Interview with Gilles Clavareau - Artisan du Temps

Who is Gilles Clavareau?

Hello everyone !

Belgian, originally from Brussels I was born in 1983. Watchmaking is for me much more than a job, it's my passion. I like sharing my job with other passionate people as well as passing it on to future watchmakers. After having convinced my parents 'non-watchmaker' I left at the age of 16 in France, since then I have not stopped living for and thanks to my passion. In August, I will have 19 years of work at only 35 years!

To begin my training as a watchmaker, I followed, for nearly 4 years, an apprenticeship by working at the workbench in Lyon, Lille and Châteauroux in parallel with watchmaking lessons at the school near Tours. I then returned to Belgium to find work but having always chosen my bosses according to the quality of their crafts, I did not find my happiness working for jewelers / classic watchmakers.

I’m an artisan and working on the bench is what I appreciate and how I know the beautiful mechanics, not learning catalogs or serial numbers by heart as many simple watch sellers do.

I have always continued to train in parallel with my company, so I took courses in Antiquity and art dealer, art history, or Solvay Entrepreneur Business School to teach me to better manage my business or E-commerce.

 

Your favorite hobbies?

  1. Horology obviously, buy, sell but also repair
  2. The vintage, hunting beautiful objects.
  3. Travelling with family or friends

 

Your favourite daily channels through which you keep informed about watch industry and community…

  • Internet for precise searches, do not believe everything that is said, check the sources of information, Instagram is magical, groups of enthusiasts or merchants on WhatsApp are great sources!
  • Buy reference books, lots of books, and take the time to read them!
  • I'm always in motion, abroad almost once a week, always looking for the vintage watch or the rare collection watch that allows me to meet to discuss and share with a lot of people ...
  • Shows, watch shows, dialogues with enthusiasts, good merchants, ...

 

How did you start Artisan du Temps?

Originally in 2004 I created the company Artisan du Temps (Craftsman of the Time), with a credit bank, 5.000 Euros only, within the family home, with a piece for my workshop and a small space for the purchase/sale of watches vintage. I am still the main shareholder and manager of the company that grew up well.

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Since the beginning, Artisan du Temps deals with the purchase, sale and repair of old and new watches and clocks as long as it is a quality watch object.

The first watches were sometimes bought with a visa card, leaving a month to succeed in selling before being debited on the account ... Bets very difficult, sometimes successful and sometimes not!

Today the Artisan of Time has become a professional society in the world of watchmaking collectibles, we have a beautiful store well placed in Brussels, 12m of windows, more than 300 watches in stock, ... The company is for me a great success and a personal pride.

Following the great success of the store, the company and the workshop always need more space, more watches, more working capital, more qualified personnel. The operation of the company and the workshop are constantly reorganized to better serve the many new customers that comes to us every day ...

The failures, the hard knocks were of the party too. I had credits refused to buy my first store, and I had to change banker the day I signed for the purchase of the store.

Bad purchases that we don’t want to talk, difficulties in finding staff or associates, qualified, faithful and honest, all this is part of the adventure too and make it even more beautiful!

The huge concern of the company since the beginning and still today is its working capital, always too weak, the money always transformed into a fraction of a second in a beautiful watch, we always have to imagine how to finance our projects, always agree not to receive his salary at the scheduled time ...

But these risks, sometimes disproportionate -because being passionate, nothing stops me-, have always made me grow in a great way!

 

What do you think about eCommerce? And about SocialMedia in order to open the global scope of worlwide buyers.

Yes a lot, even if having a shop and a workshop are considerable assets. I think the future of our development must pass and will go through e-commerce.

The on-line trade is evolving extremely fast, there is of course our own website but Instagram, Facebook, the forums, WhatsApp and the markets place are very important, it is necessary to follow all this very closely and react at best.

 

Is eBay or Catawiki (and similar online platforms) good channels to selling your products? What do you think about it?

Difficult question ... I'm not going to make friends, but ... No, really no, work overloads, too many questions without interest from the buyers, disappointing quality of the objects, a lot of ghost buyers or people who damage the objects or event take the opportunity to hack a supply they need before sending us the object said to be defective.

