When he first started his own watch brand, Meerson, fashion designer Alexandre Meerson knew exactly what he wanted to offer clients: Customized watches. In fact, he didn’t begin by creating his own watch lines. Instead, he went out and worked directly with clients to create the watches that were in their heads. The thing is, that was nearly a decade ago — when such a thing was an unheard-of concept.
Meerson has some experience in the watch world. His father, Emerich Meerson had developed his own eponymous French watch brand that was fashion forward and highly regarded in its day. I knew Emerich and had a host of meetings with him over the years, and was always impressed with his design sense. His vision was so impressive that today, Meerson even offers some vintage Emerich Meerson watches for sale.
Even though Alexandre grew up in a watch world, he did not initially pursue the concept of having his own brand. Initially, he worked in luxury fashion for some of the most iconic Italian brands in the world. “That is where I sharpened my pencils,” says Meerson, admitting that eventually, the watch bug got to him.
Alexandre Meerson: Small brand, big Ideas
“Watches are my passion. I am not a watchmaker but when I would watch the watchmakers at the bench when I was 8 or 9 years old, I realized that you can build something that will last a lifetime. That is striking,” says Meerson, adding that design gives him the liberty to express himself and his passion, and create something beautiful. “But I wanted to create something beautiful to order. I wanted to bring what I had learned in the world of fashion to watches, and I wanted the client to know he was instrumental in bringing his vision to life.”
This is how Alexandre Meerson became what may well be one of the first contemporary brands to specialize in creating bespoke made-to-order timepieces under his own name. Initially, he spent about seven years setting up his supply chain, meeting with all of the Swiss artisans and picking the right ones. He insisted everything be Swiss made.
Alexandre Meerson Develops Watch Collections To Choose From
Meerson created several watch collections to offer the customer as a starting point. The first lines were unveiled in 2014, and he continues to create a new series each year. Customers can pick a collection and ask for a customized dial, for instance, or they can ask for the watch to be totally customized for them. Every piece is individually made, one by one. Of course, customers can purchase an existing watch in the Alexandre Meerson collection if they don’t want something specially made. Alternatively, they can start from scratch and have a totally one-off watch made — not harkening back to any of the collection cases.
“I try to achieve what the owners have in their minds. I ask what is special to them and then I go back and design something from their ideas that will have a lasting memory and be really personal,” says Meerson.
Additionally, Meerson does special appearances and events at different locations and often creates a capsule collection inspired by the event or the place. Sometimes, customers are intrigued by those limited-edition pieces and buy them outright. Meerson also makes other unique items, including clocks. For every item he creates, Meerson meets with the customer not only for a private consultation, but also for on-going talks or meetings as he creates what they dream of.
Alexandre Meerson Customization: From Emotions to Wrist
In one instance, Meerson had a collector of pop art come to him and ask for a dial reflecting a famed piece of art he had just purchased from American artist Roy Lichtenstein. In the end, the result was a gold enamel painting on a mirror dial showcasing just one aspect of the painting — the woman’s lips. In another instance, he created a watch for a client who wanted something that matched his upscale Pagani Italian-made automobile. The result was a watch made from the titanium of the exhaust pipes of Pagani and using the Italian leather. The list goes on and on.
“People want to talk about themselves and their passions. The human interaction that we have as I explore their thoughts is so important,” says Meerson. “What I see with my clients is an intense pleasure of knowing they are getting something valuable, a life-long piece that has emotion behind it.”
Every one of Meerson’s collections reflects a deft blend of powerful yet sophisticated, of creativity and timelessness. This is what makes buying a piece from the curated collection so easy. However, it is also the perfect open canvas to showcase bespoke at its finest. Interestingly enough, the fact that people want to share their stories is evident on the Meerson site, where there are pictures and stories of some of the clients who ordered bespoke watches.
Alexandre Meerson’s Augmented Memories
Because of the intimacy that goes into creating customized watches, and the relationship Meerson as the designer builds with his clients, he is doing something else fairly revolutionary: cancelling his e-commerce business and driving sales through retailers, noting he is pleased to be working with Watches of Switzerland in New York City, among others. “Nothing replaces the relationship that people have built. Nothing,” says Meerson.
Unfortunately due to the pandemic, many of these personal meetings are on hold. As such, he has developed a virtual showroom app, called Augmented Memories, that sales consultants can use to get started and then the client, the rep and Meerson can all get together on zoom and download the pieces of the collection on the app so the customer can visualize it either in a store (if the stores are open) or in the comfort of their own home. Meerson then sends sketches, designs, etc. and the process begins. He even lets the customers watch the manufacturing process, and lets them see the first beat of the watch live on video.
Women Want Customization, Too
Up until recently, all of the collections by Alexandre Meerson have been geared for men, but at least 50 percent of Meerson’s customers are women. As such, the brand has just offered (on its website) a first look at its first ladies collection, called Palatine, where he turns to slabs of gemstones as dials and customers can pick whichever type of stone they want. (Look for more details on the women’s line coming soon.)
The Alexandre Meerson chronographs sell for about $7,500, and the bespoke pieces usually average about $15,000 when it is a special dial and material choice. This makes having a customized watch highly affordable. Bespoke gold watches can cost as much as $40,000. In short, the customized pieces can carry a premium of just about 25 percent and higher depending on the design, materials, and other aspects.
Today, the split is just about equal between clients buying the curated already-produced watches and clients asking for customization. Meerson says he reserves slots in his production every year to accommodate the growing number of bespoke pieces on order.
“People find great satisfaction having a watch that is completely personal and hand-made, and yet that uses the technology of the digital age,” says Meerson. “It is all about the idea of crafted for pleasure.”