How do the martial arts help you in your professional life?

The martial arts are very important to me, they give me the seven values of Bushido, and they help me in my daily life. They have taught me discipline, respect, and have helped to give me mental accuracy.

You spar with Revolution’s US editor, Keith Strandberg, each week. What do you like about it?

Sparring once a week keeps me fit. I am an excessive person, always pushing the limits of everything I do, but thanks to this training, I cannot eat too much or drink too much, because I know that if I want to last 10 rounds with Keith, I need to train and take care of myself. I have been doing martial arts for over 40 years and I am fitter today than I have ever been.

When I was younger the martial arts really helped me. I have a first degree black belt in Shotokan Karate, and a fifth Dan in Kyokushinkai Karate. This training has taught me to focus. You really have to concentrate when fighting, or you’ll end up getting kicked or punched.

When you meet someone for the first time and they ask you to explain Artya, what do you say?

Firstly, I would be very disappointed that they hadn’t heard of the brand already! Then, I would explain that there are over 700 Swiss watch brands, but that Artya is something quite different; we don’t really have any competition. An Artya timepiece is a piece of art that you wear on your wrist. We only make unique pieces or very limited series of watches, and we do it in a way that no one has ever done in the 400 years of watchmaking history.

Yvan Arpa

You have an interesting naming system for your watches, starting with Son of…can you tell us about this?

It started with the Son of Sound, because it was influenced by music, then there were the Son of Earth pieces, which were inspired by things given to us by Mother Earth, like butterflies or natural pigments. Then we had Son of Art, which were art pieces. It all came naturally, like Son of a Gun, with the bullets.

How important is it for you to experiment with different materials?

It is very important for me. When I started, 12 years ago, people thought that what I was doing was weird, but now many brands are doing the same things too. We found books from hundreds of years ago on metallurgy, so we experimented with different materials; it is something that is filled with emotion. I am currently working with my wife Dominique on a number of new materials. She is an artist and was the one who had the idea of putting works of art on the dial. She recently saw an exhibition with 200-year old pieces of art using seaweed, so we are working on a new collection inspired by the sea with seaweed on the dials, like we did with the butterfly dials. After the air and the earth, we are now going into the sea.

Nobody needs a watch today to tell the time. It’s all about passion and emotion. We aren’t a finance company; we make watches that we believe in. It’s sad that today, many companies make watches just to make money. Each of our watches is filled with passion and you can feel it when you wear them. We make watches with passion, emotion and love. That is really the goal of Artya.

Yvan Arpa

Founded in 2010, you are a young brand, and yet your timepieces have evolved quite considerably over the years. Can you explain this?

We invest every penny into the watches. In the beginning, we did the cases that had been struck by lightning, which gave us a lot of exposure. This was quite shocking and people started to ask themselves what this new brand was. I often compare it to Madonna whose first album, Like a Virgin, shocked a number of people, but once she had their attention, she did more mainstream music. No one can escape from Artya. People may like us or hate us, but they can’t ignore us. We needed to do the wild things to get noticed and now we have high complications such as minute repeaters and tourbillons. Today we have 12 different concepts from guns to butterflies, skeletonized movements and specially engraved pieces.

Does Artya speak to younger clients?

We have a lot of young Artya clients who feel the passion and emotion behind the brand. We had a young client from Japan recently who was only 18 years old. He saw one of the butterfly pieces in a magazine and said he couldn’t sleep; he just had to have one. He had never been interested in watches before, but this piece just spoke to him. He traveled the country by train to purchase the piece. We meet people like this every day; it is magical. In Japan, I will often see young people with Artya phone cases, so they obviously love the designs.

How expensive is an Artya timepiece?

The starting price for an Artya watch is 3,000 CHF—an amazing price for a unique piece or strictly limited series.

Where do you source your movements from?

We use base movements from ETA, and we develop movements together with the renowned Swiss watchmaker Pierre Favre, who made our perpetual calendar movement, our guitar tourbillon and our double axis tourbillon movement. Pierre and his team are fantastic to work with.

Yvan Arpa
Yvan Arpa

You have a number of celebrity clients; can you tell us about them?

Whatever people say celebrities work wonders when you want to sell watches. People still think that if a celebrity wears a watch, it must be good. I don’t have money to put watches on celebrity wrists, so they all buy their own watches. Russian president Vladimir Putin has three Son of a Guns, and Steven Seagal bought one in a shop in Moscow and gave one to Putin too as he knew he liked them. All the people you see on our website paid for their watches. Another interesting anecdote is that Revolution featured a photograph of an Artya timepiece in a photoshoot and the King of Morocco saw it in your pages, and bought it. People see our watches and they love the way they look and they buy them.

The clients we have are passionate people. They don’t necessarily want a watch from a big brand to show off, they want something different.

Of all the projects you have worked on, what are you the most proud of?

I am not in this for the ego trip; my family is the most important thing in my life. Having said that, 20 years ago, I would definitely have had an answer for you, but now I am happy that I have balance in my life.

Of course, I was proud that Samsung came to see me to help them design their new smart watch. With all the great watch designers out there, I was definitely honored to be the chosen one. I am still working with Samsung. It is a fantastic experience. It is a different world, it is definitely the future, and I am extremely happy to be part of it.

You are considered a provocateur. It is important for you to push boundaries?

I am a troublemaker for sure, but Artya is such a small brand that if I hadn’t been like this we wouldn’t be here today. If the watch industry continues the way it is going, in two generations mechanical watches won’t exist anymore. We need to propose products that touch young people, otherwise they will all end up with smart watches. At Artya, we are taking a different way; it is a little like the Bushido philosophy in that the journey is the way, not the destination, and I am enjoying every part of the journey.

Yvan Arpa