Chronopassion In on the ground floor, with MB&F, Singer and Urwerk
With the rise of the internet, some customers are more familiar with watches than with the people who sell them. But that’s not always the case, particularly when retailers become closely involved with launching the brands they sell. It’s rare, but it’s real.
Taking an unknown brand under their wing is a very risky exercise for a retailer. In watchmaking, as elsewhere, people want to buy what they know. Independent companies lose out in every respect: a lack of publicity, brand recognition, clients and money. But not when Laurent Picciotto takes a shine to you, and decides to hold your hand.
Laurent Picciotto, Founder of Chronopassion © Chronopassion
Urwerk, the pioneer
Chronopassion has helped to launch three watch brands. The first was Urwerk. “Felix [Baumgartner] had brought out an initial series of pieces, but the satellite carousel wasn’t yet completely ready,” remembers Laurent Picciotto. “He came to see me with a whole load of ideas and completely empty pockets! As a pure watchmaker, he didn’t have a business plan. In fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he didn’t have one now. That’s what is so authentic about his approach. So I put him in touch with some colleagues and, together, we ordered a first model which came in four versions, on the strength of a steel prototype. Urwerk was launched in 1997. We came on board in 2004 and, in 2006, the first UR-103 saw the light of day.”
Laurent Picciotto, Felix Baumgartner and Martin Frei (Founders of Urwerk); UR-103 White Gold © David Carteron 2013/Delos Communications
MB&F, creative rigour
MB&F offers a different case study. First, in terms of their history. Laurent Picciotto and Max Büsser got to know each other back in the last century, well before Büsser had even thought of launching his adventure with his “Friends”. “Max had taken a real step forward with the Opus he developed for Harry Winston,” recalls Laurent Picciotto. “Max had warned me he was preparing something, but I didn’t know what. He told me two years earlier, even before the first HM was launched.”
MB&F would follow a different path from Urwerk. Max Büsser opted for a subscription model, which meant customers would advance funds for him to create the first pieces. Laurent Picciotto accepted the wager, although it was not without risk. The creativity of Max Büsser and his personality were deciding factors. “He’s a true gentleman,” says Laurent Picciotto, who admits he was also impressed by the “genuine creative plan associated with the brand development, with a clear and reliable launch timetable, backed up by clever communication.”
Maximilian Büsser (Founder of MB&F) and Laurent Picciotto © MB&F
Singer, a different animal
Alongside these purely horological considerations, Laurent Picciotto has sometimes supported a brand for very different reasons. He admits to being obsessed with fine mechanics, rock music, guitars and independence. And that’s what led him to Singer, the globally renowned modifier of Porsche 911 cars. As well as being a car “re-imaginer”, Singer founder Rob Dickinson is a former rock singer and cousin of Iron Maiden lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson.
“Obviously, when they started talking about watches, all the planets were aligned!” notes Laurent Picciotto. “I went to see them in Geneva, and we spent hours talking about Porsches, rock music and watches. The magic of the Agenhor movement did the rest. It’s a racing machine and an elite watch for the discerning collector.” Today, Chronopassion is one of very few retailers in the world to offer the majority of Singer’s “Track 1” models.
Laurent Picciotto and Rob Dickinson (Founder of Singer); Singer Track 1 © Singer Reimagined
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Few brands are as closely associated with the rise of avant-garde independent horology in the new millennium than URWERK, the Geneva-based brand with Swiss-German mechanical foundations.Find out more >