Staying on track with Edox

Edox keeps pace for world class sports events.

IT’S been 10 years since Alexandre Strambini, a Davis cupper, hung up his tennis racket. His leap from professional tennis into the watch business may seem unconventional but Strambini, who hails from Jura, Switzerland, had always known his calling.

“I’ve been involved in the watch industry since young. My grandfather was a watchmaker and my dad owned a watch company. During dinners and weekend get-togethers, our conversation always centred on watches.

“It was always clear that I would join the company my father started. I never asked myself what I would do after tennis,” said Strambini who, as a junior player, defeated fellow countryman and current world tennis champion, Roger Federer in the 1997 Switzerland Masters.

When he was 20, Strambini realised he had reached his pinnacle as a tennis player. By 24, his motivation to play competitive tennis dropped and he decided to join the company “before it was too late”.

“As soon as I started to think like this, it was clear I had to start my (watch) career,” said the 35-year-old managing director of Edox Watches in a recent interview in Sapporo, Japan.

While Strambini doesn’t want to delve too much into his tennis past, he is clearly proud of his Jura roots. Named after a mountain in north-west Switzerland, Jura is where 90% of Swiss watches originate from. Edox is situated in the very heart of this watch country in a village called Les Genevez.

“The watch industry was started centuries ago by farmers in Jura. In summer, they tended to their fields but during winter, when the land was under a metre of snow, they learnt to produce watches,” Strambini elaborated.

These days, his interests outside work lie in rock climbing, cycling and motor sports.

While his father is still the big boss in the company, Strambini has been largely responsible for rebranding Edox and giving it a new, sporty image. He is also involved in the design of new watches.

His father bought over Edox in 1983 from the owners of Swatch group, which was then divesting several watch brands. Until recently, Edox – an independent watchmaker – was known only to a niche market for its classic designs.

Today, it has undergone a total makeover and is often associated with extreme sports. One suspects the revamp has something to do with Strambini’s own love for the outdoors and he has cleverly tapped into this passion to build a watch brand that appeals to a young, active generation.

Living up to its tagline “Timing for Champions”, Edox has signed up as the official timekeeper for several world class sports events including the World Rally Championship (WRC) and the Class 1 World Powerboat Championship where it teamed up with Class 1 engineers to develop a shock-proof, timekeeping system that uses GPS and satellite technology.

It also has an exclusive partnership wth the Dubai International Marine Club which hosts 180 regattas annually and recently became the official timekeeper for “Iceman” Christian Redl from Austria, who holds several world free-diving records: the most impressive of which is probably the longest ever swim under 100m of ice.

“Edox is still a young brand and we want to bring it to the people,” Strambini explained.

The company’s collaboration with WRC is certainly not by chance. Strambini lobbied for Edox to partner the WRC because of its huge global audience. The rally is the third most watched motorsports globally after Formula One and Nascar, reaching out to a TV audience of over 600 million in 186 countries.

Due to the rigorous nature and demands of the rally – the series consists of 13 three-day events driven on surfaces ranging from gravel and tarmac to snow and ice – the WRC did not have an official timekeeping partner until Edox stepped in.

In fact, WRC organisers were initially not convinced Edox could design or produce a watch that suited their needs.

Not one to turn down a challenge, Strambini put together a team to work on that elusive design. As the rallies stretch on for days, he felt it important to have a watch that can keep a record of the daily times clocked by the drivers.

“We came up with a watch that has both countdown and regular chronoweb functions. The pilot (in the race) can record 15 different times clocked by his driver in our Chronorally model. You are able to replay the times, for instance, to check your No.2 stage. You can also put all the times together, or you can erase a specific time from the chronoweb if a race has been cancelled.”

Needless to say, WRC accepted Edox as its official timekeeper for two-and-a-half years.

It took Strambini and his team of eight an entire year to produce and develop the watch collection, which turned out to be quite an engineering feat. In addition to the standard displays, the watch offers a plethora of new possibilities: stage timing with an accumulated stage time, recount/replay mode, countdown mode and chronograph.

Oversized crowns on the side of the watch, one of which is a big red button resembling an engine starter, allow the watch to be operated even with a driver’s gloved hand. The Chronorally also boasts original car-theme details – its raised caseback represents a wheel rim and its rubber wristband resembles the contours of car tyres.

Asked if the watches are part of a limited collection, Strambini shook his head.

“Initially, we thought of it. But we realised that if the watch is good and useful, why make it limited? Why not make it accessible to more people?”

Unlike other established brands which rely on heavy advertising, Strambini said they are not stressing too much on it for the time being, given the high costs.

“The company’s philosophy is to stay 100% independent. We don’t owe one franc to anybody and we pay only what we can afford,” he stressed.

Edox WRC Chronorally was introduced at Baselworld in February and Strambini said response has been “more than good”.

“Everyone is asking for the watch but it takes time to produce and assemble; we are very strict with quality control. We have a long waiting list,” he added. For those just getting to know the brand, you’ll be struck by the sheer “masculinity” of the Edox range of watches.

Strambini admittted that Edox is more of a guy’s watch, although it has come up with its first Royal Lady limited edition. The latest addition is the new Heartbreaker, encrusted with 68 diamonds, which has a transparent caseback engraved with a coloured heart pierced with an arrow, in the slightly kitsch style of a tattoo.

Strambini has promised there’ll be more ladies’ watches to come.

“We have decided from end of this year and next year, to come out with new ladies’ watches within the existing collection. The watches will still be sporty but smaller, and probably enhanced with some diamonds. Ladies love diamonds.”

Strambini, who takes a personal interest in the global marketing of his watches, has gone to various countries where the rally is held to introduce the Edox WRC Chronorally. The brand is already established in Europe and in Asia, it is gaining popularity in Japan and South Korea. It’s also sold in Malaysia, Singapore, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Not many Malaysians may have heard of Edox but all this is set to change as its local partner and sole distributor in Malaysia, Watatime (M) Sdn Bhd, has been given the task of marketing the brand here.

Watatime general manager Brian Tham said the brand is already available in all Watatime’s 10 retail outlets in the country.

He is positive Edox will be able to captivate the Malaysian market in view of the unique designs and high quality materials used such as ceramics and titanium. He sees Edox’s strategy in redefining its direction and introducing a comprehensive collection as a positive move.

“Malaysian watch collectors are always on the lookout for good watches. This one is unique. Just by looking at it, you know it’s an Edox and not any look-alike.”

Another feature he believes would appeal to Malaysians is the watch’s sportiness.

“Sports watches are very popular in Malaysia. Also, people don’t mind spending a bit more for a good, mechanical watch,” Tham concluded.

The Chronorally collection is priced from RM3,000 to RM12,000. Watch collectors can also check out other Edox watches, priced from RM3,000 to RM40,000, at Watatime stores throughout the country.