It has been a phenomenal year for the watch world. To round off 2022, we are celebrating the hits, the wonders, the visionaries and all the people in watchmaking who have made it so memorable in our annual Revolution Awards and Power Lists.
Today we look at up and coming leaders in our Power List on the New Generation of Watch Leadership.
The prevailing thought I had after conducting a symposium during Geneva Watch Days on the new generation of watch leadership was, “Wow, the watch industry is in great hands!”
It is clear that the Swiss watch industry is experiencing a crucial generational shift, where young leaders in their 20s and 30s are now beginning to take up the mantel of managing some of the world’s most iconic brands and becoming the industry’s next significant entrepreneurs. What is perhaps most impressive to me is that even though almost all of these individuals have fathers who are icons of the watch or luxury world and most of them come from families with staggering wealth and power, they are all, to a fault, incredibly humble, 100 percent genuine, extraordinarily sincere, with each of them personifying a Herculean work ethic. With this in mind, I give you the Revolution 2022 New Generation Watch Leadership list, comprising the most significant individuals of our industry’s future.
Benjamin Arabov, CEO, Jacob & Co.
There is a surging momentum behind Jacob & Co., and much of this has to do with the dynamic team comprising hip-hop community legend, jeweler extraordinaire and watch innovator Jacob Arabov, now joined by his son and company CEO Benjamin Arabov. My biggest takeaway from getting to know both these men is that while Jacob & Co. is a larger-than-life, high wattage, mega bling brand (you could even argue they invented the category), they are refreshingly down-to-earth, surprisingly understated and both extremely warm people. They have also both worked to underscore the technical prowess and horological authenticity of their brand, which has yielded mind-blowing horological finery such as the Astronomia (a four-armed carrousel with a triple-axis tourbillon and differential driven time indicator), the Twin Turbo Furious (two triple-axis tourbillons paired with a monopusher chronograph and minute repeater), and the Jean Bugatti (a retrograde chronograph with an independent 5Hz balance wheel and two flying tourbillons).
Ben’s charming down-to-earth manner, coupled by his innate intelligence, has brought scores more clients and made him more fully immersed in the high watchmaking landscape amongst his peers. It also landed him a guest starring role on Netflix’s Bling Empire, where he converted the show’s stars into Jacob devotees. This year, Ben also held one of the coolest high concept watch events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Godfather film, where he unveiled 50 box sets of the Jacob & Co. Opera Godfather Musical Tourbillon, micro-engraved with the most iconic scenes and quotes from the film.
Frédéric Arnault, CEO, TAG Heuer
TAG Heuer is on fire, and the man behind this is one Frédéric Arnault. In the last few years, the brand has become known for consistently launching the most dynamic commercial watches around.
Case in point: the TAG Heuer Monaco “Dark Lord”, the 100 percent on-point tribute to the legendary blacked-out watch launched in 1974, but wisely introduced not as a limited edition but simply limited by production. Arnault explained to me at the Monaco F1 this year, where the timepiece was launched, “We sold our entire year’s supply moments after it was announced.” That was after TAG Heuer’s already strong showing at Watches and Wonders with the introduction of its Aquaracer Professional 1000 Superdiver, Aquaracer Professional 200 Solargraph with solar-powered quartz movement, and Carrera Plasma featuring a groundbreaking combination of carbon fiber and lab-grown diamonds. In October, Frédéric Arnault held a Paris event to celebrate the launch of two Carrera × Porsche RS 2.7 models made in tribute to this iconic car’s 50th anniversary. He also launched two Mario Kart watches, including a surprisingly cool tourbillon chronograph with Mario on the tourbillon’s cage.
After several years of confusing brand direction, resulting from different leaders that had taken over before him, it appears that Arnault has the reins of TAG Heuer well in hand. He has been focusing on accessibly priced, high performing, precision-oriented timepieces that appeal to the most geeked-out Heuer nerds (thanks to his excellent heritage director Nicholas Biebuyck), with strong horological merit (thanks to his mighty technical director Carole Forestier), and finally, and maybe most importantly, fun.
