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Swiss Made Watch offers a section called “Interview with” which provides an update on the activities of a player in the watch market. After François Moreau, the CEO and founder of RESERVOIR Watch, Nicolas Boutherin, the co-founder and artistic director of the Klokers brand, Yohan Bizy, the Managing Director France of Frédérique Constant, Vincent Coquet, the director of Oris France, Etienne Malec , the founder and boss of the Baltic Watches brand, Franz Linder, the CEO of the Mido brand, Lilian Thibault, the founder and boss of the Awake Concept brand, Federico Restrepo, the founder of the Restrepo Watches brand, Maxime Herbelin, the director marketing of the Herbelin brand, and it’s the turn of Carlos Rosillo, the co-founder of Bell & Ross, it’s the turn of Arnaud Pézeron, the co-founder of SYE [Start Your Engine]to agree to answer our questions.
Arnaud Pézeron hello, SYE [Start Your Engine] Since the end of 2020, it has been offering watches with a fairly innovative system of interchangeable straps. Where did the idea of creating a watch brand come from?
Hello Alexandre and hello to the readers of MrMontre. It’s a long story 😉 SYE’s story [Start Your Engine], it is above all a story of passion. I started to take an interest in watchmaking very early on, if I remember correctly from my first watch for my communion. And then things accelerated at the end of the 1990s when I discovered the model that was to leave a deep mark on my passion for watches: the Spaceman by André Le Marquand.
At the time I was very interested in design, I frequented flea markets and flea markets when one day I came across this strange, really different watch which was the spark of an all-consuming collection. This watch was also the starting point for a lot of research, documentation on watch design of the 60s/70s/80s, up to the creation of a blog, Montresdesign, in which I tried to mix new models, vintage watches and projects by young designers.
Some of them germinated the idea of one day creating a brand of watches. The seed took a long time to grow. I wanted to be able to launch a brand that brings a bit of novelty in terms of stylea personality recognizable among a thousand and also work on materials exploiting their raw beauty.
Can you present SYE to us in figures? Number of employees, number of watches sold each year, average price of a brand watch…
SYE [Start Your Engine] asked us 3 years of product development because it was necessary to start from completely blank sheet : designing the case, inventing the integration system and designing the bracelets to meet our challenge. We are currently at 2 full years of commercialization.
Customer feedback is excellent, sales are there, but we can do much better and we are working on it by currently developing our distribution.
To animate all this, we are a team of 3 people who is not unemployed. OUR average basket is around 700 € including tax with a desire to stay on affordable rates despite the context.
How do SYE watches differ from other watch models that have integrated straps (PRX type)?
The design of our model MOT1ON is characterized by thevery advanced integration between a leather strap and the steel case. The leather literally fits in the box unlike many other systems and it is this alliance between steel, cold, and leather, warm, which gives all its dimension to the concept.
Our inspiration was drawn from the ultra-advanced integrations that we have seen in particular on custom motorcycles with a rather striking fusion of bodywork and upholstery. We wanted to reproduce the same feeling, the same wow effect on the wrist.
The other strong point of differentiation lies in the assembly system, called Fastback™. The idea was to create a unique experience to change your bracelet as you could do with a Meccano set. Our customers love this unique, solid, practical, aesthetic and really fun system.
What is the typical profile of a SYE watch buyer?
It’s a male (mostly), quadra who likes to please yourself with beautiful objects and who has a special affinity forcar & motorcycle universe.
What are the brand’s most popular watch models?
We currently have 2 models available in several versions of dials and bracelets. THE Automatic24 model holds the rope of a very short head in front of the model Chronograph.
We recently launched a limited series of the Chronograph Bullitt which was a hit with its really particular green/grey dial. We tried the experiment again with a new Bullitt Titanium limited edition which is very popular.
Your watches offer a mechanical caliber (Miyota) or Meca-quartz (Seiko) for chronos. Why not offer a Swiss or Franco-Swiss caliber via brands like Lajoux-Perret?
Great point. Initially we wanted to equip ourselves exclusively with mechanical movements to be perfectly in line with our DNA. But launching a mechanical chrono meant exceeding the psychological limit imposed at the launch, the bar of 1000 €. As a result, we explored other avenues and discovered the Seiko mechanical-quartz movement who is actually stunning.
In the future our offer will be enriched with new calibers. We also aim to equip our watches with movements, perhaps less sophisticated but which offer unparalleled reliability and this is very important for a young brand.
What about after-sales service? Is it located in France?
We collaborate with Reparalux, located in Besançon, for our assembly as our after-sales service. A workshop on a human scale, run from father to son for four generations, and reactive which allows us to hold very short deadlines in the rare cases where we have to support a watch in after-sales service.
How do you plan to develop brand awareness in France in the coming months?
Since our launch, visibility is crucial for us. We have essentially developed our visibility in the media and on social networks. But also face to face.
During the pre-order period we set up individual appointments to discover the brand and the models and since then we have cultivated this culture of proximity. Our very good word of mouth surely follows. We’re going continue our efforts with our limited means and thank you for giving us the floor, it means a lot to us.
You haven’t given in to the joys of crowdfunding to promote your brand and boost pre-orders. Why ?
Great question on crowdfunding. Originally, I studied all the watchmaking projects that came out on Kickstarter, trying to understand the model well. I also interviewed a few creators from my network who had been there and they all described a highly automated, rigid platform, where creators had to mobilize their community anyway to succeed in their campaign.
The other element that has me diverted from Kickstarter, is that as we approach the launch date, in 2020, the plethora of projects that appeared there were not necessarily quality projects. So, even if it means launching SYE in the midst of a global pandemic, you might as well create a total brand experience and create a link with the community directly on our website. This is also the perspective for which several brands have opted when they started on crowdfunding platforms.
Do you intend to remain 100% digital or do you also intend to develop in physical stores?
We wish develop an omnichannel presence from the start, but the launch in the midst of a pandemic inevitably had repercussions on our development in physical stores. It’s today our priority. Both to develop a representative presence in France with a good network of the territory but also to develop ourselves internationally.
The web remains an important platform in our desire to offer a differentiating experience, we are also working to offer new immersive tools on the site.
Apart from SYE watches, what are the 3 watches (in your collection or not) that make you dream the most?
Certainly, the most difficult question of the interview. I love unconventional watchmaking even though my tastes have mellowed over time. So, here is my very personal podium:
1- The Urwerk UR-103, certainly one of my most violent horological shocks. I admire the Baumgartner-Frei duo and their vision.
2- The MB&F HM5, it is a remarkable adaptation of the Amida Digitrend which is in good place in my collection. A watch in the purest style of the drivers’ watch and which with Max Büsser takes on a whole new dimension, especially with its blinds which are to die for.
3- My Omega Speedmaster 176.0014 aka TV, I really like the iconic model that is the Speedmaster but I have a big crush on its iterations of the 70s in Mark 4.5 and TV version. They have even more personality and I like that.
It’s cruel to be satisfied with only 3 models and to leave in the shade the LIP Tallon and Baschmakoff, the Ikepod, the Spoons and other Spaceman.