On the eve of SIHH 2016 we bring you an interview we did with Baume et Mercier’s Design and Product Director Alexandre Peraldi late last year. Enjoy.
Q : It could be said that in the last few years Baume & Mercier has, as a brand, been changing a bit in terms of positioning. It has been most notably ‘afforable luxury’ and then this year at SIHH 2015 there appeared to be a strong emphasis on youth, including the collaborations, as it were, with various universities around the world. Is this to be a continuing theme or will a new theme emerge in 2016?
We change slowly, step by step. There are three directions – universities, the message of the first moment of your life you can commemorate, and your first luxury watch. Classic and elegant, the Clifton will continue with small complications but the main collection of Clifton is more affordable. As for Promesse – this will build the future of the brand for a woman.
The recent years have been a fine-tuning of where we are going – Classima, Clifton, Promesse.
Q : How far ahead do you design for? Two years? Three?
It can range between two and four years. Sometimes you can wait and wait and things never happen. I prefer to work in 3-5 year cycles. Before, ten years ago, it was longer, not as quick as it is today.
Q : What, to you, are the most difficult aspects about designing a watch?
To stay in the brand’s field. There are some limits – so if you push the limits it can backfire on a brand. It is difficult because young designers think that to be creative you need to be adventurous. The design part is close to the marketing part, you cannot imagine design without marketing. You have a name and need to think of what the brand represents.
Q : Does the design of a new watch (or a new collection) start with your team, or is it a ‘top down’ process?
Both. Some very precise projects that come from the market which wants particular things. You find a good idea to fit with a collection and try to have the best solution at the end. As one example, perhaps at the beginning someone thinks they want a power reserve and then we find somewhere to put it. The brief changes all the time and there is less and less time for it to go from the bottom up. It can be a nightmare, because sometimes ideas go nowhere! Everyone wants to put their touch on a project.
[Jade issues for the Promesse were discussed – they wanted darker but it was more fragile to work with. They can only, produce eight bezels from one block]
Q : How difficult is it for you to come up with something that will not ‘date’ or age quickly?
It’s a more a question of sensation not aesthetic. The most important thing is the comfort on the wrist, on the eyes. Simplicity is an important thing. Purity. It needs to be classic and simple but not boring.
Q : There are two fairs now – SIHH and Watches & Wonders, with quite different foci. With an expectation I guess, of having new announcements for Hong Kong as well as Geneva, has this meant added pressure on the creative team to come up with more products, or has it been a case of staggering out releases between two fairs rather than mostly at SIHH?
It is seen as an opportunity to launch at two times. Before it was oh we have to present everything at once, which is a different sort of pressure. It actually gives us more time; for example before we could have launched the automatic Classima at SIHH but we decided to launch automatic Classima at Watches & Wonders instead.
Q : What are the major challenges facing Baume & Mercier at the moment in terms of capturing attention designwise in a world where there is not only concern about demand, but that it seems that new brands with often very distinctive designs, are appearing every month?
There are more and more brands, there is extravagance. I think it is an opportunity to be different because being classic and simple is different now. When you buy your first watch you want something reassuring. The crisis is good in a way because people become more traditional in a way [in terms of the current industry].
Q : If someone who is new to watches came up to you and you had to describe the B&M ‘identity’ to them, how would you answer?
Baume & Mercier will create a link between you and watchmaking. It’s about emotion, and you have to express the experience on your wrist. Classic, elegant, reassuring – these are important things for a first watch.
[Our thanks to Baume & Mercier Australia and Mr Jean Conrie for making this interview possible]