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 mark out the dynamic, visionary leaders in our CEO Power List.
The individuals featured here are by no means a comprehensive list of the leadership of the extraordinary Swiss watch industry. None of them are the creators of the brands they helm, yet every one of them has guided their maison’s future with incredible deftness of touch, courage and bravado. As such, they are simply — in our view — the leaders who have done the most this year to advance the culture of horology, and their contributions to the success of our industry are of huge significance. From the multiple perspectives of brand building, brand renewal, ethics, events, “product creation” and collaborations, this is Revolution’s power list of the most energetic CEOs of the Swiss watch industry in 2022.
Raynald Aeschlimann, Omega
One of the leading forces in the creation of the cultural phenomenon that rocked the world so seismically this year is none other than the immensely capable Raynald Aeschlimann. I recall messaging Aeschlimann videos of the lines forming around street corners and stretching into the kilometers just before the launch of the incredible MoonSwatch. Of course, one of the primary questions posed by pundits this year upon the announcement of the collaboration was, “Will the creation of the MoonSwatch negatively affect the Omega Speedmaster, because it is so much more accessible in price?” Quite a few self-anointed authority figures raised their eyebrows as they asked this. But now that the smoke has cleared, they have been proven decidedly wrong. Because the introduction of the MoonSwatch actually helped to radically boost the awareness of the Speedmaster, which saw a strong uptick in popularity.
This year, Aeschlimann also created strong models including the Seamaster Planet Ocean Ultra Deep, the Speedmaster X-33 Marstimer that actually provides local time on the planet, a renewed Speedmaster ’57 collection, and what is the most underrated and stunningly designed watch of the year, the CK 859 Re-Edition. This sector dialed beauty priced at USD 6,500 is a fantastic example of strong value — accessible watchmaking at its very finest and most appealing.
Jean-Christophe Babin, Bvlgari
It is now the eighth year since the creation of Bvlgari’s Octo Finissimo. The global consensus is that this extraordinary timepiece has been the most significant sports chic watch created in the past decade and is overwhelmingly deserving of its now-iconic status. The crowning glory of the Octo Finissimo family is, without a doubt, the 1.8mm-thick Bvlgari Ultra, which is to my mind still the world’s thinnest mechanical watch. It is the only timepiece in this hyper slim category that can be rewound and set without an additional tool. Add to this the watch’s phenomenal integrated bracelet, and it is clearly one of the greatest achievements of the modern age.
Babin and his team of Antoine Pin and Fabrizio Buonamassa Stigliani continue to impress with incredible limited editions of the Octo Finissimo, such as the “Sketch” from earlier in the year and the collaboration with Japanese architect Kazuyo Sejima launched at Geneva Watch Days. In the meantime, the Octo Finissimo S version with its screw-down crown and 100 meters of water resistance has brought the model and the Bvlgari brand to an ever-expanding audience. Babin and team have also continued to innovate in the women’s category with the Piccolissimo, one of the smallest mechanical movements ever created and available in the Serpenti Misteriosi.
But one of the most important reasons for Babin’s presence on this list is the following: As the world is now out of the throes of the COVID pandemic, it is important to remember the heroes from our industry that emerged during this challenging time. Foremost amongst them is Babin who at the height of the pandemic converted a scent factory into a sanitizer plant to serve Italian hospitals, donated a microscope to study the virus at a molecular level, helped to fund one of the major vaccines, and even created a virus eradication fund for the prevention of future pandemics. Perhaps the best thing about wearing a Bvlgari is the knowledge that the people behind the brand and, in particular, its CEO are some of the best humans around.
Antonio Calce, Greubel Forsey
Before Antonio Calce got involved in Greubel Forsey, their watches were deemed “worthy of tremendous respect for the extraordinary horological quality and technical acumen they represented, but bordering on unwearable, such was their size and weight.” But Calce saw what Greubel Forsey could be, and with impressive deftness and precision, he began to enact one of the most remarkable evolutions in high watchmaking. While retaining all the technical street cred and mind-blowing high levels of finishing, he made the watches lightweight, wearable and ergonomic. He made the cases out of grade 5 titanium and affixed them to rubber straps or even an integrated titanium bracelet. The result was a vision for singularly expressive, visually arresting, easy to wear, comfortable and adaptable timepieces, backed by some of the greatest horological authenticity to ever exist.
