In conversation with Alain Zimmermann, CEO of Baume & Mercier (exclusive interview)

How would you define luxury nowadays?

Clients are playing a very important role in the luxury world recently and what they expect from luxury goods has changed greatly. They are now more interested in the emotional aspect rather than simply the material side, seeking luxury that embodies those precious moments in life. Baume & Mercier watches fulfill this need, presenting the virtues of quality, excitement, design and excellent customer service.

Creativity and innovation are an integral part of the DNA of your brand. How do you manage to stay relevant and desirable to your customers?

To further enrich our brand and appeal to a clientele that is increasingly seeking authentic products that also appeal emotionally, we are collaborating with strong and iconic partners. For the past three years we have partnered with Shelby, and recently have undertaken a partnership with Indian Motorcycles. While continuing to self-evaluate and strive to meet our clients ever changing needs and expectations, we are committed to remaining loyal to our core values. Baume & Mercier continue to offer high quality Swiss-made products at an affordable price, as represented by our new Clifton Baumatic collection, with its timeless design and considerable advantages for our clients. What could be more desirable?

How have you been able to maintain exclusivity?

Our retail network is highly selective, accepting only the best partners for our brand. While looking for new partners we are always reminded of the need to be discerning by our motto: “Accept only perfection. Only manufacture watches of the highest quality.”

What is the profile of your consumer?

Our clientele includes both men and women, echoing our balanced offer of both feminine and masculine designs. We do not identify our clients by age, as they all have the same affinity for timeless design and thus our pieces appeal to all generations. This includes the younger clientele who may be seeking their first refined watch, with the My Classima collection embodying the idea of quality and timeless design at a fair price.

What is the inspiration behind the story of each timepiece you create?

Our collections are inspired by our rich history, which gives a strong identity to our watches. Yet, we intertwine this with a contemporary look, such as in the Hampton collection, which is very much inspired by the Art Deco era, with a modern twist.

To what extent your creations are about emotions and about the surprise factor?

A watch is much more than the object is represents, but is rather the witness of our emotions. It becomes unique and irreplaceable. Indeed, many of our clients request a personal engraving on their timepiece, and being gifted one of our watches is a most beautiful surprise.

Is there a timeless factor when it comes to design? Tell us more.

Baume & Mercier watches have a timeless signature and design, yet we are always developing and innovating through contemporary design choices through the shape, the size, and the use of unexpected materials such as the Banka leather used for our Petite Promesse straps, which brings a modern allure to these timepieces.

Which do you still consider as unsurpassed challenges in mechanical watchmaking?

Our challenge for the past 188 years has been to seduce a constantly evolving clientele, who are seeking meaningful novelties at a fair price. With our Clifton Baumatic, we are meeting these expectations by providing four key benefits at an accessible price

  1. A self-winding movement with a 120 hour power reserve.
  2. The use of silicon for the hairspring and escape wheel presents a relatively high level of accuracy and resistance to magnetism.
  3. Able to tolerate a field strength of at least 1500 gauss.
  4. The movement has been tested for up to ten years of service interval, which is double the usual industry standard.

This innovation is our response to the challenge of planned obsolescence, and are proof that mechanical watches still have a bright future.

What are the most efficient marketing tools for a brand such as yours today?

Ensuring our clients happiness and satisfaction is what matters most at Baume & Mercier, far more so than any “marketing tools.” The excellent quality we offer, coupled with a professional service through our retail network, is at the core of our ability to achieve this. The client experience is now omnichannel and we need to ensure that all our actions are coherent, whether this is at the point of sale, on our digital platforms, or elsewhere.

Tell us about your recent participation at SIHH 2018

We will further seek to encompass both innovation and emotion into our products for our clients seeking experiences as well as physical goods. For emotion, this will be achieved through our new partnership with Indian Motorcycle and our tribute watches. The highlight is the Burt Munro piece which pays homage to Indian Motorcycles and to the famous racer Burt Munro by syphoning the classic Indian red into the core design. As for innovation, this is represented in the Clifton Baumatic and its innovative technologies including a 5 day power reserve, silicon springs that improve magnetism tolerance also accuracy, and escapement optimization that vastly extends the period between services, all at the competitive price of £2290.

Alain Zimmermann has been the CEO of Baume & Mercier since 2009. Previously he held the position of CMO at another Richemont brand, IWC.

Oliver Petcu