Lifting The Veil On Baume & Mercier’s New CEO Geoffroy Lefebvre
Up close and personal with Geoffroy Lefebvre. Our interview with the man at the helm of Baume & Mercier.
Geoffroy Lefebvre is ready for his close-up. A seven-year (and counting) veteran at Richemont, he is now at the helm of one of the conglomerate’s leading brands. He started as CEO of Baume & Mercier on June 1. “I’ve been here since four months and one of those was a holiday,” he says. Lefebvre has been working behind the scenes as CEO of Baume & Mercier for many months, and it’s no wonder that he took the decision to wait to publicly announce his new role: there are major developments afoot at Baume & Mercier.
“Chance and luck” led Lefebre to enter the watch industry after years of working at McKinsey as a capital markets consultant. But his fascination with watches started “when I was eight or ten years old,” when he tinkered with a watch for the first time. “I dismantled it, but I didn’t reassemble it,” he says. Watches were not a big deal at the time in Paris, he says, until “we started getting all of these watch magazines from Geneva,” and he caught the bug.
It’s been quite a year for Baume & Mercier
The newest revolution at Baume & Mercier is the Baumatic, incorporating a movement made with the brand’s own in-house silicon components. “We used a combination of silicon wafers that we oriented at 45 degrees, one from the other. We call it the ‘twin spir’ technology and that’s what we used to make the hairspring and the escapement. The escapement wheel and the escapement anchor give [the movement] its properties of both power reserve through the enhanced barrel spring that we are using, and anti-magnetism,” he says. “The whole precision comes from a very long [process] of simulation that was done on the geometry of the escapement. In the manufacture the development department used finite element simulation which is a kind of incremental simulation of shapes, to see what part of the anchor heats, and so on [in] many different positions.” The incremental simulation produces “the ultimate quote-unquote perfect shape for the escapement that is more efficient and more regular than other escapements,” he continues. “The combination of all this gives five days of power reserve on this watch. The anti-magnetism protects up to 1500 GAUSS which is the most common level of magnetism that a person encounters regularly," he says, “be it a wallet, a handbag, a high power line. And we have the COSC precision, so minus 4 plus six [seconds] per day.” Baume & Mercier “put a lot of work and engineering into the lubrication of this watch,” he says. “We’ve replaced the traditional two oils that we use for a standard mechanism with 4 different types of lubricants. The one that is used on the escapement was kind of a counterintuitive finding, because you don’t usually oil silicon escapements. For this one we found an oil that is not even used in the watch industry, it’s an aerospace grade lubricant and so it happens, it works particularly well here.“
The Baumatic: Silicon is the future, and the future looks bright
“Silicon allows you to shape the parts in a very, very precise manner,” Lefebvre says. “On a traditional escapement, the anchor has two grooved pallets that are manually inserted and manually set so the distance from the pallet to the axis of the anchor is all done by hand. Using silicon, you virtually choose and shape what you want and you make it a standard and that’s when the whole finite element simulation comes.”
And that’s not the only advantage of silicon.”Watchmakers can further refine the shape of the escapement by simulating digitally the computer program,” Lefebvre continues. “And you do plenty of things that only a computer can do, not a human, and finding what I called earlier the quote unquote perfect geometry is what gives you the efficiency of the escapement. It’s basically a friction device, a time divider. Optimizing the geometry of this component will give you more efficiency for the whole mechanism. And that’s how by using less energy and more friction you gain more power reserve.”
Staying Ahead of the Game
“We are in a very competitive segment in the 1000 to 4000 euro price range,” says Lefebvre, “it’s a very tough fight but it is also an interesting fight because we fight on very tangible criteria.” Consumers look to find the brand that is “able to provide the best value proposition, in both the features of the watches that you put on the market and also in less tangible characteristics which are the power of the brand, the value, and the status the brand provides you.” Being in business for the better of two centuries certainly helps.“Our history is very rich. We’ve been around for 190 years almost, we were born in 1830, and when you look at the history of Baume & Mercier and especially its history through its products, we have always been right on time in terms of style. It’s really the result of the heritage, and that’s what we try to express with Baumatic. It’s not only super high-tech inside, but it’s also a beautiful watch on the outside and very versatile.”
(Photography by Liam O'Donnell)