The State Of The Independents: Eight Brand CEOs Share Their Thoughts For The Fut

Eight Independents Share Good Vibes For The Future Of The Watch Industry

Watchonista talks to eight watch CEOs about their favorite new releases, this year’s challenges, and their outlook for the future.

By Sophie Furley
Editor-At-Large

In the words of Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts,” and the watch industry is pushing on, adjusting its sails to the changing winds, and staying on course, thanks to its leaders who understand the importance of positivity. Watchonista talked to eight of these leaders, and their uplifting words will certainly brighten your outlook for the future of the watch industry.

Martin Frei, Co-Founder and Chief Designer, Urwerk

What was your favorite timepiece and/or moment of 2020?

Hmm, not easy... I love the golden Casio G-SHOCK Full Metal. Favorite Moment: One of the favorite moments for me, but also my 11-year-old son Anoush, was when he was able to go back to school and that is remarkable!
 

The New Casio G-SHOCK Wave Gold ©Casio

What did you learn from the challenges presented by 2020?

Among many important things, I have learned that I really miss traveling. Visiting our retailers all around the world is very dear to me, meeting with people to show our new watches, to have the time to talk about future projects with Felix [Baumgartner] on our walks in fascinating cities like Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong, Moscow, Singapore, London, Taipei, or Beijing, just to name a few. Our 3D world can’t be replaced by Zoom meetings in the thin split screens of cyberspace. I have learned that video calls do actually work and that they are a useful tool. However, it is clearly the physical world that we are made for.
 

Martin Frei, Co-Founder and Chief Designer, Urwerk ©Urwerk

What are you most optimistic about for the future?

We don’t know the future, and that leaves a lot of space for imagination and plans. The future always holds potential and is filled with unimaginable surprises, every day is a new day, and this didn’t change.

Jean-Marie Schaller, Founder, Louis Moinet

What was your favorite timepiece and/or moment of 2020?

The moment we shared Space Revolution with our customers and friends at Showtime, during the Geneva Watch Days. It took us three years to develop and master this amazing timepiece. To present it to our friends publicly was very emotional.
 

Louis Moinet Space Revolution ©Louis Moinet

What did you learn from the challenges presented by 2020?

What I have personally learned is that if you are small, then act big, while chasing the right dream. Understanding new consumers’ needs are key to success, provided you're willing to implement powerful ideas. Habits have completely changed during this crisis. This should stimulate our creativity to discover new opportunities and ultimately make the most of the chaos.
 

Jean-Marie Schaller, Founder, Louis Moinet ©Louis Moinet

What are you most optimistic about for the future?

Watchmaking is a very traditional sector – so not exactly the ideal foundation for getting through the chaos while transforming ourselves. We had to move rapidly out of our comfort zone in order to advance beyond uncertainties. This allowed us to identify the bubbles of opportunity that arose from the chaos. Throughout this journey, the love of fine watchmaking has always been stronger than fear and anxiety. I am optimistic that true watchmaking will become even stronger if it makes people dream.

Yvan Arpa, Founder & CEO, ArtyA

What was your favorite timepiece and/or moment of 2020?

Being able to unite watchmakers from the valley to launch my latest ArtyA Historic collection with iconic movements in ultra-classic cases with the highest quality was a great adventure. And also probably the last client sector that I had to conquer: the aficionados of vintage.
 

The New ArtyA Historic Gold ©ArtyA

What did you learn from the challenges presented by 2020?

It is important to stay close to our suppliers, clients, and team, to spend what we have and NOT what we expect to have, to communicate even more to keep creating.
 

Yvan Arpa, Founder & CEO, ArtyA ©ArtyA

What are you most optimistic about for the future?

ArtyA now has 10 collections, which are all very different from each other and very different from what is available on the market. We have developed high jewelry, lifestyle leather goods, and pens. So we became a totally independent and more generalist brand, and our customers and friends understood that as most of them have several ArtyA watches. We call ourselves a manufacture of emotions. I really believe that the future is being Avant Garde Authentic and close to our customers. We have many very young customers that love our work and our non-snobbish attitude, and they are the future.

