HYT Watches’ Vincent Perriard Talks About New ‘Brand Friend’: Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Axl Rose
To say that I was excited when I received the news that HYT had hooked up with Axl Rose as a new friend of the brand would be an understatement. For me, this news just clicked beautifully into place in my head: HYT with its rock-and-roll attitude and Axl Rose, the at times controversial front man of Guns ‘N’ Roses and now AC/DC.
Hell yeah, this makes sense!
If there is a watch brand out there aside from Artya that fits the no-fear rock-and-roll attitude that would be needed to make such a collaboration work, I have yet to meet it: most (and by most I do mean 99.9 percent) of the luxury watch industry is generally too classic and traditional for its own good. While other brands may talk a big “innovation” game and look a tad rock and roll at times thanks to the use of new materials and such, none have gambled on partnering with a bona fide rock star – controversies, drug associations, and groupie adoration included.
Well, perhaps except Zenith with the Rolling Stones (see The Zenith Christophe Colomb Tribute To The Rolling Stones Is A Limited Edition Of The Highest Order), but that collaboration felt so . . . so . . . corporate. The Rolling Stones wouldn’t even agree to meet-and-greets with Zenith’s clients, so I feel that their coming together was really only about the use of the logo (but what a logo!).
But to partner with controversy personified, true ҆80s glam-hair-metal in the flesh . . . now that takes a degree of ballsiness you do not usually see in our staid little world of fine watches.
Leave it to Vincent Perriard
You may remember another time Perriard took matters into his own hands: think back to Baselworld 2007 when Concord lit up the world’s biggest watch fair with the “crazy” design of the C1 chronograph (received with acclaim despite its purchased movement!) and then in 2009 with a bespoke time-telling instrument called C1 Quantum Gravity that honestly no one needed and hardly anyone bought thanks to the bottom dropping out of the financial markets.
No one could stop talking about it, the “coming of Concord,” a brand everyone had forgotten and, without Perriard at the helm, has since again forgotten.
Perriard left the company shortly after the introduction of the Quantum Gravity to resurface as as CEO of HYT, obviously having learned much from making big statements at Concord and applying those lessons with all his might at his latest venture.
And one reason this is so is because he and his team are taking risks and investing big at times like right now that are overshadowed with a general downturn in sales (in fact similar conditions were prevalent when Perriard and his team were readying the launch of HYT in 2012). These are times when much of the rest of the industry is putting its collective tail between its legs.
“We are overinvesting right now, gearing up for the future,” Perriard revealed to me as I reached him to talk about the new collaboration. I was not surprised to hear it.
HYT’s “friends,” more like business partners
HYT is a niche brand; it only produced and sold 400 timepieces in 2015. As such, HYT cannot afford to engage brand ambassadors the same way that the big brands do by paying them millions up front.
Therefore, there is obviously a bit of a different strategy in play here.
First and foremost, HYT does not go after potential brand ambassadors. If a celebrity or sportsman comes to the brand, then Perriard and his team enter discussions with him or her.
“They always come to us; we never go to them,” Perriard confirmed to me. “And we always discuss with them when they come.”
But the really clever thing is the way the discussions turn. “There is no upfront money,” he explained. Basically the ambassador becomes a business partner of sorts, earning what could well be described as royalty or commission from the limited edition watches that are created in cooperation with them. This also explains the great number of limited editions that HYT has put out over the last four years since the H1 made its debut.
“Sometimes we get phone calls from agents,” Perriard also revealed. “But we won’t discuss these matters with agents, only with the guys themselves. Naturally, it’s a question of business, but the guy approaching us must love [watches and what we’re doing].”
“This is something very important that I’ve learned.”
So, wait, does this mean that rock icon Axl Rose, the embodiment of all that rock and roll has to offer – sex, drugs, rock and roll, and at times in the past quite scandalous behavior – loves watches?!
“Axl is knowledgeable about watches,” Perriard confirmed, reacting with a bit of a chuckle to my incredulous question. “He’s been into it for about 10 or 15 years.”
During my own following of Guns ‘n’ Roses over the years, I have spotted Rose wearing the odd Breitling and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore models, but I will admit to being overjoyed to have found out that he also collects Richard Mille. This was an unexpected delight to hear!
A rock scene insider has also confirmed to me that he additionally owns an Hublot and an Anonimo fully paved with diamonds.
The meeting of minds
Perriard and Rose have a mutual friend, Mehmet Korutürk of Magnat Creative Agency. Korutürk lives in Los Angeles but spends a lot of time in Geneva – and he is heavily connected to the music and film industries. Rose had apparently told Korutürk that he was interested in HYT, so a meeting was arranged during AC/DC’s recent European leg of the current tour (Rose is filling in for AC/DC singer Brian Johnson at the moment, who unexpectedly dropped out of the tour due to health issues). Perriard attended a concert and met with Rose backstage afterward.
“He was quiet and gentle with me and the team,” Perriard described his time with Rose. “He was drinking tea backstage after the show! We talked a lot about design. For two hours.”
The discussions naturally revolved around the forthcoming limited edition that will bear Rose’s name. “He really had a point of view, and he’s really doing the design. Our team will translate his wishes onto the watch,” he explained in answer to my question as to who would be doing the design.
Perriard also reported that he has received pictures, e-mails, and communication day for day for two weeks straight from Rose following the meeting. “He really loves it, the design, the watches. And he is not doing it for the money.”
