Louis Moinet “It’s time to move on to something else”
Les Ateliers Louis Moinet was one of the first watchmakers to react to the postponement and subsequent cancellation of Baselworld, by launching its own Discovery Days. It’s the first step in a long-term strategy, and the start of a process of reflection on watchmaking.
Time – that’s one thing Jean-Marie Schaller is not short of. He was off the radar for a few months in 2019. Then, like many others, he went into lockdown, and learned of the postponement and subsequent cancellation of Baselworld, an event to which Ateliers Louis Moinet was particularly attached. “The first question that came to mind was, what are we going to do? And then I quickly realised that the only question that really matters, for independent workshops such as us, is: what do we want to do?” the CEO recalls. He is not short of imaginative responses.
“Selling watches was out of the question”
Step one, on 30 April, was the launch of Discovery Days, on a completely revamped website. The initiative drew the attention of television and the press. Why this approach? “Because we didn’t really have any new watches to show,” explains Jean-Marie Schaller. Two new pieces (Memoris) were unveiled, but that wasn’t really the point. “We wanted to create a personal, emotional and creative link with our friends, our clients and our partners,” Jean-Marie Schaller continues. “Selling watches is out of the question when everyone’s overriding priority is to stay healthy. We wanted to offer a new, creative, exploratory window. That’s why we set up ‘Past’, ‘Present’ and also ‘Future’ sections on our website, to invite people to discover the projects we have in the pipeline, and ask for their comments and opinions.”
Memoris Gibeon and Memoris Scarab © Louis Moinet
“I was advised not to make any more tourbillons!”
Step two was to invest in personalisation. Like many independent watchmakers, creating unique pieces or very limited editions for collectors and for special events represents up to 50% of Ateliers Louis Moinet’s turnover. With a few exceptions, these very rare pieces generally remain out of the media spotlight. “Only Mexico is a good example,” Jean-Marie Schaller notes. “It was a tourbillon with a high-level decorative finish, containing many comprehensively researched elements and symbols from Mexican history. I wanted it to be a one-off piece, just for the SIAR. I remember saying that tourbillons were a difficult sell, that they were pointless. And as it turned out, the watch sold within a few hours. People were telling me I should have made more!”
Only Mexico © Louis Moinet
And then there’s the Baselworld problem. “Part of our DNA has vanished. We’re very sad about it,” Jean-Marie Schaller continues. In the space of six months, the entire watch fair ecosystem has broken down. No more SIHH, no more Baselworld. The former will be replaced with Watches & Wonders. The latter... who knows. Between the two are the Geneva Watch Days. “We’ll be participating. In the short term, it’s still the best format for us to show our creations,” Jean-Marie Schaller confirms. Nevertheless, the CEO is still thinking about the ideal format for Ateliers Louis Moinet. “It’s tricky,” he admits. “On the one hand, a big international watch fair is the most practical option for clients, retailers and the press. On the other, prominent collectors are now looking for something else: a personalised approach, more time, additional services, and a personal relationship that lasts 12 months, not 12 minutes.”
Memoris Titanium © Louis Moinet
All options are on the table. At the age of 61, Jean-Marie Schaller, who built up Les Ateliers Louis Moinet from nothing, is taking the time to reflect on his company’s long-term future. In the meantime, collectors can look out for the brand’s (rare) new releases, such as the Spirit of Jules Verne. This dreamlike watch lights up at night, thanks to a new patented luminescent painting procedure. It’s a unique piece (of course).
Spirit of Jules Verne © Louis Moinet
Ateliers Louis Moinet was born out of the passion of one man, and this is clearly to be seen in each of its creations. The Maison takes the concept of exclusivity to its height, producing only limited editions.Find out more >
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