Having studied engineering and gained a postgraduate
degree in physical metallurgy as well as in management, Mr. Eric Loth
started his career with the Swatch Group as a Product Development Manager.
In 1987, he launched the Centre for Product Development. After having
managed several watch case companies on behalf of the Swatch Group like
Georges Ruedin SA and Lascos Spa and having created a technological
start-up specialised in "metal injection molding" in 1992 he took over as
head of Gianni Bulgari Watches.
In 1994, he set up Les Monts SA and P2M Consulting.
This involved putting his skills at the service of brands and groups such
as Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Bulgari Time, Samsung, Daniel Roth, Gerald
Genta, Jaquet-Droz and Reuge Music.
Today, Graham, Arnold & Son and Tompion are three of
the British Masters' brands which have found a very strong niche in the
Mid to high-end watch market, specializing in interesting innovative
watches which are generally considered to give good value for money.
(Graham Foudroyante, Lightning
Since I am sincerely impressed with the depth
and breadth of your knowledge; obviously not limited to the watch
industry. I will start with a really tough question to floor youJ.
The British Masters has been accused by some as a non-British company
pretending to be one. What is your view on this?
EL: As a matter of fact, our watches Graham and Arnold & Son are
manufactured in Switzerland as mentioned
on the dial. But your statement remains inappropriate for the following
reasons. The origin of our brands, including their story and impressive
contribution to the development of mechanical watches is definitely
British. This is where all our inspiration and strategies are coming from.
Second, our closed club of shareholders comprises British member, whose
name and reputation as the oldest London retailer’s family is well
established. Mr. William Asprey is also acting as a member of our board of
directors and participates actively in our development.
So, as most of the complicated parts
like escapements, springs and rubies for the movement, cases, dials and
hands of sophisticated mechanical watches are still and exclusively
manufactured in Switzerland, it remains impossible, at this date, to
manufacture a fine watch entirely out of Switzerland. In other words,
The British Masters are developing and manufacturing their products in
the most advanced region of the world, which is the region of Swiss Jura.
How was the
idea of The British Masters conceived? And who were the original players
and shareholders? Any changes since then?
EL: The story simply started with the meeting of
three passionate people who wanted to create a new business in mechanical
and innovative watches. Our quest for uniqueness and our passion for
technical history naturally drove our search to the great British Masters.
It became clear to us that we had to adhere to the past British way to
meet our actual wishes for mechanical innovation. So, we took the control
of six of the most famous historical names including our main brands
Arnold & Son and Graham and built our company in 1995.
The original players were Mr. Thomke, Mr. Finazzi and I,
acting as CEO. We lost Mr. Finazzi in 2001, but gained two other decisive
partners in the meantime, they are Mr. Jaquet and Mr. Asprey.
(Graham Foudroyante, Case-back)
elaborate a little on your role and that of fellow shareholders in The
EL: It is always difficult to state on someone’s
own role in the development of a new company. However, I can say that my
past experience as product development manager, as well as my education as
mechanical engineer and materials physicist contributed to bring a
technical substance to our products. My further experience in crisis
management and business turnaround, first at The Swatch Group and then as
management consultant under my own company, also contributed to include a
rational control during the romantic period of start-up. Maybe I could
consider myself as the natural father of The British Masters, but I would
emphasize on the decisive contribution of my other partners that became
all of them, adoptive fathers of The British Masters.
We heard you
have worked for several companies; amongst them are Daniel Roth
Samsung etc. Is it true? If so, can you
elaborate? And how have those experiences shape you as a person?
EL: Because all our financial means were
dedicated to the development of our brands and products, there was no
available money for our salaries. For this reason, we started a consulting
business in parallel, under the company name P2M Consulting (P2M for
Product and Process Management), and worked on specific project with
Samsung Aerospace, Rollei Cameras, and also watch companies such as
Audemars Piguet, Roth and Genta, Jaquet-Droz and last but not least Rolex
Industries. As these consulting mandates were concerning sensitive
questions, you will understand that I am not in a position to elaborate on
them. However, I shall agree that these experiences brought me a lot of
complementary knowledge regarding the watch industry. As already stated,
this experience was added to my former life within the industry; 13 years
as product development and production manager for the Swatch group, and 3
years as managing director of Gianni Bulgari’s projects. In total I am
adding not less than 22 years of business practice.
