Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Catching up - a Few More Minutes with Beat Weinmann

With a newly forged partnership with Ulysse Nardin, a studio/cafe/store headquarters, and another year under his belt with ochs und junior, now seemed a good time to catch up with Beat and all things ochs.

Courtesy of Bea Weinmann/ochsenblog
James Henderson - So ochs und junior has now undergone a fairly major change in the past months - can you give some background on this?

Beat Weinmann - The ochs und junior ethos has always been to create uncompromising and functional timepieces that incorporate a high degree of innovation. From the word go, we were keen to implement ideas that the rather conservative, backward-looking watch sector would regard as novel.

ochs und junior creates ultra small batches of product, which is retailed direct to the end-purchaser throughout the world. There are no middleman margins or advertising budgets.

Ludwig Oechslin and I established ochs und junior four years ago together with my former employer, Lucerne-based luxury goods retailer Embassy. We were able to benefit from the Embassy infrastructure and develop ochs und junior as an authentic brand; our company has now embarked on the next stage of its trajectory.

We separated from Embassy in April and established our own centre of operations at 49 Zürichstrasse in Lucerne. It's a large, multifunctional space complete with a kitchenette and a vintage Gaggia coffee machine; we also have a photographic studio there. The idea is that it should be a highly creative place, and one that provides an entirely new environment for visitors coming to see and buy our watches. Our retail experience represents a statement of intent. I ensure that I am there for every customer, whether via the internet, the phone or face-to-face here in Lucerne.
It means that they get information direct from the source. I take personal responsibility for all that goes on and don't delegate. That's kind-of unique – other brands are not able to do that.
Another key move involves the strategic partnership we entered into with Ulysse Nardin in April. All this means we're well placed for the future.

JH - With the new partnership with Ulysee Nardin, there is a renewed partnership with Ludwig Oechslin and Ulysse Nardin. There are clearly some obvious advantages, but what are some of the more long-term goals that can be realized through this partnership?

BW - The corporate partnership is between Ulysse Nardin and ochs und junior. Ulysse Nardin, like Ludwig Oechslin and me, has a share in the company and thus direct access to our innovations. From 2015 Ludwig Oechslin will be able to devote 100% of his time to ochs und junior, so Ulysse Nardin will have access to 100% of his innovativeness. Oechslin is one of the industry's most creative thinkers; the pioneering concepts he has already come up with are indicative of what he is capable of in the future – we can look forward to plenty of surprises.


JH - With the separation from Embassy, ochs und junior is now a free-flowing creative enterprise – is this the way that you saw it back when you and Dr. Oechslin originally got together?

BW - There was no way we could have predicted our current trajectory. But things happen organically, which is a good thing. Either way, we had a vision for ochs und junior which we stuck to right from the start, and that in part led to the reorientation we just experienced. We are independent, we have a strong partner, a lot of ideas and a portfolio of watches that is appealing to more and more people looking for something different.


JH - What do the next few years hold for ochs und junior?

BW - We are confident that we can consolidate our position as a small, creative watchmaker. ochs und junior concepts will never have mass-market appeal. But they will appeal to people who appreciate innovation.

The fact that we are a niche producer means that we can remain true to our roots and not compromise. The foundations have been laid. Now we're working hard on fine-tuning our ideas. Whatever happens, exciting times can be expected! 

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