The "experts" present on these platforms are often ignorant and beside the reality, in short to use only to sell objects that you want to get rid of or to find supplies. For beautiful watches you have to escape as quickly as possible whether you are buyer or seller !

 

How do you imagine Artisan du Temps in the future? Evolution or next steps…

For now, we are developing our on-line presence, new website since November, strong presence on Facebook and Instagram.

We have also opened an office dedicated to expertise since January, close to the store it allows us to work in partnership with some insurance companies or broker and for individuals directly to realize the expertise of their beautiful watches. We still have to make it better known and have more partners ...

In the future we want to expand and redo our workshop, to hire more qualified staff, but "step by step", smoothly as we have done for 14 years to ensure the quality of our services.

 

How do you manage the online and offline mix with the new targets and new behaviours of young buyers?

The best! We change the interface of the site regularly to follow trends or new features both graphically and manageability.

The young buyers are often passionate and motivated, they learn quickly, thanks to them the trade is accelerated and the customers are more aware which of course has good sides but also bad ones...

 

What is your Blog or Instagram/Facebook profile (some links). How do you manage your community? (campaigns, crossing campaigns with other blogs, or communities or markets,…)

Being Artisan, the communication is not my strong point, I try to communicate a maximum, I try to express to the followers my passion through my publications of photos, my discoveries, my travels, ...

 

What was your first watch that started the love for Watches or that started the spark?

I do not really know, I've always been attracted to watches and clocks. Little I had a Flik-Flak that I liked a lot, maybe it comes from there. There were also my grandmother's clocks at the time I could not touch ...

What I love is that almost every person has a watch, each in his own way to wear it, to take care of it or not. When you discover someone's watch you can guess a lot about their current owner and even about the old owners.

 

How is your collection structured?

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My structured collection? Not at all ! (Laughs) I love watches, how to structure a collection when we like each of the watches we have hardly acquired. I would say however that they are mostly vintage with some exceptions.

 

The way how it has evolved?

Some watches fascinated me so I searched them for years to find the model of my dreams in a state that suits me. The experience of the object sensitize me a lot, I have often been lucky and love to discover an object in a specific state that melts me or with a beautiful story. Sometimes I keep the watch because I love it "too much" to sell it, some even do not suit me, do not go well or are for women and so I can not really wear them but I love them.

 

Your favourite Brands?

In a rather classic way, it's the Swiss brands that I prefer, Rolex, Omega, Universal Geneva, Jaeger LeCoultre, Zenith, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin …

 

What have your favourite brands and its watches have to motivate you with such energy?

No precise idea, the crush, rarity, mechanical quality, finesse or robustness, many models in my collection completely opposed ... What I like above all is the experience of the object, its patina, its history, ...

Watches are at the basis time indicators, but with the passing of time they represent it in addition to indicating it ...

 

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Some favorite watch or model that you will never get rid of?

A Breitling Cosmonaut "Pizza" 24h, military, 60s ... Abandoned after 40 years of service by his first owner, a pilot. He noticed that his watch was out of order and went to a Breitling store at the airport, where is bought a new model and told the seller to throw it away, he just saw it as a working tool! I wore it on my wedding day, a funny choice because it's not really a tuxedo watch!

 

Tips for someone who starts their collection.

Do not buy anywhere, do not look for the best prices but for the best watches. Look for watches at an individual, by word of mouth, professional sellers you trust, do not hesitate to move, do not buy on the web to pseudo-professionals...

 

Tips for someone who wants to put order in their collection.

Do not hesitate to sell or rotate your collection, keep what you prefer, and never sell your favorites.

 

What is your favorite complication?

Like any watchmaker I love tourbillons.

 

Is vintage watch collecting a true Investment?

Yes, huge, for a long time vintage watches are only increasing, the interest of the public is always growing and the supply is reduced from day to day. Everything is gathered so that our watches increase again and again...

 

Is vintage Watching an alternative way to diversify a mid or long term investments?

It depends, it is important to follow the rating closely. Be aware of where the watch was purchased and where it is resold, whether through individuals or professionals.

If it was purchased from a Pro it is often better to resell it in the longer term than if it was bought from a private individual at a good price. It is often when one buys that one already does, or not, a surplus-value. Nothing is ever lost, nothing is ever a bad buy unless you get scammed, all watches increase in value in the long run.