Jean Arnault, Director of Marketing And Development, Louis Vuitton Watches
How polite and elegant is Jean Arnault? Let me give you this example. In 2018, shortly after I launched my limited edition TAG Heuer Carrera regatta model named the “Blue Dreamer,” I received a polite email saying, “I am a fan of the watch you created and would like to ask if I might be allocated two watches, one for my brother and one for myself.” The signature at the end read, “Jean Arnault.” Which I immediately took to be a practical joke perpetuated on me by the likes of the merry pranksters @hodonkee or @shameonwrist. I nonetheless showed the email to Catherine Eberlé-Devaux, at the time TAG’s heritage director, who replied with just three important words, “This is real.” I was left awestruck and humbled at how politely this person, related to not only the CEO of the company, but also to the owner of the brand’s parent company, had requested for a watch. If this wasn’t the very model of gentilesse, I don’t know what is.
Shortly after, we started to meet from time to time, and I was consistently staggered by Jean Arnault’s watch knowledge and, in particular, his sensitivity to detail. Having a bit of insight into his future plans at Louis Vuitton Watches, I can simply say he will bring his vast watch intellect, passion for true haut de gamme watchmaking and dynamic work ethic into stunning fruition over the next few years. That he does so with such easy-going approachability, affability and kindness makes him very likely one of the most important watch leaders of the future.
Pierre Biver, Co-Founder, JC Biver
I had the opportunity to meet Pierre Biver when he was still a teenager. It was then that his father, industry legend Jean-Claude Biver, decided to travel to Tokyo to experience the world through his son’s eyes. He felt it gave him a fresh perspective and new energy. Pierre went on to work at Phillips Watches, alongside his mentor James Marks, where he transformed himself into one of the world’s most insightful vintage watch experts (though with his typical humility, he will deny this when I bring it up). But the big news for Pierre is that, as of this year, he and his father have co-founded the JC Biver brand dedicated to elevating horological complications with the highest levels of hand finishing.
With a price point for their first watch hovering around CHF 600,000, Pierre and his father have certainly set a challenge for themselves. But knowing them, they operate best when they set their objectives sky-high. In the meantime, Pierre Biver continues to curate his father’s watch collection, which is one of the most famous and intelligently curated in the world, winning over fans with his quiet, understated, faultlessly polite charm, coupled with a remarkable intellect.
Brian Govberg, Director, Watchbox
Brian Govberg, along with his head of sales at WatchBox George Mayer, has the capacity to influence the secondary market. And that’s a lot of clout for a young man to have. But Govberg wields this power carefully and is always backed by authenticity. He explains, “One of the major reasons for WatchBox’s success as a ‘market maker,’ if you want to use that term, is that we only recommend and support what we genuinely love — what we would buy for ourselves.” Indeed, you could argue that Govberg and WatchBox’s support of the independent watchmakers, beginning with F.P. Journe and De Bethune, has resulted in the entire category exploding in popularity. During our New Generation Watch Leadership symposium, when the questions were opened to the audience and Geneva retailer Denis Asch complained about the long wait-lists and challenging allocation situation from many brands, Govberg had the best comeback, “All the watches you want are available at WatchBox; you just have to be willing to pay for them.”
Victoire Halter, Jeweler, Finisseur and Atelier Manager, Vianney Halter
To show you how old I am, I first met Victoire Halter the year I announced the creation of Revolution back in 2004, at the Tempus event organized by Michael Tay of The Hour Glass. She was a teenager at the time and had accompanied her father, the independent watchmaking legend Vianney Halter, to Singapore. So, it is with some degree of awe that I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing her grow up into such an extraordinary and capable young woman.
Though trained as a jeweler, today she spends her time organizing her father’s atelier and applying high finish to his movements, including the three meters of anglage she has to painstakingly create for every La Resonance movement. She brings a powerful sense of purpose and order to her father’s enterprise. At the same time, as she was in part raised by her stepfather, Denis Flageollet of De Bethune, from time to time, she wears a De Bethune DB28 Digitale on her wrist. When I asked her about this watch, she explained that when the watch was released, she fell in love with it. She said, “In a sort of naive way, I asked if I could have this watch one day. Denis replied that if I wanted one, I would have to make it myself but that he would guide me through the process.” She then, without a great deal of watchmaking experience, began the Herculean task of creating every part of this watch herself. That she completed it is a testament to her extraordinary perseverance. Today she teaches alongside Flageollet at the Sainte-Croix school for mechanical arts because she feels that “it is important to keep the culture of craft in this region alive.”
