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Laurent Ferrier Interview On Smartwatches & Turning A Hobby Into A Brand

Laurent Ferrier Interview On Smartwatches & Turning A Hobby Into A Brand ABTW Interviews

In the world of classical, independent, and fine watchmaking, few brands or watchmakers cast a longer shadow than Laurent Ferrier. So, I was thrilled when Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry invited me to come again to their wonderful store in Menlo Park, CA, to meet the man, the legend, and get a chance to interview him in person.

Laurent Ferrier Interview On Smartwatches & Turning A Hobby Into A Brand ABTW Interviews

As an admirer of classical timepieces from marquee brands like Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Vacheron Constantin, and A. Lange & Söhne, I am on the constant lookout for up-and-coming brands that have a shot to dethrone, or more likely create timepieces with similar lasting design and history as these legendary brands. Well, if you are like me, then look no further than Laurent Ferrier. The man behind this eponymous brand is an ex-employee of Patek Philippe. How did he end up creating his own brand? What drove him?

After getting a complete first-hand account from Mr. Ferrier himself, showing me each of his timepieces, I spent some time chatting with him in our native French. We discussed the tech industry in Silicon Valley, his thoughts on smartwatches, and how he created his brand. The translated short transcript below is lightly edited for flow.

Laurent Ferrier Interview On Smartwatches & Turning A Hobby Into A Brand ABTW Interviews

Maximilien: What does the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area, represent to you as a watchmaker?

Laurent Ferrier: Well, San Francisco is a legendary city with a unique architecture, and Silicon Valley is the modern center of current technology. We need current technology to dream of more artistic technology. Horology has not evolved much in the past 100 years. Whether it’s a tourbillon or double or triple tourbillon, not much has changed in watchmaking, unlike aviation, for example. I believe the people who are deep into modern technology can indeed find something more tangible and artistic in horology.

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Laurent Ferrier Interview On Smartwatches & Turning A Hobby Into A Brand ABTW Interviews

Maximilien: You are here to present your collection, do you believe that people here will appreciate a Laurent Ferrier classical timepiece? What is their reaction?

Laurent Ferrier: I believe people quickly realize that the USA is not really a country of cowboys, but rather one where folks appreciate refined, discreet, and classical things. Things that are not necessarily designed to be shown off, but rather to keep and to appreciate for yourself. We met collectors here wearing a tourbillon with a pair of jeans, and they fully understood and appreciated the movement inside it.

Laurent Ferrier Interview On Smartwatches & Turning A Hobby Into A Brand ABTW Interviews

Maximilien: Since you are here in Silicon Valley, with Apple less than about 30 minutes from where we are seated, I also have to ask about your thoughts on smartwatches?

Laurent Ferrier: For me, technologically, a simple portable phone is already a fabulous thing. My dad was a watchmaker, I am a watchmaker, and if we could have them alive today, his generation would be able to repair one of my timepieces. If, on the other hand, they repaired a ham radio, they would not be able to repair any of the modern phones. Those devices have evolved.

From a tech point of view, I am in awe of what these smart devices can do. However, in 30 years, will any of these devices increase in value? Will they be rare like a fine timepiece? I believe, with the smart devices, they will be displaced quickly and become unusable. We will need to keep changing these devices.

Maximilien: It’s like these devices live in the present, but your watches, on the other hand, live forever.

Laurent Ferrier: Yes, precisely. If we kept a timepiece in a box, in 100 years, you could wind it and it would still work. But it won’t be like that for smartwatches. It’s also like cars, a Ferrari of the past was made by hand and mechanical, and today, it’s worth a lot and is completely serviceable. Today’s Ferrari cars are loaded with digital technology and, without the right firmware, cannot be serviced.

Laurent Ferrier Interview On Smartwatches & Turning A Hobby Into A Brand ABTW Interviews

Maximilien: And to finish, I am sure that our readers at aBlogtoWatch.com would love to know what Laurent Ferrier does outside of watchmaking? What are your hobbies, if any?

Laurent Ferrier: For a while, my hobby was car racing.

Maximilien: Really? What types of cars?