The watches Calce launched this year are the very best timepieces Greubel Forsey has ever made, including the Balancier Convexe S2, the sublime Double Balancier Limited Edition, the innovative Tourbillon 24 Secondes Architecture and the GMT Balancier Convexe. For retaining everything we love about Greubel Forsey, yet at the same time creating watches that are vibrant, dynamic and terrifically cool, Calce — who is now a shareholder in Greubel Forsey — has assured his position as one of the most capable, intelligent and exciting leaders in our industry.
Louis Ferla, Vacheron Constantin
Louis Ferla is THE man. It just took me a while to realize it because he is painfully understated and humble to the point of being almost self-effacing. Over the last six years, Ferla has transformed Vacheron Constantin (yes, I use the word “transformed”) from that third and arguably least cool member of horology’s holy trinity, into what is irrefutably one of the most dynamic and hottest high watchmaking brands on the planet. His strength has been to empower Vacheron across so many product/model categories that, looking at the heavyweight watchmaking firepower the world’s oldest manufacture offers up today, it is truly awesome to behold.
Ferla has made the Overseas not just a contender to Patek’s Nautilus and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak, but a bona fide grail watch unto itself. Try buying an ultra thin Overseas or, for that matter, an Overseas Perpetual Calendar across any iteration, and you’ll find them trading at major premiums on the secondary market. At the same time, he’s transformed this Dino Modolo-designed timepiece into a platform for incredible design innovation, as evinced by Cory Richards’ Everest GMT (the ultimate Overseas unicorn) and the latest titanium skeletonized flying tourbillon.
As if the Overseas ascent was not enough, this year, he introduced the hotly anticipated and much lusted after reference 222 in yellow gold — a watch that instantly became another massively wait-listed Vacheron. All the while, Vacheron has also been the most technically innovative high watchmaking maison in the last few years. While most brands make small incremental watchmaking advances, Vacheron consistently drops an intimidating hammer with watches like the incredible 2019 Twin Beat Perpetual Calendar, which runs at 1.5Hz when you aren’t wearing it and 5Hz when you are. Want a stellar example of a truly sublime complicated watch? Look no further than the Traditionnelle Collection Excellence Platine Rattrapante with its stunning monochrome looks and ultra thin movement with a peripheral mass that is simply ravishing. But that’s not all. Ferla has crushed it on the Historiques models, from the epic American 1921 driver’s or preacher’s watch to the most beautiful Lemania-driven chronograph made today, the Cornes de Vache 1955.
But wait, there’s more. Because Ferla also made a hit out of the Fiftysix collection with the self-winding model on bracelet a grail in its own right. At the same time, Vacheron’s Patrimony collection represents some of the best neoclassic timekeeping gems today. This year, he reasserted Vacheron’s position as the master of métiers d’art with the simply incredible “Tribute to Great Civilizations” watches in collaboration with the Louvre. The word is that Vacheron has now become the biggest revenue generator at Richemont after Cartier and IWC, and with Ferla’s superb leadership and fantastic ability in design, it is easy to see why.
Nick Hayek Jr., The Swatch Group
I remember the moment that I had the pleasure to be invited by Nick Hayek Jr. and Raynald Aeschlimann to bear witness to the unveiling of the MoonSwatch. Hayek handed me a pair of scissors and I cut the tag on the coveted mission case. I lifted the lid and, honestly, it was as if Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra was playing in my ears, because I knew I was witnessing the birth of something truly extraordinary — an act of genius. I would not even call the MoonSwatch a timepiece; it is far more a cultural phenomenon that has so many levels to it.
First is the crazy dynamic contrast between the iconography of the world’s most famous chronograph, the Omega Speedmaster, but now offered in a Bioceramic cased watch that costs a few hundred dollars. The second is the demonstration of Swatch’s design ability, which rendered watches so phenomenally appealing that each one was profoundly desirable. The third is its capacity to reach the widest audience that any watch launch has ever achieved, especially in the all-important youth market. You could, by right, award Hayek a cultural medallion because with the MoonSwatch, he has singlehandedly created a watch-crazy audience that will be addicted to horology for the future, thus assuring the longevity of the Swiss watchmaking industry itself. Looking back at this year, none of us will forget the insane lines stretching up to one kilometer and beyond in every capital city on the planet in anticipation of the launch of the MoonSwatch. Even now, more than six months after its launch, the watches are still commanding massive premiums on the secondary market. But the true legacy of the MoonSwatch has been to engage with and enchant Gen Z and even Gen Alpha, converting them into watch collectors at an early stage so as to ensure our industry’s viability for the future. And for this, Nick Hayek Jr. deserves our applause.
