Exclusive interview of Angular Momentum for Montre24
The watch company Angular Momentum was founded in 1998 by a talented watchmaker Martin Pauli. In a short time an independent manufactory has won the attention of society, indifferent to the watch delights. Guided by the latest technological advances in the watch industry, Martin Pauli developed a fundamentally new system of time display Revolving Disk (RDS - disk time indication), which has successfully replaced the classic watches with three hands. Technological developments contribute to the development of design: the use of Revolving Disk allowed focusing on innovative design solutions. In the watch decorating the skillful watchmaker began to use the age-old tradition of handmade (gilding on glass, engraving on silver, gold, pearl, porcelain, etc.). The practical mechanics in the hands of artists, miniaturists, engravers, goldsmiths and enamel becomes a true work of art.
The founder and owner of Bern-based Watch House Martin Pauli has kindly agreed to answer the questions of Montre24.com.
1. Montre24: Angular Momentum is a relatively young watch company. Why have you moved away from traditional watch making and began to produce watches with disk time display (Revolving-Disk-System)?
Mr. Martin Pauli: The Revolving-Disk-System was an invention, registered as Patent CH686988 in 1997. At that time, the watches were available on the market where almost of them had only hands, no interesting time displays was available. At that time the exports of the Swiss Watch Industry was around 4 billion while 10 years later it was 16 billions. To start a new company or brand, one needed a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) something special, which other brands do not have. Therefore I started up with timepieces, working with the RDS System. At that time the slogan was “A new and sensational way of reading the time”.
Montre24: Do you intend to begin production of traditional wristwatch equipped with sophisticated complications, or will remain committed to "digital" watches, which indicate only time?
Mr. Martin Pauli: To start with, Angular Momentum is a small sole manufacturer. This means I am manufacturing the entire watch by myself and I don't have employees or suppliers. To realize an own movement is very difficult and a lot of capital and labor is involved. I have a number of fellow watch makers who decided to come up with their own movements. Since they didn't have the cash to do it by their own, they had to find investors, which makes life very difficult. Beside of digital display I also manufacture watches with hands display. Regarding the movement. Today I only use historical movements manufactured between 1950 and 1970. These movements are ebauche movements, never been assembled in a watch. I dis-assemble, clean and assemble them. Depending on the customer's wish I also refine and decorate them to a high level. I have also access to complicated historical movements if a customer prefers. May be it is interesting to know, that the movements manufactured in above described period by FHF, A. Schild are of much better quality than mass produced movement made today.
Today among mass movement manufacturers like ETA, there is a strong trend visible. Many million of movements and watches have been manufactured in the past years. Every movement needs a service after 7 to 10 years. Today there are not enough watch makers on the market to execute the services. As a result many brands don't service a watch, just throw the old movement away and set in a new one. Modern movements have become a short life product.
Montre24: Carp, hummingbirds and parrots, miniature of famous artists – designersʼ imagination of Angular Momentum is inexhaustible. What are the new designs will be presented by the company in the near future?
Mr. Martin Pauli: 90% of my work are bespoke and custom made timepieces. Almost all the watches presented on the website have been made one time for a customer somewhere in the world. Once a while I create a new collection as an inspiration for my existing and new customers.
Montre24: Do you have the models in your collections, created in collaboration with other designers?
Mr. Martin Pauli: Once a while I create and manufacture watches or watch parts for other companies or brands. But I never needed designers for my work.
Montre24: In creating of the watches you are using very sophisticated techniques of decoration (VerreEglomise - application of cold painting and gilding on the inside of the glass, Urushi - the art of Japanese miniature, etc.). All work is done manually and is time consuming. Are you going to move to an automated production of the watches (it will also increase the number of produced models, for a year you release the 15-17 models)?
Mr. Martin Pauli: I have a production capacity of around 200 to 300 timepieces a year and I am not interested in increasing my yearly output. I have been contacted by investors several times in the past years always with the plan to make Angular Momentum a big brand but I guess this is not a good idea.
