Celebrating its 150th anniversary, Bernhard H. Mayer is an original brand in many respects. With numismatic roots in Germany, Bernhard H. Mayer is now headquartered in Biel Switzerland. The company also stands out within the industry for its original direct selling distribution model. We took the opportunity of a visit to Biel to sit down with Bernhard H. Mayer to learn more about the brand and take a look at their 150th anniversary limited edition watches.
Xavier Markl, MONOCHROME – You are the fourth generation of the Mayer family at the head of the Brand. How did Bernhard H. Mayer begin its venture into horology and watchmaking?
Bernhard H. Mayer – In 1871, my great grandfather Bernhard H. Mayer, a talented metal engraver, founded the family enterprise by setting up his workshop in Pforzheim, a small town in Germany known for its jewelry and watchmaking industry. He found a perfect environment for growth and development due to the availability of many skilled craftsmen and artisans of precious metals. Thanks to his unique business acumen, he seized the opportunity to evolve his business into minting coins and medals, which later evolved into producing parts for the watch industry. The Mayer workshop earned a reputation for high precision craftsmanship in precious metal and even won a silver medal at the World’s Fair in Pairs 1900, for their work.
In the early 1900s, as the business was growing internationally, my great grandfather Bernhard developed a passion for pocket watches. In those days, pocket watches were a status symbol and were inlaid with precious metals and gems. He became a collector and loved engraving and personalizing these pocket watches. I can say that this passion of his laid the foundation for our family business to later expand into watchmaking. In the early 80s, inspired by the success of coin watches that was pioneered by Corum in the 60s, we decided to use our expertise in numismatics and our many years of experience in producing watch components to produce our first coin watch. It turned out to be very successful and we realised this can be a great new business opportunity for us and we slowly started shifting our focus to watchmaking.
In 2000, we entered a strategic partnership with an Asian conglomerate called the QI Group and decided to move our base to Switzerland, the heart of watchmaking and since then we have produced more than 100 different models of watches.
What is your first horological memory?
When I was a little boy, wrist watches were already quite common and widely available. I remember when I was around 5 years old, my grandfather pulled out his pocket watch made of solid gold. He would keep this piece in a special watch pocket in his coat. He pulled it out and let me hold it and allowed me to press the crown. The cover flipped open exposing the beautiful creation that he was so proud of. This is one of my earliest and also very special memory.
What makes Bernhard H. Mayer watches stand apart?
Our watches represent a 150 years of tradition in expert craftsmanship. I am proud to say that the same attention to detail and quality that was given during my great-grandfather’s time in his small workshop continues to be given to every single timepiece that comes out of our atelier today. All the Bernhard H. Mayer watches are hand-assembled by master craftsmen. Our brand is unique in that we started off in numismatics 150 years ago but we were able to successfully transfer the family spirit of expert craftsmanship and tradition to modern horology. Our watches represent the perfect blend of historical aesthetics with a timeless quality that appeals to today’s sophisticated customer.
Can you tell us about your distribution model?
In the year 2000, the Mayer family formed a strategic partnership with the QI Group, a multi business conglomerate. One of the subsidiaries of the QI Group is a very successful e-commerce enabled direct selling business with a global customer base. This partnership allowed us to offer the Bernhard H Mayer watches to a brand-new international audience that was interested in luxury watches but could not always afford the high-end luxury Swiss watch brands. Since the business model relied on a personal referral system to our watches, it allowed us to communicate and educate a new, younger group of watch enthusiasts about the wonders of Swiss watchmaking. This partnership has proven very successful for us since we have produced more than 100 models of watches for customers in more than 50 countries in the last 15 years. Thanks to the reach of this direct selling business model, our watches now adorn the wrist of customers in Africa, Russia, Asia and the Middle East.
How did the Brand navigate through the pandemic?
The demand for traditional and Swiss-Made luxury watches continues to be strong, even amidst a pandemic. This is especially so as people are looking for items with real concrete value to invest in and pass onto the next generation. As the world slowly recovers from the aftereffects of this global pandemic, we have noticed a renewed interest in people worldwide treasuring and enjoying their lifestyle experiences more than ever before. Swiss-made luxury watches are part of this desire. They are looking for something that is high-quality and built to last.
You are releasing limited edition timepieces to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Brand. Can you tell us about these watches?
This new collection is a celebration of 150 years of a tradition of excellence that was started by my great-grandfather. It’s a limited-edition collection that pays homage to our numismatic roots and expresses our spirit and style. This collection includes two timepieces.
The “Rose Gold” version is limited to 150 pieces and features a 43mm case in brushed/polished stainless steel plated with Rose Gold PVD. The commemorative coin on the watch face at 3 o’clock showcases the iconic Mayer factory building in Pforzheim Pre-World War II. Turning the timepiece over, the exhibition case back offers an unimpeded view of the Swiss Automatic movement. This watch is powered by the legendary Unitas 6497-1 movement with a unique modification featuring an automatic winding system and a specially decorated oscillating weight featuring the Bernhard H. Mayer® 150th Anniversary logo.The Stainless Steel version is limited to 1871 pieces symbolising the year of the brand’s birth. This one features a silver commemorative coin and is powered by SELLITA SW200 Swiss Automatic Movement with personalised Bernhard H. Mayer® logo on the rotor.
What are the next challenges for Bernhard H. Mayer?
Today’s consumers are conscious and aware of their impact to nature and sustainability is an important factor that drives their purchasing decisions. We have a great opportunity to draw a new path between sustainability and luxury, experimenting with new more sustainable materials in both watchmaking as well as packaging by experimenting with the use of cutting-edge and renewable materials. This is something we are exploring seriously at the moment in both product development as well as our supply chain.
For more information, please visit www.bernhardhmayer.com.
Photo by Jimmy Perez/Pepito Production and MONOCHROME.