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Raymond Weil - Elie Bernheim’s top pop picks

Raymond Weil Elie Bernheim’s top pop picks

Raymond Weil’s CEO explains the birth of the brand’s first-ever in-house movement and talks about the brand’s latest musical partnerships.

Had the first in-house Raymond Weil movement been on the cards for some time?
Yes, because I often heard criticism that we were not able to develop our own movement. At the same time, other brands were presenting movements as in-house which had simply had one small component modified. So it was important for me to develop an in-house movement at Raymond Weil. But I also wanted to be honest in our approach. We conceived and designed the movement in-house, but we are not a “manufacture”, so we outsource its production to Sellita, with whom we have been working for 30 years. They don’t normally do this but they agreed to produce it exclusively for us and thus the new calibre 1212 was born.

It was also important for us to show that, in a relatively complicated business environment, we could use a simple business model, avoiding major risks, to produce a watch with an in-house movement and offer it for sale at just 1,895 Swiss francs.

Elie Bernheim’s top pop picks

The world of music has always been at the heart of the brand. Tell us more about your latest partnerships.
I think Raymond Weil has a genuine legitimacy in this field and it is something I want to develop. My father concentrated more on classical music and even though I love classical music, I wanted to develop things further to reach a wider audience. Raymond Weil is a multi-generational brand and we need products that appeal to all kinds of people in our price range from 500 to 3,000 Swiss francs. 

That’s why I wanted to have partnerships that appeal to everyone. Just as everyone has heard of the Beatles, most people who are into pop and rock music will be familiar with Gibson guitars. The Les Paul model is the most famous of all the Gibson guitars and we therefore decided to launch a model dedicated to this iconic guitar, which is the most expensive model we are presenting at Baselworld this year, at 3,200 Swiss francs.

Freelancer Gibson Les Paul watch


We also have a second edition in the Beatles collection. It’s an important partnership for us and it was equally important for me to show that it is not just a one-shot deal and that we were in it for the long term. The first edition sold out very quickly and this second edition, which is limited to 3,000, has a creative element that I like, which is the reproduction of a vinyl record motif on the dial. On the first edition we had the titles of the Beatles albums around the dial with the album “Help!” spelled out in semaphore by the Fab Four at 4 o’clock. On this new edition we have a similar tribute to the band, using the image from Abbey Road with the silhouettes of the band members.

You are also presenting a new “Bowie” watch and thus another big partnership. How did this come about?
We wanted to come out with another extraordinary story that touches different generations and what better way to do this than with a David Bowie watch? David Bowie represents the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s, but at the same time his last album came out last year and he won five Grammy awards just two months ago, so he is also totally contemporary. We partnered with the Bowie foundation but finding a creative idea that encapsulates David Bowie was very difficult, because he was so multi-facetted. We worked together with the foundation on this and decided that the flash of lightning on David Bowie’s face on the cover of his 1973 album Aladdin Sane was a key graphic element. We also took the logo that was designed by Andy Warhol and first featured on the cover of the 1974 album Diamond Dogs. The black dial has a vinyl record motif and the case back features a photo of David Bowie by the renowned photographer Terry O’Neill, which was kindly made available by the foundation and will be used in our promotional campaign for this watch. It was taken in 1976, which is coincidentally the year in which Raymond Weil was founded.

Freelancer David Bowie watch


Did the partnership with the Beatles help you to find new musical associations?
Definitely. It has opened doors. For example, we created the Buddy Holly watch at the request of a foundation that holds the rights to his name. It features his signature spectacles as the counterweight to the seconds hand, his favourite light blue colour and his lucky number 9. What is interesting is that the more we create such pieces, the more we get approached by other musicians and foundations. This is where things start to get interesting as we see our legitimacy in the world of music confirmed.

Maestro Buddy Holly watch

What kind of person buys these limited-editions watches?
I would say a good 60% of the people who buy the Beatles watch are absolute Beatles fans. The rest are loyal Raymond Weil fans. For the Bowie watch, on the very first day of Baselworld we had 300 requests to buy the watch. These are from serious Bowie fanatics. What is even more interesting is that out of these 300 requests, 250 wanted to know where they could buy the watch online. This means that people’s mentality is changing very quickly and we will soon find ourselves in a totally new paradigm as far as distribution is concerned. 

Given the number of serious music fans we have expressing an interest in such watches, I think we will also have to consider starting pre-orders. The Bowie watch, for example, will not be available on the market until September this year and I think that the kind of buyer who is interested in this kind of timepiece would be happy to pay the 1,595 Swiss francs in advance to secure the watch. 

How do you see these musical partnerships developing?
We already have a big name ready for next year that will cause a stir, plus another artist who has contacted us directly. Just as someone may sit and admire their own record collection, these partnerships are becoming a kind of collection for us and, even though these limited editions only represent about 5% of my sales, they help to sell the other Raymond Weil watches, too.

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