Guido Terreni, Parmigiani Fleurier
Before he did it, I would have thought it impossible. Because to say the task set out for Guido Terreni was “insurmountable” would have been an understatement. To singlehandedly turn around Parmigiani Fleurier was as big a task as Hercules being told to wash out the Augean stables. And like the mythological demigod, Terreni succeeded. But not by diverting the course of a river; instead of super human strength, Terreni used his unique skill set invoking his hypersensitivity to detail, backed by a truly epic ability in watch design, to create the stunning Tonda PF model.
First, he had to find the defining line of Parmigiani Fleurier, which he eventually identified as the ultimate in subtle detailing to create a watch of immense dynamic power. He called this new watch the PF, and when he unveiled it at Geneva Watch Days one year ago, word of its beauty, balance, quality, elegance and plain sexiness ignited like wildfire throughout the rank and file of horology’s cognoscenti. He followed up the initial collection of PF watches with a truly phenomenal Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante using, for the first time, a pair of hands capable of splitting and coming back together to display local and home time on demand. With the PF sold out and generating massive waiting lists everywhere, and with our collaborative limited edition, the PF “Serenissima,” selling at close to three times its original retail price on the secondary market, it seems that Terreni’s rise is unstoppable.
Julien Tornare, Zenith
“Tireless,” “unfailingly positive” and “ceaselessly dynamic” are words that could describe the hardest working CEO in the watch industry. Together with his brilliant head of product development Romain Marietta, Tornare has elevated the visibility, perception and commercial success of Zenith to an all-time high.
The Chronomaster Sport with its 1/10th of a second display has ascended to a true contemporary watchmaking success story, and has recently been extrapolated in a stunning pink version to benefit breast cancer. At the same time, Tornare and Marietta have used their iconic models such as the A384 and A3817 as platforms for some of the world’s hottest limited editions, including our own A3818 Revival “Airweight Cover Girl.” Recently, Zenith also paid tribute to its history as one of the most awarded precision movement manufactures in the famous observatory trials in the 1950s and ’60s. Together with Phillips and Kari Voutilainen, they refurbished 10 caliber 135 movements to create some of the most sought after timepieces in the history of the brand.
At the same time, to underscore the enduring value of their watches, Zenith has launched its “Icons” curated collection, comprising totally factory refurbished vintage watches that come with manufacture warranties, testifying to the timeless appeal of the maison’s watches. Zenith is a great example of fantastic leadership that has correctly identified its own core assets and used them to create precisely the watches that the modern customer wants to buy. That Tornare has done so while retaining his characteristic kindness, humility and approachability makes me even happier to include him on this list.
Cyrille Vigneron, Cartier
When he took over the reins of Cartier, Cyrille Vigneron, one of the leaders that I admire the most in the luxury watch industry, enacted a “pause.” His objective was to identify why Cartier had seemed to have lost its way when it came to watches. What he quickly realized was that by trying to compete in the sports and complication categories, Cartier had given up its own unique singularity as the King of Elegance. So, with the precision of a brain surgeon, he began to replug the connective tissue between Cartier’s past and its present. As my friend, and jury president of this year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, Nick Foulkes likes to say, “I used to wish Cartier would bring back its CPCP collection [Collection Privée Cartier Paris] of iconic shaped watches. But Vigneron’s genius was, he remade the entire brand into an even bigger vision of CPCP. He made Cartier once again the most elegant watch brand in existence.”
The results speak for themselves. By rediscovering and expressing Cartier’s singularity, Vigneron has re-established it as the number two luxury watch brand in the world, overtaking Omega and second only to Rolex, with a staggering 2.39 billion Swiss francs in revenue last year. But what has truly impressed me most about Vigneron is his stance as one of the world’s foremost ethical capitalists, working towards carbon neutrality and the recycling of gold and, perhaps most importantly, making it his mission to protect Cartier’s partners, including its suppliers and distributors, during the COVID pandemic. As a result, he is the winner of Revolution’s very first Ethics Award.