We catch up with Raymond Weil CEO Elie Bernheim, who has been head of the family firm since 2014, about Swiss watchmaking, the brand’s success and the importance of music
Your grandfather founded the company. What does it mean to you to still have a family-run business?
We are one of the last remaining family-owned and operated Swiss watchmakers, and we pride ourselves on the independence that gives us a brand. We do not have the constraints that other major watch houses endure and are able to make decisions quickly and efficiently. We are also able to react to market trends quickly and develop products and marketing strategies without delays in the decision-making process. As a company, we very much instil the mentality and values of being part of a family. Our entire global distribution is treated as family – this has been a key factor in the success of Raymond Weil since its creation in 1976.
Which new launch have you been most proud of, since you join the brand in 2006?
There have been so many. The Freelancer collection is probably the biggest success story for our company and is a worldwide bestseller. For the gentleman’s range, it is all automatic and therefore demonstrates our watchmaking credentials. The other highlight would be the partnership with The Beatles. We have now launched two limited-edition products and have confirmed that there will be more in the future. The first edition timepiece, inspired by the 13 studio albums created by band, was the bestselling product in the category of watches priced between £750-£1,000 in 2016. The key for us is to make limited-editions accessible for every customer. We limit the production of every limited-edition and each watch comes with a signed certificate of authenticity.
What does music mean to the brand?
We are the only Swiss watchmaker that uses the inspiration of music as the basis for its watch designs, initially naming collections after my grandfather’s passion for opera. We are now using all genres of music for our inspiration, and have collaborated with globally recognised artists such as The Beatles, David Bowie, Buddy Holly and Frank Sinatra. We also have partnerships in place with iconic brands such as Gibson and Sennheiser. We pride ourselves on supporting both emerging and established talent, and partner with music arenas such as the SSE Hydro indoor arena and Manchester Arena. There are also long-standing partnerships with music charities such as Nordoff Robbins and VH1 Save the Music Foundation to help raise much-needed funds.
What is the inspiration for your collaborations?
Much of our inspiration for collaborations comes from identifying like-minded partners who share our vision as a brand. Many of our partners are inspired by us being an independent, family-owned company and also appreciate the way that we conduct our partnerships, from design right through to retailing the products. For us, it is essential that each partnership is a collaboration, with both partners having a say in every element of the process.
What is the most spectacular watch you have ever created?
In 2016, we created a very special timepiece that demonstrated our haute horology credentials in the form of a tourbillon timepiece, inspired by a deconstructed cello. The piece was designed fully by our in-house research and development team in partnership with TEC Ebauches, and featured cello strings within the movement. We only manufactured 10 of these pieces, which sold out immediately. Last year, we launched our first commercial, fully in-house designed movement in partnership with Sellita. The product is a Freelancer Calibre RW1212 (named after our postcode in Geneva). The movement is bespoke and exclusive to us. Since its launch in May 2017, this collection has become a huge success globally.
What sets Swiss-made watches apart from others?
Quality, craftsmanship and expertise are the major factors in being Swiss-made. The label is a sign of the quality of the product and remains an extremely important sign of the level of engineering that has gone into every product created.
What trends have you noticed in watch buying in recent years?
In recent years, special and limited-editions have become very popular as customers are looking to ensure that purchases either retain their value or increase in value. We have also seen an increase in the demand for automatic products, as customers become more aware of the quality craftsmanship needed to create a Swiss-made timepiece.
For someone discovering Raymond Weil for the first time, which piece would you recommend starting their collection with?
We structure our collections so that they appeal to a wide-reaching audience. Our top range products are from the Freelancer and Shine collections, while we have very special products within the Toccata and Tango collections. It totally depends on the personality of the customer and their personal style.
What is the bestselling Raymond Weil model?
Currently our bestselling models come from within the Freelancer collection for men. We launched the Lady Freelancer in September last year which has already become a bestseller for women.
Which Raymond Weil watch do you wear?
I am currently wearing a recently launched product within the Freelancer collection called the 7731. It is a 42mm stainless steel model that is powered by an automatic self-winding movement. The design of this piece is very strong and the quality of the craftsmanship in the timepiece is beautiful.