Montandon & Co. Interview with Daniel Montandon
“Montandon & Co. marine chronometers are craftsman-made in the Vallée de Joux for the ocean riders of the 21st century”, says Daniel Montandon, founder and CEO of Montandon & Co.
Where does the DNA of your watches come from?
It comes from my love of boats and sailing, a milieu I have been involved with since the age of 12. Before I went into high-end watch distribution I was actually the head of a company that equipped nearly 500 sailing cruisers and superyachts in some of the world’s most famous marinas, for extremely demanding ship owners. As a naval architect with a passion for yacht racing, I designed the first racing catamaran made entirely of carbon-fibre-based composite materials, and came up with a number of other major technical innovations, including rotating rigging and x-shaped structures for multihulls, integrated aluminium and carbon masts, and assisted sail trimming systems for big yachts, for which I hold a number of patents. This cutting-edge experience of the yachting world is part of the “genetic heritage” of both of the Montandon & Co collections: Windward and Naval Systems.
Why did you move from yachting to watchmaking?
I never left watchmaking! My grandfather owned the family company Eberhard & Cie, which was founded by his father, and on his retirement he handed the reins to my father. Unfortunately, both my parents died in a tragic accident, and because I was far too young to take over the company, it was sold to the family that owns it today. I started my career elsewhere, but I have always been immersed in the world of watches. In fact, in 1991 I decided to launch my own distribution company for luxury timepieces – Capital Time – and was fortunate enough to be involved with some of the most cutting-edge haute horlogerie watch brands at a very exciting time. In 2007 I started to think about creating a watch brand that would combine my two passions, by designing watches based on my experience in yachting and in fine watchmaking. The following year, I registered the company Montandon & Co., and I have devoted my energies to launching the brand ever since.
How does Montandon & Co define itself, and how is it organised?
Montandon & Co is both avant-gardist and traditional; it respects its clients and partners; and it offers innovative and unique watches, produced in limited quantities. Our marine-inspired chronometers are made entirely in Switzerland. Our headquarters are on the shores of Lake Geneva and the workshop is in the Vallée de Joux, in David Candaux’ Ferme Horlogère Contemporaine. David Candaux is a genius of watch design, and he’s closely involved with Montandon & Co. He and I are amazingly complementary; we share the same passion and the same exacting standards of workmanship.
How are your manufacture calibres presented?
All our movements are automatic and are equipped with a flying tourbillon. They are entirely designed, developed and made in-house, and clearly bear the stamp of haute horlogerie, not just in terms of quality and scarcity, but also in terms of their design and finish. At the same time, they have a unique aesthetic of their own. To give you some examples, in order to remain faithful to the spirit of the marine chronometers they embody, their architecture is based on a compass rose; the base plate of the flying tourbillon mirrors the design of the mastheads of the Maltese Falcon (an iconic superyacht built by Perini Navi, with whom I worked for a long time) and one of its bridges features an unbelievably realistic starfish, carved in relief.
The peripheral rotor of our automatic flying tourbillon calibre ensures an unobstructed view of the mechanical ballet inside, where even the spokes of the drive wheel suggest the wheel of a sailing ship. The movement is protected by a highly sophisticated watch case, every component of which we have designed and patented, down to the screws that secure the sapphire crystal and caseback hermetically to the case, whose heads are carved with a stylised Swiss cross.
Do they have any unusual functions?
Our watches’ functions are what make them true marine chronometers for the 21st century, worthy tools for our “ocean rider” target clientele, while perfectly complementing their creative aesthetic. I began by imagining the day-to-day lives of our clients, which is how I came up with the additional functions to supplement the basic hours, minutes and seconds. They are completely new to haute horlogerie, and have been designed to be legible at a glance, no matter what the conditions. They are divided between the six models currently waiting in the wings, which are due to be launched progressively over the coming years. To give you a quick overview of some of these functions, there is an anti-magnetic iris to protect the tourbillon, multiple countdown timers with a three-dimensional helicoidal display, a mechanical computer for programming diving curves from immersion back to the surface, Super-GMT indications incorporating several time zones and alarms, perpetual calendars with digital display, fully watertight, enclosed displays, and solutions to avoid having to use external correctors.
What input have you had in terms of your watches’ external design?
As you already saw with the movement design, it’s not a look you can categorise easily. Just look at the asymmetric sail-shaped hands which, despite their unusual shape, remain perfectly readable! There are also the pushers inspired by the air intake vents of modern boats, the case shape, which recalls the hydrodynamic shape of a sailing yacht’s stern, and the ship’s wheel motif on the crown and the bracelet clasp. And I should just mention that the straps have an integrated push-pin system that makes them easy to change as well as ergonomically adjustable.
Despite the fact that our cases contain more than 150 elements, they are designed to be easy to maintain, whether this means changing a damaged lug or pusher, for example, or adding additional customisation. Another original design feature is the anti-magnetic iris that protects the tourbillon cage, which can be opened by pressing the left-hand crown. One final example, which betrays both my obsession with detail and the source of the solutions we have found, is the crossover retention loops, which stop the strap from slipping, an idea inspired by the criss-cross structure of racing maxi-catamarans, which I helped to develop.
What is your commercial strategy?
Having spent 25 years in the world of haute horlogerie, we decided that our priorities would be rarity and client service. In order to put this into practice, it is vital for us to stay in direct contact with our customers, which, given that we make only a few dozen pieces each year, is perfectly feasible. This direct link means we can offer our timepieces at a fair price, while giving our clients the benefit of highly personalised service. We also offer a five-year guarantee along with a free service after two years. These days, our clients travel a great deal, whether for business or for pleasure, and their consumption habits have changed accordingly. We adapt to their lifestyle, by going to meet them if they have no plans to visit Switzerland, or Geneva in particular. Our clients are yacht owners and connoisseurs of rare haute horlogerie who appreciate the philosophy and architecture of Montandon & Co. watches.