(Graham Silverstone, Fly-back, GMT
& Big Date, all adjustments can be made from the same crown)
In my personal
opinion, the Graham Foudroyante is truly a revolutionary watch. When and
why did Jaquet decided to develop this watch? And what are the respective
roles of Jaquet and Girard-Perregaux on this piece?
EL: Mr. Jaquet is not only a partner to The
British Masters, but he also is our most strategic supplier of our special
movements. We contacted Mr. Jaquet first in 1995, at the early days of our
project life. We wanted to create a unique and clearly different
chronograph as the first tribute to George Graham. After a fantastic and
deeply technical brainstorming, we came to the conclusion that it would be
possible to create a Foudroyante chronograph. We first planned to make a
1/10th second Foudroyante, but the technical side shown limits that
created great danger for the continuation of the development. We finally
decided to realise an 1/8th a second for three following
Foudroyante mechanism could then be directly connected to the
escapement that is a 4 Hertz frequency, without intermediary gear
system that would have made the system heavier and more delicate.
- The average
human time reaction from an event to a muscular reaction is 1/4th
a second, so we applied a double precision to this parameter.
never used metric system and they like to divide distance, weight and
money in half, 4th and 8th, why not doing same
Mr. Jaquet was so motivated that he
proposed to include another function he was already using in his
wonderful Venus Chronograph (an old Venus chrono with outstanding
performance that he redeveloped entirely with his own improvements).
This function is a coaxial spilt second, meaning that the split command
is done through a pusher included in the crown. The movement was finally
developed after two years of efforts and a lot of trial and error
prototypes. We realised a dream watch for our re-birthing brand Graham
1695, a unique automatic movement with Foudroyante second, coaxial spilt
second and bicompax counters (two counters at 3H and 6H). So, we
delivered the first Foudroyante watches Graham in gold with twin barrel
springs and twin column wheels in autumn 1997. Girard-Perregaux
delivered theirs more than two years after, since it was not possible
for us and Jaquet to keep such an expensive development for ourselves
indefinitely. We have to agree that GP also contribute in the movement
improvement by giving further advices to Jaquet to disconnect the two
barrel springs in case of extended use.
- I feel that
Jaquet factory is one of the most complete watch production lines
without an in-house movement. Do you agree? Can you elaborate a little
for the benefit of our readers?
EL: Your statement is extremely pertinent. Jaquet remains in my
knowledge, the last and unique independent movement maker whose
operations are managed by the family. This company is able to realise
modifications and customisations of existing movements, but also to
develop entirely new movements or improved reproductions of older
movements. A visit of the company may give you more information, as this
company is manufacturing all parts (screws, pins, gears, platin, bridges
etc…) but the escapement. Jaquet is also delivering movements or parts
to some of the most prestigious brands in
Switzerland. We are proud to have Mr.
Jaquet as partner and his company as supplier.
(Graham Silverstone, Case-back)
- Jaquet seems to
like Valjoux ebauches a lot. Any particular reason?
EL: Mr. Jaquet does like ebauches from Valjoux because he and his
engineers know this movement from several years as the most reliable and
service friendly mechanical chrono still available. By knowing the base
motor, he can customise and create impressive movements that remain
qualitative despite their higher innovative degree. Until last year, it
was a movement that was easily available from Swatch Group for every
Swiss established company. Now the future seems to become more difficult
since the Swatch Group wants to progressively reduce its deliveries of
ébauches to non-group companies. However, we keep confidence in Mr.
Jaquet sense of entrepreneurship and good vision for the future. He will
find his way.
Foudroyante, Chrono-Fighter, Silverstone and the wonderful Collectors
etc. In fact all your watches have that specific design allure that is
very “Graham” to me. Finazzi has always been perceived as THE designer
of all British Masters’ watches, with his absence; do you expect a big
change in “style”? Or worse, a drop in your design quality?
EL: It is true that we always presented Mr. Finazzi as the designer
of our products. His competence in drawing nice watches is not
contested, but he was not trained as a technician or an engineer, and
our products are highly technical in content. This to explain that we
see no troubles in future as we are continuing with two designer teams,
one for Graham and another for Arnold & Son. They are not technicians
either like we are, and they have their own track that will contribute
to translate our future inventions according to our visions.
