Moments of Perfection

Published in Lucerne Luxe magazine, 2010

The important stories are worth telling and retelling, which is why one Swiss luxury watch making company, Baume & Mercier, continues to invent and reinvent timepieces as part of their overall story of creation, excellence and history. This is embodied by their motto, “Accept only perfection. Only manufacture watches of the highest quality.”

A historical beginning  

Everyone has a story to tell. Baume & Mercier’s saga began in the village of Les Bois, in the Swiss Jura Mountains, and spans from the 1830s until today in 2011, across countries and continents. From one generation to the next; from families to friendships.

The Baume family was involved in watch making for years, with brothers Louis Victor and Joseph Celestine Baume at the helm. Joseph made his way to England in 1844 to establish their business and the “Baume Brothers” were born. The venture prospered, and they were the first watch making brand distributed in distant New Zealand and Australia. Eventually, the Baume Brothers made a name for themselves in the British Empire and their watches could be found in all the British colonies, as well as the far East.

Eventually, William Baume, Louis’ grandson, inherited the family business. He met another watchmaker and jeweler, Paul Mercier, in 1912. Six years later Baume & Mercier was born, with its first office in Geneva. Their partnership proved to be successful and in 1921 they were awarded the Geneva Seal; the quality seal of the Geneva School of Horology.

William and Paul both took a step back in the late 1930s, and esteemed jeweler Constantin de Gorski took over management of Baume & Mercier. This resulted in products of Swiss precision with the aesthetic quality of fine jewelry. By 1940 the company became known for its precision chronographs, like the square model with double push-pieces, and tachymetric and telemetric scales.

World War II erupted and with it came numerous upheavals and changes, even in the watch making industry. Marc Beuchat was struggling to get Baume & Mercier back on its feet once the war was over, when he met André Juillerat. He was a member of the Swiss Watchmaking Federation and headed the Datum Watch factory. Together, they relaunched the brand successfully, venturing into the production of ladies’ jewelry watches with a model known as “La Marquise” which was then known as the post-war ladies’ watch.

As the 1950s came in, the company was able to regain ground with their original men’s pieces as well. They started manufacturing their first calendar watches (with date, day and month displays) and more elaborate complications. They focused on men’s watches and ladies’ jewelry watches, eventually establishing themselves as a manufacturer of sporty chronographs. In 1965 they produced one of the world’s thinnest calendar watches, with what would become their new logo – the Greek symbol phi, representing the company’s value of perfection. This is visible is every dial with the word ‘Genève’, to emphasize the brand’s Swiss lineage. In the 1970s this was revised to ‘Genève, 1830’ as a reminder of Baume & Mercier’s tradition and beginnings.

The phi symbol became so popular that it inspired the ‘symbol-watch’ model, which signaled the start of new range of modern lines and pieces. By the late 1960s Ernest Stolz was running the company and the use of quartz in watchmaking resulted in a revolution of technology and design in the 1970s.

The electronically powered Tronosonic model was introduced in 1971. It made use of diapason technology, which was a precursor of quartz. That year also saw the production of antique style pocket watches decorated with the works of Surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico and artist-engraver Giorgio Morandi, as a tribute to Willam Baume the watchmaker and Paul Mercier the jeweler, the men whose vision founded the brand. In 1973, the Riviera, was launched. It eventually became one of the company’s most successful watches.

The Riviera was one of the first steel-crafted sports luxury watches; it was also water-resistant and had an unusual 12 sided bezel. It was known for its acute precision and strength. To prove its durability, it was attached to the wheel of a BMW M1 before the start of 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s oldest sports car endurance race (known as the Grand Prix of Endurance and Efficiency) that year. Not only did it withstand the pressure of fast acceleration, but it was unaffected by rainfall, extreme heat from overworked disk brakes and the centrifugal force of the wheels. When the watch was checked after the race it was still in perfect working order, without a second lost.

