WatchTime - - Spotlight -

— 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.

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