Laurent Ferrier: Well, I have done the 24 hours of Le Mans seven times as a driver. I won it once, too… After watchmaking school, I worked at Patek Philippe for a while. But my hobby was car racing. I was able to do the 24 hours of Le Mans a few times. And in 1979, we finished 3rd with a Porsche which was on the Le Mans podium. My co-driver was a French industrialist who was also the sponsor, and to thank him when we won, I offered him a Patek Philippe Nautilus. And when I met him after, in subsequent years, he would tell me how many compliments he got on his Nautilus, and he also knew it was rare and hard to find. So we decided we would one day do our own watches. But this talk was always while on vacation at the beach and nothing came of it…

But after 37 years at Patek Philippe, he came to see me and asked me if we will build this watch. He gave me carte blanche. He said, do it, and we’ll figure out the rest after. So we created the first piece and went to New York and to meet with some collectors. One of them asked us if we were part of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève for that year. We were not, since it was plain and not complicated. And like that, he insisted. He nominated us, and we won the Grand Prize over Vacheron and F.P. Journe. And that’s the story of a hobby that turned into a business.

Once again, a thanks to Laurent Ferrier for taking the time for this interview. laurentferrier.ch

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  • IanE

    Good stuff – always good to hear from the horological super-stars. Like most here, I would love to have one of his creations.

    Thanks for this account.

  • DanW94

    Gorgeous, grail worthy watches from an ever so slightly aggravated looking gentleman : )

    • dr.max

      I tried to get him to smile… In vain. He liked that “serious” look. Thanks for commenting.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    He looks very like the late Sir Richard Attenbough ( think Jurassic park ). I love his very diplomatic answer to the smart phone question when only one word would have done., The back of his pieces are just divine to look at. I can totally see the design influence off PP in in first piece shown in this article. He’s on my wish list.

    • iamcalledryan

      Welcome to the Micro-Rotor: spared no expense!

      • I_G

        I hate automatic watches.

        • iamcalledryan

          Then you can play the lawyer who gets eaten while hiding on the toilet.

  • iamcalledryan

    “Well, I have done the 24 hours of Le Mans seven times as a driver. I won it once, too.”

    Gosh……………………………………

    • Questwatch

      But never produced a watch ?

  • Panama_Jack

    “And in 1979, we finished 3rd with a Porsche which was on the Le Mans podium. My co-driver was a French industrialist who was also the sponsor, and to thank him when we won, I offered him a Patek Philippe Nautilus.”
    Ok… I can’t figure it out: were they 3rd or 1st? And that Nautilus is in the same sentence, but not remotely connected to the rest logically. Am I having English issues? 🙂

    The whole story reads like a very old dude letting his fantasy go wild by the way… 😉
    “And this is how we saved the world using 3 donuts and a swimming suit, so I offered him a Patek.”

    Sorry for this non-constructive comment, but this interview is weird to say the least.

    • Tinger

      .. quick google search showed 3rd place.
      (Paul Newman came in 2nd )

      • DanW94

        Yup, 11th place the year before…..not to shabby.

    • I_G

      Old dude with popped collar.

    • dr.max

      First three places are “winning places”… Also he could have finished first for his class. I just transcribed what he told me.

  • Hobby becomes a business – not starting a business simply to make money. Or be driven by profit margins or market share. Always nice to read about someone whose passion took them to where they are. Thanks for the interview Max.

  • SuperStrapper

    Love his movements, but I find his dials all to be rather boring. Flame away if you will.

    • IanE

      Personally, I find them restful, calming and meditative – with just a touch of spice from the assegai hands – but chacun a son gout (I find most Grand Seikos boring – so, go figure!).

    • Dinkee, H. O.

      I agree. He should use frog’s legs for hands.

    • dr.max

      See them in person and you might change your mind… Thanks for commenting

  • Dinkee, H. O.

    Until he starts putting wooden bezels on his watches, he’ll always be a step behind the new Grand Master of Horology, (and close personal friend of mine) Ralph Lauren.

    The HO

    • Sarthak Sharma

      Still waiting on “Polo Laurent Ferrier” watches and maybe some cologne…

  • Boogur T. Wang

    I like his watches.

  • Ranchracer

    Hey now, us cowboys appreciate refined, discreet, and classical things just as much as the next guy. 🙂

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