Earlier this month, Richemont Group — the Swiss conglomerate behind marquee watchmakers like IWC and Vacheron Constantin — broke with tradition (i.e. aggressively consolidating existing watchmakers into its portfolio) in order to launch Baume. This new and exclusively digital brand is distinct from parent entity Baume & Mercier in all but name, with a strategic remit focused on sustainability and tapping into the potential of the (fickle) millennial market. Led by former Roger Dubuis marketing honcho Marie Chassot, Baume is initially launching with two collections: the Iconic Series and Custom Timepiece Series. Watches across both product lines are priced from 500–1,000 Euros.
The Iconic Series, conceived as Baume’s flagship offering, embodies the environmentally sustainable ethos at the heart of the brand’s identity. Featuring an upcycled aluminium case and PET (plastic) strap, its likely to resonate with younger consumers looking to avoid the ethical dilemmas associated with precious metals and animal leather. Under the dial, the Iconic is powered by the Miyota caliber 8215 — sourced from Japanese watchmaker Citizen. Featuring 21 jewels and a 40-hour power reserve, the Miyota movement is a reliable workhouse perfect for piquing the interest of horological neophytes.
Speaking of the dial, wearers of the Iconic are able to observe part of the watch’s movement through its semi-opened design. Indeed, the entirety of the Iconic’s dial architecture registers as somewhat off-kilter, with the watch utilising 24-hour and running seconds dials (at 6 o’clock and 2 o’clock, respectively) whilst eschewing the traditional hour hand. In line with all watches offered by Baume, the Iconic model’s crown is positioned at 12 o’clock — a small detail evoking the steampunk aesthetic that is currently staging a comeback.
While the Iconic represents Baume’s foray into entry-level mechanical watchmaking, many predict that the Custom Timepiece Series is likely to be the brand’s killer offering. Using a digital customisation tool (accessible through the Baume website), buyers are able to configure their watch in up to 2,160 different ways á la NIKEiD. With a plethora of customisation options like case diameter, colour and complications all available, the emphasis is clearly on giving users the fullest range of tools needed for self-expression.
Currently, all watches in the Custom Timepiece series utilise quartz movements, though there has been speculation that manual and automatic options will become available in the near future. Detractors of the new collection have argued that Baume is placing too many of its eggs in the “digital customisation” basket, but their willingness to do so — whilst championing the environmental sustainability angle — might lend them some of the clout necessary to sway customers from the Apple Watch camp. (Watch-face customisation, incidentally, plays an essential role in Apple Watch marketing).
In the landscape of 21st-century consumption, value-added products tend to dominate the conversation. Baume is hardly the first brand to offer customisable watches, though its approach — an entirely digital experience providing thousands of options — retains plenty of untapped potential. More often than not, the business of luxury watches is a cyclical tale: with the same prestigious names being traded between the same powerful conglomerates. Kudos to Richemont for shaking things up — here’s hoping it pays off.