Tuesday, June 16, 2020

What Moves Me - Auguste Reymond

It's hard not to be romantic about watches.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - a brand is more than just a (registered) name.  A brand is the people behind it.  And while I had always had a soft spot for Auguste Reymond, it was a baffling brand for me to try and get my head around.  I had popped in to their booth at BaselWorld once or twice, and I had seen an Auguste Reymond ONCE in San Francisco back in 2000.  Apart from that, they had a pokey website, and (if I'm honest) a pretty bland selection of watches.  With one exception - The Jazz Age Chronograph, which we'll get back to in a moment.

It was back in November of 2015 that I first visited Tramelan with my good friend Rod Hess, not realizing I was going to make another friend that day, the CEO of Auguste Reymond, Lorenz Aebischer -

It was a Sunday, and he met us for lunch, then took us to the factory which he opened up so that we should see it first hand.  I returned to Tramelan about 4 months later just before BaselWorld and Lorenz showed us around for a real tour.  And you can read about that here -

A Grand Day Out - Auguste Reymond Part 2

And a little while after that, I began to work with Lorenz and team at Auguste Reymond to try and help reintroduce North America (and frankly, the English speaking world) to one of Tramelan's hidden treasures.  It was slow going, because there really was no budget to spend for advertising, marketing, etc.  It was a lot of reviews, a LOT of Facebook activity, and... we started to see some sales.  Not hundreds, but a slow but steady drip began to accumulate, and a few retail partners had approached, and just when it looked like we were going to turn the corner - the new owner of Auguste Reymond decided that he could do it better himself, and Lorenz was moved out.  

And what followed was a vivid example that, as mentioned above, a brand is nothing without the people.  The new owner, to his credit, did try make some changes, but it was also clear that he didn't really fully get what made the brand special in certain countries.  And after (I believe) about a year, he sold it to the current owner.  In the process, he sold the building.  And that was a tough one to take. I also fairly certain everyone who was still working in Tramelan at the time lost their job in the end.

Which brings us to now.  The current owner of AR is not really having any more luck than the person he bought it from.  He moved the brand from its hometown and it is now, if I am being honest, doing a Sleeping Beauty.  There is a web shop, the Facebook page has over 100,000 followers (you're welcome), and no new content for what appears to be a year or two or more.  When a brand's management is indifferent, how can they expect the buying public to feel any differently?  

Back in 2017 I was feeling a lot more optimistic about the future, and I bought the Jazz Age chronograph you see at the top of this story.  And if I am completely honest, when I put it on it is always a bit bittersweet.  Auguste Reymond could have made it.  But as I have often said it is simply a question of commitment.  If you want a quick fix, there will always be someone ready to throw money at a problem in the mad hopes that it will magically resolve itself.  But good things typically take time, and effort.  Whether or not the current ownership and management are ready to contribute either remains to be seen.  But friendships and memories win out in the end, and here's hoping that someone, eventually, will put the time and effort back into AR that has been sorely missing since 2017.

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