Independent watchmaker Krayon was created a few years ago by Remi Maillat. Besides his developments behind the scene for other brands, Krayon made a remarkable debut with the mindbogglingly complex Everywhere, the first mechanical watch able to compute the sunrise and sunset times everywhere on the globe. This impressive world-first earned Krayon a well-deserved accolade at the GPHG 2018 with the Innovation Prize. Maillat sits at an interesting intersection at watchmaking. His watches are classic and, at the same time, profoundly modern and innovative. On the occasion of a visit to Krayon’s new facilities in Neuchâtel, we sat for a talk with the independent watchmaker to better understand his work.
Xavier Markl, MONOCHROME – How did you become hooked on watchmaking?
Remi Maillat, Krayon Watches – I was always interested in constructing and designing mechanisms. My mother was an associate mathematics teacher, and my father was a microtechnology engineer working for the Swiss Laboratory of Horological Research in Neuchâtel.
I naturally started studies in engineering and microtechnology at Le Locle University of Applied Sciences, where I specialised in movement and complication design. In addition to the captivating engineering construction, I discovered the artistic aspects that mix together in a fascinating way. I fell in love. I finished my studies with an internship at Vaucher Manufacture in Fleurier.
You then started your career with Cartier.
I started with Cartier in 2008. At that time, Cartier was creating its technical office to develop its own movements in La Chaux-de-Fonds and getting into the production of Haute Horlogerie and Poinçon de Genève watches. I worked as a movement design engineer in charge of the creation. I constructed some of the most complicated movements ever produced by Cartier in their Fine Watchmaking collection.
Later on, I was also in charge of technical project management and an expert in movement construction.
How did you decide to work by yourself and develop your own projects?
I always dreamed of being independent in my work. After developing my expertise at Cartier, I was ready to undertake new challenges. I started Krayon in 2013, and I was offering services in movement engineering and prototype adjustment. I worked for large luxury groups and independent watchmakers. At that time, I was constantly thinking about new mechanisms I could use to collaborate or sell to others. When I had the idea and found the technical solution for the Universal Sunrise Sunset, I decided not to sell it but to build my own watch with it.
How was the Krayon Everywhere concept imagined?
This brings us back to a personal experience. During my first vacation with my wife in Costa Brava in Spain, I invited her to come with me to snorkel and free dive at sunrise. I explained to her that the ideal moment is the exact sunrise because it is the moment when the night fish are still active and the day fish start to come out. To get there, we had to get up early in the night because we needed time to go to the coast, bring the material and get ready. So we left in the night. Once at the shore, the sun still hadn’t risen. My wife remembers waiting nearly one hour, looking at the horizon for the sun to rise on the sea. From this experience, I realized that it would be useful if a watch could show the sunrise and sunset time in any location.
In the beginning, I considered it impossible, but years later, I studied it and found the technical solutions to create this mechanical calculator.
Following Everywhere, you presented the Krayon Anywhere, a somewhat simplified version of the concept. What were the reasons that led to this launch?
After deliveries of the Everywhere, I learned from the feedback of my customers. I realised that Everywhere is too focused on engineering. The immense complexity of the movement had forced me to create a very compact movement to make the watch wearable (42mm in diameter, 12mm in height), but I would have loved to show more of the core mechanisms and use more space for the finishings. From this knowledge, I wanted to create a more mature and balanced product. Anywhere was born, which keeps the core functionality of Everywhere and where location change is quite simply a watchmaker’s adjustment. Attention was focused on ergonomics, in the sense of wearability, legibility of the dials and indications, and also on the feelings of use by the crown, the feeling and the sound of the ratchet click while winding.
You were awarded the Innovation Prize at GPHG 2018 with Everywhere. What did it mean to you, and what did it change?
The GPHG Innovation Watch Prize is the ultimate award a watchmaking engineer could dream of. It was an important milestone in the development of Krayon, which, in 2018, had only existed as a brand for one year. This recognition gave us incredible visibility and gave us the credibility to further develop the brand.
What have been the key steps in the development of your brand? What are your next challenges?
The first step was clearly independence. Leaving my comfort zone of working for a big company and creating my own was key. My wife, who is also my partner in the business, has been instrumental in this process.
The second big step was then going from being a supplier to creating my own brand. As mentioned, I always dreamed of being independent, but I also needed the freedom to create and decide from A to Z.
Finally, the last move, after the very successful launch of Anywhere, went from working with my wife and assembling our products in our living room to having a proper nest for Krayon and start structuring our company by hiring three watchmakers and two decorators. Today the brand is a reality on the market, and I am very happy and proud to be able to start collaborating with the best partners in the world.
The next challenge will be to control our growth. Today we could sell much more than what can produce. As we do not want to make any kind of compromise in terms of quality and finishings, unfortunately, we cannot satisfy everybody’s wishes. Going too fast would be counterproductive in the long term.
For more information, please visit www.krayon.ch.