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Raymond Weil

Where others saw a crisis, the late Raymond Weil saw the future of Swiss watches, reports Paul Vitello in a New York Times obituary (2/5/14). For 27 years, until the age of 50, Mr. Weil worked for Camy Watch in Geneva. He left when the ‘quartz crisis’ hit, and "watch buyers abandoned windup mechanical timepieces for digital ones." Some "800 Swiss watchmaking companies died in the 1970s," but Weil was born by re-defining the Swiss watch as "an emotional product, carrying a message about the authenticity, uniqueness and excellence of the wearer," says Harvard Prof. Ryan L. Raffaelli.

Previously, watches "had been marketed as symbols of intellectual rigor and personal integrity." Weil’s innovation was to combine "high-quality mechanisms produced in his own and other Swiss factories with original designs and features. He then marketed them internationally to appeal to so-called entry-level luxury buyers," with watches in the "$500 to $4,000" range, versus "high-end luxury models" that "cost $20,000 or more." His watches were both of the traditional mechanical and newfangled quartz varieties, but all carried ‘Swiss-made’ "bona-fides and design values."

Weil’s designs "conveyed understated grace (what The Times of London characterized as a ‘watch with lovely manners’." His marketing pioneered "celebrity endorsement advertising. Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, Ozzy Osbourne and Andrea Bocelli are among the stars who have been contracted to wear Raymond Weil watches exclusively for defined periods." Weil’s essential understanding was that making watches "was tied up in what it meant to be Swiss, the national sense of competence," says Prof. Raffaelli. "He was kind of a visionary." He was 87.