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“WhoAreU” interview with Manuel Emch, Louis Erard CEO

Temps de lecture : 5 minutes
Amandine and Manuel Emch, Louis Erard CEO

My name is Amandine, I am now 13 years old and keen on watchmaking. Since the age of 7, when asked what job I want to do, I answer “watchmaker-designer at Bulgari”… In the meantime, I interview people in the industry… and today it’s the turn of Manuel Emch, the CEO who relaunched Louis Erard thanks to several high-profile collabs.

By Amandine, the youngest Swiss Watch Passport columnist
Amandine’s portrait | Insta SWP | Insta JSH® | Insta Amandine | Facebook | Twitter | Linkedin

Who are you at the office?

When I’m at the office, I’m somewhat the animator of our watchmaking company. The one who strives to lead the teams with passion and a lot of creativity. Especially the one who imparts a clear vision of the brand to them. But I’m not very often at the office. I travel extensively for the development of the brands I work for, which leads me to not be very often in Switzerland.

And in real life?

A passionate individual. Avid watch enthusiast, watch collector, but also a fan of contemporary art. Also a nomad who loves to travel, discover, and be constantly on the move.

How did you get into watchmaking?

Partly through family ties, if I may say so. I was born in a town called Granges, in German-speaking Switzerland, which is the epicenter of mechanical watch movement production as it’s the headquarters of ETA. But not only that, there are also quite a few watchmaking companies like Breitling or Eterna that have had or still have their headquarters in Granges. And then there’s my family, my grandfather, uncle, and mother all worked in the watchmaking industry. So, I kind of fell into it. And I quickly became passionate about it. My grandfather gave me my first watch when I was nine or ten years old. And since then, I’ve always been fascinated by the art and precision of watchmaking.

What memory do you have of your first watch?

One memory is quite clear: it was at Christmas, 1982 or 1983. It was the early days of Swatch, and my grandfather had given us one of the very first Swatch watches to come off the production line. I remember being very proud of that watch.

Swatch GB101 from 1983
The first Swatch model from 1983, the GB101 quartz.

And which watch holds the most sentimental value for you today?

There are several. Because ultimately, throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to create, develop, close to 1000 watches. I lost count a long time ago. One day, I’ll have to calculate, but all I can say is there have been many. Perhaps somewhere between 500 and 1000! There are certainly some that have been more significant than others. I particularly think of the Grande Seconde, which was the first watch I developed and designed for Jaquet Droz. It became the foundation of the brand’s product philosophy that still endures today. And then there’s also this Jaquet Droz automaton, the Writing Time Machine. An incredible project on which I worked for over four years and which I wanted to be the contemporary interpretation of Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s 18th-century automata. A mechanical machine with cam systems that, in a very poetic way, would give you the time. By pressing a button, a whole system of cams and wheels would set in motion to “feel” the time and write it on a piece of paper. So, in a way, giving time.

The Jaquet Droz "Time Writing Machine", a crazy project to reinvent the way time is told.
The Jaquet Droz "Time Writing Machine", a crazy project to reinvent the way time is told.

And more?

At Romain Jérôme, there were all these collaborations around video games, with Batman, Super Mario, and Pokémon. Today, it’s become common, but at the time it wasn’t yet. So many stories, experiences. Full of emotions. There was also the famous Eyjafjallajökull, named after the Icelandic volcano that caused a mega buzz at the time. And perhaps more recently, to come back to Louis Erard, the first collaboration with Alain Silberstein, which really marked the beginning of this new strategy that I implemented for the brand. Or the more recent one with Konstantin Chaykin, who is not only an extremely talented watchmaker but has also become a friend.

Do you make watches for young people?

Of course. I would even say absolutely! It’s important, especially with Louis Erard. It’s actually part of our strategy, our philosophy, to offer access to high watchmaking to a younger audience. With extremely well-made mechanical watches, of high quality with beautiful design, rich in craftsmanship in terms of artistic professions, but always accessible. In fact, I’m proud to say that we have an extremely young audience, often under 20, who are interested in Louis Erard, who are starting to collect Louis Erard watches. We offer them something completely different.

Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein Excellence regulator
Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein Excellence regulator
Louis Erard x Konstantin Chaykin Time Eater regulator
Louis Erard x Konstantin Chaykin Time Eater regulator

What would you say to someone under fifteen to get them interested in mechanical watchmaking rather than their Apple Watch?

In my opinion, mechanical watchmaking is above all a true work of art. The watch is an object that offers a connection with history, tradition, and precision. It’s not just an accessory. It’s above all an expression of craftsmanship, of time passing. And it’s exciting to be able to collect watches.

The watch is an object that offers a connection with history, tradition, and precision. It’s not just an accessory.

This regulator has been introduced during the Geneva Watch Days 2023 as a result from the collaboration between Louis Erard and William Massena.
This regulator has been introduced during the Geneva Watch Days 2023 as a result from the collaboration between Louis Erard and William Massena.

What are the strengths of your brand to seduce them?

I believe that Louis Erard stands out above all for its value proposition, its innovative, sometimes surprising design, and its commitment to quality. Watches that are already highly sought after. We are one of the few brands that not only produces extremely interesting watches but also watches that go to auctions, with a real secondary market. So extremely collectible items. It is crucial to offer young people access to the world of mechanical watch collecting, but also to reassure them about their investment with an outstanding value proposition.

Manuel Emch Instagram profile
Manuel Emch Instagram profile
Louis Erard Instagram page
Louis Erard Instagram page

We hear a lot about sustainability. What does that mean to you?

There are two dimensions to sustainability. The watch is inherently sustainable since it is one of the few objects made to endure over time. A mechanical watch is inheritable, repairable. It’s made to last. This is expressed through the creation of quality watches that will withstand the test of time, both in terms of mechanics and design. But we also need to be mindful of how we produce these watches. We have made a lot of changes internally, in terms of organization, to minimize our environmental impact in the way we produce. Locally, in Switzerland, but also in the way people work within the company.

Are you more into TikTok, Instagram, or LinkedIn?

I’m mainly on Instagram, and it’s also where Louis Erard shares its passion and information with the watch enthusiast community. But I also use LinkedIn because it’s a relatively important tool for my work. As for TikTok, I’ve never had the courage to get into it, so I’m not on there.

What advice would you give me to pursue my passion and work in watchmaking?

I think above all, a passion must be pursued with determination. You have to constantly learn, maintain relationships with industry experts, as you are doing very well. Also, from my own experience, be prepared to work a lot, work hard, to be able to realize your watchmaking dreams.

Any message or something to add?

You give me the perfect opportunity to thank all our loyal customers and watch enthusiasts for their continuous support. Watchmaking is an exciting adventure that we are of course happy to share with them, with your followers, and with all watch enthusiasts around the world.

Shall we take a selfie for my album?

With pleasure, where shall we do it? Outside on the steps? Come, there will be more light…

Thanks a lot. Do you have any question to ask me?

Traditional #WhoAreU Selfie, Amandine and Manuel Emch.
Traditional #WhoAreU Selfie, Amandine and Manuel Emch.

The interviewer interviewed…

(M.E.) In the end, even though you’re still very young, you’ve already seen and experienced a lot, talked to many people, and perhaps you’ve had the opportunity to give advice to other young people like you who aspire to enter the watch industry. I’d be curious to hear more about your experience?

(Amandine) I’m very fortunate to be experiencing all of this at only 12 years old. At first, I tried to keep my friends from knowing about my passion for watchmaking, so they wouldn’t see me differently. Today, it’s different. More and more of them know about my second life, so we talk about watches occasionally. I feel like some of my friends are more interested in watches since I’ve talked to them about it. But it’s far from being our main topic of conversation anyway!

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Book “Le Cadran”, by Dr. Helmut Crott

The work of a lifetime, the book "Le Cadran" by Dr. Helmut Crott (edited by Joël A. Grandjean), the history of the dial in the 20th century, the prestigious history of the Stern dials and of a family that took over the Patek Philippe brand
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