After a long period of research and learning, we at PG have recently opened our columns to the world of timepieces (with our excellent contributing editor Emmanuel Laurent), and are continuing to explore the subject and expand our knowledge about this complex world. Today Dirnelli tackles a new subject : how the crowdfunding model is spreading, for one of the first times, to the discreet world of high-end watchmaking.
In today’s collaborative economy, lines blur between companies, customers and even shareholders.
At the same time, luxury goods heritage marketing often feeds off this customer-object-craftsman relationship.
The ‘bespoke everything’ phenomenon, by nature, relies on individual customer preferences. But customers are willing to go further by participating in the company story through giving their own input in regard to strategy and development.
For example, when customers buy expensive goods from a brand, they may hope the company will reciprocate by giving them personal recognition…a behavior that could stem from the perception that the customer’s heavy investment in the object entitles him to be a sort of “part-owner of the brand” as well as the object.
Enter Czapek, a new Swiss luxury watchmaker, which seems to tick all the right boxes to become a big hit in the watch-lover community as artisanal, heritage holder and high-end manufacturer.
But Czapek decided to go a step further than its peers by allowing potential customers to literally own a share of the dream, thanks to a crowdfunding strategy: buy the watch AND become a shareholder of the company at the same time.
“By opening up ownership of the company to watch lovers, we enter the high-end timepiece business without needing 2.5 million euros of our own to invest. With each new shareholder we get, we also gain a potential customer and brand ambassador, ” says Czapek co-founder Xavier de Roquemaurel.
Watch lovers — Czapek’s potential investor base — may be found across the globe, therefore the project faces the challenge of compliance with different local regulations on crowdfunding.
Thus, to keep things manageable, during the initial launch phase, Czapek has limited itself to tapping investors in only a handful of countries: Switzerland, France, via “the Raizers” crowdfunding platform, and the United Kingdom, via “Crowd for Angels”.
Czapek is the first high level horology brand to launch itself with a crowdfunding strategy. As such, its innovative business model is based on a direct relationship with its clients, as the watches will only be available as made-to-order during shareholders’ and collectors’ events (or at a few select retailers across the globe, such as Chronopassion in Paris). Shareholders have access to a unique collection at a special discount price, but are also somehow ‘associated’ in the creative process, as part of a community of like-minded timepiece-lovers.
The heritage of the Czapek name is bound to seduce aficionados seeking authenticity: like Czapek’s illustrious compatriot and one-time business partner Antoine Norbert de Patek (of Patek Philippe fame), François Czapek was a Polish watchmaker born in Bohemia in 1811. Both men lived and worked together in Switzerland.
The Czapek name, although lesser known that Petek Philippe, was synonymous with watchmaking know-how throughout the 19th century. The Czapek name held the honor of official ‘Horloger de la Cour Impériale’ (Court Watchmaker) to French Emperor Napoleon III, and original timepieces continue to be sought after by collectors today.
Czapek is in the process of being reborn, nearly two centuries later, thanks to three entrepreneurial watch lovers who hired a well-known timepiece historian, tracked down Czapek timekeepers at auctions, and recreated Czapek & Cie, taking the name of the original company created in 1845.
Today, Czapek offers investors and customers six models, based on the original designs of 1850.