Xavier De Roquemaurel, CEO, Czapek

What was your favorite timepiece and/or moment of 2020?

When, during the peak of the pandemic in Switzerland, all together with our partners, we were able to keep things moving in the middle of a “dead" town, canton, and country.
 

The New Czapek Place Vendôme Tourbillon ‘Dark Matter’

What did you learn from the challenges presented by 2020?

Whatever happens...don’t stop! Unbalance is needed for walking, so in the same way, it is fundamental to adapt to the new context, move forward, generate ideas, and take advantage of this situation.
 

Xavier De Roquemaurel, CEO, Czapek ©Czapek

What are you most optimistic about for the future?

Our passion for watchmaking is stronger than ever!

Max Büsser, Founder, MB&F

What was your favorite timepiece and/or moment of 2020?

Among the pretty insane roller coaster of a year, I would have to choose our HM10 Bulldog. We decided to maintain the launch on March 24th while practically the whole world had just gone into lockdown (including our company, which had had to shut down seven days earlier). And we got inundated with incredibly beautiful messages from all over “You made my day,” “Thank you, the first time I smiled this week,” etc. etc. 
 

The New MB&F HM10 Bulldog ©MB&F

What did you learn from the challenges presented by 2020?

Every single great creative/innovative idea we had during this first 2020 semester could have been thought up and implemented before COVID-19. I/we had gotten into complacent patterns. We had started reproducing recipes that were too easy and which had brought us success without challenging them. From now on, we challenge everything and anything! Sometimes a little too much. But at least we instill more thought, doubt, and out-of-the-box thinking than before. 
 

Max Büsser, Founder, MB&F ©MB&F

What are you most optimistic about for the future?

I am incredibly optimistic for MB&F’s future because not only did our team respond so well to the insane COVID challenge, but our sales skyrocketed in parallel (a result which is probably only partially related, by the way). MB&F sell-out at the retail level is up 40% on last year, and that is the biggest shock for all of us.

Amr Alotaishan, CEO, Reuge

What was your favorite musical creation and/or moment of 2020?

Reuge presented different novelties this year with the Tabatiere, which have been part of our heritage for more than 155 years, and the Miliarius, which is a limited edition. And certainly, the Miliarius would have to be my favorite given the mechanical excellence and level of artisanal work.
 

What did you learn from the challenges presented by 2020?

Building for resilience in your corporation to be ready for the unexpected. Versatility and perseverance are key when the unexpected arises.
 

What are you most optimistic about for the future?

Humankind’s ability to adapt and overcome turmoil.

Pascal Raffy, Owner & CEO, Bovet

What was your favorite timepiece and/or moment of 2020?

Every Bovet timepiece contains such a richness of watchmaking art that I really don’t have a preference. Each one of them is significant and abundant with watchmaking expertise. In my eyes, they are all exceptional. And for my favorite moment, that would have to be seeing my craftsmen again after lockdown.
 

The New Bovet Virtuoso VIII Chapter Two ©Bovet

What did you learn from the challenges presented by 2020? 

The lessons we have learned in 2020 reinforce the fact that we always need to put the art of watchmaking first, our tradition for beauty, and our desire to always serve our collectors.
 

Pascal Raffy, Owner & CEO, Bovet ©Bovet

What are you most optimistic about for the future?

As we have always thought, it is pleasant for us to note that our will to defend our values protects us much more than following the trends, whatever they may be.

Edouard Meylan, CEO, H. Moser & Cie.

What was your favorite timepiece and/or moment of 2020?


The Streamliner. I just can’t pick between the Flyback Chronograph Automatic and the Centre Seconds Matrix Green, named Green Dragon by our friends.
 

The New H. Moser & Cie. Centre Seconds Matrix Green

What did you learn from the challenges presented by 2020?

Always be ready for anything, stay on your toes, and keep your team lean, agile, and creative.
 

Edouard Meylan, CEO, H. Moser & Cie.

What are you most optimistic about for the future?

There will be more crises in the future. There have always been crises, but we, as an industry, always came out of them stronger, more innovative, more creative. I believe it will be the same with this crisis and future ones.

(Photography by Pierre Vogel)

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