Watches: Magnificent Seven

<< Back to Robb Report, January 2003

Only a hardened watch industry insider or collector recognizes the names Svend Andersen, Thomas Baumgartner, or Bernhard Lederer. Goldpfeil, the German leather company embarking on its first foray into wristwatches, views such obscurity as an asset. By tapping the talents of seven of the most accomplished, yet unsung, watchmakers in Switzerland, Goldpfeil has created the very thing so many watch connoisseurs seek: that which cannot be found anywhere else.

For starters, the entire collection is extremely limited, comprising a mere 700 pieces—seven models, each produced in a series of 100. An additional set of seven one-of-a-kind pieces was sold at auction last November.

Each Goldpfeil piece is distinctive, carrying the unmistakable signature of the watchmaker who created it. The Vianney Halter piece ($65,800), for example, features an original movement and an ingenious interpretation of the watchmaker’s unique compartmentalized dials. The other models make equally impressive statements of watchmaking and design prowess, leaving you to wonder where all this talent has been hiding.

Actually, independent watchmakers have traditionally represented one of the most respected pools of expertise in the industry. The major watch houses frequently rely on their specialized skills for particularly challenging projects, which means that many of the independents are associated with some of the finest work from the prestige brands.

"I think the Goldpfeil watches are something of a turning point for the industry," says Brandon Thomas, a watch expert for Christie’s in Geneva. "No [brand] has actually come forward and named which independents they work with. Most brands use them, and people in the industry know that these watchmakers are behind some of the best watches around at the moment, but the general public doesn’t. It’s something that needs to come to the fore."

For Heinz Heimann, president of Goldpfeil Genève, the independent watchmakers—most of whom have their own fledgling companies—represented a rare opportunity. Heimann approached them through their own organization (known among insiders as the "Academy") and asked all 28 members of the Academy to submit an idea for both a one-of-a-kind piece and a production watch. "My intent was to move forward with the single best design," says Heimann, "but when I saw the ideas, I convinced Goldpfeil to move forward with not one, but seven watchmakers."

Though they bear the Goldpfeil name, each watch is made entirely by its designer, imparting a level of authenticity that will appeal to the most exacting watch enthusiasts. Jeff Bartley, executive vice president of De Boulle Diamonds & Jewelry in Dallas, one of only eight retailers carrying the Goldpfeil collection, sums it up this way: "These seven guys represent what Breguet was in his time. They are the watchmakers for the next hundred years."

Goldpfeil Genève, 888.273.4838

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