Kerbedanz: Unique pieces, the watchmaker’ s Holy Grail

Kerbedanz: Unique pieces, the watchmaker’ s Holy Grail

Is it possible to acquire a timepiece that has been conceived and manufactured for oneself alone? The Neuchâtel-based company always comes out with ultra-limited series and unique pieces, so they are in the unique position of making the impossible possible.

Many of the MIP of this world are on a personal quest to find that special ob- ject that reflects their own, personal, quintessence. MIP, for those who don’t know it, means Most Important Personalities, and it has entered the vernacu- lar thanks to Kerbedanz, an independent brand in the very haute horlogerie category. The term was created as an answer to the constant belaboring of the word VIP – Very Important People – which is used for just about anyone. It describes personalities, public or in the background, who achieve the status of leader or absolute pioneers thanks to the vastness of their earthly as-sets, the enviable aura of their social station, or the sheer magical extent of their influence.

Conceiving the ultimate in horological co-creation

Some fans of prestigious watches have such powerful passion, that acquiring models among the rarest and most coveted models of the planet no longer suffices. Having acquired samples of the dearest and most exceptional pieces, they have only one last wish, namely being able to get a timepiece, which is unique and intimately connected to their personal lives, to aspects of their existence that only they and their closest relatives and friends can even comprehend. All famous watchmaking companies have, at some point, been confronted with a request of this kind, and it often produces a feeling of in- completeness on both sides. The buyer will be frustrated at being given the nth iteration of a much- loved model, and then there is the risk of seeing one's own timepiece become a part of the regular portfolio of the brand. On the part of the brand, the mere fact of collaborating and following through could be construed as a weakening of the DNA and an assault on its historical ego.

For Kerbedanz, the problem is reversed. The excellence of the independent company's products rests on its ability to wed the most ancient jewelry crafts and the most mature of traditional Swiss watchmaking crafts. As it happens, the originality of the brand DNA is deeply rooted in the special dialogue bet- ween the future buyer and Aram Petrosyan, the brand CDO –Chief Designer Officer – who manages a team of four other designers. It's a dialogue that in- volves a great deal of interactivity and is fed with drawings, shapes, materials, finishings...

In addition, through this system of personal orders, the brand has sold about four hundred timepieces in three years. This has helped it establish a business in Neuchâtel, in premises overlooking the city's lake. Gradually, as the teams became accustomed to the exercise, some of the models midwifed from this creative effort have indeed slipped into the company's portfolio, always as unique pieces or in ultra-limited series. And so they have become the visible and public face of Kerbedanz. Like the representative collection named "Ê," which plays on the signs of the Zodiac. It starts with a date, an hour and a precise place of birth, and then generates the ultimate emotion of owning a unique piece.

A "symbolist" company, distilling journeys of initiation

There are many watches that tell stories. But a unique watch will tell the story of its owner. Kerbedanz is the only high-end watch brand that turns the jour- ney of initiation into a creative and attractive element. Each work is a distil- late of symbols borrowed from past and present civilizations. In terms of inspi- ration, it is studded with salient cultural features from various eras and specific

territories. The brand makes use of both known elements as well as ones that will always remain secret. The polished es- thetics look quite ordinary at first glance. A closer look reveals a wealth of sym- bols, allegories and references that are more or less directly related to social or geopolitical contexts.

In order to channel and then take ad- vantage of this unending source of inspi- ration, Kerbedanz joined forces with the symbolist Michel Cugnet, who works with the design team to listen to the wishes expressed by the future buyers. He ana- lyzes them, sorts them out, and then, as a real expert cartographer of symbols, be works in tandem with the designers to give them a new life, one made up of interpretations and clear decisions. He chooses the color, the materials, the mo- tifs, the animal or mythological refe- rences, and identifies the resonance in the collective unconscious, the universal or particular symbols. He translates the key date into a numerological refe- rence, turns an anecdote into a philosophical precept, and gives a color mentioned by the owner a visual equivalent.

The supreme spirit of personalization

Everything is conceived and made to order in-house by Kerbedanz or by se- lect artisans from the company's network, from the size of the timepiece, its caliber – even the queens of all complications, the minute repeater or the tourbillon – to the finishing processes, the decoration of the components, the purity, or matching, or amalgamation of materials. From the caliber-maker, to the enameller, from the polisher and engraver, to the miniature painter or Kerbedanz's own master glazer (a technique invented by the company), all work together toward introducing a bit of the owner's soul into the watch. The adventure lasts at least three months. It's a non-negotiable deadline, be- cause, as a feat in itself, it guarantees the highest quality for the product, and there can be no compromise in that department.