I am always happy to buy a watch that I have already sold, I know the state and provenance, if it is done quickly (less than six months) the customer is the loser except for exceptions, if it is done less quickly (a year or more) it is not uncommon for the customer to earn money, I recently bought 321 Omega 10.000 Euros when we sold it 7 years ago 3.500 Euros.

The principle of investment have always been that it is necessary to sell to touch its profit, the investors therefore often sell, the collectors wait a bit longer.

 

What is your favourite Brand?

I would say Rolex, his creator of genius, his incredible commercial marketing and the robustness of his watches.

 

Do you have a Holy Grail that you are still looking for?

In recent, I would very much like to acquire a Blancpain Fifty Phantom Pink gold with whirlwind. In vintage, a beautiful Longines 13zn large size, patinated dial.

 

At Andhora.com we have a large worldwide community of Stopwatch collectors. What do you think of the Stopwatch collectors?

I love stopwatch, but I do not understand how to limit myself as a collector to a single type of complication and not having the time on a watchmaking object is still a pity.

 

Can be Stopwatches complementary to watch collection?

Complementary and even mandatory! They are part of watchmaking history and directly responsible for the great precision of many watches.

 

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Are the stopwatches the great unknown and forgotten of watch collection?

Too often, yes!

 

How do you see the relationship between the current watch industry and the vintage watch?

Major brands have understood the importance of the vintage market. All of them have reproduced reeditions of their legendary models, sometimes even with falsely radium or patinated dials.

They have almost all opened their archives and offer extracts. Alas, as a clockmaker, we still do not have easy access to supplies. I am afraid of services made by brands on vintage watches. Brands tend to want to make watches as possible as new, and that's not what the customer is looking for in his vintage watch. This creates huge mistakes and a service made to the brand sometimes even disadvantages the watch.

 

Do you think the industry is focusing the strategy of SmartWatches?

The watch has always been an object of desire and will always be but I doubt that the smartwatch have the same success.

The strategy of smartwatch is for me lost in advance, people wear a watch for pleasure, not for the tool they are or very rarely ... How many beautiful diving watches have not been sold to people who has never been put in the water?

The smartwatche does not bring the pleasure of a beautiful jewelry and nothing new by contribution to other tools that we already have all. Nothing that our smartphones don’t already do. People do not want to spend more to have what is already in their pocket and to deprive themselves of their beautiful jewelry that is their collection watch.

The smartwatch is often quite expensive and is condemned to be very quickly obsolete which is certainly the case of our collection watches, but the smartwatch does not bring anything collectible ...

The time is everywhere, in the bus stops, on our smartphone, in the car, so the watch has become totally optional.

 

What do you think about the relationship between Millennials (young segment of population) and mechanical watches?

Two ways of reacting is clearly distinguishable.

The first is terribly awesome! They love, they are passionate and eventually know them better than us, thanks to the current tools they have easy access to a lot of information and learn a lot!

The second is less fun, no interest for the objects that drive us apart from possible: "how much? How much can I sell my grandfather's watch ...

 

Do you think the watch industry needs to connect with the young target or remain focused on tradition, luxury,…?

Absolutely remained focused on tradition and luxury, possibly follow with interest what do the new brands specialized in what is connected. But it is not in their primary functions, it is not that that the brands are predestined so do not do what others do much better than you.

 

What do you think about the strategy of Brand concentration in global luxury holdings like LVMH, SwatchGroup, Richemont,…?

Not much, I'm not interested in it, it's capitalist business groups that make money first and foremost. Of course they make luxury and objects of fantastic collections but it is precisely these objects that interest me more than the group's holding strategy ...

 

What do you think about social networks and microinfluencers. Are they important for the whole watch industry? (and for the whole watch ecosystem)

Social networks, microinfluencers have become essential, for major brands, as for craftsmen, it is ultimately a modern version of the best and oldest advertising in the world based on trust and word of mouth.

 

Andhora.com is a small blog in spanish done by vintage wristwatch and stopwatch lovers & collectors, with a growing community of friends and followers in Spain and Latin America.

What would be your best advise for Andhora.com in order to keep growing and become a true reference?

Be passionate and never get discouraged!