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Samuel Freidmann, President of Gevril Watches

Aug 1, 2008
2008 / August 2008

Global Traveler: Tell our readers what brought you to Gevril.

Samuel Freidmann: My mother always said I was born with a watch. I grew up in Lugano, an Italian part of Switzerland, where I was surrounded by watch stores. As a boy, I would collect brochures and look at the different prices and the different brands. When I was 17, I went with my brother to buy my first watch, an IWC. I thought, one day I would like to own a watch company. And 20 years into the watch business — seven years ago — I bought Gevril, one of the oldest watch companies in the world. Gevril has a 500-year history of making wonderful watches. About 250 years ago Gevril became the first Swiss watch exported to the King of Spain, who crowned the company the “watchmaker of the King.” Geneva has a road dedicated to Gevril called The Road to Gevril. It’s the great history, that’s why I like Gevril, that’s why when I saw Gevril, I jumped on it.

GT: What distinguishes Gevril from other Swiss-made timepieces?

SF: We are a small company. Most of the companies are big and don’t have the time to give much personal attention to details from the beginning of the process to the end. We are taking the passion from the past, the innovation of today and combining the two. It’s all small details, the way every watch is numbered and each edition is limited to 500 pieces. This gives more value to the end user. A big company would never be able to do that.

GT: What obstacles did you first encounter and what growth have you seen in the last seven years?

SF: One of the hardest years was 2001 because of 9/11. People weren’t ready for anything new. In the early 1990s, the previous owner put about $80 million into the brand, but didn’t put any personality into it. When I took it over, my No. 1 priority was to add a personal touch. Selling a watch is selling a dream and an experience. It is a celebration to buy a watch. We can work 18 months on a watch and if one crown does not work, the watch will not work. A watch is not just a piece of jewelry that has to look nice. A watch has a mechanism that has to work.

If you go to Italy, every second person is buying his or her 10th or 11th watch. Since 2002, the U.S. market has started to open up beyond the Timex brand you used to see so often. Now you see more collectors, more people who want to understand mechanical watches. It’s an investment. If you spend $500 in a nice restaurant, you just spent it. If you buy a car, in a few years it’s worth a 10th of what you paid for it. Diamonds and gold have gone up. Not every watch is gaining the same value, but someone who has the right watch and keeps it is absolutely gaining.

GT: How do you preserve the history of Gevril while continuing to move the brand forward?

SF: Gevril has an important history as one of the first watchmakers in history. I try to learn what previous generations did. I’m not trying to make new paths — I’m trying to remain on the old paths while using the innovations of today. That is what will keep Gevril forever.

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