Horological paths crisscrossing on a backdrop of writing implements

In less than five years, TF Est.1968 managed to acquire over 520 points of sale worldwide. In the United States, the brand's distributor is Alexis Sarkissian, who achieved the breakthrough, with flying colors. Crossing interviews.

By Joel Grandjean

Before founding the brand that bears his initials and year of birth, Freddy Tschumi was traveling the world's highways and byways representing big-name watch brands. He advocated for them on the markets, met with distributors and visited the points of sale. Then, one fine day, he spread his wings and started to fly on his own.

Freddy Tschumi and Alexis Sarkissian: watchmaking opens all doors

It all began with a pair of cufflinks that featured part of a watch mechanism under a sapphire crystal. It brought movement, fun, and above all lots of joy for stylish individuals who are fans of the micromechanical arts. The Genevan brand, TF Est. 1968, is now launching a collection of pens. This following the T-Funs, a collection of Swiss-made watches, a line of leather goods, including the indispensable belt buckle shaped like a rotor, and a family of keychains that is always in sync with watchmaking symbolism. Among the pens, one finds the T-Mechanic, which was selected by the American magazine Pen's World as Writing Implement of the Year. The collection of imaginative roller pens has grown steadily. Recently, Freddy Tschumi added a new member known as the Crown.

T-Mechanic Set The T-Mechanic is the Writing Implement of the Year for Pen's World magazine

This rapid expansion is a veritable feat in a world in which the retailers' doors are under such stress, in part because of the pressures applied by the watchmaking groups trying with all means to pump up their outsider brands, and in part by the sheer number of brands sharing the space. The success was made possible by local distributors who became loyal to the TF Est. 1968 cause. Among them is the distributor Totally Worth It, better known as Alexis Sarkissian. Sarkissian, a Genevan who lives at the gates of New York, knows every nook and cranny of his market, the Americas, its enchanting and enchanted islands and Canada. He promotes a sumptuous medley of recognized watch brands, most of the time very special pieces overflowing with potential. And while doing that, Alexis Sarkissian continues to show the world Freddy Tschumi's creations. He does it with all his heart, being known not only for his surefooted knowledge and taste in watchmaking, but also for his unfettered love of writing implements.

Behind all these common interests and shared passions are two men who will continue helping each other out. They have now joined together for an interview about writing implements:

Freddy Tschumi

Your products are aimed almost exclusively at men (although we’ve seen some beautiful women’s watches on your website). Do you have many female fans? What draws them to the products of TF Est. 1968?

TF Est. 1968 are not necessarily all geared towards men. A lot of the pens can and are used by women. I see in Geneva, professional women buying the RG WheelWork to use for themselves. I have a friend, she is judge in the canton (State in Switzerland) of Zug, she uses a palladium and black ClockWork - Imagine the convictions signed using my pens. . . We studies in 2014, that women purchase 44% of our products for gifts. Whether mothers for graduation, wives for their husbands/partners or women business executives for gifts.

Freddy Tschumi Freddy Tschumi, TF Est. 1968 founder

Do you have a personal interest in writing instruments? What attracts you to a particular pen?

I have never been a great pen collector but a tremendous watch aficionado. This is our common denominator at all people involved in the TF Est. 1968 adventure:watches, cars, motorcycles, all things mechanical, beautiful things in general and pens. On the other hand, I write a lot and when doing so, I like to have a pen that fits me well. It has to have body, substance, grip, presence and above all character. I don't care for pens that are too weak and require too much involvement. In that sense, my pens are for people with a message and with a direction.

How much consideration is given to the writing qualities of pens made by TF Est. 1968?

Each pen we release fits in this profile and is a true product of our desire to excel. For this reason, we design them in Switzerland, make them in France or Switzerland so we can closely and daily control quality. We make no compromises and only release products when they are ready. The guaranty we provide is serious as my name is on it. We are not a nameless multinational with offices in 50 cities. We are Geneva based and my best childhood friends are my business partners in this crazy but lovely adventure.

Are there any plans to produce a fountain pen for TF Est. 1968? Why or why not?

Alexis Sarkission, my friend and distributor of TF Est. 1968 keeps pushing me to do it. So, yes, I'll admit that that is where my work will be in 2016-2017. Having said that, as with everything we create, this future writing implement will have to be the best, it will have to have a highly recognizable design, just like our other products, and be inspired by haute horlogerie. No way are we going to release a pen of middling quality or one that's only an alibi to occupy the territory. What we'll be coming out with will really be tops, manufacture quality: Only 68 pieces, ideal for collectors and boasting innovative technology that no other brand has ever explored.

TF Est. 1968 Tourbillon Carbone PB01BC TF Est. 1968 Tourbillon Carbone PB01BC

Alexis Sarkissian

Where does your passion for writing implements come from, fountain pens in particular?

In Swiss schools in the 70s and 80s, one could only use fountain pens to write! No pencil and ESPECIALLY NO BALL POINT PEN! Over the years, I have kept each and every pen I have used at school. I have them ALL today, three feet from my desk in a nice leather folder as I remember writing 1,000, 5,000 and even 10,000 so many punishments in a tough Geneva school, such as:«Je ne battrai pas en cours de récréation» or «Je n'ai pas le droit de jeter la nourriture» (I will not fight during recess or I will not throw food) Over the years, I continued writing with fountain pens. I was an original of course at Penn State and Boston and College using a fountain pen. But, it was a natural extension of my training you understand.

Do you have a private anecdote to share?

On my civil wedding day, I was abandoned by my entire family who fussed on my wife and the invite at a fancy place afterwards, so I hopped to Brachard in Geneva - THE pens shop in town - and purchased myself the Parker Duofold yellow to sign the Swiss wedding books in the official Geneva state house later that afternoon. The irony and humor, that thankfully no one pick up on except a couple wicked member of my family, yellow if the color of adultery. Twenty-nine years later, I can attest that the myth is grossly overrated, but there was no red hot Parker Duofold to select...

Alexis Sarkissian Alexis Sarkissian

Could writing implements ever make you forget horology?

Let's just say that pens and watches often go hand-in-hand. . . The fun thing is that I fell into it purely by luck, and I am so blessed to have made it my profession. There isn't a day that I bless the stars for doing the job that I truly enjoy doing aside from building motorcycle. But that I will start soon too. . .

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The Tourbillon Open Side roller, with lateral views

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