Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Discovering Timeless Beauty Unexpectedly: RSW and its Ladyland Line

Although my last blog dealt with the “Advertising Majors” of the US watch industry, one of my blogging joys is to discover a small, previously unknown (to me) watchmaker that produces beautifully designed pieces that incorporate elements from nature in unusual new forms.

Today, I discovered RSW, headquartered in La Neuveville, Switzerland. The 
company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.  So this posting is also a tribute to its history.

The particular RSW watch collection that caught my eye and prompted my further exploration is the Ladyland line which is “inspired by the form of an asymmetrical seashell.”  I first saw the Ladyland on WorldTempus (July 25, 2014) featuring models with noir (black) and marron (chocolate) dials. But it is the sensuous curve of the timepiece’s casework that was visually hypnotic and reminiscent of the shape of shells, both whole and tide-broken that I remember finding on California beaches.

Ladyland, Noir and Marron Dials

My attraction to the design exemplifies RSW’s philosophy as a “contemporary firm, clearly positioned on the path of watchmaking of the future, offering users timepieces with a distinctive identity that leave nobody indifferent.”  And how can anyone be indifferent to curvaceous lines that evoke the sea's tidal waves  and the way they shape and fragment its creatures?

Earlier this year, RSW unveiled a Ladyland design in stainless steel with a white dial at Baselworld.  All of the models in the line have quartz movements with hour and minute functions.

Ladyland, Stainless Steel, White

The company’s history is a tribute to progressive generational involvement and dedication.  Beginning as a small family watch shop in Damascus, Syria, it relocated to Bienne, Switzerland in 1914 as Rama Watch by M. A. Marachly. It became a second-generation family business when Rafik Marachly joined his father in 1946. He subsequently took over the workshop in 1950 modernizing it to reflect worldwide industrial changes in the watch industry.  In 1998, Rama Watch SA officially established the RSW brand, short for Rama Swiss Watch. Four years later in 2002, RSW moved to La Neuveville in the canton of Bern.  There it continued its family tradition of quality watch making but also diversified into pens, leather goods and other luxury items. In 2008, RSW showcased its first tourbillon timepiece thereby gaining recognition as a fine watch maker. The business remains in family hands with M.A. Marachly’s grandchildren holding key corporate director positions. It has a worldwide network of distributors.

RSW is definitely a watchmaker to follow and I’ll be doing so with pleasure.  Let me know what watch makers you’ve discovered or love to follow, either large or small and share your interests with our growing blog community.    

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Advertising Time: What Brands Catch Your Eye and Why?

Since starting my blog in February 2014, I’ve done a number of posts on various watch brands and the advertising media that triggered my interest in writing about them.  These include:

Longines:  Ad Venture Begets Luxurity  (March 2)
Ralph Lauren:  Saddle Up:  Ralph Lauren’s SWISS MADE Stirrups (June 9) 
GaGĂ MILANO:   Hublot’s Vivacious Contender: Viva Italia! (June 18)
Chanel:   L’Limbs of Time: L’Instant Chanel (June 29)

However, as I’ve looked through a number of magazines and newspapers over the last six months, there are several brands that repeatedly seem to dominate my mental “adscape”.  These include Rolex, Breitling, and Breguet.  

So it was with great interest that I read Jay Deshpande’s July 5, posting, “Which WatchBrands Spent the Most on Advertising in 2013?” Mr. Deshpande sources the figures below to Kantar Media.  They cover only U.S. advertising dollar investments.
  •   In 2013, watch brands spent a record breaking $492.68 million on advertising.  That’s a 23.3% increase over 2012.
  •  Another record 2013 high —69 brands spent a million dollars or more on advertising.
  •   In order for a brand to be in the Top 25 expenditure category, its parent company had to spend a minimum of $4.66 million.
  •   Rolex is #1 on the Top 25 List.  It’s been there since 2000.  Last year the company spent $61.48 million.  That’s a new record in itself as no brand has ever spent more than $60 million. $36 million of this went for magazine spending.
  •  Breitling is #2 on the Top 25 List spending $43.85 million. Of this total the brand lagged slightly behind Rolex by spending $33 million on magazine advertising.
  • Although not in the Top 10, Breguet, spent $9.58 million.  This is a hefty increase, almost 2000% over 2012, when it spent less than $500,000.
  •  And as for two of the brands that I wrote postings about, Longines and Chanel, each made the Top 10 for 2013. Neither made the cut in 2012.
Bottom line analysis for 2013, when it came to watch brand U.S. advertising dollars, many companies see our market as an expanding one. In particular, Swiss luxury brands are eying this country as a strong source for revenue growth.

So back to you, my readers.  What brand advertisements have made an impression on you and why?  Is it through media recurrence, creativity, or placement in your favorite reading material?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Botanical Companions: J.G. Ballard and Chaumet

How did J. G. Ballard and Chaumet  become nature’s companions in this latest post?  Like so many things in life, happenstance. The July 10 issue of The New York Review of Books has a very personal, perceptive article on J.G. Ballard the acclaimed dystopian English novelist and short story writer by Zadie Smith. This led me to pick up and re-read one of my favorite Ballard short stories, The Garden of Time.

At the heart of the story are the time flowers growing below the villa terrace of refined aristocrat, Count Axel.  Ballard describes each time flower as being the size of a goblet, the opaque outer petals enclosing the crystal heart.  Their diamond brilliance contained a thousand faces, the crystal seeming to drain the air of its light and motion.  We learn that as Axel carries each picked time flower back onto the terrace, it began to sparkle and deliquesce, the light trapped within the core at last released.  For Ballard, the power of the time flowers, be they just buds or fully grown is that although they can't stop human time, depending on their maturity when picked, they can drug the events that are happening at that time into a trance. Time momentarily or slightly longer reverses allowing more time for Alex and his wife to enjoy the beauty of the life they have created. In this vein, we remember his statement to his wife: I picked a perfect flower, my dear, a jewel.

Enter my timely happenstance.  In June 2014, I read one of Nazanin Lankarani’s posts on WorldTempus. In it she interviews Thierry Fritsch, Chaumet’s chief executive about the company's 2013 selection of the hydrangea as its floral muse for its new Hortensia haute joaillerie /time piece collection.  Ms. Lankarani quotes Mr. Fritsch as saying “Haute joaillerie, like haute couture, is a laboratory of style. We have already created 24 pieces in the Hortensia Haute Joaillerie collection and will continue to explore this flower’s possibilities.”  

After seeing one of the  images of  the limited edition Hortensia tourbillon time piece, I could not forget it. I wanted to use it in the context of an upcoming post. But how? Zadie Smith’s article on Ballard coupled with my subsequent re-reading of his The Garden of Time gave me that opportunity.

I find Chaumet’s Hortensia watches to be the perfect embodiment of Ballard’s time flowers and their time-arresting power Count Axel was so privileged to have in his garden. What is also intriguing  about this particular edition is that it is limited to 12 pieces.  Towards the end of Ballard's story, Axel is left with a mere dozen flowers, of which his sequential selection will mark the final, unarrested return to time's forward movement.

Chaumet's Hortensia Tourbillon

"Dial composed by applied hydrangea flowers: sculpted and hand-engraved then Grand Feu enameled with silver foils on the center, in blue & purple tones."

Time will tell if Chaumet’s choice of the hortensia will continue to be Ballard’s lasting companion as the iconic time flower. 

Recommended Reading:
The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Changed Our Lives by Stephen Buchmann. New York: Scribner, 2015.