- What do you feel
about watch designers? Do you believe they should be allowed to fully
express their creative freedom or should their designs conform to
EL: Luxury in watch business depend more on products than on
advertising and pure advertising. Highest end consumers are passionate
of excellence and want to be caught or surprised by outstanding products
under a remarkable label or brand name. The designer is one of the
components for a good product development, but will never be able to
realise an outstanding high end mechanical watch alone. According to my
own expertise in product development, I can confirm that the most
important parameter remains to elaborate a good concept or a product
vision usually coming from company CEO, giving clear room for engineers
and designers (the briefing), obliging them to collaborate by giving
them time pressure and at the end, testing the product with limited but
highly competent partners from the market.
(Graham Collectors 132, Single Button Chronograph,
White Gold case
with 24% Palladium Content, limited to 32 pieces in
White Gold case)
- All your brands
are very specific in product range, e.g. Graham watches are limited to
only “Chronographs”, and does that constrain your business strategy
severely? Or do you think it is a good strategy?
EL: George Graham did several historical inventions, but among all,
he realised the very first wall chronograph. This is the reason why we
decided to concentrate our developments on chronographs. This could
appear as a limitation of creative space, but in contrary our focused
strategy for Graham watches allows us to expand the existing bounds of
chronograph making. With more than a dozen of new product in R&D process
considering the fact that we limit our products launching to 1 per year,
we still have some future prospects for growth.
- I can’t tell you
how much I love your Graham Collectors Single Button Chronograph! It has
a beautiful movement and is the best looking Chronograph I have ever
seen. And then the “Arnold & Son” Triple Time Zone Tourbillon is just
stunning! Are you going higher and higher-ends? Or am I reading too much
into these 2 models?
EL: Following our success with the limited edition of 25 red gold
Arnold & Son Tourbillon triple time zone, we have decided to introduce a
special product for each brands Graham and Arnold & Son on a regular
rhythm. Our next Graham limited edition is named Graham King George and
will be a multi-complication including a world première feature. This
series will be limited to 5 pieces platinum and 5 pieces in red gold and
will be delivered from 2003. Another project Arnold & Son was recently
patented and is on the way for 2004, while the promised last series of
25 white gold Tourbillon triple time zone will be delivered in 2003 to
(Arnold Timekeeper III,
7-days Power Reserve, Front & Back View)
- Jaquet has some
very creative ideas and often brilliant implementations. But there is a
feeling that some Jaquet movements are “everywhere” and seen in too many
different watches. Will that pose a problem for The British Masters
EL: Jaquet is making his own standard and exclusive movements that he
now delivers to limited high end brands. Thanks to a larger distribution
of his specialties, he can amortise his development and tooling costs
faster and start then new projects regularly. Jaquet is also realising
reserved movements or customisations for The British Masters or other
limited production companies from top luxury.
- The Jaquet
movement used in Panerai Independent Seconds for example, is simply
unbelievable! Why not let The British Masters uses it first?
EL: It was not a chronograph, means not intended for Graham; and it
was not an accurate movement due to its old blue steel hair spring, and
means not intended for Arnold & Son Timekeepers.
(Graham Chrono-Fighter, note the big Release-levers
used by British RAF Pilots during WW-II)
- With the
industry seemingly dominated by the 3 big conglomerates, The Swatch
Group, Richemont and LVMH, do you see a future for small independent
companies like yourself of are the days of independent watch companies
EL: As long as there will be independent retailers and distributors,
there will be independent watch brands that will always find young
entrepreneurs that will become their suppliers. This is part of the
Swiss mentality that someone creates his/her own business, a kind of
production federalism which is typical to the Swiss watch industry.
- I noted your
watches are still pretty “good-value-for-money”, but so many brands are
raising their retail prices significantly, and in some cases, violently!
Do you think modern collectors have thrown “value” out of the window? Or
is there a valid reason?
EL: If you do look backwards, The British Masters have shown that
they are not following the marketing inflation of prices. Due to our
fast grow, we are in a position to defend our price positioning on a
long range of years. So, our products Graham and
Arnold & Son will increasingly
become value for money to passionate and connoisseurs.
