GREAT EXPECTATIONS: HERE COMES FABERGÉ
Fabergé’s 2015 watch collections, and its sortie into the creation of its very own movement. Whilst technical specs for the collections are under wraps at the time of writing – with the big reveal due at Baselworld – Robert Benvenuto was happy to discuss the brand’s wider aspirations to Plaza Watch.
According to Benvenuto , Fabergé is at the first stage of a far-reaching strategy to play on the brand’s artisan history, whilst asserting its contemporary credentials. Though it may be viewed as something of a newcomer in the horology field, it has in fact longstanding associations with the industry in its Swiss heartlands, he says.
“It is in the Fabergé tradition to always work with the best workmasters in every area, from enamellers to gem-setters and stone-carvers. Fabergé was also renowned for his ingenious automatons and other innovative creations utilising pioneering techniques. A particular example was a watch which, through an ingenious mechanism developed by Paul Ditisheim of La Chaux-deFonds, was wound by turning one half of the sphere against the other,” he says. “Historically, the name Fabergé is not only associated with jewellery, but also with unique design and engineering techniques that we have developed and used in our jewellery and objets. This history in surprise, exactitude, discovery and technical expertise is undoubtedly a help within the watch industry" says Benvenuto.
“Today, Fabergé continues this tradition by partnering with some of the leading and most talented watchmakers in the world. Fabergé has collaborated with Jean-Marc Wiederrecht of Agenhor to create its new Ladie’s High Complication timepieces, incorporating an unusual and artistic movement inspired by nature; and with Giulio Papi of APRP to create its new Men’s High Complication timepieces, incorporating a Flying Tourbillon. Both collections, highly sophisticated and luxurious, are available in limited editions of only 15 or 30 pieces, and reveal unexpected surprises through their complications,” he says. “Also key to the Fabergé design DNA is injecting character, wit and surprise in Fabergé creations through its unusual layering of materials and techniques.”
Fabergé describes its watches as ‘Swiss Made’ and having a Swiss centre of operations for its watchmaking, but a number of strategic partnerships contribute to its creations. The delicate guilloche enamelling that forms its signature decorative motif is sourced in Germany, whilst naturally its ownership by Gemfields means it is has unrivalled access to the company’s supplies of ethically-sourced Zambian emeralds, amethysts and Mozambican rubies.
Though in the fickle world of luxury there is no guarantee of success. In its 2013 annual report, Gemfields said that, since its acquisition, Fabergé had contributed $4.2 million to group revenue and $6.9 million to group losses. In an interview with Reuters in November 2014, Gemfields CEO Ian Harebottle stated that Fabergé’s continuing negative balance sheet is due to the steep spike in the price of gems since they bought the company – the acquisition had been intended to boost demand for coloured gems due to Fabergé’s historical renown with the stones. He also revealed a two-year strategy to grow the brand, expecting that to be the period necessary to stop the losses. Stage one of the plan will see Fabergé increase its current number of stores from five to around twelve or 15.
After A nigh on hundred-year hiatus it seems only natural that Fabergé has some initial growing pains. The mentality of the company, as Benvenuto commented to the Financial Times last year, is actually that of a start-up, though one with the weight of Faberge’s incredible history behind it. It’s the kind of pedigree that inevitably lends itself to expectations of greatness.
Benvenuto stands firm on his aspirations. “Our plans are to wow the world with our exquisite designs and to continue to further establish our position as the only ‘Artist Jeweller’. Watches will become an increasingly important part of the Fabergé product offering, along with jewellery, objets d’art and private commissions.
“We are planning to continue to expand in key cities in the USA, Europe and the Middle East through standalone boutiques and high-end multibrand retailers to make our pieces accessible to new markets and to a new generation, pieces that will be collected as the much-prized antiques of the future.
“Our clients are some of the world’s most sophisticated and discerning collectors. Our fine jewellery appeals to a younger generation of jewellery buyers and wearers searching for emotionally charged jewels that are wearable, contemporary, relevant, young and witty, and layered with meaningful cultural and historical references. We hope that our new watches will strengthen our position as a serious player in the watch world for collectors and discerning watch lovers.”
“It is in the Fabergé tradition to always work with the best work masters in every area.”
FABERGÉ SECRET GARDEN EARRINGS.