectives in 2020 and what tactics do you intend to deploy to achieve them?
Laurent Rüfenacht: We will clear out any doubt about the brand’s relevance. Therefore, as an upcoming start-up; we’ll keep doing our basic home work; regular product releases, more qualitative content & constant brand evangelism.
WatchPro: What are your most effective marketing and merchandising tactics both from yourself as a brand and in partnership with retailers?
Laurent Rüfenacht: Ain’t nothing such as a well-trained and highly motivated sales person. As for other tactics, ask me that question again in a couple of years.