Louis Moinet was a watchmaking legend, a contemporary and partner of Abraham-Louis Breguet. Today, Jean-Marie Schaller has crafted the Louis Moinet brand into something of which Moinet would have been proud, combining art and watchmaking in a unique way, producing innovative watches that look like no other - no easy task in today’s watch world.
The secret to the brand’s success? “Hard work and inspiration,” says Schaller. “Today, we write the new chapters of a story that was initiated two centuries ago, with the same values, the same language. My favorite projects so far are Memoris, because it is a bridge between yesterday and today, and Meteoris, because it is so crazy - a planetarium with tourbillons featuring genuine pieces from the moon, from Mars and from the oldest known piece from the solar system.”
At Basel, the Louis Moinet booth was really buzzing, busy from dawn to dusk with customers and retailers inquiring about the brand. “I love building up relationships with our friends and customers,” Schaller says, a big smile on his face. “When a name grows – as it is our case – relationships change. It is like a child, needing different things as he gets older.
“Business is going fantastically well, even though the economy is really bad,” Schaller continues. “We have managed to create enough excitement and new emotions to convince the market.”
One of Schaller’s true joys is the creation of new projects that fit the Louis Moinet tradition. "Our concept is mechanical art in limited editions - one piece, 12, 60, 120 or 365 pieces," Schaller explains. "It’s important to me that we honor the heritage of Louis Moinet and to write new chapters of his history as if he were alive. We are not a marketing brand, we are a real brand with a real tradition. To us, as a new brand, it means that we are recognized and it gives us respectability. I feel that we are moving in the right direction. I want the Louis Moinet brand to be a creative alternative, not too classic, something really special.”
"Americans used to call the Swiss watch industry a ‘cottage’ industry"
Schaller was raised in the watchmaking Jura, so watches are in his blood, so to speak. “Coming from the Jura Mountains, I realize that a watch is the fruit of patrimony,” he says. “If you think of all the craftsmen that put their hearts into these tiny machines on the wrist, it truly is amazing. Americans used to call the Swiss watch industry a ‘cottage’ industry, as it is made in so different places, in small chalets and ateliers scattered throughout these mountains. Well, they probably had a smile saying that, as they were the masters of the time in the end of the 19th century. Meanwhile, Waltham and other world leaders have vanished (did you know that Henry Ford visited Waltham to model his Ford Motor Company after?), the quartz revolution did not kill the mechanical Swiss watch, and we are still here. Even though Swiss exports only represent about two percent of the world market, these people from the Swiss countryside and mountains continue to produce marvels in their cottages. Quite unique in the world, I believe.”
In the face of the Apple Watch, Schaller is confident about the future. “I think mechanical watches have a bright future,” he says. “We will be more and more surrounded by electronics and the virtual world, but people will appreciate even more the art of watchmaking. For the entry segment, I think it will be more and more threatened from designer brands, cheaper brands, connected watches. This won’t be so easy and I feel the necessity for them to create more added value, as Swatch did in its time.”