ABTW: Have your views on how to build a luxury watch changed over the years?
OI: Yes, completely. The years of work have given me lots of experience on what to do and what not to do in the design of a mechanical watch. Today you have to touch the movement and make interesting functions much more than years ago. As well, the details of the dial are very fundamental to making the difference between an average and a luxury watch.
The A.Manzoni & Fils brand concept extends well beyond watch making to differ it from all its competitors. One pillar of the brand concept is about the collaboration of a sophisticated craftsman with a contemporary designer in order to interpret ancient techniques in new modern ways. That is what we understand and have registered in class 14 under “contemporary craftsmanship”. Therefore, A.Manzoni & Fils will also edit applied art items that are not necessarily always time related. In the beginning of course most of the applied art items will be from the watch industry, like table clocks or grandfather clocks.
The second of the pillars of our brand concept is the detailing that refers in one way or another to culture. This concept we registered in class 14 under “a movement of culture”. We want to be the first watch brand remembered to mix culture with commerce. In the beginning it’s the Cote de Copacabana from landscape architect Roberto Burlé Marx that covers our dials and movements but there are already other patterns and details in the pipeline that we will use as a matter of coherence in other collections.
ABTW: The pricing structure of the Kickstarter campaign is a compelling argument, coming in at $5000 (1/3rd of the retail price) - how did you come to settle on those prices?
OI: The watch industry, like the fashion industry, has various levels of mark-ups that are necessary for distribution, after sales service, and advertising. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising, we retained it as an innovative marketing strategy to make available a limited edition of the first timepiece of each collection at importer prices through crowdfunding on kickstarter to make the brand more known and more accessible with the final consumers.
These consumers will be our future brand ambassadors - we will never pay stars to endorse our products like other brands do. The buzz we have created so far through this unusual move has brought A.Manzoni & Fils lots of editorials all over the world. So in the end, the distributor and retailer will profit from this kind of…call it “guerrilla market introduction”. This scares some people but we are looking to do these things quite differently and you will see more of these unusual marketing moves in the future of the brand.
ABTW: You're also being very transparent on where all of the components and accessories that make up the retail package are sourced from. That's a relative rarity in the industry these days - why did you decide to be so open?
OI: We want to be very transparent as to the origin of the product. Our watches are 100% manufactured in Switzerland and we want to give the consumer the guarantee that this is something they can count on. The various craftsmen that work for A.Manzoni & Fils, like the renowned design partners, will help to automatically put the brand on the map. We want to help maintain the cultural heritage of Swiss watchmaking and therefore we really want to show where things are made.
The true origin of a product contributes to its authenticity and value. All great brands build upon a local craftsmanship tradition. We want to give the A.Manzoni & Fils brand a connotation of excellence in craftsmanship, just as they were known for when they started their company in 1888.
ABTW: In some of our exchanges, you've said you're looking to come up with a hybrid financing model, should the Kickstarter project not fully fund. Could you go into some more detail on that?
OI: We are not yet so sure of what will happen over the next few weeks. We underestimated the PR work involved in a Kickstarter crowd-financing campaign and the way to prepare it properly. In case we do not reach our goal on time we might be tempted to run the campaign again.
Another solution could be that we take on a minority partner from the people who approached us over the last several weeks and showed an interest in investing. From this we could reduce the crowd-financing target. At the moment it's too early to say anything, our campaign has increased its visibility over the last 24 hours by 100%, so a pledge increase should follow statistically as well.
ABTW: The Côtes de Copacabana is a very unique look. Could you elaborate on why you settled on that pattern, rather than something considered to be a more traditional finishing?
OI: As mentioned above, the “movement of culture” strap-line is one of the two pillars of our brand concept. Our watches will always have a reference to culture in its detail. Why did we start with Côtes de Copacabana? It is that I simply adore the work of landscape architect Roberto Burlé Marx and I love Brazil as well.
ABTW: Speaking of design - Ilkka Suppanen hasn't (to my knowledge) designed watches prior to this venture. What do you see as the benefit of bringing in designers from other industries?
OI: This is exactly what differs us from the rest of the industry. Designers who have been trained in other fields bring to the table other ideas and perspectives. What they have to know about the watch industry I will teach them. In our industry today the people still continue to copy from Gerald Genta’s designs and it's time to bring in some fresh wind and design innovation.
ABTW: I realize that most of your efforts are likely focused on getting the new company off the ground, and realizing the creation of the Canopus. That said, can you share what your future plans are for the brand?
OI: We have to go step by step. Even if you had all the money, you could not launch too many products at the same time. The consumers have to understand the A.Manzoni & Fils philosophy, see its coherence and consistence, and that will build a strong, long lasting brand. As mentioned above, we already have developed a ladies watch and a table clock in the Canopus collection (that we are ready to launch in the same way with Kickstarter) once the Canopus Weekplanner project becomes successful.
The dream would be to relocate our premises in the old factory and start a movement production, but you know better than me how much money this involves. In the beginning it's smarter to develop interesting mechanical modules on existing movements instead of developing entire calibres which takes years and eats up too much capital.
Our thanks goes to Oliver for taking time from his schedule to cover this variety of topics with us - as well as giving us some rather tasty hints as to what else is in store for the A. Manzoni & Fils brand. For those interested in more details on the Canopus watch (or to purchase one of your own), the Kickstarter project runs through August 7th. You can also check out an additional writeup I did on the Canopus Weekplanner over here. The estimated retail price on the A. Manzoni & Fils Canopus Weekplanner is $15,000 - $18,500 depending on the model but only $5,000 on Kickstarter if the campaign reaches its goal. amanzoni.com