On Jan 27th, I had the pleasure of talking to Beat Weinmann of ochs und junior, as a follow-up to my review of the selene tinta. Allow me to thank Mr. Weinmann for his time.
PH: One of the things that came up in the comments on my review is the cost of ochs und jr compared to other Swiss brands. Briefly put, why so much for an unpolished titanium case and basic ebauche?
BW: There are several reasons for the costs, mainly due to nonstandard cases and limited production runs. Most case makers have minimum order quantities of 500 or more, which is more than the entire annual production for ochs und junior. We wanted a 2-part, unpolished case with no movement ring, and no manufacturer could make that for us. Having them made by Peter Cantieni allows top quality and small quantities, but of course the per-unit cost is much higher. It also allows much faster turnaround on new ideas and parts, and we felt it was important to work outside of the industry.
Our watch cases are somehow like raw concrete. If that is well done and not over-painted it has as well a bit higher costs than a wall you just put a lot of stuff on to make it look nice. We show directly how it is made! And the work of Peter is perfect!
We make watches without compromise. It's not for the majority, it's for a small niche. As an engineering-based company, we pursue elegant solutions, not polish.
PH: What's different about ochs und jr from other companies?
BW: ochs und junior is a whole environment way of thinking, from the packaging to the watches. You're not paying for advertising or middlemen. We will make around 100 watches in 2012, and we will make a maximum of 300 per year. More than that and we can't control all of the processes: innovation, production, communication, retail, service. We want to have the direct contact to our customers and want to know them - quite different from most other watch companies, even the small ones.
These watches are manufactured in an exclusive small production - with unique developments in it. Who else can develop an annual calendar with just 3 extra parts on top of the movement and with a functional integrated dial? Our moonphase is so different in aesthetics and construction to anything else on the market. If we would mass produce we could certainly lower the prices. But then we get problems to retail them and on the end we have troubles and long service times... We just are not doing any compromises. That is the reason for the maximum number we have made for the company ochs und junior as a target. That is what we can control and manage. Transparency and a honest product is important for us.
PH: What sorts of news and announcements can we share with our readers?
BW: We'll be releasing a new annual calendar movement this year, April or May, for 8,000 CHF. We have orders already, and it's on wrists right now for testing. It'll be part of the Tinta line of watches, incorporating advances from that line, such as the dial being part of the movement.
The Tinta collection will increase, we've already announced that watches will be available in 39mm diameters as well as the current 42mm size. We'll be doing special requests such as silver cases, as we like the way the metal patinates and develops its own look. Silver is unique to ochs und jr, we have looked at bronze and PVD cases but those are being done well by other brands and we don't want to repeat them.
We are working on a web shop, were you can buy online, that should be available soon. We're working on a new, unannounced new watch that we hope to show later this year, but mum's the word on that for now.
And of course, we're working on our new space in Lucerne, to open in April at Zurichstrasse 49. 180 square meters, with a manual Gaggia espresso machine from the 1960s that should be here soon, and we have found that many watch lovers are also big coffee aficionados as we are. We buy coffee from local roaster Black and Blaze, so come in for espresso and watches!
That space will be our communications platform, our office, our workshop, we have a photo studio in it and products beside watches made or designed by some of our close friends. We will have hand made sneakers from Ilmia, Desiger light from Wald-Haus and Christian Deuber, Handmade longboards from Indiana and different other useful, design oriented and cool things. The space will be a concept store and probably a unique statement for a watch store...
PH: I was curious about the Settimana Junior. Does it sell well? Who buys it?
BW: That came about when we noticed that there are few nice watches for kids. It was a concept born in two minutes. The others are all disposable plastic! The idea of a one-week timeline was natural. With the rubber strap and large numbers, it's both functional and whimsical. The Junior is, at 2,700 CHF, actually a break-even or small loss for us. We originally wanted a 1,000 CHF price but this was simply impossible. It's what we call a 'calculation stunt' and a very low price for an Oechslin original. At 36mm it's often seen on the wrists of cool adults with a sense of humor.