Welcome back to an original aBlogtoWatch feature, “My First Grail Watch.” In this series, we ask prominent people in the watch industry about the first timepiece that they lusted after. Today, we’re speaking with Manuel Emch, who, along with being a watch designer, was at the helm of Jaquet Droz, and is currently the CEO of Romain Jerome. He also has a relatively rare distinction as having designed what he identifies as being one of his grail watches.
aBlogtoWatch (ABTW): Who are you, and what is your relationship to the watch industry?
Manuel Emch (ME): My name is Manuel Emch and I was born and raised surrounded by watches. I come from a family of watchmakers and grew up in Grenchen, home of ETA headquarters. Needless to say, that the watch industry was imprinted in me from a very young age.
ABTW: When did your fascination with watches start?
ME: At the end of the 1970’s we went through a big crisis in the watchmaking industry. Most of my friend’s parents lost their jobs and it really put a toll on the area where I lived. The topic was permanently in everybody’s minds and it was difficult to ignore what was going on.
Therefore, I grew up with an ambivalent idea about watches and the business as it had put many people I knew in difficulty. To be quite frank, I really started to interest myself in watches when, as a teenager, my friends and I started to first trade and then collect Swatch watches. I was at the time mainly attracted by the artistic collection as I’ve always had a great passion for Contemporary Art.
From then, I continued to interest myself into more brands and designs. My first real foot in the industry was during an internship at Swatch in the design department in Milan during my design studies at Art Center, a design university.
ABTW: What was your first grail watch?
ME: To be honest, I always had my eye on the limited edition Swatch designed by Keith Haring. I have always loved Keith Haring’s work and therefore would have loved to have this particular watch in my collection.
ABTW: What drew you to this particular watch?
ME: I guess it was a mixture of things, the design of course, the artist himself and the exclusivity (only 1000 pieces made) of the timepiece as it was impossible for me to get this watch at that time.
ABTW: Was there ever a time in your life when you could afford it – and if so, did you get it?
ME: Affording the watch wasn’t the problem; it was being able to get my hands on it! It was a rare piece and only avid collectors were able to get this watch. In short, I have never gotten my first grail watch.
ABTW: Since your first grail is so rare, have you moved on to something else?
I think that very few people can say that they were able to design and buy their own creation. So I can definitely say that I got my Grail and hope to get many more.