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2013 August 6

From The Daily Summer: Baume & Mercier~ology

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(NEW YORK) Looking for a luxury timepiece that doesn’t require a second mortgage? Baume & Mercier has been making Swiss watches for 183 years and counting, holds court alongside Richemont’s roster of ultra pricey brands like Vacheron-Constantin and Piaget, and has watches starting at just under $2,000. North American brand president Rudy Chavez tells us what makes them tick. 

Your big launch this year was the Clifton watch based on a 1950’s archive timepiece.  How has it been received?
The reception was extremely positive. We launched it in January and we started delivering it in mid-April. Now, we have results. One thing is to have a positive reaction and another thing is to have a positive reaction and results. The results have been beyond phenomenal. In my 15 years with the brand, it is the collection that has shown immediate success the quickest. Sometimes it takes 6 months, but this was literally from day one.

So, updated versions of vintage pieces are popular?
It is something that we do more and more of. I think we just hit it right in terms of the timeless design. The Clifton collection embodies everything that Baume & Mercier is known for, which is classic design, value, refinement, quality in the details.

Speaking of value, Baume & Mercier has the best prices in the Richemont portfolio of watch brands. How do you maintain such good quality for the price?
Our positioning as a brand is that of affordable luxury; beautifully made luxury timepieces with a history. If you look at all the brands that have a true heritage dating back 150 to 200 years, we are the seventh oldest watch brand so we really have the know-how. We were founded in 1830 and we have had a continuous history since then. All of the other brands that have such a heritage are very, very expensive.

What is the lowest and highest price point of watches you sell?
Our entry today is $1,750 and $19,900 is the most expensive.

What does $19,900 get you?
Our world timer, but then we also make an 18-karat gold chronograph Capeland. The flyback chronograph is priced in the same range.

Do you have any fun stories from clients about their first Baume & Mercier?
The one that I always remember is when I was at a store in Westchester visiting the owners and a woman came in to pick up a Baume & Mercier for her third son. She had four sons. The third one was graduating from college and she was purchasing a Baume & Mercier for him. He was the third son to receive one as a graduation gift. She said she loved the brand and when her fourth son graduates, he will also receive one. All four will be wearing Baume & Mercier. It was really cool to be a part of that.

The brand did a big campaign in the Hamptons in 2011. Where was it shot?
It was shot at the Kennedy house in Wainscott and the campaign was shot in and around the house. Part of it was shot inside the home and the other part was shot outside on the beach right by the house.

Why did the brand choose to shoot a campaign in the Hamptons?
Well our motto is “life is about moments” and so many of the moments that we share with our loved ones are at the beach or by the sea and the Hamptons are world renowned. It’s a very relaxing place and a place of beauty. It is a special place where a lot of New Yorkers and people from around the world go to enjoy quality down time with their loved ones.

How long has the Hampton watch been around?
The Hampton collection was introduced in 1994 so it is one of the iconic collections within Baume & Mercier and it was updated three years ago and we are continuing to refine it. Last year, we introduced a couple of smaller sizes in the Hampton ladies and this year we introduced an 18-karat gold and steel version as well in the smaller size.

Why was it called the Hampton?
A lot of the iconic names of our brand are seaside resorts—Capeland, Riviera, Malibu, and also Hampton.

What is your most popular men’s watch?
The Clifton is quickly becoming the most popular, but the Classima also continues to do well. It has been the bedrock of the brand for the past 6 years, but the Clifton is on fire.

What is your most popular women’s watch?
The Linea because women can wear it from day to evening and have a lot of fun accessorizing it with different colored straps. You can literally change the straps at your bedside in the morning. The other one is the Hampton, especially with the addition of the smaller sizes. A woman can purchase the larger size if she wants a statement timepiece or she can go with a smaller more understated one.

Are there clients who buy at a higher price level, but buy Baume & Mercier as an everyday timepiece?
When we’ve done watch shows in the Spring, right after the collection launched we would be in the store and we have found there are many customers that own a portfolio of very good watches. They come in and they like Baume & Mercier and timepieces like the Clifton, because they are understated. It becomes their classic timepiece and they might own 8 or 10 watches from other high-end brands.

PLUS! An recap of Baume & Mercier's history...
The Baume family opens shop in the village of Les Bois in the Swiss Jura region. Eventually the company would become known as Frères Baume and run by brothers, Louis-Victor Baume and Joseph-Célestin Baume.

1869: Louis-Victor gifts his daughter Mélina an elaborate floral decorated pocket watch in honor of her first communion. The event becomes the basis for the brand’s current campaign whose slogan is “life is about moments”.

1876: The second generation takes over and is run again by another set of brothers. Sons of Louis-Victor, Alcide Baume and Arthur Baume grow the company internationally, setting up branches in London, Geneva, and Philadelphia.

1878-1895: The brand gains further international recognition as it competes in fairs and exhibitions in Paris, Melbourne, Zurich, Amsterdam, London and Chicago, winning ten Grand Prix awards and seven gold medals for watchmaking.

1918: As World War I came to an end and wrist watches began to replace pocket watches, third generation family member and son of Alcide Baume, William Baume takes over the company and joins forces with businessman Paul Mercier to create Baume & Mercier. Baume was to handle technical specifications, while Mercier handled design and commerce.

1919: Only a year later, the brand was awarded the Poinçon de Genève, which is to date the most prestigious award for fine watchmaking in the industry.

1924: Baume & Mercier appears in the Davoine official watch industry directory in the company of only three other brands including: Patek Philippe, Vacheron-Constantin, and Haas Neveux.

1935-1937: William Baume withdraws from the company for health reasons and Paul Mercier sells his shares to well-known Northern Italian jewelers, the Ponti family. 

1952: The brand acquires the C.H. Meylan factory in Le Brassus located in the Joux Valley of Switzerland, known for its manufacturing of chronographs.

1964: In a newfound branding effort the company adopts the Greek symbol PHI, which mathematically stands for the “golden section” or perfect proportions, as its brand emblem.

1971: The Tronsonic watch is introduced. Its new electronic tuning-fork was to be a forerunner of quartz.

1988: Baume & Mercier is acquired by luxury goods conglomerate, Richemont, alongside Piaget.

2002: The maison opens its own workshops in Les Brenets in the Swiss Jura to become more autonomous.

2013: At Richemont’s watch fair, SIHH, in January the brand launches the Clifton collection for men, which is inspired by archival pieces from the '50s. ‘

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