Other notable pieces from the 1970s includes the Galaxie and Mimosa models, which won prizes at the Baden-Baden international Golden Rose jewellery watchmaking competition, and the onyx-dial framed Stardust, with 138 diamonds set into a yellow gold case. In the 1980s the company stopped manufacturing mechanical watches temporarily. Fast forward to twenty years later, and the Cartier group acquired Baume & Mercier as sole owners of the company, breathing new life into the brand. In 2004 a new production building was opened in Les Brenets, Switzerland. The year after, the slogan “Baume & Mercier and Me” was revived, reminding people of how a Baume & Mercier watches is part of its owner’s personal story.

Today, Baume & Mercier is managed by Richemont and is present in 75 countries worldwide, distributed by over 200 retailers. It continues to be one of the great Swiss watch making houses and, just like every good story, is classic and timeless.

The future of the tale

Last year saw Baume & Mercier utilize new media in an effort to distinguish as the premiere brand and trendsetter in Swiss watchmaking. A Facebook page and Twitter account announced their presence on the internet, as did videos in Youtube and DailyMotion. A campaign was launched to entice watchmaking aficionados and fans on Facebook to share their own stories about their Baume & Mercier pieces.

This year Baume & Mercier began a new chapter in their story with the reincarnation of some historical lines. Baume & Mercier emphasizes capturing key moments with precise pieces representing both the past and the future. Each one is engraved with the distinctive phi symbol. Their watches showcase their lifestyle calling – one of serene and elegant living, familial ties and good friendships, with every piece being part of a story that is handed down from one family member to another.

Stylish women will appreciate the delicate Linea model, which encapsulates femininity. It is known for its diamond-set guilloche bezel with Arabic numerals engraved on it, and interchangeable bracelet strap. Originally launched in 1980, this re-imagined piece now comes with an enlarged dome crystal shape, the addition of dates and seconds and riveted indexes. It also uses different materials. The discerning woman can choose between a metal, satin or black calfskin single strap with steel or two-tone dials.

There’s also something for men with Capeland, which was inspired by a 1948 single-push chronograph that was, in turn, inspired by galet pocket watches from the early twentieth century. This piece can be described as both retro and sporty, with the classic 1948 model having cheve crystal and a domed sapphire crystal case back in gold or stainless steel. Upgrades include a two-toned dial, a tachymeter and telemeter scale and flyback chronograph function. Its polished and satined finishes is evocative of seaside living, with its smooth curves reminiscent of stones weathered by the sea. The calfskin strap can be matched with a variety of modern dial colors.

For those who value no-nonsense efficiency, the original Classima automatic piece that came out in 1965 was simple and economical, with a flat shape in white gold. It now comes in self winding mechanical and quartz movements, with Roman numerals on the face increasing its elegant profile. It also features dual time zone and a power reserve for the well-travelled man.

The 2011 highlight is the latest Hampton collection, named after the stylish luxury area in America’s east coast. The word evokes the sea, sand and sky, with discreetly luxurious homes by the dunes – couples strolling by the seaside and children playing by the surf.

The Hampton pieces have been described as the “quintessential couple’s watch”, and was inspired by the original1940 rectangular yellow gold watch design. Its lines are serious yet stylish, exuding confidence and comfort. The ladies’ version has a signature ‘jodhpur’ strap in satin and alligator. Aside from the diamond set into the crown, there are 80 diamonds on the piece and a case back with’ Sundeck décor’, allowing for personalization. The men’s watches have both self-winding and quartz movement versions. One can choose between steel or leather bracelets with an adjustable triple folding buckle. The two-tone hues are both masculine and elegant, and the pieces come in new sizes.

The new collections were exhibited at the recent Fashion Walk in Greenbelt 5 last October 7 – 19. “We are excited to present Baume & Mercier’s latest collection, which embodies our brand’s vision of conviviality and authenticity. I believe that the Philippine market will come to love these new line of watches because Filipinos are known for their refined taste and sophisticated style,” shares the Managing Director of Baume & Mercier’s Northeast Asia division, Christian Bartosch.

“Baume & Mercier is one of the most prestigious watch brands in the world,” states the Managing Director of Lucerne, Emerson Yao. Lucerne is the exclusive Philippine distributor of Baume & Mercier.

Baume & Mercier maintain the standard of perfection established more than a hundred years ago by the original Baum family, as seen with the new collections that are making their way across the world. Each timepiece tells a different story, and is perfect for keeping track of special events and moments that make up a lifetime.

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