Montre24: Many watch companies in creating of cases, use not traditional materials (gold, stainless steel), but own unique one, such as Harry Winston - zalium, A. Lange & Söhne - honey gold). And wouldnʼt you intend to depart from the traditional materials in the usage of creating the timepieces?
Mr. Martin Pauli: In the past years I have made watch cases in different material such as Damascus steel with etched and gold plated surface, Shibuichi, a Japanese silver-copper alloy which I have alloyed by myself in the ateliers. Titanium Grade 5, bronze, silver and all the known precious metals have been used. One time I have made a timepiece entirely made of box wood and one of white camel bone.
Montre24: What can you say about the jewelry watches of Angular Momentum? How successful was this project?
Mr. Martin Pauli: As mentioned above, also jewelry watches have all been made for customers on special order. Best customers for this kind of products are of coarse still Middle East but also in the past Russia and the Ukraine.
Montre24: You have a series of diving watches, with the creation of which you have used a proprietary system of "glow" dial. Do you intend to create a collection in the style of ''Military'' with new developments, typical for military watches?
Mr. Martin Pauli: The watches with "Emaile Lumineuse" I have made until today have not been successful among traditional "watch collectors" but very successful among designers and design oriented clientele. Angular Momentum is a niche brand known for ist artisan timepieces and I assume, if I come up with a military style watch, people would not understand and the retail partners I work with today are not interested in this kind of products.
Montre24: As we know, Swatch group has been gradually reducing their supply arrangements to third parties, and you have watches, designed on the basis of the mechanisms ETA. What kind of mechanism in the future are you going to use in your watch?
Mr. Martin Pauli: As mentioned above, all watches are made piece by piece and movement size is no problem for me. Every watch case is made individually. Today I have a stock of several thousand historical movement from FHF (Fabrication Horlogerie Fontainemelon) A.S. (A. Schild) different type of 13''' Unitas movements, EF (Ebauche France), Peseux and many more. So this problem is solved for many years.
The decision to be as independent as possible is not only the question of movement suppliers. Its the same with suppliers of screws, dials, hands, cases. The majority of good suppliers in Switzerland have been acquired by the big groups and there we have the same problems. Lead time for fine screws for example can be 48 weeks and small companies with small orders are not of supplierʼs interest. And I do not want to buy parts in China as other brands need to do.
Montre24: Are you going to make parts for your watch or join with other independent watchmakers to create your own machine?
Mr. Martin Pauli: Own movement is not planned. But I have many friends, fellow watch makers and we meet once a while and talk with each other on the phone if one has a question but I generally prefer to work on my own. This makes work more flexible. Today I can guarantee an average delivery time of 3 to 4 weeks.
Montre24: Periodically, we observe the absorption of independent brands by large companies. If you go a good suggestion, how will you treat this?
Mr. Martin Pauli: I am in cooperation for projects with some of the well known brands but its important to know, that watches of the type I am making will never reach large sales quantities, therefore not of big companies interest.
Montre24: You have a wide distribution network, has offices in over 40 countries worldwide. Which market is considered to be the most promising and in what country are there the most sales of Angular Momentum watches?
Mr. Martin Pauli: Angular Momentum is represented in a very narrow and small network of resellers. Often only one partner per country. Today not one oft he partner is in classic watch business. Most of the resellers are either high end jewelers or run exclusive showrooms and boutiques for again exclusive customers by appointment only. Markets change from year to year from economic crisis to crisis. The watch market is very unsteady. Today Asian countries are doing very well while only few years ago, Russia was the big market everybody was looking to. The few watches I sell in a year allow no representative statistics. I have customers placing big orders every 2 years, other customers order small quantities on monthly base, some customers order one watch every three year......
Montre24: Whether increased the sales growth in the past few years?
Mr. Martin Pauli: Best development are the new Asian countries such as for example Vietnam.
