Building a brand from scratch is a challenge. Success isn’t always (in fact, most of the time) guaranteed and few can claim “we made it”. Fromanteel could have been one of them, but this watch brand, founded in 2009, has stood the test of time and moved from microbrand to established young brand status. Today we talk with Alfredo Silva, co-founder, to understand how to create a brand – and we’ll have a sneak peek at Fromanteel’s latest creation, the Pendulum Traveler Automatic.
WHAT IS YOUR FIRST HOROLOGICAL MEMORY?
I must have been about eight years old when I got my first Casio calculator watch. To this day I still remember how fascinated I was by the sheer amount of functionality that they were able to fit into that thing. It’s not like I ever used any of them, mind you, but it was amazing to have a piece of engineering on my wrist. I guess the functionality combined with the tactile value of the watch – the weight of it, for a kid that age – is what triggered me. I have been a fan of watches in general ever since!
WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO FROMANTEEL?
My business partner Martijn van Hassel (Co-Owner/Founder of Fromanteel Watches) and I have known each other for almost eighteen years. We first met while working for a well-known brand of energy drinks, which is where we used to run marketing-related projects and events together. We soon found out that we shared a strong passion for watches, even though it manifested itself in different ways.
Martijn was a collector of watch-related brochures and books, and would often spend chunks of his salary on timepieces he loved. While I, on the other hand, had an eye for odd-looking watches. Counterfeits, or anything with a misspelt brand name or a weird looking crown, were my favourites. Not because I enjoyed wearing them, but just because I would love looking at them. You could go as far as saying that I admired them, even. I’m still not entirely sure why, I guess I thought it was funny to own them.
This shared passion for watches led to many conversations on the subject between Martijn and myself, but at the time we didn’t do much more than talk. He went on to get a job in real estate and I ended up in advertising. That is until the financial crisis of 2008 hit the Netherlands. The market stood still, and both the advertisement and real estate industries lost all traction.
Martijn and I decided that if there was ever a time to undertake something a bit more exciting; this would have to be it. During our talks, it soon became evident once more that we both had an undeniable passion for watches, and we’d be fools not to do something with this –we would soon agree on a goal: to create high-quality yet affordable watches with an understated design.
We stumbled upon the name Fromanteel as I was researching Dutch horological heritage to better understand the context in which we would be working as a business.
This search brought us to the Horological Museum in Zaandam, a small museum, which features lots of historical documents about Holland’s horological past. There, the conservator shared his insights about the Fromanteel family of clockmakers, which had risen to fame by being one of the first to implement the pendulum mechanism in their standing clocks. At the time – 17th-century Amsterdam – this was considered a highly technological achievement.
We soon found out that, besides being highly inventive, the Fromanteel family’s company was also a multinational. They owned workshops from Amsterdam to London and Newcastle. For us, two ambitious entrepreneurs about to embark on one of the most exciting adventures of our lives, the history of this family and their achievements were an inspiration.
We went on and founded Fromanteel in 2009.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR FROMANTEEL?
We live in a world that is rapidly changing. Every day new technologies present themselves and things we used to own, which once had a physical appearance, are now digitalized and shared among millions as subscriptions. The term ‘value’ is interpreted differently nowadays and most of the time it is quickly interchangeable for something else or not tactile.
There are those among us that feel the concrete need to manifest value in something tactile, something physical – real. Something that adds value to a memory or a moment in time: such as a graduation, marriage or a once in a lifetime event or a well-established friendship. At Fromanteel we call this ‘Quality Time’.
We believe that, in an ever-changing world, such a thing as ‘Quality Time’ is hard to come by and therefore rare. For Fromanteel this presents both a challenge and an opportunity.
The challenge of becoming obsolete is real and technology is eager to take our place. Smartphones and smart watches are telling more than just the time and they are light years ahead of what we would ever be able to offer in terms of functionality. We see a whole new generation getting used to smart devices and not considering a watch at a young age.
However, as I mentioned before, the opportunity is also there to fill the value void by offering ‘Quality Time’ one can truly own. Or, if you will, to offer timepieces that enable us to capture memories that are tied to a certain moment in time. We increasingly see our wearers catching on to this idea and approaching us to engrave their Fromanteel watches, while others choose to customize it with a special strap in order to make it their own.
I believe that this is what makes our jobs so fulfilling.
YOU ALREADY TOLD ME YOU WILL LAUNCH A NEW WATCH THIS YEAR. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THAT?
Since the Fromanteel Pendulum, the first automatic watch in our collection was launched in 2015, we’ve seen a huge demand for it. One year later we introduced the Special Dark Edition of the Pendulum, which was also well received. Wearers apparently fell for its understated design and quality finishing. The fact that we were able to offer the watch at an affordable price also helped.
However, the unexpectedly high demand brought challenges of its own in terms of production, and they have been in low supply since this summer. We are in the clear for now, as both Pendulum models are being assembled in our Swiss Atelier as we speak. They are expected to arrive this December.
The high demand also showed us that Fromanteel’s design philosophy is applicable in automatic watches and that there’s room for more. So, in early 2017 we began to think about how to answer this call. It was important to avoid introducing a movement that would drive the price of the watch too far away from the rest of our collection. We believe that we have a good thing going by sticking around the 1000 Euro price point.
Of the many ideas, the one that really stuck was that of a GMT. Not only because of the reliability of the SW-330-1 movement we would use, but also because of the amount of positive feedback we received from our wearers about the Globetrotter GMT watch in our Quartz collection. Many of them considered the Globetrotter GMT watch to be a loyal travel companion for their numerous journeys.
During the middle of 2017 we set out to develop an automatic cousin for the Globetrotter GMT watch. We would strive to offer the highest Swiss Made quality watch your buck could buy, without having to compromise in terms of materials or finishing. We believe that, after 2 years, we managed to exceed these goals and expectations with the new Pendulum Traveler.
The Pendulum Traveler is, without a doubt, the most sophisticated watch in our collection. We went with the ever-reliable SW-330-1 movement, boasting a strong power reserve of 42 hours. The movement is housed in a polished 42mm stainless steel case, with a 37.5mm case opening. This case-to-opening ratio really brings the complicated dial out in a harmonious way.
The case is sealed with sapphire, anti-reflection glass, making the case height just a little under 11mm (10.7mm). On the back you’ll find transparent glass, allowing the wearer to peek inside the exposed movement. The watch is 5ATM (50m) pressure resistant and comes with a familiar Fromanteel Yellow crown at 4 o’clock.
The dial is graced with a superior finish that quite literally outshines other watches in the same category. Moving from the centre to the bezel is a sunray pattern on an off-white dial, bringing a certain amount of aesthetic sophistication to the watch. The date window is set at 4 o’clock and follows the aesthetic character of the watch’s crown. The 24-hour GMT indicator is finished in a familiar Fromanteel Yellow, guaranteeing UV-light colour reliability and resistance. Like its cousin, the Fromanteel Pendulum Original, the seconds indicator has a blue steel finish, which is created by heating the steel to 150 degrees Celsius. This technique is used to protect the steel from rusting, but it also adds to the resilient personality of the timepiece itself.
WHEN WILL IT BE FOR SALE?
The Pendulum Traveler is now available for pre-order at www.fromanteelspecials.com/traveler. The watch will cost EUR 799 during the campaign.