You are based in England, yet you run the watch operations for Fabergé?
AP: I am at least one week a month in Geneva. Pallinghurst and Gemfields, the mother companies, are based in London. Pallinghurst is a venture capital company that bought into Fabergé in 2007, and they have decided to relaunch the brand and clear all the licenses. One of the last licenses was for watches, with Victor Meyer. Now, we do everything, all the development, all ourselves.

You both tell the same story about finally meeting. You weren’t so interested in the beginning, right?

JMW: I have seen so many people coming and having big ideas and famous names to restart that I have become a bit jaded. Aurelie wanted me to come to the Beau Rivage Hotel in Geneva to see a documentary, and since I didn’t know her, I said no. She insisted and finally Nadia, my assistant, set an appointment. In two hours, she turned me around. She told me her background, working with Omega and Audemars Piguet, and it was clear that she knew what she wanted to do, and it was very consistent and well planned out. Gemfields is behind her, so many things are lined up, so I decided to work with her.

Why were you so determined to work with Jean-Marc?
AP: I had never met Jean-Marc before, but I had heard of him. When we thought about Fabergé watches and complications for women, it was natural that we had to ask Jean-Marc. It was hard to get the meeting with him. He didn’t want to work with us. At our first meeting, it was like a job interview. He asked us what we were doing and we explained that we wanted to have the rebirth of Fabergé through watches. After we talked for quite a while, we saw the light in his eyes.

We talked about our ideas of the Peacock watch, and he thought a project he was working on could fit. We came together with the idea of the Peacock. Since that day, it has been magical in developments, and oh, the fun that we have had. Having Jean-Marc working with us is also a big sign of legitimacy.

Jean-Marc, you shared with me that you only work on projects you really have an interest in. Are you having fun with Aurelie and Fabergé?

JMW: What we have done in two years— we have created three completely new integrated movements, which was only possible because she gave us the trust. Working in such a manner is such a great thing. It’s a pleasure to work with Aurelie; you can’t do great things without pleasure.

Aurelie started with a spirit of “anything is possible.” It doesn’t start from a movement or a complication or something existing, but with the will of doing something interesting. When we started with the Peacock, it was the start of the new Fabergé story.

We are inventing a completely new way of telling time and this is great for a brand. This surprised people with the new way of doing things. You start with wanting to create a new object, and we had the chance to make it together. If you intend to come into this watch industry, the least you can do is to consider the movement. It’s necessary; what is inside matters. Even if you don’t know about watches, you will be fascinated by the movement.

How are things going?

AP: I am so happy. We have the freedom to create. At Omega, you change the size of an index on the dial, you have to have approval from so many directors. Here, I just create and we don’t have to wait for decisions, and we can go very quickly. The watches express our contemporary nature while keeping the values of the brand— color, design, mix of materials and always surprise and discovery. We try to create emotion with something unexpected.

How do you think Aurelie is doing?

JMW: She is a magician. What she has accomplished in such a short time is truly remarkable. She smiles all the time but she is very strong. Everyone wants to work with her. It is exactly the opposite of how it has been in the industry—all the brands talk about industrialization. People think that manufacture is something important, but today, most of the manufacturers can’t really do things correctly; so they have a lot of machines and people but they don’t work as well as if they went to the best suppliers. Aurelie understood this very well.

Time changes very fast today. The normal way of selling watches will completely change. The feminine spirit can help a lot, to come up with new ideas. Everybody makes the same kinds of watches now; no one knows what to do. Ladies understand better, especially Aurelie.

What is the biggest challenge facing you?

AP: It’s very hard to do something unexpected, because so much has already been done. We can use new techniques and we have to be creative. With Fabergé, there were so many different types of objects. For us, it’s very important to work with beautiful movements, to make sure that what is inside is as beautiful as what is outside. That’s why we don’t want to use modules on top of a base movement, but something from scratch.

 

Agenhor works with many brands, but you are quite selective about the projects you personally work on, right?

JMW: I prefer working with people who are looking for something new. My pleasure is to invent. The watch I prefer is the one I am working on now. I need the next one; I need to invent. When I have the chance to be with someone who wants to find a new way, it’s my sincere pleasure. I don’t want to produce something normal. Today, the big companies are boring. They are only making logistics, big meetings. With big companies, it takes four years to do what we did with Fabergé in one year. I don’t even want to see the people from the big brands anymore; they are so boring. I am sure that Fabergé will survive for many years. They can only grow, they want to be very close with their clients, and they want to have pleasure. It’s a perfect brand and there is a lot of space for this kind of a brand. The future is clearly in such brands. Fabergé will be very well known in a few years.

What is the goal for Fabergé?

AP: In 2015, we started with the new watches. This year, we wanted to continue so it doesn’t appear to be a one-shot. We are continuing with a full collection. The idea is not to come every year with new movements, but to establish the brand as a serious player. With the workshop we have now in Geneva, we are working to really establish the brand as a true player.

When I started, I was on my own, then we brought other people in, and now there are three people here, and we will have a team of watchmakers and will bring more operations in-house. We are growing step by step. In 2015, we made about 500 watches, and in 2016 we will increase that a bit. We don’t want to go too fast. In everything we are doing, there is always something unexpected. I think that’s why they hired me—it was unexpected. It wasn’t conventional, and, fingers crossed, it works. We are just following the tradition of Fabergé, who worked with the best artisans and best suppliers and presented products that were surprising. We want to continue what we are doing, to establish ourselves, and to continue working with the masters we are working with and the suppliers.

 

You started in the watchmaking industry in 1968. How have things changed today?

 

JMW: Back then, we learned through watchmaking and we had the chance to use it much more than today. I am sad that the industry doesn’t need watchmakers so much anymore. We have to be more conscious about the chance we have to work in such a special profession. I like modern ways of thinking and doing things; I am very open with connected objects, because we should go in this direction, as the world is open for these products, but, at the same time, people will continue to buy mechanical watches but only if they are done with your brain and your heart.

What is important is to have a big respect for the past. The person who buys the watch is buying the work of the people behind it. We have to go back to put the watchmaker in the center of the process again, but this is not true in most of the brands because everything has become industrialized. We have to go back to the bench.

 

What is the next step for Fabergé?

AP: We have to set up the workshops here in Geneva, so that we can assemble the watches here to get the Geneva Seal. People might have an old-fashined idea about Fabergé, but today we are very contemporary.

You think Aurelie can succeed?

JMW: She wanted to move very quickly; I thought she was crazy, but I like this craziness. She really knows where she wants to go. It was good because I can share the technical drawings with her and she understands them.

Aurelie is very young, but she has experience as well. What is important is the surprise. Fabergé can do it because they don’t have a long history in the watch industry. Big brands with long histories can’t do things like this because they have an expectation in the market. Many brands are now trying to make women’s watches, but they don’t know how, so they end up making smaller men’s watches for women. I love it when people do something new.