A SOLUTION BASED ON CUSTOMER INSIGHTS
— Watchtime was able to sit down with Daniel Braillard, Chief Operating Officer at Baume & Mercier, and Alain Zimmermann, the brand’s former CEO and newly appointed Head of E-commerce at Richemont, during this year’s SIHH in Geneva to discuss the new range and the Baumatic BM12-1975A movement – the first commercial automatic movement from a Richemont brand to use both a silicon escapement and a silicon hairspring (a material that is anti-magnetic, three times lighter than alloys ordinarily used for hairsprings, resistant to corrosion and less sensitive to small impacts and repeated vibrations).
WT: Where did the idea for a new movement development originate?
DB: Everything we want to learn about the needs of our customers can be learned from the aftersales service. We have an international distribution, but we also have an international network for repairs. And based on all the repairs we do every year, the thousands of watches that we service and repair, we know exactly where the technical limits or weaknesses of our watches are. And for years and years and years, we have worked to improve the quality of our watches. We have done so for cases, dials, bracelets, clasps and everything else, but it was difficult [for us] with the movement, as we were working with external partners like ETA, Sellita and others. But several years ago, we were able to start a new development with our internal partners, the innovation team from Richemont and also Valfleurier, our internal manufacture team. So everything started from there, knowing what to do, thanks to the after-sales service, and with the specialized partner we wanted to work with, the internal innovation team and Valfleurier, our internal manufacturer.
WT: e Baumatic is resistant to magnetic fields up to 1,500 gauss. What can you tell us about the effect of a magnetic field on the movement of a mechanical watch?
DB: [Picking up a regular watch and some magnets, like the magnetic clasp of a mobile phone case.] Here we have a very good Baume & Mercier watch, but with what we call standard technology. And here [on the watch timing device] we can see that the watch is working correctly, based on the specifications, plus 5 seconds per day, more or less. But what can happen, as you can see here, is a direct contact with a magnet. Just 1 second of contact and it’s already plus 18 seconds per day.
Here you can find other magnets [in mobile phone cases, bags, etc.], which means it is far from impossible that your watch comes close to a magnet at some point [in your daily life]. And at first you won’t notice anything, but some of these magnets are even strong enough to stop the movement completely. You can see the second hand [here]; it doesn’t work anymore.
We have known for years that magnetism is a problem for movements, but we didn’t really understand where it came from. And so we have studied everything around us, and what we’ve observed is that it is this kind, exactly this kind, of things that bring problems. We need a magnet, a magnetic field, plus the possibility to have a direct contact [with the watch]. And when this happens, in fact, it’s exactly what you can see here with a normal hairspring. It’s [immediately] affected by the magnetic field of the magnet [until such time as it could be demagnetized]. And so the idea was to change that and to use an anti-magnetic hairspring, like the new one for the Baumatic, in silicon. And here, nothing happens. With the new Baumatic, when I put the watch in front of the same magnet, nothing happens. And this was exactly the idea: to define what is the right level, not to break records, but to solve a potential problem of our clients, nothing else than that.
And this really was the idea of the development; it was to define, where is the problem? Why? And how can we raise the right limits? And then we not only found solutions for magnetism, but also for accuracy, for the power reserve, for durability, and when I’m talking about durability, it’s the time between two service intervals of a watch. These really were the four benefits we had identified as being very important for the clients. AZ: It’s the solution-oriented approach. And, in fact, it’s what we should do more and more, the client-centric approach. And I think as long as we do that, we cannot be wrong, we cannot be wrong trying to please and make a client’s life better, be it functionally, be it from a comfort point of view or just be it what I call “hassle-free.” Daniel [Braillard] mentioned the after-sales service. When a watch comes back during warranty time, from a client’s perspective, one could say, “Well, I’m safe, because I won’t have to pay.” But from a client’s point of view, what we too often forget is [the client starting to think], “I’m sorry, but I think if something happened to me during warranty time, this brand has failed to deliver.” So somehow, my perception of the brand has been affected negatively. So we better look at it very seriously, and if you can really bring that to a solution, it’s a milestone.
WT: Speaking of after-sales service: looking at the industry, if there aren’t enough resources ready for the watches that are being sold, more time is required to repair a watch, and if a client has to wait six months or more for something to be repaired, this, too, can be a very frustrating experience.
AZ: Yes, you first have to send the watch back, etc., so it’s really where suddenly the so-called “client experience” starts, because selling a watch is one thing, but taking care of the watch after it was sold, wow, that’s really the client experience.
So everything was done exactly with that philosophy in mind, also for the power reserve, we said our target is three days. Why three days? Because normally, a watch has a power reserve of two days, the Baumatic has five days, and it was exactly the same approach. From a client’s perspective, do I need five days? Do I need three days? Do I need eight days? It’s interesting to ask the question. The target for us was three days. Why? Because in a standard situation, you are happy to wear such a dressed, elegant watch at work. And most people work from Monday to Friday. Then on Friday, you come home and you take your sporty watch off, because you want something more casual for the weekend.
