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From Adolescence to Adulthood  - Lobster syndrome

From Adolescence to Adulthood Lobster syndrome

Older than 10, but younger than 20. It’s a wonderful age to be a human, but a risky time for a watch brand. Let’s take a closer look at some of these watchmakers that are well-established, but still young

During adolescence, a lobster sheds its original shell and makes itself a new, stronger adult shell. But this underwater metamorphosis is very risky: during the transition period the lobster is extremely vulnerable. “Lobster syndrome” is a term used in psychology to describe this difficult period, when adolescents find themselves between two worlds. They’re no longer really a child, but also not yet an adult.

Kerbedanz, Schwarz Etienne, Meccaniche Veloci and Cyrus are examples of brands launched less than 20 years ago, which now find themselves in this in-between stage.

“These years have been intense,” confirms Mauro Egermini, CEO of Schwarz Etienne. “The brand was relaunched around the concept of timepieces in 2015, but it has been in existence without interruption since 1902.” (The brand belonged to the Schwarz family until they sold it in 2012.)

Betting everything on a watchmaking identity

Rather than going for the easy path, Schwarz Etienne chose watchmaking’s north face. Its timepieces are distinctive, with a strong identity. “We’ve had some intense years, mainly focused on developing movements, collections or limited editions (single pieces or box sets).” The brand doesn’t target the general public, which would seem to be an obvious choice, focusing instead on established collectors. This presents two challenges: first, the pool is far smaller; and second, collectors are often cautious investors who prefer established brands. “There’s a long road, in terms of human and financial investment, to develop awareness of the brand,” Mauro Egermini confirms.

Lobster syndrome

Roma Synergy © Schwarz Etienne

Prince of Persia

It’s a similar road to the one Cyrus travelled. After it was launched by the Lecamp brothers, one of whom now presides over Montblanc’s watchmaking destiny, the brand differentiated itself with an unusual narrative built around the eponymous King of Persia, Cyrus the Great.

The watches are massive, powerful and with a strong presence on the wrist. Some, such as the Kambys and Klepcys, are still in stock. But Walter Ribaga, the current CEO, has taken a different path: au revoir King of Persia, bonjour to the king of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Jean-François Mojon. The master movement maker has brought his own outfit, Chronode, along on the Cyrus adventure. He’s developing more ambitious timepieces, such as the famous vertical tourbillon which is on its way to becoming the brand’s standard-bearer. Here, too, it’s all about strengthening the brand’s watchmaking credentials.

Le complexe du homard

Klepcys © Cyrus

Forza Italia

Meccaniche Veloci has a different focus. In its bid to reach adulthood, the brand is keeping the same product, but increasing its added value and its price. “No one needed another new entry level brand,” explains Cesare Cerrito, who took over as CEO in 2015. “The top five watchmakers have built a marketing presence, and the watches come after. For independents, it’s the opposite. Everything starts with the product. We don’t want to become a mass-market brand. We want to offer something different. We’re focusing on manufacture movements, and our average price has risen from 3,000 francs to 10,000.”

Le complexe du homard

Icon Damascus Limited edition © Meccaniche Veloci

Looking ahead

As they look beyond their 20th year, these brands must continue to differentiate themselves. Mauro Egermini predicts that communication strategies will be “increasingly focused on digital.” But when it comes to their primary focus, the watchmakers’ paths diverge. Schwarz Etienne is turning “back to a more classic, less polarising design,” according to the brand. Meccaniche Veloci will be “developing new complications and focusing more on small, limited series, rather than on collections.”

Kerbedanz hopes to expand outside its current market. “Our approach was extremely niche, focused on small limited series. We will be opening up considerably. It’s a radical change of positioning. Our average price was 35,000 francs, and it’s going down to 6,000 francs. Our diameters were between 42 and 51mm. Now they’ll be from 36 to 41mm. We will be working with Vaucher, and we’ll also be developing our own in-house calibres, complemented by a whole range of writing instruments, leather goods, jewellery and possibly perfumes,” explains CEO Guillain Maspétiol. A model very reminiscent of Montblanc, in fact – a similarity that won’t be lost on the founders of Cyrus! 

Lobster syndrome

Cadanz © Kerbedanz

We wish these watchmakers the same success as Rolex.


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