Baselworld 2019: Carl F. Bucherer Repositions Itself For The Next Generation
Founded in 1888 and still family-owned, the manufacture from Lucerne feels like an exception in the watch industry. Indeed it is! Carl F. Bucherer has a rich tradition spanning 130 years but has only recently started embracing their past while focusing on their future. Thanks to the 2010 appointment of young and dynamic CEO, Sascha Moeri.
Every watch brand dreams about having an authentic story to tell. Some go as far as to create far-fetched stories out of thin air. The luckier ones dig deep in their archives to unearth ideas, show off their glorious past and assert their legacy. Under Moeri's leadership, Carl F. Bucherer realized they were sitting on an unexploited gold mine of stories, gems, and potential developments.
As one of the youngest brand CEOs when he was appointed in 2010, Sascha Moeri quickly understood he was holding a major trump card. In less than 10 years, he transformed the almost unknown brand (outside of Switzerland) into one that is internationally recognized among collectors and watch enthusiasts. Even more rare in the industry, he speaks freely…even mentioning figures. After all, +429% growth since his arrival creates envy! From 6,400 pieces in 2010, the output grew to 27,500 in 2018. Phenomenal.
How did he do it? He humbly replies, “When you own such a historical patrimony yet have great innovational strength due to excellent research and development, and a highly integrated production process as in our manufacture in Lengnau, one can only do well. It was just time for us to start telling our beautiful story.” Modest, on top of it all.
Still, there are many challenges in the industry nowadays. What are the most difficult ones for Carl F. Bucherer? The elegant CEO admits, “Markets evolve fast. Most important for us is to meet our customer’s demands rapidly all around the world. To have a balanced mix between Europe, Asia, and the Americas is essential. Right now, we have succeeded quite well with an overall turnover of 40% in Asia, 40% in Europe and 20% in the US and the rest of the world.”
One of the greatest challenges for brands – in particular the developing ones – is distribution. Many struggle to find new outlets. Others decide to open their own stores. What is the strategy for the brand from Lucerne? Always straight forward, Mr. Moeri admits, “We are very lucky to be part of the Bucherer AG thus under the same roof as Europe’s largest and best in class retailer. It is undeniably an asset! We have 400 points of sale around the world, 100 of which are within Bucherer retail network plus six mono brand boutiques worldwide. This is the ratio own store/multi-brand retailers that we were aiming for."
He continues, "We will stay at this level which seems to work well for us. We want to remain exclusive but need to make sure that our growing number of customers is able to find us easily. Now with Tourneau (bought by Bucherer last year) in the US we have another great opportunity for our brand. We also know that the digital world is key. This is why we are happy to start selling via the Bucherer e-commerce and have just recently opened our own first digital boutique with JD.com in China.” It is all green lights for Carl F. Bucherer!
Nonetheless, one needs to keep upgrading the quality of timepieces if they want to win the hearts and wrists of watch lovers. How to manage such growth without cutting down on quality? Sascha Moeri unveils a clear vision for the future, “We have a precise strategy. The first step was to clarify our collections and develop powerful production capacities. Today the Manero collection represents 25% of our offer. We have developed our own mechanical movements with automatic winding through a peripheral rotor – we were the first to industrialize it by the way. Our manufacture movements are integrated in 30% of our mechanical timepieces so far."
"In 2016, we have bought a building in Lengnau to centralize our production and our R&D in one place. This enables us to have the closest control on our quality.” And it shows in the timekeepers presented at Baselworld this year.
The Heritage collection was introduced last October as a tribute to the brand’s origins in Lucerne, just in time for the 130th anniversary of Carl F. Bucherer. The new collection was started with a beautiful complication: The Heritage Tourbillon Double Peripheral, an 88-piece limited series. It unveiled the quintessential style of the Lucerne manufacture. Great elegance and refinement with its large tourbillon at 12 o’clock. It was also the first automatically wounded tourbillon equipped with the in-house peripheral bidirectional rotor.
The cage revolves effortlessly thanks to three invisible ceramics ball bearings. In its 42.5mm 18k rose gold case, this exceptional timepiece embodies the brands’ values: innovation and heritage with a refined vintage touch. For CHF 88’888 (Vat included), each numbered model is unique. Indeed, the position of the little swan located in the delicate hand engraving on the back of each watch – representing Lucerne and its famous bridge – changes with every number. A nice touch that collectors will appreciate, as well as the COSC certification of the manufacture caliber CFB T3000 powering it and providing a 65-hour power reserve.
Watchmaking at the right price
This new collection – soon to be another pillar – is enhanced with a new model in two versions at Baselworld 2019: The Heritage BiCompax Annual. A chronograph with two sub-counters for seconds and minutes at 3 and 9 o’clock, a tachymetric scale for the 50’s touch, a great date in a double window at 12 o’clock and an annual calendar indicating the month at 4h30. The steel case version comes with a silver dial and black sub-counters. Modern, yet elegant with its rubber strap.
The two tones version adorns the steel case with a champagne sunray dial, tone-on-tone sub-counters with circular finishes and 18k rose gold bezel, pushers, and crown. It is a little gem of a chronograph on the veal Cognac bracelet. At the heart of both, beats the CFB 1972, based on a largely modified ETA movement with a Dubois-Dépraz module.
These strong character timekeepers under their sapphire glass offer a lot of watch in their 41mm cases. Limited to 888 pieces each and priced aggressively at CHF 6’900 and CHF 10’500 (Vat included), they will surely make a lot of new collectors and watch lovers turn to Lucerne.
Similarly, the new Manero Flyback Chronograph is another strong proposition. A powerful look in a 43mm 18k rose gold case. A deep sunray finished black dial with refined applied golden pyramidal indexes, enhanced with vivid red notes from the circle around the minute track, the stop second hand and the “Flyback” inscription at 6 o’clock.
The two silver sub-counters for the small seconds and the chronograph minutes provide an even stronger personality as well as volume. Very efficient on the anthracite grey Kudu bracelet and its red stitches. A precious chronograph with an enviable price of CHF 16’800 (Vat included).
With such an offer of stylish timepieces, precise watchmaking, perfectly blending modernity and references to the glorious past of the brand, Carl F. Bucherer clearly is one of the Swiss manufactures to keep a close eye on. No wonder Sascha Moeri concludes with a smile, “The amount of work we have put into our development is starting to bear fruits. And it is only the beginning!” Indeed, it seems that a radiant golden sun shines above the skies of Lucerne at the moment.
(Photography by Pierre Vogel)