Jeweler Tries His Hand at the Watchmaking Art

Jeweler Tries His Hand at the Watchmaking Art

Postby koimaster » April 9th 2018, 4:37pm

By ALICE PFEIFFER

Published: November 26, 2009


There is a natural affinity between designing jewelry and making watches, and the two crafts often cross paths. For instance, Tiffany’s has been selling its own watches for over 160 years, and Cartier started its line of watches in 1904. On the other hand, traditional watchmakers have also turned to jewelry making: a good example is Piaget’s line of elaborate earrings.


Yet, to qualify for membership in the exclusive circle of celebrated watchmakers, making something pretty for women is not enough. The creation of a sophisticated timepiece for men is the essential test. Avakian, at any rate, seems to be convinced of this necessity: the Swiss jewelry house, based in Geneva, is celebrating its fortieth anniversary by releasing a watch designed solely for men, the Concept 1.

“Women’s watches are easier to make because they are a lot closer to jewelry. Men’s watches are the real challenge,” says Edmond Avakian, the president of the company.

The watches, with a chunky but simple design, will be available in gold, white gold or titanium — initially in a limited edition of 40 each — with their cases carved from pure blocks of the corresponding metal. The mechanisms are powered by a 26 millimeter, or 1 inch diameter movement, with hand or automatic winding. Despite a hefty $59,000 price tag, a three-month order book has been built up since the watch was first presented in 2008. The official launch will take place on Dec. 10, in the Avakian boutique in Moscow.

“As strange as it might seem, the top buyers don’t care about the brand — because they have all of them already,” Mr. Avakian said. There are two types of watch buyers, he said: the ones who just want the brand, and the ones who actually want the watch.

“These are the real collectors, who actually look at the watch. They trust us, don’t even ask for guarantee, even for pieces that are over a million dollars,” he said.

The prototype is a partnership between Mr. Avakian and his son Haig Avakian, who heads the U.S. operations and contributed to the design. Its official introduction has been timed to celebrate the opening of the family’s first boutique, in Beirut, in 1969. The July war in 2006 led to the closure of the Beirut shop but Avakian now has several international outlets, ranging from Sloane Street in London to Beverly Hills. Clients include Catherine Deneuve and Gina Lollobrigida.

Watches have always been on the older Mr. Avakian’s mind: he has worked on marketing top watch brands in his boutiques since he took over the company in 1976. The decision to branch out into design and manufacturing, he said, stemmed from a growing frustration with working as a retailer.

“We have had several experiences of agreements gone wrong, of manufacturers not keeping their word, which is a common thing in the business,” he said. The recession felt like a perfect time to develop the business. “We seized the opportunity of people getting fired, as many talented people watchmakers were finding themselves out of work.”

The company plans to go the next step and introduce women’s watches that it will design next year. Still, Mr. Avakian insists that the aim is not to become a large-volume brand.

“We don’t do wholesale, mass distribution, where we can lose quality control,” he said. “The trick is to hardly have enough to supply our shops.”

A version of this article appeared in print on November 27, 2009, in The International Herald Tribune.


https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes ... wavak.html
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