Fairfax & Roberts Introduces three Swiss atelier watch brands
It would be easy to be dazzled by Baselworld – the annual showcase where watchmakers have their chance to present their timepieces to the world. The big brands are there of course, with booths to match their reputations – impressive and easily identifiable. But dig a little deeper and one can unearth the true gems of this watch-loving wonderland – little-known watch brands that appeal to those who appreciate that true luxury can often be a whisper not a shout.
These are the watch brands that luxury jeweller Fairfax & Roberts discovered when they visited Baselworld this year with the sole aim of forming relationships with watch brands that currently have no exposure in Australia and that they knew would appeal to their customers. “We specialise in bespoke luxury,” says Fairfax & Roberts CEO Georgina Brujic, “and we know that our customers enjoying wearing something they’re not going to see on the person sitting opposite them in the next meeting they attend. We wanted to talk to brands who focused on true connoisseurs – not just people who like watches. These brands may not be well known by the general population, or have celebrity ambassadors, but amongst those who appreciate fine watches, they are considered very highly.”
Producing a very limited number of watches each year (just 250 to 300), Swiss brand Schwarz Etienne will launch with Fairfax & Roberts at the end of June and is one of the few companies to own every part of the supply chain as it manufactures all its own movements and components as well as the finely crafted cases. “It was this unique aspect that really drew us to Schwarz Etienne,” says Brujic of the watches, which retail between $12,000 and $124,000. “Besides the in-house movements, we have a state of mind in proposing products that are different with a touch of craziness,” says Schwarz Etienne’s Chantal Graff. “We enjoy being able to share that with our clientele. As far as the pure connoisseur – who owns a good number of timepieces – is concerned, they are looking for something aesthetically different and playful within the traditional watchmaking category.”
This foray into lesser-known brands is no idle folly for Fairfax & Roberts – who got their start in the jewellery business 160 years as watchmakers themselves – rather it is a carefully considered strategy to introduce connoisseurs to these watches on a limited basis. “Each brand will only be available in Australia for six months,” says Brujic. “And considering their already limited production runs, these are not going to be watch brands you’ll be seeing on everyone else’s wrists.”
Of the luxury of scarcity, Pierre DuBois of Swiss brand Pierre DeRoche, launching with Fairfax & Roberts in August, says, “We do not want to produce thousands of watches per year, we want to keep it confidential and very hard to find. We do not want our customer seeing their watch on everybody’s wrist, which is the reason why most of our models are limited.” Pierre DeRoche was founded in 2004 by Pierre and wife Carole. Pierre is a fourth generation watchmaker who learnt his craft in his family’s atelier where they developed and produced horological complications for many of the most well-known Swiss brands.
Mechanically, Pierre DeRoche creates complications that are unique in the world, aesthetically, their watches – retailing between $20,000 and $200,000 – cover a broad spectrum – from delicate, gem-encrusted pieces to robust, military-inspired watches. “The diversity of the Pierre DeRoche range is exciting,” says Brujic. “Not only will it appeal to those wanting a beautiful style statement, but also to those connoisseurs who appreciate the ingenuity and effort that has gone into creating one of these pieces. We know that our customers don’t need to purchase a watch, so we need to ensure that the watches they do purchase do far more for their owners than just tell the time. They are really signalling something about their wearer to the world.”
“We believe there is a big potential in Australia,” says DuBois. We try to work with partners who share the same vision of the luxury business – offering customers products which are unique, offering the best of our industries and exceeding our customers’ expectations in terms of design and quality. Fairfax & Roberts also have an important heritage not only in jewellery, but also in watchmaking where they first focused their business.”
While the big-name brands will always be popular, the market is growing for those who prefer their luxury to be a little more understated, like a secret handshake to a club that not many people know even exists. “We want to disrupt the luxury watch market,” says Brujic. “By bringing these brands into Australia we are leading connoisseurs into another world of timepieces. We are giving them physical access to watch brands that have never been seen here before – it’s the opportunity to really interact with these watches and appreciate their value.”
Chronoswiss is the third brand to be partnering with Fairfax & Roberts in Australia and their commitment to age-old watch-making skills such as enamelling, skeletonisation and guilloché appealed to Brujic, who runs an on-site atelier at the jeweller’s showroom. “This appreciation of traditional techniques is something we value highly,” she says. “We have our own in-house studio where we design and create bespoke pieces using long-established skills, so working with a brand like Chronoswiss makes philosophical sense for us.”
Chronoswiss timepieces retail between $8,700 and $54,000 and the company prides itself on its dedication to quality for a select few. “We only want to work with brands who have a similar outlook on luxury as we do – a commitment to both craft and customer as well as an appreciation for heritage and a desire to innovate in the future.”
In a world where everything is available, real luxury is a scarcity not a commodity and an item that is personalised, bespoke or hard to find is more valuable than a brand. “The true luxury lies in the fact that only the owner of the watch is aware of its real value,” says Schwarz Etienne’s Graff, “It is the complete opposite of the opulence and gives them the opportunity to share it secretly with family and friends at their own convenience.”