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In conversation with Elie Bernheim CEO at Raymond Weil

Chaniya James 5 minutes
In conversation with Elie Bernheim CEO at Raymond Weil ww 24

Join us as we sit down with Elie Bernheim, CEO at Raymond Weil. We disscuss his journey at the brand and what we can expect from the brand moving forward.

Can you please introduce yourself and give us a brief overview of your journey at Raymond Weil?

I'm Elie Bernheim, the CEO of RAYMOND WEIL and the grandson of the company’s founder, Mr Raymond Weil. It was my grandfather who awoke my interest in the family business and ignited my passion for watchmaking, a passion that has never waned. Later, after completing my studies, I joined the company and, under the tutelage of my father, I began learning the function of each department within RAYMOND WEIL. There is no substitute for practical experience, hence I spent time employed in a variety of roles. It is this experience, along with working with my father, that helped prepare me for the role of CEO.

How would you describe Raymond Weil to those who are unfamiliar with the brand?

RAYMOND WEIL was founded in 1976 and is headquartered in Geneva, the birthplace of Swiss watchmaking. We are delighted to say that we are an independent, family-owned company and we are proud to make Swiss watches. We have always strived to deliver accessible timepieces that are beautifully designed and wonderfully crafted. Over the years, our brand has become synonymous with reliability, something existing clients point out when they have their watches serviced. Indeed, our customers have become our best ambassadors, often recommending RAYMOND WEIL to friends and family. However, we never rest on our laurels and continuously strive to make even better products that deliver more value.

Can you share what inspires Raymond Weil as a brand and its pieces?

My grandfather had a profound love for horology and music, something which my father and I now share. The importance of timing is relevant in both fields. Likewise, in the same way a concert pianist exhibits an extraordinary degree of skill, we employ many talented craftspeople and watchmakers, trained to deliver virtuoso performances every day. We believe the parallels between music and watchmaking are clear. Our affinity with music has led to us collaborating with many musical legends over the years, producing limited edition models as well as raising funds for good causes linked to music.

What has been your favourite memory of working at the brand so far and why?

Winning the Challenge Watch Prize at last year’s GPHG (Grand Prix d’Horlogerie) is one of the highlights of my career and a memory that I will cherish forever. Before entering the GPHG, we already knew the Millésime automatic small seconds was a remarkable watch. However, it was wonderful that members of the GPHG Academy and Jury, comprising numerous watch aficionados, collectively recognised the excellence of this model.

We remain a very ambitious company and, buoyed by our success, we will continue to push forward, releasing new products and hopefully making more memories in the future.

With such a storied history, what key elements or values from the brand's past do you believe still resonate in today's watchmaking industry?

Our company is proud to be part of the Swiss watch industry, proud to perpetuate Geneva’s rich history of crafting timepieces and proud to be family-owned. My grandfather set in place the foundations on which our company now stands. We have never lost sight of that. Our company was built on several values such as craftsmanship, creativity, design, precision, quality and value. Those values were relevant in 1976 when the company was established and I believe they remain relevant today.

We’ve seen many technological advancements in watchmaking. How does the brand balance its heritage with incorporating modern innovations into its timepieces?

As you will no doubt have ascertained, we are incredibly proud of our heritage, respecting longstanding traditions such as craftsmanship, quality, etc. However, we cannot live in the past. Our R&D team continuously look for new materials, eager to deliver product improvements or simply an alternative aesthetic.

We have also embraced innovation with other types of watch that were once prohibitively expensive for the majority of people. Let’s consider the RAYMOND WEIL Freelancer Skeleton for one moment. Traditionally, skeleton (or open worked) watches were created by removing extraneous material from a regular movement. Typically, this would involve using an array of handsaws and files. The process was time consuming, costly and required much skill on the part of the watchmaker. Metal must be removed without comprising the rigidity of the movement.

Our skeleton watch was designed using CAD (Computer Aided Design) and features components executed using cutting-edge CNC machines (Computer Numerical Control). By adopting this approach, the design of the calibre can be optimised and the movement and bridges can be milled to minuscule tolerances measured in microns (1 mm = 1000 microns). Furthermore, by using a CAD system, it is possible to calculate the forces acting on each part of the movement, ensuring it remains rigid and, by default, reliable.

In summary, by adopting modern technology, we have delivered superior products in terms of appearance, performance and reliability. Moreover, by automating some processes previously done by hand, we have achieved cost savings, allowing us to deliver superior products that remain accessible, a longstanding strength of our company.

Moving forward, we will always consider new innovations, whether it relates to the materials we use or the processes we employ.

How do you envision the future for Raymond Weil?

At RAYMOND WEIL we have produced some incredible watches over the years and we are proud of our heritage and what we have achieved to date. However, we want to build on our past successes and continuously advance forward. We will do this by creating interesting products that are accessible, well made and deliver value. It is my job to ensure that we delight our consumers with timepieces that not only draw on our vast expertise, but deliver ownership delight today and for years to come.

We recognise that some prospective purchasers desire certain types of watch but are simply unable to afford them. In being inventive, embracing new materials and production techniques, we have been able to democratise certain complications.

Last year, we launched the Freelancer Men’s Pilot Flyback Chronograph. This is not an ordinary chronograph, the dial is endowed with an array of sumptuous textures, shades and depths, delivering a harmonious and handsome aesthetic. The model also features a flyback function, allowing the wearer to press the pusher at 4 o’clock while the chronograph is running and, in just one step, cause the chronograph to stop, reset and restart. This complication is ideal for timing several events in quick succession.

Even more remarkable is that the watch features an integrated movement equipped with a column-wheel and lateral coupling, details that were once the preserve of Haute Horlogerie, attracting five-figure pricing. In the UK, this watch currently retails for £3,695. Returning to what I said earlier, we respect our heritage but we also continuously embrace innovation and fresh ideas when these confer advancement.

The popularity of recent releases, especially the Millésime collection, has led to renewed interest in our brand. We intend to enlarge our portfolio of mechanical watches and further heighten brand awareness with new promotional initiatives. For example, we will be exhibiting at Watches & Wonders this year. This event, held in Geneva, is the most prestigious watch event of the year, attracting members of the press, trade and the public. It provides a wonderful opportunity for everyone to see our products at close quarters and discover what makes RAYMOND WEIL special.

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