This week, Raymond Weil has officially launched its limited edition Canada 150 Freelancer at the Création Paul H boutique on Montreal’s Saint-Laurent Boulevard. I knew about this watch, a brilliant idea from RW, and I was very curious to take a closer look at it. To my surprise, Création Paul H had a special guest, Elie Bernheim, the CEO of Raymond Weil came all the way from Switzerland to attend this event. I was not expecting to meet the commander of one of the few major Swiss brands that are still independent and family-owned, so I jumped on the occasion to do a quick interview for WatchPaper.
WP: Welcome to Montreal! Is this your first time in Montreal?
Elie Bernheim: No, this is probably my fourth or the fifth time here, Montreal is a city that I love, it’s a beautiful city and in general, I love Canada. As you know, I’m the third generation at the head of the company and my grandfather, from the early days of our company, has brought the brand to Canada. That’s more than forty years ago. I’m happy to be here tonight because we’re launching a special edition watch honouring Canada, the 150th anniversary of the Confederation, limited to 150 pieces. The Freelancer is a collection that is very important for Raymond Weil, and with this watch, we are introducing a few subtle touches using symbols of Canada. For example, on the ceramic bezel, we are using the red from the Canadian flag, and if you take a closer look at the dial you will notice that there is a maple leaf that is very subtle, only visible if the light hits the dial at the right angle. Of course, the back of the watch features the official Canada 150 logo.
People are talking about the difficulty in the watch industry, how it is for Raymond Weil?
It’s true that there are difficulties, we don’t have to deny it. For many years, we had great years with a growth that seemed to be unstoppable and now we are witnessing a market correction. It’s absolutely normal and healthy. Since three – four years we see a market consolidation and despite this, we continue to progress, to innovate and to make beautiful products. I’m very proud to say that today, the brand continues to grow and to expand to new markets. We are among the last watchmaking brands that are family-owned and independent, there are less and less and I’m very proud to represent one of the last independent fortresses.
Your answer is innovation.
Innovation and also introspection. When it’s too beautiful it’s not real and you have to question yourself, go back to your roots, to the identity of the brand to find what made it strong for a long time. We have to build on our roots in order to surpass ourselves. It’s important to find the right balance between the identity and the innovation, introducing modernity little by little in order to come up with a product that can evolve in the long term.
For someone who is not familiar with the brand, how would you define the Raymond Weil identity?
We are proposing products that are sophisticated, elegant and accessible. Our average price on the market is between $1000 and $2000, this is our niche. Our products are Swiss Made, with most of our watches being automatic and this is what defines our positioning. We are not a high-end brand with high complications, we are who we are and we don’t pretend to be someone who we are not. This is very important.
Also, music is very important for our brand. Others have aviation or the F1, for us it the musical universe and there is no other brand who is closer to this universe than we are. My grandfather and my father have developed a strong relationship with the world of classical music and since I’m in charge of the company we are trying to approach the new generation and larger customer base. We have developed a partnership with Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, with Gibson, most recently with David Bowie and there will be others that will follow. We want to have a brand that speaks to a larger public. When our products are between $1000 and $2000 we can’t have a niche product.
Please tell me about the RW1212, your first in-house movement made in partnership with Sellita?
It was a great development because it’s honest and sincere. Yes, we developed it in-house, but it is not produced by us. Unlike other brands that claim to produce their movements and they are not, our rhetoric is very sincere. I approached Miguel Garcia, the head of Sellita and I told him that I would like to have my own movement, can we have a partnership and work together to make this movement? He said yes, let’s do it. We just announced at Basel this beautiful movement and we are already launching it on the market and of course, I’m very happy with the results.
Our interview was cut short because he was called to officially unveil the Canada 150 Freelancer, but it was great to meet and talk to the CEO of a Swiss company that loves Canada and Montreal.
Later that evening I could play with Canada 150 Freelancer a little bit and check it out from every angle. The Canadian DNA is very restrained, from distance it looks like any other Freelancer, only the red marks on the bezel betray that it is a special edition watch. I have to agree with Mr Bernheim, the maple leaf on the dial is barely visible, I had to find the right angle to shoot a picture where we can properly see it. I’m very happy with the result, the Canadian symbols are there, the wearer knows he’s having a special watch, but they are subtle enough to keep the watch elegant and not push it overboard into patriotic kitsch.
The retail price of the Canada 150 Freelancer is $1,950 CAD and it comes on a five-link metal stainless steel bracelet in a presentation box decorated with the Canada 150 logo.
Here in Montreal, Création Paul H has several pieces in stock, go take a look, you won’t regret it. And since you will be there, you might want to check the gorgeous Raymond Weil Freelancer “Gibson Les Paul” chronograph, limited to 400 pieces, of which only eight are in Canada, four of them at Création Paul H.