Montre24: The financial crisis has led to the unstable economic situation in the world. How did the instability in the financial markets of the world reflect on your company?
Mr. Martin Pauli: It indeed affected my business. Business in countries we read about in the news papers like Spain, Greece but also Poland went down on.
Montre24: How promising is the Russian market for you?
Mr. Martin Pauli: Russia was a good market for me some years ago. Today its 0. Another problem with Russia for small and independent brands is the serious difficulties with importation of watches. Its difficult insofar, corruption makes it a very challenge not become ripped off by customs. Even its almost impossible to manage getting watches into Russia by Carnet ATA for an exhibition without facing big problems. Only the handling of a Carnet ATA in Moscow cost around CHF 5'000 to be sure the watches will pass customs in time. Next week I am going to Shanghai for an exhibition. There it will take 2 minutes to get the necessary stamps on the Carnet ATA, as in any other country in the world.
Due to these problems - a very large portion of watches sold in Russia are not officially imported but came in through green boarder line in Finland or where ever. To send watches safely to Russia is almost impossible. In the last 3 years I have lost at least 15 watches either by FedEx, TNT, UPS. The parcel arrived empty.
As a result, most customers pick up watches in Switzerland or send somebody who picks it up for them.
Montre24: You have a "Russian Collection”, are going to expand it with new models?
Mr. Martin Pauli: The Russian Collection was made for the launch in Moscow and I have sold a good number of portrait watches to customers in Moscow. In the past two years, taste of Russian buyers has changed a lot, no more so much bling than before and fewer show-off tourbillons.
Montre24: 21 - a century of various information resources in a computer network. How do you feel about internet forums and time, as well as sales of watches on the Internet?
Mr. Martin Pauli: Good question. Let's talk about watch forums in English like the biggest Purist or Timezone. I guess there are not more than 1000 people visiting the forums once a while. Comments always come from the same 50 people. Most of these 1000 are visiting both forums. And the Forums are sponsored and directed by the big brands. Not more than 50% of my press releases are published on. Purist, less than 10% on Timezone although press news are worth being published
If you look up the situation of printed media Its very similar to online magazines. English language magazines share a readership of 80'000, similar with German language magazines. So if you compare these numbers with an annual International retail sales of CHF 70 billion, forums and magazines are maybe not tob e considered as relevant for sales development. Classic internet business is extremely discount oriented business. Customers who buy really exclusive and expensive watches don't shop online and even refuse to buy in a boutique. They prefer to contact and visit the manufacturer directly or have a dealer they trust and visit their showroom.
On the other side I have sold custom made watches - some very expensive – to customers around the world only by email contact, even without talking on the phone.
Montre24: Over 13 years of its existence, your company has earned the reputation of quality manufacturer and aesthetically perfect watches, but still we would like to ask, could you bring to life everything that you have in mind to do when you founded the company?
Mr. Martin Pauli: Angular Momentum was founded with the intension to become a bigger player and to sell large quantities of watches. In the beginning I have worked with suppliers as most of the companies out there. But different economic crisis and supplier problems have made me changing strategy in 2004 to focus on special and unique products. And at the end of the day, its what I like to do and what I am best in. Miniature paintings or Urushi lacquering are my private passions, something I love to do and was not developed to satisfy a market need.
Montre24: Tell us about your team. How did you gather your team?
Mr. Martin Pauli: There is no team. All parts from watch case to artwork is made by myself
Montre24: And finally, what would you desire to our readers?
Mr. Martin Pauli: Everibody believes, that he or her is unique and special, but strangely always want what other people have. There are only a few people who want something nobody else has and these are people who have reached something in their life through their own hands and brains. The other people – the mass – are influenced by advertising and medias and do not realize, that they pay for all that when they buy a famous brand product and it seams do not care about, that maybe 10'000 other people in the same city have the same product.
The only thing I can wish is that more people would overthink their oppinion of what is exclusivity.