Luxury exemplary lives, our new series created to introduce you to extraordinary examples of life in the luxury industry. Throughout this series of interviews we will be immersed in the lives of renowned personalities in the industry to be inspired by their brilliant careers, learn about their goals and delve into their lives with the sole purpose of finding role models and extraordinary success stories.
Luxury Exemplary Lives Episode 2: Alexandre Labails Alexandre is a french young enthusiast and entrepreneur who back in 2017 decided to change his life 180 degrees going from working in the industrial field to building his very own haute horology brand. Filled with passion and a clear vision of what he wanted to bring to one of the most sought-after industries, Alexandre started building a dream with the sole purpose of blending the two things that better represented himself and his life so far, the result was his brand, Labails Geneve and its very first timepiece «The Temerity» .
After we developed the article about this timepiece, the amount of support was amazing, now I want to share with you one of the most amazing and passionate stories behind any brand and experience it as I did the day Alexandre and I spoke for a couple hours; And you are going to follow along Alexandre’s journey with his own words…
- So Alexandre, tell us a little bit about yourself and this new project which you have been working on.
Thank you for your interest and for the compliment! I will try to explain step by step so you and your readers can understand the complete process of the creation of this brand and this product, because we arrived to the market with a beautiful product and expensive in the development but it is a step by step process and many things changed during the journey.
To introduce myself quickly I am 31 years old now, I graduated from an engineering school in France specialized in mechanics and transportation systems, personally I am specialized as a aeronautical engines, after my graduation I worked in the engineering Consulting world first for a very big company then for a startup; my job was to build teams of industrial project managers who will coordinate projects for aeronautics and automotive industries.
In 2016 thanks to this specific job I met for the first time the watchmaking industry. I am from a modest social environment so I never had the opportunity or the chance to see beautiful luxury watches. At this moment I am 24 years old and the only thing I know about watchmaking is Rolex and Omega because I saw them in James Bond movies which is crazy when I think about it now. I was working for this startup as a business unit manager and the founder actually was someone who liked beautiful products, he used to drive beautiful cars, used to wear beautiful watches and live in a beautiful house, etc. One time, in order to motivate his sales teams he set up a challenge, the goal was to sell 1 million revenue projects within 6 months and anyone who achieved this challenge would receive a $5,000 watch.
At the moment, as I said, I didn’t know anything about watches and I was actually moving into a new apartment and I needed to buy furniture. I talked to my boss and I told him that I didn’t care about the watch that I rather have the money instead. He insisted, because he thought I would like it, and the funny part is that he was right. I actually won the challenge, therefore the watch and at that moment I met my passion. I didn’t understand it right away, it took time for it to grow in my head but I discovered watchmaking was the perfect pairing of both parts of myself: my intellectual interest for mechanical engineering and my desire for artistic beauty. I always rubbed off in this kind of environment in which art was always a main part of my life, so that’s why I think I became very interested in watchmaking.
Around July I got my first watch, it was a Luminor Panerai. I was immediately interested, but in a professional way, I wanted to understand more and dig deeper. As a good engineer I bought books and learned a lot about the technical details of watches such as the movement and what composes them. Soon I realized that, despite it requires expertise to develop movements from scratch as it’s really complex, I was able to understand it and it was possible for me to talk about it with experts in the field so I could start getting into a direction that I would like to work on, it took me around 8 months to start looking at watchmaking as a factual possible job, so I decided it was very interesting and I wanted to get serious.
Beginning of 2017 I came to a conclusion: I was going to create a brand in a sector that I never worked before, in an industry I discovered few months before. It was completely new but I knew that I wanted to do it. I worked one whole year benchmarking the industry and when I say benchmark I benchmarked from Daniel Wellington to Greubel Forsey to really understand the segment I wanted to walk in.
- Okay, so what was the first step after you decided you wanted to create your brand, how did you approach this dream?
Well, I knew I wanted to do luxury mechanical watches but also I wanted to make sure I knew all the segments. I walked with innocence and thought I would find suppliers that would sell the mechanical movements and I would create the case and integrate them because that’s what some brands actually do. I mean, you need to start somewhere, but I knew it was just a step for me to get to the next level. For the first step of my project, at that moment I was expecting to sell my watches around 20 to 25k, but I soon realized I wanted more, because what I aspired for was to develop an exceptional project with exceptional craftsmanship and engineering.
In order to anticipate this step I met some suppliers that were the leaders of manufacturing, I met Jean-François Mojon and its manufacture Chronode at the very beginning of 2018, we had a very good meeting and we spent the afternoon together; he showed me his workshop and what he did for different brands and for me it was great.
We also met a designer called Benjamin Muller, who worked with Jacob and Co and several other brands. We had a very good connection and we talked a lot about design and I found out his artistic universe was similar to mine, we talked about a lot of possibilities and every single idea I had in mind. Benjamin was really great in his ability to translate my ideas to paper. At this moment I was like, “okay Alexandre, you cannot have this kind of business relationship with this kind of people and not take advantage of it”.
For the first time I was surrounded by people able to help me to reach my goals. It is at this moment the project shifted, I said to myself three things: now I will do only what I really want to do, what I dream of, without caring the time it would take, the expertise it will require or how much it would cost.
- Alexandre, would you say this was the point in which you decided that this brand was going to be what it is today?
