Marking The Hours With Elie Bernheim, CEO Of Raymond Weil, On The Brand’s Vision & Consumer Choices

THM Desk
12 Apr 2024 |
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In an era dominated by multinational conglomerates, Raymond Weil stands apart as a family-owned independent watchmaking brand. At the helm of this Swiss horological legacy is the third-generation leader, who has navigated the company through a transformative period of reinvention and growth.

In this exclusive interview, CEO Eli Benheim shares his insights on revitalizing the brand, infusing it with new energy, and striking a delicate balance between tradition and modernity.

THM: The brand has come a long way and we’re seeing a younger approach with the aesthetics too. What’s new at Raymond Weil?

Eli: When I took over the company in 2014, it takes me a few years to truly put my own stamp on the brand and chart a new strategic direction. The COVID-19 pandemic then presented both challenges and opportunities. It was a moment where I can step back and reevaluate everything - from my product strategy to my brand identity to the people on my team.

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I wanted to infuse the company with new energy and a fresh perspective. This involved bringing on some new hires to complement my existing team, people who could help drive this next chapter. On the product side, I developed a new collection, Millesime, that I am personally very passionate about and closely involved in designing.

Additionally, I took the opportunity to modernize my brand communications and marketing approach. The pandemic allowed me to press the reset button in many ways and thoughtfully reshape the company's identity and direction.

Throughout this transformative process, I emphasized the importance of human relationships, especially in a family-owned independent business. Refreshing my inner circle and social network was a key part of rejuvenating the company.

THM: You’re also one of the few independent family-owned businesses right now in the industry. Do you believe that it has advantages?

Eli: As the head of a family-owned independent business, I sometimes find it difficult to fight against the powerful, large corporate groups in the industry. However, there are distinct advantages to our agility and flexibility.

We can make decisions quickly and adapt rapidly to changing market conditions. At the core of our approach is a strong focus on human connections and interactions. We strive to build loyal relationships with our partners, customers, and stakeholders. I believe this personal touch is a key competitive edge.

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When the big industry players open new boutiques in multi-brand stores where they previously had a strong presence, it often leaves an opportunity for a brand like ours to seize. We can step in and strengthen our relationships with existing retail partners, reinforcing the personal bonds we've cultivated.

THM: Are there certain disadvantages too?

Eli: Of course, there are also downsides to being a smaller, independent player - we may lack the resources and economies of scale enjoyed by the industry giants. But I see those as the necessary trade-offs for the agility, flexibility, and human-centric approach that define our company's identity. It's all about playing to our strengths and seizing the opportunities that our size and independence afford us.

THM: We’ve seen a fantastic collection from Raymond Weil this year. Bur we’re also seeing a trend of vintage coming back in the industry. What are your thoughts on neo-vintage?

Eli: The new Millesime collection is fantastic for me, as I was deeply involved in its development. The original code name for the project was "neo-vintage," which captures the essence of what we were aiming to create.

The beauty of the neo-vintage approach is that it reinterprets the classic codes of watchmaking tradition into a more modern aesthetic. With the Millesime collection, we've seamlessly blended vintage design elements - the sector dial, curved hands, domed crystal - with a refreshed, contemporary execution.

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The result is a timepiece that pays homage to the past, while feeling very much of the present day. It's not an antique piece passed down from a previous generation, but rather a watch that subtly incorporates the DNA of horological history. That balance between tradition and modernity is exactly what I love about the neo-vintage concept.

THM: People are leaning towards thinner dials and less complicated timepieces. Are you going down that route too?

Eli: Absolutely, we want to cater to an audience that desires access to refined, high-quality timepieces without having to pay exorbitant, five or six-figure prices. As a brand, we know our place in the market - we offer beautifully crafted watches at accessible price points, typically between 1,000 and 4,000 Swiss francs.

For the vast majority of the population, that price range represents a significant investment. Yet, for that amount, our customers can acquire a Swiss-made watch steeped in horological tradition and expertise, without having to break the bank. This democratization of fine watchmaking is a key part of our mission and brand identity.

THM: How would you describe Raymond Weil?

Eli: Being a family-owned business means that the human element is at the very core of every decision we make. This is a brand with real people behind it - a legacy that extends across generations. This personalized approach is fundamental to how we operate. We're not just a revolving door of CEOs, each here for a short stint before moving on. Our commitment to this business and brand runs deep. Ultimately, our priority is ensuring long-term profitability and sustainability, so that we can continue serving our customers for generations to come.