As of today, Richemont – the group known for controlling brands like Panerai, IWC, and several others – is officially launching a new, entry-level watch brand with a focus on sustainable manufacturing practices, customization, and affordability. Baume will serve as a completely new offering within the group and it’s safe to assume that Richemont will have a chance to attract young buyers hungry for realistic pricing and true customization. Besides that, the use of sustainable materials is the highlight of Baume’s introduction. No animal products, no precious metals, precious stones, or anything else known to create a significant impact on the planet. Currently, two primary collections are available: the Baume Custom Timepiece Series and the Baume Iconic Series.
The Baume Custom Timepiece Series serves as the most entry-level option and in many ways, it’s the most attractive one. With a web-based customization tool users will have a chance to create either 35mm or 41mm (stainless steel, PVD steel, or gold colored) timepieces featuring a range of “sustainable, recycled, and up-cycled” materials. According to Baume the customization tool will support over 2,000 possible watch configurations (considering case color, dial color, straps, and more). A range of complications will also be available, with calendar options, a moonphase, and a simple time-only layout, among others. To keep pricing even more attractive, any watch falling within the Custom Timepiece Series will be powered by a quartz movement supplied by Miyota or Ronda depending on your configuration.
Aside from case size and complications, things get interesting when selecting the strap materials. Judging from the press photos Baume is looking to offer some of the best looking alternatives to leather – something I’m personally looking forward to. At launch the Baume Custom Timepiece Series watches can be configured with slightly more “eco-friendly” options like linen, cotton, cork, recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate plastic), and alcantara. It’s a good first step for a brand focusing on more ethical production practices along with partnering with organizations like Waste Free Oceans, which focuses on collecting and transforming floating ocean plastic into sustainable materials.
Unlike the Custom Timepiece Series the Baume Iconic Series has been debuted with a single model featuring what appears to be a regulator-style layout and an “aluminum” colored case along with prominent wire lugs and a 12 o’clock crown (just like the Baume Custom Timepiece Series). The strap is recycled PET and inside the watch, Baume has opted for the Miyota 82D7 with a 40-hour power reserve. Along the edge of the brushed dial we’re reminded of Baume’s efforts with the “Upcycled Timepiece” printing and as we move to the 24-hour dial center, we catch a glimpse at the industrial-looking Miyota caliber inside.
All of this sounds exciting but there’s no denying that some watch enthusiasts might need a little clarification on the branding here. Essentially, Baume (while still affiliated with Baume & Mercier) will currently operate independently, as an e-commerce only operation, and as the newest affordable entry point for the Richemont Group. Key individuals previously associated with Baume & Mercier have officially been tasked with running things at Baume, but this is very much a separate brand with its own designs and product focuses.
Overall, this is an admirable effort from Baume and at the very least, it’s exciting to see them spark this conversation. It’s no secret that among others, the luxury goods industry takes part in some of the most horrifying production practices when you consider areas like material sourcing, waste, and leather production. And, while we can argue that the introduction of these new collections is a small step, at least someone is giving it a try. However, (and I’m not one to bash quartz) one could still point out that the choice to use disposable battery-powered quartz movements could in some ways seem counterintuitive if the goal is enhanced sustainability. In the future, I’d like to see more mechanical offerings from Baume and perhaps an option that allows customers to participate in a battery recycling program if the watches are ever made eligible for in-house servicing/maintenance. Oh, and if resources are being pulled to develop accessories (like straps) out of sustainable materials, how about offering these new selections across the various, larger Richemont brands? Just a thought.
For now, this is something I’m personally excited to see, even if the majority of the watches are quartz. Starting today both Baume collections will be available for purchasing on their official site and all timepieces will be supplied in FSC-certified paper and cardboard – no box or secondary packaging. Pricing for the Baume Custom Timepiece Series starts at $560 and the Baume Iconic Series model is priced at $1,100. baumewatches.com