— Our editor-in-chief spoke with Elie Bernheim, CEO of Raymond Weil, at Baselworld about the brand’s 40th anniversary and its new blockbuster partnership with The Beatles.
Could there have been any better way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Raymond Weil than with the partnership with The Beatles?
No, not really! We did think carefully about whether we actually wanted to celebrate this anniversary. A lot of established brands, many of whom are our neighbours in Geneva, have over a century of history. So for us to talk about 40 years of history seemed a little presumptuous, even if we are extremely proud of it. Instead we decided to look for one of the best possible music partnerships that we could find.
What is so special about this partnership in your view?
Firstly, The Beatles is a group that appeals to everyone. Even my five year-old son knows their songs, my parents listened to them and so do I. We design our products for a very broad audience, so this partnership is perfect for us. This was also one of the decisive factors for Apple Corp: the fact that we represent traditional Swiss replica watchmaking but at an affordable price.
You also announced a partnership with Universal Music just before Baselworld. What are your plans for this partnership?
This partnership with one of the world’s leading music agencies offers us a number of possibilities to work with musicians or provide a music platform for example on a website. The Internet is the number one means of communication today yet you hardly ever hear music on a website. Universal Music are actually developing a platform just for us. We will be able to offer a number of benefits to our customers, from playlists to exclusive concert videos.
Raymond Weil was launched in the midst of the quartz crisis and is still going strong. Is this a lesson for people who are currently worried about a crisis in the watch industry?
The brand wasn’t just launched in the middle of the quartz crisis, it was launched out of nothing! My grandfather started from scratch without any huge capital investment. He told me that at his first Baselworld he came with my grandmother and they had a table, two chairs and an attaché case with the copy watches for sale. That was in 1976. Forty years later we are still an independent, family-owned company. Yes, times are difficult at the moment, but we are still here, we are profitable and we can get through these difficult times.
Do you see any threat from smart watches?
At Baselworld last year almost every journalist was asking me about smart watches and whether they would kill off the Swiss watch industry. It was understandable because it was the big subject of the moment. But as I said then we could see some level of complementarity between the smart watch and the traditional Swiss mechanical watch and the past year has shown that the two products are targeting different customers. I think the strengthening of the Swiss Made label next year will help the Swiss watch industry even more.
But given your musical partnerships, surely there is some scope for a connected watch in this field?
Well, it’s too early to talk about things in detail but I think it’s import to keep a long-term vision. Our partnership with Universal Music has led us to look more closely at how we could incorporate the universe of music into our products.
What are the other highlights from Raymond Weil this year?
The new Shine collection for ladies is very important for us. It was first launched in 2005 but we are now relaunching it after an absence of a few years in a new 32mm diameter round case with a patented interchangeable strap and different dial and gem-setting variations. Later this year we will also be presenting a new Freelancer chronograph under the partnership with Universal Music and a new diver’s watch with a ceramic bezel with which we will be targeting a younger clientele.