Tuesday, June 9, 2020

What Moves Me - Evolution, Not Revolution

Or the curious case of Sartory Billard.
Courtesy of Sartory Billard
What I have probably enjoyed the most about my ten years doing Tempus Fugit is watching the evolution of some of the brands I've gotten to know.  And perhaps one of the most fascinating journeys has been charted by Sartory Billard.

I met Armand Billard at BaselWorld in 2018.  At the time Sartory Billard was on their second iteration, the SB2 -
Courtesy of Sartory Billard
This was perhaps the watch that initially put them on the radar for most of us in the watch media game.  It was a charming and fun concept, you could remove the outer bezel via the four large hex screws and replace it with any number of options.  And they took it a step further making the measurements and specs an open source item, and a whole sub culture of "do-it-yourselfers" emerged creating a wild array of different options to make the SB02 one of the most personalized watches out there.  It was affordable, priced at a little better than 600 Euros.  A Miyota mechanical movement kept the time, and straps came with quick change spring bars to further ease customization.  Sales were pretty strong, particularly in France and Belgium.  But for whatever reason, it still remained a well-kept secret in other countries 

BaselWorld 2019 came and Sartory Billard participated at The HYPE with a new collection, the SB03 -
Courtesy of Sartory Billard
And this is where things took an interesting turn (at least in my opinion). A lot of customers had stated that they wanted a higher-end, more customizable watch. And the guys at SB made a new collection to try and meet that request.  A lot of people came to see the watches, and spoke with the owners Armand Billard and Ludovic Sartory, and... well, let's just say the needle didn't move, not an inch.

And then...
Courtesy of Sartory Billard
Well, not unlike when Smith met Wesson, or the guy at the bakery said - "What if we slice the bread before we sell it?" The SB4 was brought to life.  Now this was not a zero to sixty acceleration, but what started out as a steady "drip, drip, drip" intensified to a steady flow, to now reach a point where they are now having a tough time keeping up with their orders, and that is in the middle of two of the biggest crises to hit this rock in the last hundred years - health and financial.  And now, the floodgates have opened, and Sartory Billard has become (according to those just discovering them) an overnight success.  Well, I think they were always successful, but the world just hadn't caught on yet.  So maybe they are an overnight success, one several years in the making ; ) 

But the evolution was not just in the watches, but in the amount of (and I'm going to use the "A Word" here) artisanal work that now goes into the SB4.  Armand had always been a designer, but wasn't a guy who made watch hands and displays. Well, he is now!

For many brands, they make their bones coming straight out of the gate.  Others start strong then lose their way.  What has been particularly satisfying about watching the arc of Sartory Billard is to see the progression:

From my personal favorite - the SB01
Courtesy of Sartory Billard
To the SB02 -

Courtesy of Sartory Billard
To the ill-fated SB03 -
Courtesy of Sartory Billard
To the new darling of independent watch brand lovers, the SB04 -
Courtesy of Sartory Billard
The willingness to experiment and try new things, to keep searching, poking and prodding, pushing the envelope.  Continually evolving.  

After all, life moves forward, doesn't it?

Viva la Evolution!

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