— Backes & Strauss has acquired 225 years of experience in the field of jewellery, but only seven in Omega Replica watchmaking. It is preparing for a future made possible by the Franck Muller group.
Yet Backes & Strauss is quite clear about the fact that its core competency is diamonds. The company has been active in this field since 1789 and now dedicates its expertise to both jewellery and timepieces. So is Backes & Strauss exclusive? “Definitely so, and proud of it”, says CEO Vartkess Knadjian. “Our prices are high and our creations are unique; these are the very foundations of our success”.
Exploring a range of possibilities
Backes & Strauss also cultivates this exclusive approach in the choice of its stones: diamonds and diamonds only are the signature of this time-honoured House. Nonetheless, focusing on a brand firmly established in the domain of jewellery for over two centuries might almost make one forget that the watchmaking side of its operations only began in 2006. Diamonds were thus a natural choice for its timepieces but nothing is… set in stone. “We are also looking at other gems”, hints Vartkess Knadjian without giving anything else away.
The same goes for horological complications. For the time being, Backes & Strauss has not ventured into this field, although not for want of the ability to do so, since the company is part of the Franck Muller group that could easily exercise its watchmaking know-how on Backes & Strauss models.
The venerable house has only six of its own employees, mainly based in London and Geneva; all the specific handcraft skills involved are handled by the Franck Muller group. So is there no wish to have in-house artisans? “Our customers’ demands are paramount”, explains Vartkess Knadjian, “and we are indeed witnessing the emergence of a lasting tendency to favour artistic crafts. We at Backes & Strauss are particularly attached to manual workmanship and this means we might well introduce certain models relating to these artistic crafts. But there are no plans for us to integrate the artisans involved; we would instead continue to cooperate with the Franck Muller group”.
A niche brand for informed collectors
Such potential inclinations towards using other gems or adding complications are seen as evolutions and definitely not as revolutions. “We only make 1,000 fake Omega watches a year and we don’t plan to raise that number,” says Vartkess Knadjian. “It would indeed be difficult for us given that it may take six months to make just one model…” Adding complications or new gems would merely represent a further step towards the exclusivity the brand already cultivates, in extremely limited series.
Nonetheless, as far as customers are concerned, Vartkess Knadjian notes that diamonds are beginning to change sides. While traditionally the exclusive preserve of women, they are now increasingly being worn by men. “Particularly in Asia, a growing number of men are asking us for gem-set models”, he points out. This is therefore a growing market for Backes & Strauss, while the brand maintains its strategic bases in the Middle East and Russia.
Some of these regions, like Asia, feature a large number of highly discerning Rolex replica watch connoisseurs and collectors – all of whom are keenly aware of the latest watchmaking innovations and particularly the use of new materials such as carbon, tantalum, ceramics, etc.
This is indeed the impasse facing a number of jewellery brands: diamonds can only be set on traditional precious metals. “We have begun working on titanium models”, says Vartkess Knadjian, CEO. “However, devotees of diamond-set timepieces are still pretty conservative and we have not yet seen strong demand for these new materials”, he concludes.
With the support of Franck Muller, Backes & Strauss has plenty of scope for advancement in watchmaking and can look forward to pursuing its third century of existence with the serene assurance befitting its venerable age.