Art In Time: Monaco’s Latest Greatest Place To Buy Watches – And The Best Place In Town For Independents
Contemplating the state of independent watchmaking in a beautiful setting in Monaco, my consciousness took in the unique sounds of Chopard’s L.U.C Full Strike minute repeater on crystal gongs emanating from across the room and the über-loud ticking of Balthasar’s brain somewhere a little closer to me. These are, to say the least, not everyday sounds. And I thought about how lucky I was to have frequent access to beautiful works of art created by independent watchmakers and luxury brands alike.
Independent watchmakers and luxury brands don’t always mix very well. But in March 2019 that changed forever as Chopard opened its Art in Time boutique in a prime location in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.
The space at One Monte Carlo, ideally located between the Hermitage hotel and the Café de Paris, features the beautiful products of eight creators, two of which are clockmakers (Florian Schlumpf and L’Épée) and one of which is Chopard. The other five constitute well-known independents and boutique brands: MB&F, Greubel Forsey, Urwerk, Ressence, and Chopard’s own Ferdinand Berthoud.
“When I started the Ferdinand Berthoud adventure in 2015, I realized a number of things,” Chopard co-president Karl-Friedrich Scheufele explained. “One of them was that the [retail] positioning of these beautiful watches, which all of my colleagues here have in common, is basically quite difficult because we don’t get the space and attention we deserve, and we all have limited resources to accomplish distribution.”
Scheufele introduced the world to his pet project, an “independent” boutique brand named for Ferdinand Berthoud (1727-1807), a historical Swiss maker of marine chronometers, in 2015. While it might seem a little incongruous for a world-renowned marque like Chopard to create what appears to be a small independent, that’s how it was conceived and how it has operated for the last four years (see Ferdinand Berthoud Is Reborn With FB 1 Thanks To Chopard’s Karl-Friedrich Scheufele).
“After exhibiting at SIHH for two years – which was very new for me and for Ferdinand Berthoud – I realized something needs to be done. And Chopard had this opportunity in Monaco with this space. We had the choice of making another Chopard boutique – which we really didn’t need – or not keeping the space, also not an option. The third idea was to create a multi-brand environment, but this is much more than that: this is Art in Time.”
According to Scheufele, each of the eight maisons involved in Art in Time are about quality, creativity, innovation, and audacity. “It takes a lot of audacity – believe me – to design the pieces like those we show here. It takes a lot of guts because the proportionate risk is much higher than for the large brands when it comes to creating exceptional pieces that need months and months of research, development, and setbacks.”
Independent watchmaking on the French Riviera
Scheufele has long been known to insiders as a true connoisseur of mechanical artistry. While as the co-president of Chopard he usually publicly restrains his love of independent watchmaking, I have often run into him at the places independents gather and seen how he genuinely admires their work. And as a co-juror for the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève for two consecutive years, I was pleased to register his appreciation of various independent watches.
The GPHG has an interesting tradition that the CEO of the brand that wins the Aiguille d’Or must join the jury the following year (and not enter any of his or her brand’s products in that year). Scheufele was in the interesting position that the Ferdinand Berthoud FB 1 won in 2016 and the Chopard L.U.C Full Strike in 2017.
“Karl-Friedrich discussed with us that he has these kinds of shared difficulties to find the right location and an environment in which we feel we are wanted rather than being another watch on display amongst other brands,” explained Stephen Forsey of Greubel Forsey during the opening event in Monaco regarding the idea for Art in Time.
“We have always thought it would be nice to have some sort of permanent visibility, but we didn’t see ourselves and don’t have the means, the resources, or the volume to have a mono-brand boutique. And so to find a showcase and partnership possibility where we can have some visibility delighted us . . . along the coast here on the Mediterranean it’s not easy to find a good location.
“This is a wonderful project built not on assembling brands to draw public volume, but really to work around the values and the traditional watchmaking aspects. I think the composition of the eight who are here is a very nice complimentary offer.”
Scheufele is sure this is only the beginning of the collaboration, which he characterized as beautiful and creative. And I must say that it is incredibly refreshing to hear the owner of a large brand with worldwide renown and thousands of employees discuss independent watchmaking in that way.
For more information, please visit www.art-in-time.com.