I think you are right, but not completely, this was the first time I acknowledged, at a deep level, the kind of brand I wanted to create. I wanted to create exceptional watches. It just felt right, despite that I am a “nobody” in the field and all the obstacles I would need to overcome.
I was – and still am – deeply convinced that : whoever you are, if you believe in yourself and work with absolute dedication, anything is achievable.
In my mind it’s like “Yes I am a nobody, but let me show you what a nobody can do when determined.” It may seem presumptuous but it is not, it’s just the fuel I run on.
The first step for me was to create value, because when you launch a business but you don’t think about value, in my opinion it will be very complicated; the kind of value that I wanted to bring was engineering, I wanted to add value to the movement and the complication and that is exactly what we did. I decided to work on one of the most complex complications : the chronograph.
The process at tis moment was very engineering focused. I started benchmarking the chronograph market to identify strengths and weaknesses and how we can overcome them. This is what we observed: typically, a chronograph is directly connected to the main regulating organ (the balance wheel and the escapement). This oscillating organ will dictate the pace of the second hand of the chronograph. Classically a 3Hz regulating organ will generate a path of 1/6th of a second (16,667 hundredths of a second). I wanted to be finer than that and round.
So we raised the display accuracy by increasing the frequency to 10 Hz (5 hundredths of a second) but we were now facing a high energy consumption problem. High Frequency is more consuming than a low one, so at this moment we decided to split the two functions; we will have one kinetic chain for the hour-minute function and we will have another kinetic chain only for the chronograph function. But we wanted to avoid losing potential energy by dedicate an energy source to the chronograph because contrary to the primary function that you will be using all the time, the chronograph is only very occasionnaly used. So we invented a system to keep this potential energy available for the primary function too. At this moment, we were ready, we knew we had innovation, that we just created the energy management optimization system.
- Oh yes! tell me more about the EMOS, when I read about it I was mesmerized.
Thank you very much! The concept is actually really simple, we have one main energy source, and at the end of it we attach the EMOS. It will allow you to select an energy mode depending on the function of the watch you want to use; to either go to the primary function and the tourbillon, maximizing the power reserve, which is 5 days; that’s why we call it the “ECO Mode” because it consumes the lowest energy.
And on the other hand, if you need or want to use the chronograph at some point, you only change the switch to “Sports Mode” in which the flux of energy will be split into two, one still going to the primary function and the other one to the chronograph with high precision. Of course while being in sports mode, the energy consumption is high, but when you finish measuring or chronographing time you can always switch back to eco mode to optimize the remaining power reserve. As you can tell, what we decided to push is innovation.
- Amazing, despite all the complex mechanical engineering you put into this watch, it is actually easy to read and of course to see the impressive mechanism, why did you choose to go with sapphire?
At this point, we already had this amazing mechanical development and the innovation we were seeking from the beginning, but imagine if I would have stopped there, and just put this movement in a steel case, it would have been already great but would it have been enough? I think at this point I switched from my mechanical approach to my artistic one, the other side of my personality.
I was thinking “I didn’t go that far developing and detailing the movement and not completing what my ideal watch was” so I kept pushing the level of finishing. We decided to try different kinds of materials for the movement, I wanted it to be reliable and well preserved and we chose titanium with the highest level of finishing. We even mirror polished the back part of the movement and engrave the name with the highest quality possible; that’s how far we decided to go. And of course I decided to push my artistic approach for the outside design and materials. It all came from an opportunity, from a meeting with a supplier in Switzerland who specialized in Sapphire. At this point I was planning on closing the collection with sapphire, because typically you launch in metal materials, and after some years you launch a special collection in baguette or sapphire to end the collection like an achievement.
But being in front of this supplier and knowing he was an expert, I thought “the shape we designed for the case, built in sapphire will perfectly complete and enlighten the movement inside” at that moment I couldn’t think of any other material for my watch. I knew it would be much more difficult and much more expensive to produce, and the whole process was already an elevated cost. I was risking a lot, but I followed what I desired to be my dream watch.
At this moment I feared I was going crazy, I was risking a lot more than I expected at the beginning, but I didnt care, I was designing and creating the watch I dreamt, the watch I wanted on my wrist…so after some time thinking I said “You know what, let’s do Sapphire”.
Also at that moment the name of the watch was born, after all the risks, after all the work we put in, from the very beginning when I left everything to pursue my passion to deciding I wanted to launch with the most complex and expensive material in horology.
At that moment I decided to name my first timepiece: Temerity.
Inspiring, and filled of passion; Alexandre is now on my Role Models list, let me tell you this intervew taught me something very unique and special, the fact that it will never matter where you are at the moment or the life you are living, whenever something is destined to be for you, you will find a way.
Always follow your passion and as Alexandre taught us with his journey, «whoever you are, if you believe in yourself and work with absolute dedication, anything is achievable» I will use this phrase as a new motto for my own projects and I hope you get the best out of this new Luxury Exemplary Lives episode.
To learn more about Labails Geneve and Alexandre himself, you can get further data in the following links:
Labails Geneve Website: www.labails-watches.com
Instagram: @labailswatches www.instagram.com/labailswatches/
Instagram: @ls.labails www.instagram.com/ls.labails/
Special thanks to Alexandre who trusted me and my brand to be part of Labails official launch, I will always be thankful for the trust and the opportunity Alexandre gave me; but most importantly I will always appreciate the passion and the teaching he left in me after we developed this interview.
Written by Founder & Head editor: Anton Fernandez, in collaboration with Alexandre Labails.