On The Prowl
March 21, 2017
Mr. Woolfe had the privilege of meeting the VAULT team during the fall of 2016 and managed to catch their Founder & CEO Mark Schwarz for an exclusive interview whilst he embarks upon a world tour in the lead up to Basel World 2017.
Mr. Woolfe (MWF): So Mark, what does the VAULT brand signify?
Mark Schwarz (MS): First and foremost, VAULT is a brand which is not about timekeeping, but time itself. Time is extremely precious which no one can control and everyone has a unique perception of it. This is the DNA of VAULT.
MWF: Tell us more about the VAULT journey and where the inspiration came from?
MS: VAULT evolved from a deep passion for watches. It all started off with my first Flik Flak watch, which I got as a present from my parents. At the beginning I was interested in prestigious brands such as Rolex, Patek and AP, though at some point I went a bit crazy and fell in love with brands which where all about pushing the boundaries in terms of displaying time. I like to compare it with diving; on the surface you will see the “normal” fish which everyone has seen before, but the deeper you dive, the more exotic and exciting the creatures are.
MWF: Was there a person or turning point in your career that prompted you to explore the beginnings of VAULT?
MS: Yes, it actually all started off in a beer garden in Munich! It was a bright sunny day in summer 2013. My spouse and I were having a great time enjoying a beer, when after months of thinking about creating my own watch I came up with this concept of having a fully independent watch movement. As the movement in our watch would not be externally controlled it would symbolically represent time, which we cannot control. It was unbelievable, and I could see all the puzzle pieces come together like an animation movie unraveling in my head. I knew at the time that it was a special moment, although it took some time to understand the full magnitude.
MWF: Being Swiss based, how do you intend to break into what is essentially a tough industry?
MS: Great question. Nobody has been waiting for another Swiss watch brand and with the industry facing challenging times, you could be tempted to think this might be completely wrong time to launch a new brand! We however, believe the opposite is true based on the following three points:
- With our unique concept, VAULT is not just creating watches, but a new chapter in watch making.
- By creating a watch which changes its appearance whenever you set the time, we are pushing the boundaries of exclusivity and personal connection to a watch.
- Every VAULT watch is commissioned, which (in my opinion) is the highest level of luxury. It also allows us to connect directly with the fans of our brand and build long lasting relationships with our customers.
MWF: Where do you see the Swiss and mechanical watch industry moving innovation wise? Thoughts on the digital watch space?
MS: I believe a lot of brands in the Swiss watch industry need to innovate in terms of their business model. It is especially important for small independent brands to leverage their story through social media channels, making it now easier than ever to connect directly with watch enthusiasts around the world. This is crucial in allowing serious watch collectors to not only interact directly with the brands they like, but to know the key people behind them.
As for digital watches, I see them as a huge opportunity and not a threat. Digital watches will attract more and more young people to be interested in watches, who to some extent, will then want to eventually upgrade to a mechanical watch or wear both.
“The dial had to have certain design cues reminiscent of a bank vault door, protecting precious time behind it.”
MWF: How has the watch community responded to the unique concept of the V1?
MS: Pretty surprised and excited, as it is not very often that something so fundamentally different like the V1 appears on the market. We could not have had a better response and we cannot wait to see the reactions when everyone sees the watch in person this Autumn.
MWF: Who would you say is your ideal customer? In other words who in your mind wears your brand / watch?
MS: Our customers are affluent watch collectors, who love exclusive mechanical watches with unique time displays. The majority already possess an impressive collection of watches and have a solid overall knowledge of the industry. As VAULT is a start-up, we appeal to such collectors who are not looking for big names, but for independent watch brands that produce exclusive watches which cannot be seen on every street corner. We have found that our customers are not interested in status symbols, rather strive for works of art with a higher meaning.
MWF: What is the V1?
MS: The V1 is first and foremost a tribute to the preciousness of time. It is mechanical art which boasts a couple of breathtaking world premieres, all having one purpose; to let us appreciate and experience time in a different way.
MWF: What was the blueprint when designing the V1?
MS: The vision for the design was simple, although very challenging. The V1 needed to be mechanical art representing the preciousness of time. In order to cast this vision into reality, we created the watch from the inside out starting with the fully autonomous movement representing time itself.
The dial had to have certain design cues reminiscent of a bank vault door “protecting” precious time behind it. The tonneau shaped case was a must for me because it showcases the exotic way the V1 operates, just like a great frame for a special painting. Most of the components are made by Uhrteil AG, the company of Andreas Strehler. He has created the in-house movement for the V1 and depending on the case material, it will be made by Uhrteil AG or by specialized Swiss companies.
