Swiss companies are using precision mechanics from the watchmaking industry to manufacture gadgets and accessories for those with deep pockets.
What do you give a man who has everything, including a fancy Swiss watch? Perhaps you could splurge on the Emperador cigar chest manufactured by Geneva-based company Imperiali Genève. Not only do you get a climate-controlled humidor with 24 gold-leaf wrapped cigars but also a self-winding timepiece with a tourbillon at the centre. The cigar chest is made up of over 2,500 components and bills itself as a hybrid of “fine watchmaking and state-of-the-art electronics”.
“It costs CHF1 million ($1.01 million) and is targeted at buyers in the Middle East, Asia and the US,” company founder David Pasciuto said.
His company manufactures such 12 pieces every year. So far, they have managed to sell four. The cigar chest is just one of many high-end gadgets manufactured in Switzerland that have carved a niche for themselves in the luxury market.
However, mainstream watchmakers are not jumping into this niche segment quite yet. It’s mostly made up of manufacturers whose timepieces are already somewhat avant-garde.
“Our watches are very creative and different and those who want to buy [our] robot are also looking for something different,” says Valentin Cousin, whose firm MB&F makes the Bad Sherman robot, as well as quirky watches.
Weighing under a kilo, Bad Sherman is a steal at CHF16,700 when compared to the Emperador cigar chest. Manufacturer MB&F boasts that the little machine has a special superpower: “the ability to spread happiness and to make people smile”.
“It is a toy for a grown child and meant for those who want a plaything on their desk,” says Cousin.
Other watchmakers have attempted to transfer their skills to completely different products. Swiss brand Urwerk, for example, was chosen by single-malt Scotch whisky maker The Macallan to come up with an ingenious design for a flask. The result is the world’s first whisky flask with two tanks that enables the owner to store two different liquors at the same time.
Dominique Buser of Urwerk acknowledges that the gadget, worth CHF2,500, is far from a necessity.
“It is for someone who likes whisky and mechanical solutions for problems no one has,” he says.