Watchmaker and Owner
If you are familiar with Hublot’s Million Dollar Bang or the Quentin from Jacob & Co., you’ve seen the work of Claude Sanz. For thirty years, under his company Bunter, Sanz has created special-order, one-of-a-kind gem-laden and specialized mechanical watches for billionaires and royalty on behalf of some of the best-known brands in the industry. Now he is bringing back the historic Arcadia brand he purchased 15 years ago. With his first timepiece for Arcadia ready for delivery, Sanz took time to meet with Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan at his Versoix farmhouse and office complex outside Geneva.
ET: Tell us about the history of Arcadia.
Claude Sanz: Hundreds of years ago in Switzerland, farmers had time on their hands in the winter, so they began to make clocks and then pocket watches and wristwatches. In the early 1800s, Fleurier Watch Company federated farmers into working cooperatively and established five brands. Arcadia was one of those brands and was positioned at the highest end, first with movements, then a full line of watches. And in the early 1800s Arcadia was being sold in China, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and all over the world, and was well-known and respected until the crisis of quartz watches, when it went to sleep in 1968.
ET: What’s your plan for Arcadia?
Claude Sanz: I bought the brand in 1995 but I didn’t do anything with it. Honestly, I was pushed by our team here [at Bunter]. So three years ago we started to talk about having Arcadia wake up. I’ve bought over 60 historical Arcadia watches and am still buying them when I can find them. To underline that there is nothing new in the watch industry—everyone talks about the big watch as being new; well, we found an Arcadia watch from the early 1900s which was 46 millimeters. So as we talked, we decided we would make the watch Arcadia would have made if it had not gone to sleep but rather had the technology of today. We wanted to pay tribute to its heritage but provide an evolution.
ET: Why the fascination with the brand?
Claude Sanz: It’s amazing to look at their history, and there is a back-story on Arcadia and Fleurier Watch Company worth reading. These people suffered from wars, recessions, and then finally the quartz movements came and almost wiped them out. All our lives we fight against time, so re-launching a brand that is special such as Arcadia is something very nice.
ET: Tell us about your first Arcadia watch.
Claude Sanz: We call it AC01 275. It is made with a titanium case, anti-allergic leather for the strap, an Arcadia-developed clasp and we’ve integrated the pushers [into the design of the case]. We are in the 21st century, so we wanted a different concept for packaging. Sometimes it feels like half the value of the watch is in the box. The package concept is based on the iPad or iPhone, so it comes completely sealed and you are the first person to open it. You throw away the box, but there is a USB stick you plug into your computer and it automatically takes you to a private section of our website—so you register online, no more booklets and forms. And the case is a nice little travel pack in black with neon yellow so you never lose it when you put it down if you are traveling, and it is the size you can stick in your pocket. It will be a limited edition of 500.
ET: Isn’t it a tough time to start a new luxury watch brand?
Claude Sanz: We are totally self-financed with no debt. During the downturn we didn’t lay off anyone or cut hours because my guys were already working 130 percent. So as things slowed down, they only had to work 100 percent, so this projects fits in.
ET: So you were ready with your expertise here to restart Arcadia.
Claude Sanz: Of course. We make over 4,000 watches for top brands, and while these are inspired by existing models, they are in fact nothing like the original models. To customize them and set the stones or do whatever the customer wants, we have to really start from scratch, so this is no problem. We have over 60 people here who are experts in watchmaking, as well as the most sophisticated tools and equipment.