‘WhoAreU’ interview : Samuel Hoffmann, Brand manager Hautlence

Temps de lecture : 5 minutes
Selfie with Samuel Hoffmann Hautlence and Amandine

My name is Amandine, I am 11 years old. I am keen on watchmaking and, since the age of 7, when asked what job I want to do, I answer “watchmaker-designer at Bulgari”… In the meantime, I am interviewing people in the sector.

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

Great! They finally met each other in real life during Watches & Wonders 2023. After having been both highlighted in Revolution Magazine by Wei Koh in his Power List of “The Ones to Watch”… Power List de « The Ones to Watch »

Revolution magazine - Power List - The Ones to Watch
Samuel Hoffmann and Amandine, two of the Ones to watch for Wei Koh in Revolution

Hello Samuel, as Hautlence brand manager, who are you at work?

I am very involved in the relaunch of the brand, so I wear many hats. Starting with product development, so the coming out new products, but also with the brand image in general. Like for instance our brand-new booth at the fair now (Watches & Wonders 2023). It was entirely conceived from this new design of the brand, a new feeling. Apart from this I’m also involved in sales. I went to Asia last week and we travelled to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and visited some collectors and retailers. Actually I really enjoy it because for me watchmaking is an art form and it’s one of these few industries where you can live from making art. And then you can really see how people smile and how watches inspire them. Especially with the pieces we make, with a playful spirit and a very emotional dimension! And that’s why watchmaking is something really special for me. An industry I actually grew up in. And so I’m fortunate enough to be able to continue that passion and that dream.

watchmaking is one of these few industries where you can live from making art.

Watches & Wonders 2023 new booth for Hautlence
Watches & Wonders 2023, new brand image and new booth for Hautlence

And in the real life?

I love mechanical things. So obviously that connection with watches. I love riding motorcycles. I have an old car that I’m working on and restoring. Flying is another passion; I have my pilot license for small planes. I really love all these mechanical wonders and being able to interact with them.

And how did you fall into watchmaking?

Both sides of my family have been in the watchmaking industry for years. Along with my father who is still very active in the industry, my brother is actually the 4th generation watchmaker. So I can say that my family allowed me to grow up in the watch industry. And actually I see that you’re wearing a UN hoodie (editor’s note: Ulysse Nardin), which also has a connection to me because I also worked there.

Samuel Hoffmann loves flying a Robin 400 SHF when he has the opportunity
Samuel Hoffmann loves flying a Robin 400 SHF when he has the opportunity

Do you remember your very first watch?

It was from my parents, from my father, and it’s an Oris Big Crown. Actually my family comes from the same German speaking part of Switzerland, near Hölstein, where Oris is established. Just two villages from it. So I’ve got a very special connection to this watch. I still have it.

Oris Catalog 1919
Oris Catalog. 1919

Which watch is the most important for you?

If you mean my Grail watch, it would be the Ulysse Nardin Freak, especially the Freak 75. It was the last model with Rolf Schneider and that’s just a Holy Grail because it goes into this crazier, less traditional watchmaking and where you see the technical aspects. And I love that pop of color it also has.

Freak 75 Ulysse Nardin
the Grail watch: the Ulysse Nardin Freak 75

Do you produce watches for the youngest? For example, for a 18-20 years old boy or girl who would love getting a precious watch for his/her birthday.

Yes of course. And I would say that our watches definitively talk to the younger. Because it has this very specific TV shape case. And because we display the time in a different way, very 3 dimensional. We have for instance a sphere that has the hours on it and rotates. We have another one with the hours on a chain that moves. It’s always very interactive, much more as a show in motion. I think it’s something fun that speaks to the young people. They are also very “Haute Horlogerie” pieces. That’s why our price point is a bit higher, but I think it’s something special that speaks to everyone at every age, but specifically the young at heart.

What would you say to a young person under 15 years old to make him/her interested in mechanical watchmaking rather than his/her Apple Watch?

For me, the most interesting thing is always to see all the components working together. Just as an example, some of our timepieces have 200 ones, some have up to 500. And to see this interplay, to see all this happening together like an orchestra where everything works and comes together nicely, that’s something you can only see in mechanical watches… because in a quartz watch powered by a battery, you have that pulse of power going through but it’s not really a living being. That’s what always attracted me and I think it’s also very interesting for other people. And for somebody who’s maybe less interested in the mechanical side of things, there’s always that handmade aspect, the “artist” behind the watch who built it carefully until it pulses.

And what assets has HAUTLENCE to seduce him?

There are mainly two things we’re playing with. First, there’s the motion. For instance, we have this sphere that is pushed and turns every hours to show how the time is passing. Something that really grabs your attention. The second one is our pops of color. We have a new version of our Vagabonde this year, a collaboration with Black Badger, where we have a lot of Globolight, a 3D ceramic infused with Super-LumiNova which is glowing. And it’s almost a millimeter high! So on one hand you have this motion I was talking about, and on the other hand these pops of color which are really interesting to look at. Or exciting. And you can observe the way people are staring at the pieces and how everyone is smiling. That’s the most important thing for me.

Hautlence Vagabonde Black Badger
with the new Hautlence Vagabonde in collaboration with Black Badger

People speak a lot about durability, what does it mean for you?

Durability is something that lasts, of course. It’s ever enduring and watchmaking is very interesting in this context. Because it’s not like a microchip or any electronic device that we need to exchange the battery or that’s somehow finite… Mechanical timepieces are something that can be reworked, fixed and serviced for a very long time. So for me, durability means something that has been well built. Something that will last for long and fixed in the future by a qualified craftsman.

Which advices would you give me to live my passion?

First: always try to figure out what your passion really is. Often the issue is that you let other people think for you, but you need to figure it out for yourself. It’s often that little thing that other people see when you talk about it, that sparkle that you have in your eyes. And if people tell you about this sparkle, then it’s often your true passion. Then, the most important thing you have to understand is that there will be sometimes things that you might not like, even in something you’re passionate about. But it’s always worth holding through that because the reason you’re passionate will always come back.

Often the issue is that you let other people think for you, but you need to figure it out for yourself

hautlence watch on the wrist
What time is it?

Any message to pass on, anything to add?

I was very excited to find out about you because I discovered your Instagram account when you posted about the Revolution news where we were together and tagged everyone. And that’s how I then found out about you. So it’s exactly what I love about the watch industry. All this passion. And today we can see how these passionate people are becoming younger and having a voice. This never happened in the past. For me it’s nice to see such a wide spectrum from really young to really older people coming together with the common passion even though we have different viewpoints. It’s an exciting part of the industry and it’s something we’re definitely not allowed to lose. We are not allowed to become too corporate, where it’s only about money or about making profits, but we have to keep this art history alive and that passion that people have for watches.

It’s really a good message. I’d like to make a selfie for my album?

Yes, of course.

Amandine and Samuel Hoffmann Hautlence
Shall we do a selfie for my album?

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