The brief was clear, and it didn’t take long for the think tank in charge of defining the fundamental principles of Baume, sister-brand to Baume & Mercier, to agree which three cornerstones the brand should be built on: e-commerce, customization, and a connection with youth – but not by rehashing old ideas. This was about breaking new ground. At Baume, environmentalism thus translates into recycled and recyclable materials while sustainability implies a circular economy, zero inventory and short supply chains. Corporate social responsibility rules out the use of mined or animal-based products. All factors which are subsumed into one overriding condition: for any of these messages to make sense, the finished products, which retail at between €500 and €1,000, must deliver on perceived value.
A disruptive brand
Mission accomplished, and in record time. It took Richemont just 18 months to launch what is the twelfth brand in its watch and jewellery stable; a ground-up business creation that broke with a history of takeovers (Yoox Net-A-Porter and Watchfinder being the latest acquisitions). Barely out of the starting blocks, the brand was already the talk of the industry. This was, after all, a completely new business model for the group, eons away from methods in place at the centuries-old manufacturers already in its portfolio, and made-to-measure for the millennial demographic. Six months later, has strategy paid off? “We’re delighted with the launch. From the get-go, Baume was well-received and sparked considerable enthusiasm among certain audiences,” says Marie Chassot. Formerly with Roger Dubuis then Baume & Mercier, she is now at the head of Baume. “We’ve broken with convention, hence I’ve spent a lot of time explaining what the brand is about. This first stage of winning approval from customers, the media and our peers was very important. It’s a sign that we’ve made coherent choices.”
The next testing ground for these choices will be the markets themselves. Inevitably, this entails a certain amount of tweaking, starting with distribution. When Baume launched, its watches were available in 83 countries but were only sold online. Now the brand is moving into physical points of sale, with pop-up stores in Paris and New York, soon to be followed by Japan where the concept has convinced one of the country’s main retailers. “We’re rolling out pop-up events in the markets,” Marie Chassot continues. “These won’t be on such a grand scale as our month-long Baume Beach House in Malibu for the international launch, but they are a way for us to test different approaches. We soon came to the conclusion that online only wasn’t the right solution. It’s essential that we diversify channels and establish a complementary physical presence. In this respect, we’re happy to team up with other brands, clothing for example, that also promote sustainable consumption. Also, we lean more towards concept stores as they fit our profile and put us in touch with the customer.”
A universal brand
Product-wise, Baume has just unveiled its first limited edition, in collaboration with pro skateboarder Erik Ellington and his new Human Recreational Services (HRS) brand. The cases of this Icon model are upcycled from his old skate decks. As Marie Chassot explains, “the idea of giving a second life to an object that has already been used aligns perfectly with what Baume stands for. It’s an idea we had from the start. Erik Ellington is the right partner for addressing serious issues like the future of our planet in a laidback, as opposed to alarmist, way.” The brand, which is planning a large moon-phase display for Christmas, is looking into adding more new features to its Ronda and Miyota quartz movements that will extend the possibilities offered by its online customizer. Another area to have had some rethinking is logistics, a vital piece in the puzzle given that watches are assembled to order in the Netherlands, with the possibility of setting up new local sites as markets grow.
When Baume started out on its journey, it faced the additional difficulty that none of the team had any real start-up experience. Not a problem! “We’re prepared to learn from our mistakes and we all share the same mindset that makes us see opportunities rather than risks,” says Chassot. “Baume’s raison d’être is to make a better tomorrow for future generations and it’s a concept we all believe in. And it’s not just about getting through to young people. If we can get them on board, there’s a good chance we’ll succeed in convincing older generations too. It’s a universal philosophy, and ultimately so is our brand.” Most start-ups take three to five years to reach profitability. After its first six months, Baume looks to be in good stead.