For the first time since founding the company that bears his name in 1976, Raymond Weil did not attend Baselworld – he passed away last January 26th, at 87 years. So, it was an emotionally-charged edition of the fair not only for the Weil-Bernheim oligarchy but also for all those who have worked or dealt with the man that dared to give his name to a contemporary watch company – something viewed as sacrilegious by the traditionalists at the time, especially in the midst of the so-called ‘quartz crisis’. Yet, even though absent, Mr. Raymond Weil was still there in spirit at Baselworld’s Hall 1.0: the big corporate sign displayed his name, the booth was inspired by a music box to respect the melomaniac association he always nurtured and the star of the new collection even had his own signature on the dial. The passing of a generation was also marked with an important management change, as Elie Bernheim was appointed to succeed his father Olivier as CEO of the company on 8 April, just one week after the end of the exhibition.
Exactly: his own signature. The limited edition gold chronograph christened Tribute to Raymond Weil bore the actual autograph of the founder on the dial. I went as far as considering it “the most significant timepiece in the brand’s history" and transmitted that idea to Elie Bernheim, Mr. Raymond Weil’s oldest grandson and the one in charge of developing the watch on time for the fair. He agreed: “Whatever happens, it will always be the most important watch in my life and my development at Raymond Weil”.
So, what was the reasoning behind the inception of the Tribute to Raymond Weil timepiece? “I really needed to, in my own way, pay my homage to him. It was the homage that I wanted to pay him, to the extraordinary grandfather that he was to us, the father that he was to our mother and aunt, but especially the entrepreneur and visionary that he was. The day after he died, I gathered the team and told them that we needed to bring up a watch that could be his watch”.
A chronograph of significance
“And we thought that, for all the timepieces the brand has issued in its history and whatever happened, my grandfather would always be wearing a chronograph – he wasn’t interested in three-hand timepieces nor in complicated watches. What he really loved were the chronographs, so it was evident that a watch dedicated to him had to be a chronograph. Then, his favourite collection was the Maestro. So we thought of creating a Maestro that could be a masterpiece, a watch with his name on it that would be significant”.
And significant it is, not only because of its symbolism but also because it features an imposing 45-milimeter diameter. “It has a big size, a nice volume. We immediately imagined a rose gold case and it was really important to make a difference, to bring out the beauty of the dial. We didn’t want the timepiece to have a commercial connection, so I didn’t want it to bear the usual Raymond Weil Genève logo; I wanted it to have his own signature, because he had a gift for writing – the most beautiful calligraphy I’ve ever seen”, commented Elie Bernheim, who along with his brother Pierre joined the management of the company several years ago.
The symbolism extends to the watch box. “We also looked for a prestigious wooden box that could refer to his passion for music”. Powered by an automatic modular chronograph movement, the homage timepiece will have a retail price around 14,600 Swiss francs – a highly attractive price for such an emblematic edition limited to 100 timepieces worldwide. There were many other novelties introduced by Raymond Weil at Baselworld, including a new collection (the Toccata) and variations on the existing lines (especially in the Nabucco, Freelancer, Maestro and Jasmine collections). But the Tribute to Raymond Weil is, deservedly, the brand’s watch of the year – probably of the decade.