Christiaan Van Der Klaauw New Majority Shareholder Pim Koeslag In Conversation: Shooting For The Stars
by Martin Green
In 1974 Christiaan van der Klaauw began making a name for himself, first with astonishingly beautiful and complex astronomical clocks, then, as of 1991, with wristwatches.
He was quite a force in independent watchmaking in his time, including becoming a member of the prestigious Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI) in 1989. We can rightfully call him the godfather of modern-day Dutch watchmaking.
As he lacked a family successor, he turned to his good friends, Daniël Reintjes, a designer, and his wife, Maria Reintjes-van Laar, a marketing wizard, to take his brand’s reins. They took off where Van der Klaauw left off, ushering the brand into an era with a stronger brand identity and bringing in vivid designs focused around Van der Klaauw’s specialty: astronomical watches.
The brand reached new heights, collaborating with Van Cleef & Arpels twice: in 2014 with the Midnight Planetarium Poetic Justice and in 2018 with the Lady Arpels Planetarium. In 2021 the brand even won the prize in the Calendar & Astronomy category at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève with a version of the Planetarium based on the oldest working orrery in the world, which was made by Eise Eisinga in Franeker, Netherlands.
The Dutch connection: enter Pim Koeslag
Earlier this year, Christiaan van der Klaauw announced that Pim Koeslag would join the company as a majority shareholder. This is an exciting development as Koeslag further complements the team of Daniël and Maria Reintjes, who will both stay on in their positions respectively as CEO/creative director and marketing director.
At the beginning of his career, Koeslag was one of the first to join yet another Dutchman in his watch company, Peter Stas, who was about to build Frédérique Constant into a mid-market powerhouse. Koeslag turned down a job at Patek Philippe to join Stas.
Working with Stas proved to be an exciting adventure, where he both developed 30 manufacture movements, including tourbillons and perpetual calendars, and also co-founded Ateliers deMonaco with Stas, which occupied an even higher horological tier.
As Frédérique Constant was bought by Citizen in 2016, and Koeslag’s non-compete contract had just ended, his hands were free for another adventure. I talked with him recently about his new career path at Christiaan van der Klaauw.
Talking to Pim Koeslag
Martin Green for Quill & Pad: You have had quite an extensive career in watchmaking. How do you look back on these years and what achievements/moments are most significant to you?
Pim Koeslag: Indeed, I started two decades ago as watchmaker in Geneva at Frédérique Constant. A year later we purchased Alpina Watches, and in 2008 Peter Stas (founder of the FC Group) and I started the high-end brand Ateliers deMonaco. I became the technical director of the group and CEO of Ateliers deMonaco.
We developed over 30 in-house movements for Frédérique Constant, which I am very proud of. The coolest one in my opinion is the perpetual calendar for a very reasonable price. That was a huge challenge and a huge success, we sold thousands of these.
For Ateliers deMonaco I made a minute repeater tourbillon. That is the most complicated watch I ever made, and I still get goosebumps when I think about it, sooo nice!
Q&P: How did you become majority shareholder of Christiaan van der Klaauw?
PK: In 2016, when the Japanese Citizen Group took over the three brands of the Frédérique Constant Group, I signed a retention contract for five years. End of 2021 this contract ended, and I moved with my family back to Holland. At the time I still worked in Geneva and flew back and forth every week. One day I heard from a colleague that Maria and Daniël were looking for a successor and I called Daniël right away! After some discussions we came fast to the conclusion that this is the perfect match!
Q&P: Did your Dutch heritage play a role in acquiring the majority stake in Christaan van der Klaauw?
PK: Yes! I am very proud and honored that I will be able to take care of the Christiaan van der Klaauw brand for the next couple of decades, preparing this beautiful Dutch brand for hundreds of years to come.
Q&P: Christiaan personally selected Daniël and Maria Reintjes as the successors for his company. Have you been in touch with him? How does he feel about your involvement?
PK: Christiaan and I have known each other already since my first year at watchmaking school back in the year 1999. Before I moved to Switzerland, I gave my CV to Christiaan because I would have preferred to work with him. It was Christiaan who said, “Just go to Switzerland for a couple of years to gain some experience”! That became 20 years . . .
Today we are working together on a new project, a mind-blowing astronomical complication!
Q&P: What is your role now at Christiaan van der Klaauw?
PK: I am taking care of the daily operations, like production and sales. My main focus is still the technical aspect; Daniël stays CEO and creative director and Maria remains marketing director.
Q&P: You are a watchmaker, you have experience with jewelry making, movement development, and smartwatches, and you were the CEO of Ateliers deMonaco. How does this all come together in your new role?
PK: That’s what I like about my new adventure: I can use all the experience of everything I did in the last 20 years! Even with the smartwatch development and production I learned a lot. But don’t worry, Christiaan van der Klaauw is not going to make smartwatches. 🙂
Q&P: What are your plans with Christiaan van der Klaauw?
PK: My goal is to give Christiaan van der Klaauw an even bigger international podium. After winning the 2021 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (this is like the Oscars of watchmaking) and creating astronomical watches for one of the best-known jewelry brands in the world, Van Cleef and Arpels, we have everything in-house to create a huge international success.
We started to focus on Asia and have already opened more than 10 stores since my start nearly six months ago. The goal is not to make thousands of watches per year but to ensure a bright future for the brand and to have the financial capability to create even more beautiful and more complicated astronomical complications!
Q&P: Thank you so much for talking to Quill & Pad.
For more information, please visit www.klaauw.com.
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