Graham Interview with Eric Loth
A British editor-in-chief interviews a self-confessed anglophile at Baselworld.
What’s new at Graham?
Our strategy is to come up with products that are disruptive. We noticed that whenever we did something a bit edgy it worked and whenever we did something a bit more classic and traditional it wasn’t necessarily as successful as we had hoped. So now we are concentrating on the Chronofighter line, where we have some new watches, but above all on the Swordfish, which we are relaunching this year.
We launched the Swordfish in 2004 and for its 15th birthday in 2019 we have improved the construction of the case, reduced the thickness a little and introduced bronze as well as steel. I remember at Baselworld in 2004 I launched a production run of 500 but I only had 70 orders. After quite a few sleepless nights I thought I might have made a mistake but then a journalist published a photo of it and I started getting enquiries. Then all of a sudden the production run of 500 was not enough. Depending on the year, the Swordfish accounted for 30-40% of our sales.
Chronofighter Swordfish bronze © Graham
So why did you stop producing it?
We suffered from counterfeit versions. At the time, around 2007-2008, it was much more difficult to keep this in check in China. So around 2011-2012 I decided to stop production and make the counterfeiters lose money. It was a brutal decision but it allowed me to keep the product for the future, because at the time we weren’t strong enough financially to defend ourselves against the counterfeiters.
In the meantime, legislation against counterfeits has improved and we have better control thanks to the support of the Swiss Watchmaking Federation, so the risk is lower. But 10 years ago it really was a catastrophe and it damaged the brand as a whole. I almost felt like I was complicit in things, because we knew where the watches were coming from and how they were being shipped but we simply weren’t big enough to do anything about it.
The decision to stop producing the Swordfish had a big financial impact on the company, but it has allowed us to come back now because we knew there was demand for it.
And what about your other main collection, the Chronofighter?
We sold 25 in a single evening with one retailer, which is not bad at all for a watch that costs in excess of 8,000 Swiss francs. I think we have probably double our budget predictions for this year, so that’s also very good news.
The Chronofighter Superlight models are very technical and we have some models that weigh less than 100 grammes. That is the technical side of the brand. We like to keep these models under 100 grammes wherever possible. This is more difficult with the white rubber strap, believe it or not, because the pigments used to colour the rubber are actually heavier than for the other colours. It’s nothing to do with the rubber itself, just the pigments, and these alone can make a difference of three grammes, which is quite significant for a watch that needs to weigh less than 100 grammes.
Chronofighter Superlight Carbon © Graham
There is a new interest from retailers in China for brands that are a bit special and less mainstream. They are also looking for stronger and more recognisable watches. So the work we have done on the Chronofighter over the past 18 years is slowly paying off over there. It’s taken 18 years but it’s working. It can take a generation for this to happen, which is why the fact that we are independent allows us to look to the future. I just want to bring the brand to a level that is safe enough for me not to have any problems in the future. It’s then up to my children whether they would like to take over or not.
You produced a provocative Brexit watch - why?
I am an absolute anglophile, whether it’s music, literature, modern art… This has always influenced my choices over the years. I’m Swiss at heart, of course, and I’m very proud to be. But I have always loved the British, their humour and their freedom.
Chronofighter UK © Graham
That’s why Brexit fascinates me. I deliberately wanted the Brexit watch to be a provocation. We noticed that it created a debate. I think the British aren’t doing themselves a favour but that it would come to this in the end anyway. People felt that there was a need for change, but they didn’t have a solution ready, which is also typically British.
It’s one of the biggest political battles since the end of the second world war for Europe and it fascinates me. Curiously, things that fascinate me seem to end up finding their way into the brand in some form or another.
Based in La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland, Graham preserves the legacy of London clockmaker George Graham, developing modern timepieces that combine sophisticated techniques with an atypical design.Find out more >
All the news >
Contact brand >
All the watches >