Alexandre Meerson: Details That Make A Difference
The brand that saw the light in an era of detailed art is focused on reinventing classics. It captivated the public at the Salon QP in London in November 2014. A month later, it went to Paris.
The news came just a few days before the festive season: Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche – a legendary boutique in La Rue des Sèvres, in Paris’ 6th arrondissement – would exhibit Alexandre Meerson’s watches exclusively, and for the first time, in France. Mechanical watches which are scrupulously assembled in Switzerland, of course, by the finest craftsmen. Since the brand was launched, it has always equipped its watches with the in-house AM-4808 caliber produced by Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier. The choice of an industrial reference reflects the brand’s independence in terms of components and skills. On top of that, it shows the reliability of the tool, as it is capable of catering for the needs of two brands who do ultra-luxurious watchmaking.
From its concept to the amazing realization of the project
I heard about the brand for the first time at an event the Fleurier-based flagship watchmaker organized at BaselWorld in March 2014. The founder, Alexandre Meerson, was talking about the eponymous brand to the few selected journalists that were there, his friends and watchmaking colleagues and co-contractors. He had nothing to present but his determination; no prototype, no sketch, and no technical sheet to show. Standing on the platform in front of this group of insiders, he only shared his beautiful family history. The tale was legitimate and worth listening to and it had a few commendable intentions and castles built in the air here and there. The guests remained slightly skeptical as they were expecting more. Thus, the launching of the brand was a pleasant surprise for its coherence, accuracy and vision.
Alexander Meerson’s watches are a digest of “Haute Couture” and Art Deco and have a very sensual feel. Everything has been calculated in detail from their design to their production. Besides, the brand claims (and this is well documented) that subtle details are its signature. The details impress as soon as eyes are laid upon them; they appeal to us for an unknown reason and are comfortable, reassuring and amazing to wear.
The pieces display several levels of understanding and appreciation. It is as if the first intuitive and voluntary visual encounter inexorably made it impossible to look away from them.
Watch depiction in seven acts
Should we always seek explanations? When it comes to this collection going by the name of Altitude, the answer is no. Yet, some digging was necessary: the collection takes its inspiration from the “Première” and “Officier” collections, which represented classic watchmaking with an inconceivable feeling of modernism. We also needed to check that the collection’s iconic potential did not thin next to the customization it offered in terms of choice of materials and finishes. Alexandre Meerson is fortunately never out of ideas, though.
Detail 1: the shape
“I wanted to create contemporary luxury that respected watchmaking tradition, that was innovating, and that corresponded to contemporary needs and behaviors”, explained the founder. He admitted that he is inspired by the culture around “Haute Couture” – a world he is no stranger to – and by the love for authentic creation and “ravishingly” beautiful products. He looked back on his childhood as the son of a jeweler who was obsessed with physical and aesthetic comfort.
Said comfort should add up to visually appealing creations so they were as easy to attach for the thousandth time as for the first time.
The 1950s style it corresponds to is inspired by Art Deco, which can be seen even in the lugs in every model. Incidentally, the lugs are designed to keep a low profile in order to give the wearer complete freedom of movement whatever they do and wherever they are. The strap’s round shape follows the contours of the wearer and makes them feel like the piece is a natural addition to their arm. The stylistic plurality generates a contrast between the clear and calculated lines of the strap’s extremity and the quasi-organic round shape of the bezel.
Detail 2: the human touch
“Even though machines can be more precise, handmade craft is in constant pursuit of excellence that reveals human genius in its most accomplished quest for expertise”, Meerson highlighted. He prefers human touch to cold, unnatural perfection. Thus, apart from what is visible through the transparent sapphire glass on the watch’s back, it is good to know that various techniques are used individually in the finishes of all of the manufacture’s pieces.
From the hand-stitched strap to the manual cutting of the dial’s emblematic indexes, every model is an ode to the 88 Swiss craftsmen who created them.
Detail 3: the folding clasp
“The strap’s folding clasp is a homage to pure talent as it represents a stylized ballet shoe”, Meerson pointed out. He is amazed by the fact that no sport other than ballet can so wonderfully express the apparent ease that comes from the demanding and relentless nature of effort and consistency in practice. In watchmaking, it is a technical achievement. The brand’s vision is to create elegance based on complexity. This is even seen in the curve and angles of the ballet shoe.
Detail 4: asymmetrical hands
On the one hand, readability is made easier and on the other hand, there’s boldness that challenges visual harmony by adding deliberate aesthetic tension. As the creator explained: “When it comes to aesthetics, I always seek a perfect balance between shapes and functions”. We find this aspiration in the hands of the Altitude collection, which has been specially beveled to indicate hours and minutes without lessening reading precision at a glance. The treatment applied to the surfaces in order to reduce the ambiguous effect of the deliberate asymmetry has become part of the collection’s identity.
Detail 5: the number 12 on Altitude Première models
We find this unique typography in all “Première” models. This particular 12 uses the dial center as a perspective point and can also be read as “1Z”. In fact, this is a tacit tribute to Meerson’s grandfather and his name.
Detail 6: the date aperture
It seems that this technical complexity that allows a wristwatch to display the date was given extra space, thus making it seem larger. “In my work, I seek inspiration outside watchmaking, in other ways of conceiving things where elegance is derived from simplicity and passion”, Meerson confessed. He finally admitted that the inspiration for this particular aperture came from the splendid Art Deco stairs in the “Peace Hotel” in Shanghai, China.
Detail 7: the number 7 on Altitude Officier models
The hand-cut Arabic indexes that divide the dial of the “Officier” models in hours pay homage to the wristwatch’s timelessness. The number 7 was deliberately left with its lateral bar, which gives it a distinct French touch.
”This is an unequivocal intimate reminder of my legacy”, Meerson shares. Indeed, this Frenchman who lives in Great Britain is a fan of reinvented classics. He founded a brand whose watches are more Swiss than others and which bear signature details that could well elevate them to the status of icons.