Raymond Weil is a premier Swiss watchmaker; one whose association with India goes back to 1978. We sit down with its freshly retired CEO Olivier Bernheim to discuss the Indian luxury watch market and how nothing can ever replace the allure of a good Swiss timepiece.

Olivier Bernheim[1] (1)

What is the hallmark of Raymond Weil’s style?

I think what makes Raymond Weil so different is that our brand was the first to open the Indian market to Swiss watches. There was no competition to the brand when we came in in 1978. The whole market has developed itself around Raymond Weil. And we’re a family run organisation so everything we produce is very close to our heart.

How has music influenced the product design?

I think music and the horological world go together very well because it is all about precision. It’s all about timing and structure. This year we have been creating products that blend music and watches. And it requires a careful study of the instruments as well, such as the guitar which has a lot of fine details. Another instrument is the cello, because my son plays the cello. The attempt is to express yourself through your watches.

What do you think of the luxury brand market in India?

It’s yet to grow. It’s still quite small when compared to what it should be. Tier 2 cities have only just started to sell luxury watches and Tier 3 cities must still work quite hard at opening big luxury stores. India has in essence 2 markets; the local market and the NRI market. The NRI market is an immeasurably huge market.

Do you think that the local market’s attitude towards luxury is specific to certain products or towards luxury in general?

Interestingly enough, the speed with which people will learn about luxury watches is going to be exponential. It was slow for years until the current generation stepped in. What would have taken ages for my generation to find out can be revealed over the click of a button today. So the awareness levels are quite high. Any post can be read in a second. So I believe that will change the level of development very easily.

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Do you think the trend of smart watches, especially from exclusive brands like Apple, will eat into the luxury watch market?

It’s going to be a gimmick. It’s something that will temporarily attract people before they get bored of it. And so we will have people who would otherwise never come to the luxury watch industry, becoming interested. As their tastes refine, the market will evolve.

What are the current trends that are driving Raymond Weil?

Currently we are focusing on the automatic, self-winding watch segment. Along with that we are focussing on jewellery in a subtle way. It’s quite interesting how we approach men’s watches.

How has social media changed things?

Social media enables the new generation to have earlier access to the world of luxury than my generation had. Which is why I’ll be handing over the reins to my son who is so comfortable with all of this.