Once Upon A Time Taking their first steps...
Watchmakers like their secrets, but some of them are happy to open up. How did they take their first steps? WorldTempus popped the question to five brands.
For Christophe Musy, it was all because of his father-in-law. “I’m not a watchmaker by training. I’m a polytechnician. But Eric Mauron, my father-in-law, was a subcontractor for a number of watch brands,” Christophe Musy explains. “One day I went to see him about having some watches made for the family. And that’s what started it all off.”
Launching a new watch brand is not for the faint-hearted. Many watch companies, including Breguet, started out with a subscription model, and that still goes on today. The usual funding rounds take place with private and public investors and the independently wealthy; alternatively, friends and family may be persuaded to put in some ‘love money’. And let’s not forget crowdfunding.
90 days to make a watch
For Mauron Musy, the initial impulse came from the idea of making a few watches for friends and family. A movement was selected (Eterna) and the design began to take shape. “We asked ourselves what we could add to make it more distinctive,” Christophe Musy recalls. “As we are experts in gasketless sealing technology, we decided that would be a good thing to include. But the project earned the notice of the Plate-Forme pour l’Innovation (Platinn) in Fribourg, and everything took off.”
MU04 © Mauron Musy
In very short order, Mauron Musy was catapulted to Baselworld. “We had 90 days to come up with a design,” Christophe Musy notes. The first MU03 was presented before the brand had any stock, or even a single piece available for sale. But almost 100 were sold in the first year. Today, sales stand at triple that figure, and the aim is eventually to reach 600 pieces per year.
Trilobe, the Swiss French Touch
“What can you find for less than 10,000 euros that’s truly original, high-quality, with an in-house movement? Nothing.” For Gautier Massonneau, founder of Trilobe, the situation was clear. The brand he was about to launch had to own this segment that he believed to be empty, by adding a touch of soul: customisation.
The tricky part would be finding the ideal client. It’s good to have a carefully thought-out price point, but you also need a small army of collectors to buy your watch. That’s where Trilobe came up with a daring approach: Trilobe would be aimed at first-time buyers. It was a bold move, given that it can’t be easy to find non-collectors who are happy to invest nearly 8,000 euros in a completely unknown watch brand, with no guaranteed future, deploying an utterly unconventional aesthetic.
Matinaux Secrets © Trilobe
“If we listened to what everyone said, we wouldn’t even be here!” laughs Gautier Massonneau. Because his bold vision appears to have paid off. Many of Trilobe’s clients have never bought a single mechanical watch in their lives, before now. A stockbroker, a postwoman, a shop manager: these are all atypical client profiles, for a decidedly atypical watch. The cherry on the cake is that, thanks to the possibility of customising the stellar dial, the watch is a good fit for unique family occasions such as weddings and births. “A watch that tells the story of Paul Newman or the conquest of space is great. But a watch that tells your story, that’s even better.” Enough said.
Cyrus, bucking the trend
In the beginning... was a watchmaking legend based on Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian empire, shepherded by Laurent Lecamp. The brand launch was bold, based on original design codes, creative display concepts and XXL format timepieces. Cyrus certainly didn’t do anything by halves. Unfortunately, the original idea failed to hit its mark. The brand changed hands, was managed for a time by Ruben Mira-Blanco, before being guided along a new track by the current CEO, Walter Ribaga. A lone survivor has provided continuity throughout all the upheavals: Jean-François Mojon.
Klepcys © Cyrus
The movement maker, creator of Chronode and of countless watches (for MCT, Harry Winston, Hermès, HYT, MB&F, etc.) has been with Cyrus from the very beginning. Indeed, the two entities have concluded a number of commercial contracts. Mojon is the mechanical brains behind the brand, and has a hand in every piece made by Cyrus, including the latest Vertical Tourbillon. It’s a unique case of a brand that relies almost entirely on an independent movement maker, and has done from the very start.
Sequent: hybrid horology
For anyone hoping to launch a new brand, there’s no avoiding crowdfunding. The most well-known platform is Kickstarter, and the latest startup in the Swiss watch ecosystem to use it is called Sequent. The brand has created something completely new from two pre-existing concepts: a smartwatch and an oscillating weight. The result is the first smartwatch that is charged by the motion of the wrist.
Supercharger² © Sequent
In 2017 the SuperCharger1 was born, complete with its own mobile app. It was equipped with the first automatic winding smartwatch movement. This development was made possible with the commitment of private investors, but also, and above all, the support of 4000 members of the public, who signed up for the Kickstarter campaign over the course of just a few weeks. A total of 1.2 million francs was raised – far beyond expectations. Crowdfunding, this more flexible contemporary take on the subscription model, has succeeded in producing one of the finest horological UFOs of recent years.
Genus, the ingénue
“The complication had been designed but not built.” This is an elegant way for Genus COO Catherine Henry to explain that the young brand, born in 2019, is taking things step by step. The steps started off quite small, but were followed by a rather major leap forward when the GNS 1.2 won the Mechanical Exception prize at the GPHG.
GNS1.2 TD © Genus
Genus’s modest “human” scale ensures the brand can remain agile. Sébastien Billières and Catherine Henry, both forty-something entrepreneurs, run everything themselves. The former is a watchmaker (he trained with Roger Dubuis, Felix Baumgartner and Svend Andersen) who subsequently launched his own contracting company. The latter has experience in finance, major groups and teaching. Patents have been registered and, following three years in development, a few units have been produced, commissioned directly by collectors and priced around the CHF 150,000 mark. “Genus is a small startup, which enables us to react very quickly to changes in the economic situation – something that at the moment seems to be happening every day,” confides Catherine Henry. Staying small – could that be the secret to becoming big? Urwerk, MB&F, Kari Voutilainen and Ressence prove it daily. It remains to be seen if Genus will follow their example.
Above all, Cyrus sees itself as a non-conventional firm. With a very distinctive style and a number of patented functions, the Firm is committed to proving that fine watchmaking can be innovative...Find out more >
GENUS, a singularity of time. Pushing back the limits of watch display, the brand has established its own watchmaking ethos. It resides upon on the experience of its Master Watchmaker, author of an...Find out more >
Mauron Musy is an independent and family-owned brand established in Switzerland’s Broye Valley, with a DNA steeped in industrial design and mechanical technology. With its philosophy based on both...Find out more >
Sequent has revolutionised the smartwatch world by creating the first models that can be recharged using the natural movement of the wrist. Borrowing the principle of a winding rotor from...Find out more >
An audacious idea born out of a desire to break from the traditional watchmaking codes. A new way of reading time. Poetry on the wrist, an intimate link to time. Trilobe is all of those things, and...Find out more >