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Meet the man behind the revived Favre-Leuba

The second-oldest Swiss watch brand, the watchmaker was once considered a pioneer in the industry, particularly in watch engineering. CEO Vijesh Rajan wants to restore that reputation

The Bivouac 9000 is a fascinating representation of Favre-Leuba’s pioneering spirit.

Established in 1737 with a small watchmaker’s workshop in Le Locle, Favre-Leuba has been making tool watches built to survive the real world for centuries. It was known for producing highly functional and reliable timepieces for those who conquer frontiers, whether in altitude or depth, in heat or freezing cold, north or south of the equator.

The $100 billion conglomerate Tata Group bought Favre-Leuba in 2011 and relaunched in 2016 with a new collection featuring modern interpretations of classic icons from its past.

CEO Vijesh Rajan leads a team of specialists who passionately create timepieces that connect the rich history of the brand to an exciting future in the most contemporary way.

Debonair catches up with him.

The Bivouac 9000 is a fascinating representation of Favre-Leuba’s pioneering spirit.

I became interested in the watch industry because…

It was the first industry I got into in my career and has had me hooked since. The association people have with watches, the fascination of its design and manufacturing and how these have evolved have kept my interest alive throughout.

As CEO, my most unbelievable find has been…

The legacy and genuine history of pioneering work done for nearly three centuries by this brand. Its incredible to say the least, which I did not fully grasp before stepping into this role.

The brand I currently feel most connected to is…

Of course Favre-Leuba. The more time I’ve spent with the brand, the more I’ve grown to love it and its products.

The first watch I ever received was…

A Titan.

I think the watch industry and high-end luxury is…

A timeless one which, like life, embraces changes and evolves constantly. I feel the high-end luxury segment will get stronger as prosperity levels rise.

CEO Vijesh Rajan

The greatest development I’ve seen from my brand, historical or modern is…

The Bivouac 9000 model with its altimeter that indicates prevailing altitudes at Mt. Everest and even higher (when one can reach it), as well as the corresponding air pressure thanks to its aneroid barometer. To have these functionalities in a mechanical movement developed first in the 1960s, which the brand improved upon recently in 2017, is a fascinating representation of Favre-Leuba’s pioneering spirit.

An object from outside the industry that has an important effect on my work is…

The mobile device, which has brought the world to the finger tips, is a constant companion and a great source for people to discover new stories like Favre-Leuba’s.

On my desk you’ll always find…

Very little. I’m a minimalist and prefer a clean and clear desk.

My favourite aspect of my company is…

It’s free-spirited and exploratory nature, ever curious to persue new and interesting paths.

The last gift I received from someone in the industry was…

Nothing significant, really.

I think the Middle East market is…

Remarkable and magical with its ability to create and sustain a fascinating ecosystem from virtually nothing. The region has withstood all challenges and evolved with time to create new landmarks. Coincidentally, Favre-Leuba has a successful history in the region, which we hope to build on.  

Watch journalism is important because…

It is an important window for the watch industry with consumer and retailer communities. It helps inform, educate and also plays a part in the development of the industry. It therefore has a big responsibility.

If you had a time machine, is there a period of watchmaking you would change, and how?

The quartz crisis in the 1980s, which affected the Swiss industry. If the crisis itself was inevitable, perhaps one would like to have managed it in a way that saved many of the small and medium family-run brands, that had a crucial role in the development of the industry, from extinction.

You have a dinner party and can invite any masters of the watchmaking industry past or present, who would you invite?

Perhaps George Daniels, who mastered the art of horology and convinced bigger companies to adopt mechanics that he invented.

How do you unwind outside of work?

Apart from quality time with my family, I prefer reading, exploring the countryside when possible, following sports, and try my hand at cooking.

The advent of digitisation in the industry…

Is a boom that can potentially expand the industry and bring in many new consumer segments. Brands will have to remodel their businesses and play their role to leverage this trend positively.

If I didn’t work in the watch industry I would…

I would possibly be in tourism, travelling a fair bit as part of the job and also pursuing my passion of seeing the world.

Related Articles

Start up: Time online

Debonair talks to Khaled Elsayed, Khalil Al-Kaddo and Adil Iskander, the team behind Timepiece 360, the region’s first dedicated online marketplace for pre-owned luxury watches