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    On The Prowl

    Switzerland

March 21, 2017

Exclusive interview with Mark Schwarz, Founder & CEO of VAULT

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:

  1. With our unique concept, VAULT is not just creating watches, but a new chapter in watch making.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

 

Your V1 is available for order and commissioned directly from VAULT. Full further details can be found on their fantastic website www.vault.swiss and enquires to info@vault.swiss

January 14, 2017

The power of hashtags: Omega embraces a social media phenomenon

For the past 5 years, the term #speedytuesday has been used by watch enthusiasts and collectors alike in showcasing their appreciation for Omega Speedmaster watches across the globe. In tribute to such activity, Omega released a limited edition timepiece, encapsulating the most popular elements of their iconic Speedmaster Moonwatch design from across the years (2017 marks their 60th annivesary).

Another limited edition, what’s so great about this one you might say? Well the difference this time was that all numbered pieces were quickly reserved within the first few hours of it being released to pre-order via the Omega website on Tuesday 11th January at 12noon Swiss time. In previous limited edition releases by Omega, it has always been tricky for the fans to secure a timepiece as precedent on waiting lists tend to go to Authorised Dealers or repeat customers who bulk buy to sell on privately at a profit. To combat this, Omega wanted to allow individuals the opportunity to purchase directly through their website, although not everyone was lucky enough to secure what will no doubt be another fabulous edition their Moonwatch collection.

 

Special features of the Omega Speedy Tuesday

 

The watch will be limited to 2012 pieces, marking the year when the phrase was first began. The design takes its main influence from the Speedmaster Alaska III model, which was produced by Omega for NASA in 1978. Unique features include the “reverse panda” white opaline-silvery sub dials set against the classic black main dial. The Omega logo appears in a retro vintage style and the glass comes in that of the iconic Hesalite crystal.

The watch movement will be that of the manual wind 1861 calibre, all housed in a 42mm case that has a matt finish stainless steel. The caseback has the coveted seahorse medallion stamped, plus includes a limited edition wording “Speedy Tuesday Anniversary, A Tribute to Alaska Project III” and “R A D I A L” along with the piece number. It will come with a brown leather strap with vintage look stitching and an additional black and white NATO strap. Presented in a leather watch roll with a strap changing tool as well.

 

We all agree that it will be one of the must have watches for this Summer, and those lucky enough to have reserved theirs will surely be grinning with pride when they collect it – Mr. Woolfe will be looking to get his paws on one too! Full technical info can be found at the official Omega website.

 

September 24, 2016

Woolfe about town: Upcoming events

IWC & 60th BFI London Film Festival – 5th to 16th October 2016

IWC Schaffhausen supports the BFI London Film Festival for the third time in partnership with American Express as Official Time partner. This year they launch a Filmmaker Bursary Award with an award of £50,000 presented to an outstanding British writer, director or writer/director with the recipient of the Award receiving their prize at the IWC Gala Dinner on the 4th October 2016, the evening before the opening of the BFI London Festival.

To celebrate the partnership with BFI they also launched a limited-edition Pilot’s Spitfire Chronograph Edition (Ref. IW387812) timepiece. With only 60 watches produced, each one will be numbered on the case back, alongside the inscription “BFI Film Forever”. The timepiece features the IWC in-house 89365-calibre movement alongside a chronograph and flyback function, stainless steel, blue alligator strap.

 

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Salon QP – 3rd to 5th November 2016, London

The UK’s leading watch exhibition returns for its 8th year and will be held at the prestigious Saatchi Gallery on Kings Road, which has been home to the event since 2011. It will host and showcase no less than 80 of the world’s finest watch brands over a three day extravaganza that includes workshops, demonstrations and seminars.

Mr. Woolfe will be attending and we look forward to meeting talented watchmakers, experts, collectors alike at the SW3 venue. Make sure you follows us as we will be updating through our social media channels via Instagram, Facebook and in-moment Snapchat feeds!

For more information and to book tickets head over to Salon QP’s Eventbrite hub.

 

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And events for next year

SIHH – 16th to 20th January 2017, Geneva

The “Salon International De La Haute Horlogerie” host their private industry only event for the 27th time in January bringing global watchmaking excellence to the heart of Geneva. Last year 24 major brands exhibited their fine watch collections to representatives from the professional distribution industry and media in an atmosphere dedicated to luxury timepieces and setting the watch trends that will follow for the year.

One key difference for 2017 being that it opens its doors to the general public on its last day which will mean that for the first time in its history, the general public will get a chance to experience the creative passion and heritage in the birthplace of watchmaking. Check out the highlights from SIHH 2016 and a flavour for the 2017 event.

 

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September 20, 2016

Boom and bust for luxury watch brands: Is watch hire the next big thing?

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_submariner_hulk_london_pricetagRolex “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!