Geneva-based watch company Raymond Weil is one of the few Swiss watch brands that remains family owned. Founded in 1976 by Raymond Weil, it was managed for 18 years by his son-in-law, Olivier Bernheim, and is now under the leadership of Weil’s grandson, Elie Bernheim. The brand is known for its accessible, high-quality Swiss-made watches and creative designs.
“I have been immersed in the Raymond Weil universe as far back as I can remember,” says Elie Bernheim. “I grew up in the industry and watched both my grandfather and my father build the company. Watchmaking is in my blood, and it was an obvious choice for me to join the business in 2006. I started in the marketing department, with the task of the rebranding of our corporate identity. Then I started designing collections, including the Nabucco and Freelancer collections.”
One of the most popular recent introductions is a pilot’s watch, the Freelancer Piper, which is special because it references the legacy of the founder. Raymond Weil was a passionate pilot and the proud owner of a Piper plane. “I was not even eight years old when I first flew with him, and he passed on his enthusiasm for flying to the next generation,” says Bernheim. The Piper is an automatic chronograph with a date window, a GMT function and a tachymeter ring, a useful function for pilots. The case is made of titanium and steel and it is water resistant to 100 meters. “The Piper is a fitting homage to my grandfather and the invaluable heritage he left us,” says Bernheim. “I am sure he would be immensely proud of it.”
Music was another of Mr. Weil’s passions, and the brand’s collections are peppered with the names of operas and musical terms. “My late grandfather was a big fan of opera, and so is my father,” says Bernheim, who adds, “my mother is a professional pianist, and I play both the cello and piano. Timekeeping and music share common values: precision, performance and emotion. We like to say we compose our timepieces the way musicians compose their chef d’oeuvres.”
The company has long supported and nurtured musical talent, including artists Nicola Benedetti, Labrinth, 2Cellos, Milos Karadaglic and the late Frank Sinatra. In fact, the most recent piece in the Maestro collection is the Frank Sinatra Limited Edition. The watch commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the birth of Frank Sinatra. Reminiscent of the nickname “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” the hands, index markers, and contour of the date window are a bright blue hue. A special Sinatra Centennial insignia is visible through the caseback.
Another recent musical creation is the Nabucco Cello Tourbillon, the company’s first tourbillon. The bridges, escapement and mainspring barrel take the form of the instrument’s distinctive f-holes, while the slender hands are formed in the shape of a cello bow. The five lines of a musical stave are represented in the grooved bezel, and four tiny strings are stretched across the dial between the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions.
The movement, Caliber RW1842, was designed in collaboration with Tec Ebauches, a movement specialist located in Switzerland’s famous Vallée de Joux watchmaking district. The partnership represents Raymond Weil’s ongoing strategy to work with the best suppliers in the world of watchmaking. Creating a proprietary base caliber “isn’t part of our plan,” says Bernheim. “Our strength is that we are a recognized name worldwide with clearly defined positioning and elegant, affordable watches. We have been working with the best suppliers for decades, and this allows us to focus our efforts on the areas where we are strong and further develop our creativity. We do not pretend to be something that we are not, and this humble approach is our biggest asset. For the Cello Tourbillon, we partnered with a renowned movement provider to create a state-of-the-art timepiece that takes its design cues directly from the cello. The remarkable musical elements of the mechanism were conceived entirely by the Raymond Weil in-house research and development department.”
The strength of these partnerships is part of the company’s success strategy.
“We can count on our reliable partners, with whom we have built long-term relationships,” says Bernheim, who adds that being a family-owned and operated company allows them to react more quickly to pressures and changes in the market. “It allows us to be more nimble than our competitors,” says Bernheim. “The current economic situation world-wide is a challenge, and predicting can be very hazardous, but I am convinced that if a watch brand remains faithful to its values and provides clients with an authentic, honest and reasonably-priced collection, it will be successful. Clients are looking to invest wisely, and so simple and elegant timepieces will always find the right audience.”