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Published Vervemagazine.in July 3, 2017

Alexandre Peraldi has a fluid sense of fashion. He is passionate about ‘balance’ and is inspired by ‘everything and absolutely anything.’ Perhaps it is suggestive of the creativity that helps him keep the clock ticking at Swiss watchmaker Baume & Mercier (B&M), a brand that was founded in 1830. He’s been with the Richemont Group (a Switzerland-based company that owns some of the best luxury brands in jewellery, watches and writing instruments) since 1988, which incidentally is also when B&M joined the group. B&M are known for their sporty, classical watches in the ‘affordable’ mid-range luxury watch segment. Popular B&M lines include the Clifton Club – vintage watches based on the brand’s offerings from the mid 20th century, the minimalistic Classima, and Linea for women with interchangeable straps.

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Excerpts from an interview with the Baume & Mercier design director:

12 years at Cartier, 16 years at B&M. What has the journey been like?
“Patient. I’d like to use the line of the musician who said that, to be a good one, you have to learn classical music for 10 years and after that, you will be able to play jazz. I learnt ‘classical’ design at Cartier and I moved to Baume et Mercier to ‘play jazz’. It has been a very exciting journey.”

You believe in a fine balance with the tension of imbalance – how do you bring those two elements together to get that perfect jazz note?
“It’s difficult. First of all, it’s teamwork. At B&M, we try to design with the marketing, industry and design teams together. Being affordable is a very important constraint while being a great opportunity. You are obliged to go further in your design, to improve upon it and to be able at the end to find the best solution, with the best quality, with the best price. At Cartier, we designed directly and it reaches production without price constraint.

The other constraint is the aesthetics –  we try to stay classic with no extravagance. And yet, we have to find that touch of originality. Elements in design give this kind of balance between elegance, affordability and timelessness.”

Do you still sketch by hand?
“Yes. Less and less. I just engaged with two new designers, and it was very important that they are able to design by hand. When you have an idea in mind and when you work in a team, to explain something, you take a pen and like that… (sketches for Verve). If you don’t practice a lot, you lose your ability to design. We just spoke about inspiration – in the past, when I saw something, I always had a notebook to sketch in. Now, I have a phone to take a picture. While, now I can take a lot of pictures, later I may look at the picture and wonder why I took it – which wouldn’t happen if I were sketching what caught my eye.”

Does one design for the brand or for the market?
“The brand is nothing without the market. At the end, we have to be successful. We have to fit the needs of different markets, which is difficult. We are an old international brand and we have our own DNA. But, we have to adapt this design to the reality. So, we have to be aware of the competitors – not to follow them but to try to understand this market. The nightmare for us is that we don’t have our own boutique, so we can’t get direct feedback from the customer. Now, with social media, it will be a little bit easier because when the people don’t like something, they say it. (But when they like something, they don’t say it!)”

What is the future of the wristwatch?
“I don’t know! I am not really pessimistic. It’s an old story in watchmaking, that we (watchmakers) continue to exist, albeit, differently. Let’s take a parallel of the car. In the past, cars were all the same. The only change we had for years was the front-wheel drive and automatic transmission, and now you have electric or driverless cars. But a car with the motor, engine, wheels and doors will continue to exist; and I think it will be the same for the watch.
Perhaps we would change some details within the watch: the movement, connection or connectivity. The first step is the Apple Watch, but it’s not the final step. We didn’t imagine it in science fiction, but now everything is possible. When you see Star Wars, it is not the future. It is now. It will not be the role of the designer to change the watch, but of the innovator, who may come up with new materials, perhaps.”

What should an Indian buyer know about a B&M watch before buying it?
“They should know that it’s a very comfortable watch.
1. It fits the wrist well. It’s a sports watch, but you can wear it with anything. If someone says to me, ‘I forget the time while wearing your watch’, then my work is done.
2. The second comfort is that of aesthetic appeal. We are a classic, elegant brand. We are not aggressive or extravagant. We pay attention to details that would make a difference to the wearer.
3. And the third comfort is that of the wallet. We have to be affordable.”