- You did not
exhibit in Basle 2002, why?
EL: The Basle
Fair organisation was not in a position to allow us an appropriate
location. The British Masters is not looking for participation to the
Basle Fair for sales reasons, but rather to share values and
presentation with our partners from the market. That is the only reason
why we decided to postpone our decision to participate to the day when
the Basle Fair organisation will offer a convenient space to The British
- How do you see
the position of The British Masters in the next 10 years? Any excitement
for us collectors to look forward to?
EL: The British Masters together with its brands Graham and Arnold &
Son still retains a fantastic potential for growth. However, our
products’ complexity will restrain our volumes and maintain a limited
offer to the market. We will go for special products that will
increasingly attract the passionate lovers of chronographs with Graham
and world Timekeepers for Arnold & Son and will become the ultimate
movement view, COSC certified, Cotes de Geneve)
(Arnold & Son,
GMT Master Tourbillon, Front & Back View, Triple TimeZone)
- I have heard a
lot about Dr. Ernst Thomke. What can you tell our readers about this
EL: Dr. Ernst Thomke is a brilliant man. He is known for having saved
the Swiss watch industry when he merged and restructured a majority of
Swiss movement makers under the ETA Company. He is also considered as
the original father of the Swatch and the saviour of Omega, Rado and
Tissot in the eighties. He is equally known as an aircraft pilot that
can fly large planes with instruments, as a sailing skipper that won an
Atlantic race in 2001, the Chairman of a Swiss biotechnological
investment fund or the owner of the largest gold making company in
Switzerland. He is a valuable and decisive partner for The
- Who is your
favourite watchmaker of all time? And your favourite living watchmaker
not working for The British Masters?
EL: My preferred watchmakers in history are,
this will not be a surprise for you,
Graham for his decisive contribution to the mechanical horology and
his proverbial humility.
- John Arnold
for his extraordinary contribution to precision timekeeping and active
participation to the quest of the Longitude, but also for the
opportunity he gave to the most famous explorers from the XVIII and
XIX Centuries to find their routes at sea.
My preferred living watchmaker is definitely François-Paul
Journe, for his unique realisations, his personal commitment for each of
his babies and his bright understanding of modern complication.
I can see that you
are a food connoisseur and is someone who appreciate fine wines. How
important is Good Food and Fine Wines? Compare to watches?
EL: Thank you very much for considering me as a connoisseur of food
and fine wines. My father, who was professor in the engineering
school of Neuchâtel,
transferred his two passions of techniques and good wines to me. My
passion for good food came from my mother, who was Italian from Tuscany.
You see then that passion is often a heritage. Today, I am proud of my
wine collection and I feel very close to my customers that collects
Graham and Arnold & Son specialties.
(Collectors 132, Rose Gold, White Dial.
Originally intended to be Limited to 100
pieces, but only 90 pieces of Rose Gold version were finally made. The
Collectors 132 will actually be limited to only 122 pieces in all
combinations instead of the planned 132 pieces, I hope to elaborate on
this in the future)
- What are your
favourite British Masters and non-British Masters watches?
EL: My favourite Arnold & Son is the Longitude, because this watch
appears to me as a summary of the entire Arnold & Son history. Its new
version that will be delivered for Christmas is exciting me a lot. My
preferred Graham watch is not available yet, but might be introduced to
the market next year, its code name “Swordfish”. I also will, one day,
buy for my other collection of watches a F-P Journe Tourbillon with
constant force winding, and the A Lange & Söhne Datograph. Both are in
my eyes the most remarkable technical achievements of the last decade
and represent outstanding benchmarks for my next realisations.
- Are you
sometimes upset by Internet discussions on your watches? Especially when
some of the information being tossed around is completely false? Are you
supportive of web discussions on watches generally?
EL: Being honest with you, I do not spent enough time on looking web
sites or participating in discussions. Maybe will I increase my web
contribution with your support and constant motivation?
: critical but not controversial, subtle and complete, open-minded and
truly independent. A good example for others.
- What do you feel
EL: I surfed ThePuristS. I was attracted by
it and spent, for the first time, not less than an hour of readings. It
looks like I saw you in
- Thank you very much for doing this
EL: Thanking you warmly for your interest in
The British Masters, I remain at your disposal for further requests or
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