Watchmaking brand Arnold & Son traces its lineage back to the year 1764, when English watchmaker John Arnold established his horology workshop. François Picci, VP Sales, talking to “Day & Night” explains the new novelties unveiled by the brand this year and the dynamics behind the watchmaker’s ability to develop a new movement for every model brought out in recent years
Can you tell us about the new releases of this year?
We have the Tourbillon Chronometer No. 36; John Arnold made the first chronometer 240 years ago. From that time, precise watches were called chronometers. Next year marks its 240th anniversary, so we decided to make the Tourbillon Chronometer No. 36 as a tribute to him. The design looks like the TB88, but in this watch, we have removed the true beat seconds and integrated a tourbillon. We have used the PVD5N treatment here and so it looks very much like the case, while the rest of the watch is similar to the TB88. The timepiece has double barrels and good finishing – gold chatons, with a diameter of 46 mm, and is a limited edition of 28 pieces in gold and 28 in steel.
Arnold and Son has watches in a wide range of sizes; which size sells the most?
Yes, we do have a big range; it starts with 40 mm and goes up to 46 mm. The size that we sell the most is 44 mm; that is our bestselling size.
Another new release this year is the DSTB – dial side true beat watch. Some people describe it as a watch with a blue dial; it does not have a blue dial, it is the main plate that is blue while the dial is white. We introduced this watch last year with a white gold case and blue main plate. A lot of people have been very impressed with the blue main plate and so we decided to introduce the watch in a stainless steel case with the same design. As the price point is quite good, we thought to give more people the opportunity to buy this.
What is the price difference between the gold and steel editions?
The stainless steel edition is priced at CHF27,900, while the white gold case is priced at CHF45,000; quite a big difference. As you can see the difference lies in the rotor; in the gold edition, it is of gold while it is of heavy metal in the steel edition. We have left everything else the same. Personally, this is the best true beat second that we have. It is the nicest one; the blue is really nice; it is easy to read; and the best of all is the fact that you can actually see how the true beat second works in this watch. It is a movement that not many people understand and in this watch, you can actually see how the complication transforms the movement into jumping seconds.
We also have an evolution of the DBG – global balance wheel GMT – the DBG Skeleton, the double balance wheel skeleton. It has the 24 hours indication, the home time, and the second time zone.
How many watches do you produce now?
We produce less than 1,000 watches a year, almost close to a 1,000.
What number do you hope to reach when you will be fully satisfied?
Our expectation is not to produce 10,000 watches. We want to be really exclusive; our brand is looking for the passionate people – the collectors. There is not a huge demand for the kind of pieces that we are producing. We need to find the right person who can appreciate that kind of haute horlogerie. Our aim is to build better distribution; now in some countries, the brand is not known. That is not good; for example, in Europe I am working to find distribution in Spain, Italy, and Portugal. I am talking about only one point of sales in each of these countries when I speak of distribution; I am not interested in opening four or five in Italy or the other countries because there is no market for that. Eventually, we can perhaps reach 3,000 or 4,000 watches; that would be perfect.
How is it possible for a small manufacture like Arnold & Son to unveil a new calibre almost every year while other brands bring out a calibre every couple of years?
The dynamics of this small company is quite impressive; with La Joux Perret and the 150 people working for it, we have the human resources to do this. This year, we have not developed a completely new calibre. If you take the TB88, it is the modification of an existing calibre. It takes a lot of time to develop a new calibre; it does not actually take time to develop a new calibre, it is testing and making sure that the new calibre is reliable that takes time. So, yes, introducing a new calibre takes a lot of time; these last few years, we have introduced many new calibres. Now we are trying to slow down as we really need to secure the calibres that we do have and make sure that they are really reliable and that the quality is perfect.
How would you describe Arnold & Son?
We describe ourselves as Neo-Classic; classical yet modern. We talk about mechanical poetry; we like the movement to be a piece of art. Our second differentiator is the English design element; this is where we were born and we would like to remain Arnold & Son. You can see how the bridges draw on English style elements. Since we have our own manufacture, we are able design a watch the way we think it is nicest and then develop a movement for it. If you go to the market and buy a calibre for a watch, then you cannot design a watch the way you want it; you are limited by the movement, we are not and that is a really big advantage.
This is one reason we try to have the most symmetrical watches – the symmetry could be in the dial, the movement, and even in the back. Everything is very symmetrical. It is a common design element and helps the customer recognise our products.
Another of our distinguishing features is the 3-dimensional architecture. You can see the depth, the different layers in every one of our movements. They are never flat. Even the dial of the simplest of our watches is not a single plate but has two counters, and the design is in layers.
We also have a number of dial-side visible movements. We want to show the complication as much as we can. Sometimes, we reverse the movements, other times we put the balance wheel on top instead of the bottom, or as in the True Beat Second, we take it out of the back and bring it to the top.
This is also the reason why we have so many Skeleton watches in our collections. It is part of our identity; in terms of marketing, when people ask ‘who is Arnold and what do you do?’, we have trained our staff to make them understand what the brand is all about. If you are in the showroom and do not know horology, with our six points we can make you understand haute horlogerie.