MWF: What defines its uniqueness / DNA?
MS: The V1 is quite special and proudly showcases the following features:
Unique way of setting our watch – when unlocking a bank vault door, you turn the combination dial until the wheel notches are in the correct position to open the door. The same is true for the V1. In order to set the watch you first have to rotate the whole movement, which is placed in a cage which can be turned 360° in both directions to set the minutes. In a second step, the fully adjustable dial is turned in order to read the hours.
A new way of reading time – while the minutes are displayed in a “classic” manner, by way of a conventional but nevertheless striking minute hand; we have gone down a different path in terms of displaying the hours. The hours are displayed on the gears and indicated by a sapphire crystal disc above them that is partially smoked and gradually fades in a circle for a transparent look. The line between the smoked and transparent parts is what is used to indicate the hour.
The first watch with a fully independent watch movement – as a constant reminder that we cannot control time, we have created the first full independent watch movement. The watch movement therefore stands symbolically for time itself allowing us to create a unique calibre, as we do not the restrictions of those with a normal movement.
The only watch which changes its appearance – everyone has a unique perception of time and we love this aspect. Technically time is constant, though we can still feel time flying or nearly standing still depending on the situation we are in. This fascinating perspective is captured by creating the first watch which changes its appearance whenever you set the watch, creating a very personal relationship between the watch and the wearer. The watch will never look the same and every watch will therefore have a unique look, which is constantly evolving. We think it is pure magic!
MWF: Amazing stuff! On a random note, what book are you currently reading?
MS: “The Naked CEO” by Alex Malley
MWF: And finally, what advice would you give to budding watchmakers out there?
MS: If you really want to create a fundamentally different watch, forget everything you know about watch making and start dreaming.
September 20, 2016
Britain’s vote to leave the EU resulted in an increase in sales for luxury watch and jewellery products for July and August due to the weak pound boosting tourist spending. Some watches can be acquired for 20-25% cheaper when purchased in the UK than buying the same item overseas. The Mr. Woolfe team certainly noticed a higher proportion of wealthy shoppers from the Far East in London’s watch boutiques this summer, some even buying multiple timepieces in one visit! Indicating now is a good time to be a collector in the current economic climate.
High sales in the UK due to the de-valued pound seems to be quite the reverse in once buoyant regions like Hong Kong, with weakening demand partly due to a Government crackdown on corruption and excess in China. Global geo-political developments, like Brexit, have clearly impacted the personal luxury products industry with the brands facing challenges in controlling their product offering across certain markets. For watch brands this will most certainly result in an adjustment in prices to reduce currency fluctuation advantages that allow customers to benefit by purchasing overseas. If industry rumours are to be believed, Rolex (a key benchmark player) plan to increase their prices by Q4 this year. This will put off UK buyers that may have had their sights on a high value item, only to have a further 10% added to their purchase.
Rolex “Hulk” £6,050 RRP (Rolex.com), however, demand and waiting lists are commanding higher pre-owned prices.
Is luxury watch hire the next big thing?
A recent survey by Credit Suisse estimates that luxury watch sales have fallen by a mid-to-high single-digit percentage in the past two years, and they think those declines will continue falling into 2017 before they get better. Exports to the UK of Swiss watches fell by 26% for June. Asia markets indicated that inventory levels with wholesalers were and still are higher than previously thought—with the approximate value around CHF 2.2 billion. Similar inventory overbuild reports on a global level ring true with retailers around the world reporting high stock levels and sales slowing down for the likes of Richemont and Hermes International according to The Guardian a couple of weeks ago.
According to several sources tough times are ahead for Swiss watchmakers with global demand for luxury timepieces falling for several reasons. It appears that in the current climate consumers feel that they cannot justify a grand purchase, or perhaps find other new trends appealing (e.g. the rise in the popularity of smart-watches) or simply deciding not to buy a watch at all. Obviously this will continue to effect luxury brands, however, a solution certainly lies with a bespoke watch rental service that can open up multiple opportunities to both high-end brands and watch enthusiasts.
Mr. Woolfe allows those wanting to acquire that must have timepiece without having to worry about hurting their bank balance. With the importance of getting the most pleasure per pound, why not chose the luxury hire option and embrace the lifestyle you really want. Register with Mr. Woolfe for further updates.
Luxury on loan, the sensible option and win-win for all!