Ben Küffer, CEO, Norqain
Son of Mark Küffer, the former proprietor of Roventa-Henex, the Swiss watch industry’s biggest white label supplier, Ben Küffer worked for many years at Breitling where he became close friends with his current shareholder, Ted Schneider. But Küffer’s brilliance was to see a gap in the market. As the majority of brands continued to raise their prices, he wanted to launch a watch label that would offer great neoclassic sports watch design, with a phenomenal quality-to-price ratio, and just like that, Norqain was born.
The growth and success of the brand has been down mostly to the Küffer family’s relentless hustle — Ben’s in his capacity as CEO and his sister Caroline’s overseeing of communications from her base in New York. Ben then did several very impressive things. The first was that, thanks to Jean-Paul Girardin, the head of Kenissi manufacture, which makes the excellent calibers used by Tudor, Chanel and Breitling, he got the rights to use some of the very best Swiss made engines around for his watches. Secondly, he signed up Jean-Claude Biver to his board of directors. Together, he and the industry legend have created a multi-part, ultra shock resistant carbon composite watch named the Wild One, worn by the likes of Norqain’s dynamic brand ambassador Dean Schneider as he rolls around with lions in his animal sanctuary, Hakuna Mipaka. Now with several boutique openings under his belt, Ben Küffer can see the rise of his brand as a legitimate and highly appealing player in the sports watch sector.
Alexandre Mille, Commercial Director, Richard Mille
I remember the first time I heard Alexandre Mille speak in public. It was during our New Generation Watch Leadership symposium in Geneva, and he expressed himself with such contagious passion that I realized he was destined to helm the brand created by his father. Today, Richard Mille is the single greatest success story in watchmaking history. After all, who else could have launched a brand that totally redefined the codes of luxury watches, replacing gold with carbon fiber, heaviness with lightness and bringing a level of performance and shock resistance that allowed the world’s most elite athletes to wear the watches during competition?
Richard Mille the brand created a whole new price category and, within just 20 years of its founding, has become one of the core horological references, along with Patek Philippe, Rolex and Audemars Piguet. What is nice to see is the generational shift in leadership happening at Richard Mille, with Alex humbly and understatedly bringing his own intense sharpness and impressive charisma to the fore. Along with his sister Amanda Mille, who is the brand and partnerships director, as well as Timothée Malachard, the longtime marketing director who acts as a bridge between generations and a sort of “Hand” in Game of Thrones terms, the top management at Richard Mille is a united, dynamic, dedicated and very cool group of people who, despite their colossal success, have never lost sight of the wonderfully human dimension of their brand.
Audrey Raffy, General Counsel and Vice President, Bovet
The inspiration for several watches created by her loving perfectionist father, Pascal Raffy, it is wonderful to see Audrey Raffy come into her own. Stepping naturally into her role as Bovet’s general counsel and vice president (Audrey is a graduate of the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law), she plays the instrumental role of connecting the values of her maison with an all-new generation of watch customers. Through her tireless efforts and transglobal travels, all documented on her Instagram page @audreyraffy, she is able to transmit Bovet’s signature crafts, from fleurisanne relief engraving to miniature painting and much more, so much so that an international audience is naturally enchanted by her.
Karl-Fritz Scheufele, Business Development, Chopard and Chez Bacchus
Judging by Karl-Fritz Scheufele’s first act in the Swiss watchmaking industry, his future is bright indeed. Inspired by the St. Moritz integrated bracelet steel sports watch created by his father, the legendary Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, when he was a young man in his mere 20s, Karl-Fritz, together with his grandfather Karl Scheufele and his aunt, Chopard co-president Caroline Scheufele, decided to create an all-new version of the watch for a new generation of watch customers. And just as his father had experienced success at the launch of the original watch, Karl-Fritz became responsible for one of his family’s greatest hits with the Alpine Eagle. Since then, Karl-Fritz has been working with his father on different versions of the Alpine Eagle to demonstrate the incredible variety that the model is capable of, including this year’s ultra thin Flying Tourbillon. At the same time, he oversees Chez Bacchus, a phenomenal wine-themed restaurant which connects to the family’s Le Caveau de Bacchus wine enterprise, demonstrating that, like his father, he is a man capable of donning multiple hats with equal aplomb.