Brellum is a Swiss watch brand from a Swiss guy who says he comes from generations of watch industry professionals – and it shows in pretty much all the ways seasoned watch lovers might predict. I want to first say that their debut product, the Brellum Duobox Chronometer, is a fantastic value for the money and in my opinion, an excellent example of what to look for in boutique Swiss watchmaking in modern times. Brellum takes something old and sells it in a way that contemporary consumers prefer. It combines a classic look at a price – that is quite simply – what to expect when middleman bloat is cut out.
Before I speak about the Brellum Duobox watch itself, I think a discussion on context and current market relevance is very important. In my opinion that will help frame the product and brand more accurately, as well as help the right people connect with a watch that I think they could very much enjoy.
Opening the packaging that the Brellum Duobox Chronometer came in, I am presented with only familiar things. The outer box, large in size and glossy in finish, is something I’ve seen before in an almost identical fashion many times before. Inside is a smaller pouch – the likes of which I’ve always seen before in more or less identical fashion. From there, the watch was thoughtfully draped with a plastic sleeve-cased cleaning cloth, and under that was the Duobox watch itself. It’s a welcome, yet familiar presentation that I’ve encountered in countless instances. The experience that Brellum created in the product presentation is a direct and totally unwavering continuation of Swiss watch packaging tradition.
Then there is the design of the Brellum Duobox Chronometer watch itself. Classic with a hint of sportiness, it evokes thoughts of chronograph watches from the 1950s. At first glance I think a lot of people might (and this isn’t a bad thing) mistake it for something like a Breitling Transocean Chronograph, which itself is an emulation of historic designs. The Duobox is an elegant assortment of historic watch design elements and themes, put together in a way that (again) is familiar and immediately recognizable to most watch lovers. The upside is that anyone looking to own a watch that fits this theme will probably like it a lot. A lot of that is because despite Brellum being a newer brand, the attention to detail and value for the money are both really great.
The downside to this is what some might think of as “Swiss tunnel vision.” There is nothing new. Like I said, Brellum is offering a look at a great price and quality. It isn’t doing much to further contemporary watch design or really distinguish itself as a brand. Brellum will succeed based on its direct-to-consumer sales model and the fact that a lot of people want this “look” at a price that isn’t nuts. The Brellum website and sense of authentic “watch knowledge” professionalism come across nicely and I have a solid level of confidence in the brand. It is easy to recommend, but it isn’t a brand that is pushing the watch design movement forward, but rather, seeking to package “history” for customers seeking value.
From a business perspective, this isn’t an unwise move as they likely think “we come from watchmaking country and we make a design from our history that we like. We then make it available direct to consumers at a fair price online.” Assuming people discover the brand (which I’m happy to help with in doing this review) I think a lot of customers will bite. With that said, Brellum isn’t itself creating demand for the dream of having a fine Swiss watch, nor promoting the design of this particular style. That still has to happen before the consumer reaches Brellum’s (virtual) doorstep.
I say all this because we are at a time when I strongly believe the Swiss watch industry must focus a lot of effort in making mechanical watches relevant for consumers who haven’t yet found personal reasons for why they want a nice watch. Companies like Brellum service existing needs, but with their slick presentation and capable ability to produce a very traditional watch. I want more companies like them doing the same thing with designs which speak to today’s audiences. I am in no way trying to place unfair responsibility on Brellum for what an entire industry should be doing.
In fact, Brellum could very easily say, “yes you are right Ariel, but our personal mission is to further history and tradition. That is where our passion is, and not necessarily in modern or futuristic design.” I couldn’t disagree but I would extend a further compliment to Brellum and point out “if more modern watch brands came with the foundation and attention to watch product quality that you have, then the industry could very easily be in a better place.” People who do “it” right, tend to get stuck with a lot of responsibility in their categories.