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Interview: "Watch Tailor" Alexandre Meerson

DESIGN

Interview: "Watch Tailor" Alexandre Meerson

The designer discusses the history behind the brand and their new Mutiny Chronograph

by David Graver
on 25 August 2017

For all the round-faced watches out there, rarely does one cross a bold, new design that employs the shape. Alexandre Meerson, the designer and self-described "watch tailor" behind Meerson Watches has achieved this with all four of his automatic, Swiss-made collections. The latest, the Mutiny Chronograph references the first watch he ever worked on—back in 1984 under his father's eponymous brand Emmerich Meerson. He wore that watch for 25 years before deciding the use the core for a smooth, contemporary piece. Its development took two years. Now, the piece is ready for order through a private customization process. There are 25 unique pieces per year, in this limited production run. And while Meerson is the designer of each, he draws deeper inspiration through private consultations with each buyer. The Mutiny Chrono is a beautiful piece inside and out, and so is the multi-generational story of how the brand behind it came to be.

"I come from a family of artists, designers and watchmakers—well, watch designers more than watchmakers," Meerson explains to us. "We did not make movements. We designed watches and work with artisans." His father fled to Paris, a WWII refuge born in Berlin to a Russian father and Hungarian mother. He was raised briefly in Eastern Europe before finding himself a child on the streets in France. Through a remote connection to a distant uncle, he was able to pick up the trade of silversmithing. And given his first pencil.

In the ‘50s, because of the strength of his designs, Meerson's father started meeting people in the Parisian fashion community. He became involved with haute couture designers and helped develop the fashion watch—where style matters most and new materials were employed. In the mid ‘70s he went on to start his own label, the aforementioned Emmerich Meerson. There, he would spend time producing pieces of understated, elegant style. His son Alexandre Meerson grew up in these workshops, learning about design. Meerson says it was the only way he and his father could communicate.

When his father retired in the ‘90s, the business was sold and is now dormant after acquisitions. Immediately, with the knowledge he accrued, Meerson went on to be a design and luxury consultant but he was never able to abandon the desire to have his own brand. In 2007, Meerson would launch his house—and it took seven years for him to release his first piece. The time in between was spent developing a supply chain with 80+ artisans. At the core, was a very clear mission statement: "I wanted to design 100% of the pieces my house produced, infused with purpose, entirely bespoke."

"The watch industry is extremely complicated," he continues. "I feel like so many of the watches in stores today were designed before 1975. It’s a world of icons, but also a place where brands have become prisoners of these icons." Meerson notes that this is in contrast to the other luxury industries that are constantly trying to reinvent the silhouette. And this infuses his work, as well. In the past, a watch designer would imagine a piece and build a movement that fits within. Today most brands select from a library of movements and design around it. "I work the other way around," he says. "It only works because we do very bespoke, handmade products."

"It’s not about the pursuit of perfection, but beauty. 'The music,' is what we call it,” he notes regarding design. "Luxury has nothing to do with price—it’s about the moment, being able to amplify these moments with a piece or object made with excellence and purpose.” Before the Mutiny Chronograph, he released the 41mm Altitude Premiere in 2014. Meerson refers to this as his dress watch. Customizable, it can exist with small seconds and date functions. It features asymmetrical hands—something that was a challenge to produce. It was followed up by the more casual Officier in 2015. This piece was a tribute to his father, and incorporated variations on Breguet numerals that Meerson redesigned. On the track to deliver watches with purpose, his third release was the D15 GMT sports watch. This curved-case 44mm piece meticulously fits like a 42mm. Through all three, materials vary from gold to an all-black ADLC unscratchable coating (paired with black gold numerals). On the inside, Meerson uses a movement from Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier for the Altitude and D15 Collections and for the Mutiny, a movement from Concepto.

For his stock-free, made-to-order models, Meerson takes a downpayment before production and consultation. He references both the famed watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet after the French Revolution, who employed a similar model, and of course, Elon Musk. Depending on the requirements for each piece, they take between six weeks and six months to produce and deliver. "This touches clients who really want something different or unique," Meerson concludes, "and people will notice this something special."

You can purchase a Mutiny Chronograph online with prices starting at $4,475.

Images courtesy of Meerson Watches

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