Exclusive: Watch talk with Vacheron Constantin's Dominique Bernaz
Bespoke watch, bespoke service
Master watchmaker Vacheron Constantin represents the pinnacle of horology. With centuries of history, tradition and know-how, the brand continues to produce exceptional timepieces that are as mechanically genius as they are aesthetically stunning. Now, they've launched a new dedicated bespoke service called Atelier Cabinotiers, which offers a complete personalisation and in the process, a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. Buro 24/7 Middle East chats exclusively with the Director of Atelier Cabinotiers of the Maison, Dominique Bernaz to get a deeper insight into the new development...
The Atelier Cabinotiers sounds like the ultimate bespoke service. Tell us more...
We've always had a bespoke at Vacheron from day one. Now, we have a dedicated service and a team of people focusing on this. Nowadays there are so many limited editions on the market, where some limited editions numbers are in the hundreds. Is it still limited then? So we decided to have a dedicated service for bespoke. With a limited edition you sell a product but bespoke is a service, not a product. Watch collectors very often want to have their own watch, their own special piece and that's what we are offering.
Why do you think bespoke lost its popularity towards the end of the 20th century but it's now making a grand comeback?
In the 70s, the mechanical watch industry almost disappeared but we realised that the personal relationship you have with your client is very important. We also realised that nowadays nobody really needs a watch and that a watch has got to be more than just a watch. It's got to derive pleasure from buying it and also when you're wearing it. You have to want to have an experience and bespoke is the utmost in experience in the way of shopping.
Can you take us through the different stages of creating a bespoke watch?
It all depends on the client but there's a process. Ideally we meet, I listen to what my client wants and I am hear to give advice. During the process of making the watch, the client is welcome to come to Geneva to see what's going on in his project. If not we will keep in touch through email or Whatsapp. Once the watch is eventually finished, we deliver and again, the client can choose for the watch to be delivered or they can choose to come to Geneva and pick it up.
Bespoke watch, bespoke service.
How many bespoke watches are in production at any given time?
We are pretty much limited by the capacity. Bespoke has got to remain exceptional but we always have around 30-35 projects in process and some of the projects are rather quick. When I say quick it's about a year and some projects are much longer and can take four years to complete.
With an international clientele, do you see a trend coming from clients from specific regions?
I've been thinking about this and I've been looking at the projects and there is no trend that I can say: The Middle East is more design or the US is more technical. I don't have these trends and each piece really is unique.
What limits your bespoke service?
The client. I have no limit, so if you can pay, I can make it. There are however a few things we will not do because they wouldn't fit the DNA of the brand. For instance, if you want me to remove my logo and put your company name on the dial, I won't do it.
Would the brand ever consider making a smartwatch? If someone has the money, or is that against the DNA?
No. They're two different techniques; on one side you have electronics and on the other side you have mechanics and there's nothing in common between a connected watch and a mechanical watch. Having said that, I have many clients who have both a connected watch and also the best mechanical watches on the market.
How is Vacheron Constantin evolving as a brand?
We have a long history of 260 years. This long history is an advantage because we have the know-how, the tradition and we've already built up a name. It is also however, a constraint because we have to respect this tradition and history. The brand will remain classical, producing classical watches but that doesn't mean we cannot look into the future.
You've been in the industry for a long time. What differences do you see between Vacheron and Patek?
We both make beautiful watches but I've worked for Patek and there are differences, particularly in the behaviour of the brand. Currently we are seen as the challenger and they are the leader...
Do you accept the market perception that Patek is at the top and everybody else is a challenger?
I do have to respect the way clients, bloggers and audiences look at us. When I hear people say "I am an artist", it always sounds very strange to me because you don't decide to be an artist. I think the audience will decide whether you are an artist or not. So I do respect this. I would say that the position of challenger is a good position because it means that you cannot fall asleep. You have to get up every morning, go out and fight and because we are seen as the challenger, we also have to give the better service. We have to be here to listen to our client and that's one of the reasons why we do bespoke.
Vintage watches versus modern watches. What's your opinion?
That's just a question of personal taste. I'm a car fanatic and when I see a McLaren, it is beautiful. But even if I have the money, I would never buy one of these but show me any classic car and I will go crazy. It's a different experience. Marketing is talking about buying experiences today. I do agree on this, it has to be an experience.
For more information on Atelier Cabinotiers, visit vacheron-constantin.com.