Franck Muller and Cortina Watch CEOs Nicholas Rudaz and Jeremy Lim talk about collaborating on five watches to celebrate Cortina Watch’s golden jubilee and a new range of ladies’ watches with black diamonds.

Tell us about the five Vanguard Revolution 3 Skeleton Cortina Watch 50th Anniversary Special Editions. 

Nicholas Rudaz (NR): The idea was for the watch to encompass the DNA and savoir faire of Franck Muller’s complications and designs. As you know, Franck was the first watchmaker to create the double- and triple-axis tourbillions. These five one-of-a-kind commemorative creations for Cortina Watch’s golden jubilee all feature the triple-axis tourbillon – the holy grail of complications for us in which a tourbillon rotates on three different axes. Then there’s the outstanding setting of baguette gems on each piece. It’s incredible work, made even more difficult by the curves of the watch case. It also pays tribute to Franck Muller’s co-founder Vartan Sirmakes, who was a diamond setter. 

Jeremy Lim (JL): It’s interesting that we have five unique watches. You’re talking about Franck Muller’s top complication and they’ve upped the game with the gemstones. I’ll be honest and say that we weren’t sure when
we started this project because we were afraid of the price point (over $1.5m each) and the acceptability of a high jewellery watch with a grand complication. But when I saw the Color Dreams reference in Geneva, it was stunning. The watches have generated a lot of interest among the ladies too, which is surprising, but there’s only one piece for each watch unfortunately. 

NR: The strength of this collaboration is that we concentrate on designing and producing the watches, while Cortina Watch knows the client and what they want. Together, we make sure that’s what we deliver.

Which is your favourite model? 

NR: That’s always a difficult question, but I like the diamond-set model with the eight colours of Franck Muller’s popular Color Dreams because it embodies the brand’s DNA and stands out with its striking, unusual looks. My other two picks are the fantastic renditions featuring rubies and emeralds. 

What were the challenges faced in creating these watches? 

NR: Today, the sourcing of raw materials like the gemstones is a major problem. When you’re creating such a large piece, you need to look for rubies or emeralds of the same colour and that’s very time consuming. It involves a lot of travelling and searching to find the correct gems, but this is what makes the watch extra special too. And because of the pandemic, Jeremy and I worked for a year through Zoom meetings. We only met up
in April this year. 

JL: This project took 18 months from conception to production. It was very quick, and I think if we had more time and met earlier, we’d have done a lot more. However, I think we’ve achieved a lot for such a
short collaboration. 

What was the impact of the pandemic on Franck Muller?  

NR: We struggled through this tough period like everyone else from the very beginning and no one envisaged we’d be stuck for so long. We had just finished constructing two new buildings at Watchland and the plan was to have one large canteen for all our staff.  But it wasn’t a good idea to have everyone come together at lunchtime during the pandemic, so we decided to have small canteens on different floors instead. As a result, we were left with over 500sqm of space with which we decided to create a chocolate-making facility. We’ve been producing small batches of artisanal chocolates since last December and business has been good. 

Franck Muller is also enriching the Vanguard Rose Skeleton range with five new references. Can you tell us more? 

NR: We’re introducing the Vanguard Rose Skeleton Black Diamonds series for ladies, which is very striking. Before we treat the case with black PVD, we’ve to cover every single black diamond manually and that’s extremely labour intensive. While we’ve done a few series of black diamond watches long ago, this range of five models is different in that it’s very dynamic, young and refreshing for the local market. 

JL: Yes, I think it’s a revival and a new trend. It’s time we had fun. The watch industry is beginning to inject small elements of fun with different dials, colours and straps… We need to embrace the new generation. 

NR: The locals have always enjoyed something extra, crazier, more inventive or complicated, and we’re catering to their interest. This is why Franck Muller has always been popular with the Asian market. 

What’s in the pipeline for the brand? 

NR: Next year, we’re celebrating 30 years of the Franck Muller Crazy Hours watch, so look out for lots of new novelties. 

This story was first published on Prestige Singapore

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