We know that any of our [automatic] watches, after one and a half to two days, they usually stop [if not worn]. And even at the end, the quality of the power reserve is declining at a very high speed. So we said three days, because it has to last from Friday to Monday morning; that was the target. Thanks to the new tech, the Powerscape [escapement], the anchor and anchor wheel, the silicon on the hairspring and so on, suddenly, that was absolutely not foreseen, we saw the power reserve increasing from 72 to 80, to 90, to 110 hours and more. And here was a fantastic surprise, because then we said, “Wow, it means that at 120 isochronic, that’s the point where, as a client, you can use your watch however you want.” Even the other way around, that during the week you might not want to dress with such a beautiful watch, but just for the weekend. So from Sunday evening until Friday night, you also don’t have to set your watch.
But the target was three days, and suddenly we were at five days without having to compromise on the elegance on the watch, because normally the barrel is building up muscle. But we were so happy that, from a client’s point of view, whatever you do, Baumatic will be on your side.
WT: What about the accuracy and durability of the new movement?
AZ: Number three [on the list of target specifications] was clearly precision, but not precision at just one moment, but also along the whole power reserve. It’s not just going far, it’s going far and precise, because otherwise, all the efforts would be for nothing. And that’s number three, that in all the, let’s say, “power reserve time,” your watch will be precise.
Number four is what Daniel mentioned, and that’s the trickiest point: how do I explain a client that if you have spent two and a half thousand Swiss francs for a watch, that after three years, potentially 20 percent of the purchase has to be reinvested in the service? Let me make an analogy with a car. People get it, because the price of the service is proportionally very low to the value of the car. But with watches, some say, “Hey, nobody told me that I have to reinvest 400 euros, Swiss francs or dollars in service.” So now we have two options, to spend a lot of time and to explain to you why you have to do this. We even found a new
argument, somebody makes a cool calculation saying, “If the watch were a car, how many kilometers would it run? Nine million!” So we said, “Okay, let’s tell the client, after nine million kilometers, bring the watch back because ...” But we said, “No, no, no, no.” So we took it the other way and said, “We have to work on pushing back the date when we believe it’s time to bring it back.” And this is all about the oils and the lubricants. So here, new lubricants, new formulas, even one coming from another industry, the aerospace industry, and we are currently having the accelerated aging testing. And for three out of four [watches], we are far beyond five years. The last results will be available in November 2018, and I’m very, very confident that we will go between five and seven, and the target should be 10 [years]. And that’s a great statement for the client, because it means I don’t have to see you again before seven years. Hassle-free, hassle-free, hassle-free – but a lot of pleasure and comfort in terms of size, in terms of proportion.
And we could stop here, but we added two things, an enlarged date window, because in many, many watches, sorry, I don’t see the date anymore. And it’s not just because of my eyes, it’s just because the window is too small. And to make it really cool and functional, and that’s something we will play in the future, we just added the interchangeable strap system. We said, “Okay, let’s add this,” so that the famous client experience is smooth, enjoyable, maybe a bit of fun, but no pain and definitely no stress.
WT: What about the price?
AZ: Now the big question is, or was, for many of the dealers and journalists, “At what price?” And this is where I believe we managed to have a fantastic proposal, since the first price of the Baumatic will be at 2,590 [without COSC certificate], and then 2,790, and the two-tone will be 3,290. I think it’s a new standard. In fact, I would say if there’s only one watch you might own, it should be this one because it will provide as much pleasure and functionality as I believe the client can expect to get at a price that is fair. It’s still a lot of money for many people, but it’s fair.
WT: So in one sentence, how would you describe the Baumatic?
AZ: We said, you know, “Performance comes from inside.” But I think this is definitely the watch for tomorrow.
WT: What led to the decision not to have luminous material on the dial?
AZ: It was purely aesthetic. It’s a fair point, and I don’t think it will be a big issue to add it.
WT: What’s next for the Baumatic?
AZ: What I can tell you is that this caliber is an amazing base for so many options. Because if you managed to have such slim proportions and a power reserve of five days, imagine adding a moonphase, a complete calendar or GMT or a powerreserve indicator, which makes sense if you want to dive a bit more into, let’s say, the next level; it will still remain very nice proportions. This size could even eventually fit a 36 [mm] ladies’ watch. Because a woman, by putting her hands or wrist into a handbag with a magnetic lock, her watch is equally affected by magnetism. So it opens up a totally new generation of potential options, which I believe are the ones matching the expectations of the clients. It’s maybe the new normal watch; in one sense, the new normal watch. —
The in-house movement BM12-1975A is the result of a collaboration with the Valfleurier Manufacture and the R&D team at Richemont; it is visible through the caseback.
The disassembled BM12-1975A; the movement offers five days of power reserve with a single barrel containing a longer mainspring made from Nivaflex Plus.