Arnold & Son CEO Bertrand Savary shares the quintessentially British design ethos driving the brand’s collectible novelties

By Michelle Johnson | 19 Jun 2021 | Style, Design

The British-Swiss brand announced its first ambassador, Olympic gold medalist Sir Mohamed Farah, in 2020

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Known for its stylish aesthetic and unique dials, Arnold & Son describes itself as a Swiss watchmaker with English roots. The brand’s heritage dates back to 1764, when Cornish watchmaker John Arnold founded his brand. Celebrated as one of the most innovative and sophisticated watchmakers of his time, Arnold is credited with several patents and created pieces for King George III – including a ring-watch with the smallest half-quarter repeater ever made. Arnold’s son, John Roger, studied in Paris with the great Abraham Louis Breguet before taking over his father’s company in 1796.

Today’s Arnold & Son was relaunched in 1995 as a fully integrated Swiss manufacture, developing and producing all of its movements in-house in honour of its founder’s legacy. In 2020, Bertrand Savary took the reins as president of the company and its sister-brand Angelus, determined to continue to build Arnold & Son’s legacy as an innovator. Drawing on his 20-years’ experience in watchmaking – first as an engineer before moving into sales and project management within Richemont and, most recently, as CEO of Jacob & Co – Savary is determined to bring the creativity and talent of Arnold & Son’s designers and engineers to the fore. 

He also led the partnership with Olympic gold medallist Sir Mohammed Farah, who became an ambassador of Arnold & Son in 2020. Here, Savary exclusively tells Tempus about Arnold & Son’s past, present and future.

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Bertrand, how would you describe Arnold & Son’s ethos?

Today, Arnold & Son’s identity is tied to its ability to produce fine watchmaking complications that are linked to the heritage of [British watchmaker] John Arnold – such as chronometry, astronomy and world time. 

What inspired your 2021 novelties, debuted at Watches & Wonders? 

We seek a different approach in term of products. We try to represent the time, or interpret a complication, in different ways. For example, the Globetrotter features the world’s largest rotating World Time Display on a wristwatch; the Perpetual Moon features the largest two-dimensional perpetual moon phase in the industry and, this year, we presented an obsidian dial for the first time. This volcanic stone has been mined in Central America and was used in the spiritual ceremonies of pre-Columbian civilisations.

The Luna Magna is our first three-dimensional moon made of marble and aventurine glass; it is the largest rotating moon ever built into a wristwatch, and a creation that benefits from the first-class watchmaking and decorative techniques of Arnold & Son Manufacture. This limited edition of 28 pieces sold in less than a week, confirming that we are going in the right way in terms of our products.

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How do you plan to evolve your collections?

Being a niche brand, it’s very important for us to stand out from the crowd, working with different materials while having original design. We push the limit of metiers d’art and creation of unique dials. Nevertheless, the design is not all: our watches are equipped with 100% in-house manufactured movements, and we are proud to be one of only a few brands making their own calibres. We have created 13 calibres and plan to add a new calibre every two years.

You announced your first ambassador partnership with Sir Mohammed Farah in late 2020.

Sir Mo Farah is a watch lover and he [was the one to] get in touch with us. After having discussed his passion for watches and the importance of time in his life, we decided to collaborate with him. Sir Mo Farah has a very tight connection with time and, as with one of our timepieces, consistency, regularity, and application remain essential for him to succeed. Sir Mo is also British with another origin and that, too, connects to Arnold & Son today.

What makes these such collectible pieces? 

Watchmaking is an art; it is emotional. Some people collect paintings or cars, some collect watches.  They are often given as gifts, which makes them a special object from the start. Then, there are so many different categories to suit a collector’s interest, whether they are hobbyists, passionate about mechanics or design. 

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You joined Arnold & Son, and its sister-brand Angelus, in 2020. What are your plans to develop the brand?

Arnold & Son was slow moving but had a strong DNA and great history. During the last 12 months, we have worked on the product and commercial strategy and can already see positive results. We have three axes to develop: product offer, commercial network (physical and digital) and our communication. Arnold & Son is a niche brand, producing less than 1,000 watches a year, and our plan is to grow sustainably, working with the best partners. We have just opened the Chinese market during Watches & Wonders Shanghai, and the results – in term of sales and client feedback – are fantastic.

How would you describe your leadership style? 

I try to be the boss that I didn’t had the chance to have during my career. I trust my team and give them a lot of liberty. We spend more time with our colleagues than with our family, so I try to instil a nice atmosphere, in which people can be themselves and enjoy what they do. Having two kids myself, I understand also that it can be very stressful if you cannot adapt your office hours or be at home for them, it is why I established flexible schedules and home office days – and that was before the Covid-19 pandemic.

What is the key to driving success?

A long-term vision is key. It takes time to build a brand and to earn clients’ respect and trust. Today, the successful maisons are mostly independent, or have owners focused on long term objectives rather than looking for immediate return on investment.

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