This sort of attitude can be backed up by a 2015 interview given by Richard Fortus, guitarist for Guns ‘n’ Roses as of 2001 (he came in after the classic lineup had “expired” in the mid-1990s), who explained that Rose does things for the sake of artistic integrity, not money. Fortus currently plays alongside Slash in the “reunited” version of Guns ‘n’ Roses.
Which all naturally begs the next question: what HYT watch will Rose be wearing?
As designing and manufacturing a new edition for Rose will take some time – but not as long as one might think; HYT plans on introducing the Axl Rose limited edition in January 2017 during the SIHH – HYT has loaned him two watches to wear to bridge the wait for his own timepiece. “And he’s really wearing them all the time,” Perriard confirmed.
For the moment, Rose is wearing the HYT Skull Maori, a “tattooed” version of the super-interesting Skull watch (see The HYT Skull: Fad, Trend, Style, Or Movement?) and the original H1 but with the newer blue liquid as shown at the 2016 SIHH.
For a rundown on how liquid tells the time inside the glass capillaries of the HYT system, see When Opposites Collide: Microfluidics Of The HYT H1 And H2.
As it turns out, Rose is a collector of high-quality knives and he in particular loves Damascus steel, which is often used to make collector’s knives. Perriard revealed that Rose has fallen in love with HYT’s Skull Bad Boy (see HYT’s Skull Bad Boy: Fluid Time-Telling Evolves Thanks To Swiss Engineering).
“So you can imagine that we will use the Damascus concept from the Skull Bad Boy,” he revealed. The Damascus that HYT uses in the Bad Boy isn’t Damascus steel in the traditional sense, but rather a funky material that the brand calls “Neuchâtel Damascus.”
It was so named because it resembles Damascus steel, but this composite material comes from a foundry in the Neuchâtel region that folds multiple layers of steel and carbon fiber on itself 256 times to achieve the desired look.
The black of the carbon fiber is further revealed by a chemical abrasion process after which it is covered by a translucent varnish to fill the tiny crevasses that emerge from the process. No two batches (one batch is enough to cast five skulls) of the 50-piece limited edition of the Skull Bad Boy will ever be identical.
What Rose would like to see, and HYT will hopefully make real, is a bluish Neuchâtel Damascus. I am really excited about this and personally cannot wait to see the outcome.
Attitude: something to fear?
If you aren’t a fan of rock and roll in general or Guns ‘n’ Roses in particular, let me briefly explain why this particular “friendship” is such a big deal.
Guns ‘n’ Roses formed in Los Angeles in 1985 as part of the hard-rock, hair-metal scene. The band broke through in all major markets with its debut album in 1987 called Appetite for Destruction– which has sold approximately 30 million copies worldwide to date. The first single was “Welcome to the Jungle,” a rock anthem of the highest order. The second single, “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” was a number one hit on the Billboard chats.
But from there, the band experienced difficult (and I mean that to the fullest extent of the word) times that included excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol, overdoses by friends and entourage, and both the exit and near-death experiences of founding members – all of which led to bitter enmity between the two alpha dogs of the band, Slash and Rose.
The “classic” lineup of Guns ‘n’ Roses last played live together in 1993 on the Use Your Illusion tour.
Nonetheless, the band has enjoyed unbroken popularity, though the group’s continuation with Rose as the only original member enjoyed a great deal less fan adoration and critical acclaim.
HYT’s announcement comes at an extremely fortuitous time for the niche watch brand: earlier in 2016 Rose reunited with his core band mates from Guns ‘n’ Roses – bassist Duff McKagan and virtuoso guitarist Slash – for a 2016 tour called “Not in This Lifetime.” The tour name comes from an interview quote by Rose in 2012 referring to the chances of the band getting back together after yet another member of the press brought the subject up.
The reformation of this bestselling hard rock band, while not 100 percent complete (rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin and drummer Steven Adler are still missing from the original lineup and not likely to join), has generated enormous amounts of interest from the media and the general public.
Largely thought impossible by most hard rock aficionados, the comeback has garnered a monstrous amount of press, making major headlines and selling out mammoth arenas.
Additionally, as previously mentioned, Rose has taken over for AC/DC singer Johnson on the Australian band’s remaining European tour dates and upcoming North American concerts as the crooner had to unexpectedly back out for health reasons.
In summary, millions of people are getting to see Rose play live this summer (and hopefully beyond!) – and they will also get to see the HYT he is sporting on his wrist as he’s been wearing it on stage.
While this background is enormously positive, I did have to ask Perriard if he felt any trepidation at all regarding Rose’s reputation as being somewhat mercurial and impulsive. “We have no fear of his attitude,” Perriard assured me. “HYT feels comfortable with such personalities.”
So he’s not worried about scandals à la Maria Sharapova, for example (see TAG Heuer Drops Tennis Start Maria Sharapova In The Wake Of Failed Drug Test)? “We are in the right position for that,” Perriard confidently asserted.
I couldn’t help myself; I had to know what Rose is like in person. “I was surprised, he was a gentleman. He really comes across as a bit shy, not like you see him on stage,” Perriard answered.
Sounds to me like the best prerequisites for a very fruitful cooperation. I am quite excited for the future of this.
For more information, please visit www.hytwatches.com/collection-skull/watch/skull-badboy.
Quick Facts Skull Bad Boy
Case: 51 x 17.9 mm, black DLC-coated titanium
Dial: skull made with Neuchâtel Damascus
Movement: manually winding HYT caliber with fluidic time display
Functions: hours, minutes (both shown by black fluid), seconds (in left eye socket); power reserve indication (right eye socket)
Limitation: 50 pieces
Price: 90,000 Swiss francs