Arnold & Son “A luxury watch that everyone can buy is no longer a luxury watch”
Arnold & Son’s CEO Florian Serex on the commemoration of the 240th anniversary of the chronometer, the apparent disinterest for ladies’ watches and the notion of luxury.
It’s the 240th anniversary of John Arnold coining the term chronometer this year…
I prefer to speak about a commemoration rather than an anniversary. Arnold & Son does not date back to 1764. The brand was established in 1995 so there is quite a gap between the two. So we don’t celebrate anniversaries but we commemorate certain dates. In 1778 John Arnold submitted his pocket watch to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich to have its precision tested for marine chronometer certification. The watch passed all the tests and over a year and a half the variation in rate was just two and a half minutes, which is an average of 0.5 seconds per day. The requirements for today’s COSC chronometer certificate are between -4 and +6 seconds per day. So Arnold’s watch was ten times more precise than the chronometers of today and a thousand times more precise than the pocket watches of the time. Not only was this a huge technological breakthrough at the time, John Arnold even explained what he had done and offered his watch at an affordable price. He was so pleased when he received the confirmation from the Royal Observatory that he wrote a letter explaining his product and how happy he was, referring to the watch as a “veritable chronometer”. So it was the first pocket watch to be called a chronometer.
What has worked best in the 2018 collection?
We have had some good feedback and confirmed orders, which is very gratifying for us. The Globetrotter has been very well received, especially when we tell people the price. You have a three-dimensional watch with the hemisphere clearly visible that you rarely see anywhere else, except perhaps from some much higher-end brands, and we are offering it for 15,000 Swiss francs. People ask us whether there is a zero missing…
Globetrotter © Arnold & Son
One thing that surprised me this year at Baselworld was the apparent total lack of interest among the media for ladies’ watches. I even had female journalists and bloggers who were not interested in ladies’ watches! I was astounded and insisted on showing them our lady’s watch anyway. But it does make me wonder whether it is worth communicating about such watches, given the lack of interest. I think that the demand is there but you really have to push the watches in order for them to be seen.
Arnold & Son watches are very technical. How do you communicate this and reconcile this with a ladies’ watch such as the Nebula?
I could harp on about all the technical details of the Nebula but I also encourage you to appreciate the watch for its aesthetics and its symmetry. It is a very beautiful watch; it’s slender, only 41.5mm in diameter. Yes, it is technical, but also very elegant. There are lot of ladies who are now interested in such watches and have the money to buy them, it’s just a shame that people don’t seem to be interested in talking about them and a shame that so-called influencers seem to be influenced more by their own readers.
Nebula © Arnold & Son
Are you happy with your current production volumes?
Arnold & Son watches are very rare… perhaps a little bit too rare. We currently sell around 600 watches per year and I would like to sell more. Given the number of references we have, not many of each individual reference are sold each year. We only sell around 30 of the Nebula per year, for example, so even after ten years there would only be 300 in circulation, which is a drop in the ocean compared to the world’s population, so they will always be rare watches.
We are certainly not a fashion brand, we are a genuine luxury brand. For me, this means that we do not promote our products in the same way as a fashion brand does. A fashion brand has to add a bigger profit margin to the price of its watches because it already knows in advance that it is going to spend a lot on marketing to push the product. Arnold & Son watches, on the other hand, will remain a genuine luxury product, where all the value is in the product itself. We can do this because we don’t promote the watches heavily and like to keep this notion of exclusivity. A luxury product that everyone can buy is no longer a luxury product.
Named after John Arnold, the English watchmaker of the 18th century renowned for his ingenuity and work on marine chronometers, Arnold & Son perpetuates today his legacy, exploring contemporary ways to interpret traditional watch craftsmanship.Find out more >
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