There is no denying that watches of the highest caliber, precision, and craftsmanship come from Swiss watchmaking. However, in a sea of watch brands hailing from such a region only a few can pride themselves in actually combining both superior production and genuine customer satisfaction. This is where Maurice de Mauriac excels at. Its founder Daniel Dreifuss knows what it takes to make the best timepieces for the most demanding clients.
Being the first watch company branded with the “Zurich” name yields a lot of expectations. Each Maurice de Mauriac piece is handmade by Daniel himself with the help of his team, who have mastered their craft at such watch houses like International Watch Company (IWC). Furthermore, Maurice de Mauriac pieces are fitted with some of the best movements, Valjoux 7750s and ETA automatics are used in his extensive selections of chronos, non-chronos, classics, vintage and aviation inspired pieces. Materials such as cowskin, nappa, or crocodile leather are used for bands. While gold, steel, titanium, carbon, black and white diamonds are featured in the overall construction of some of the watches. There are timepieces for everyone for any occasion in his catalog, and if its not in the inventory, a request for a custom order can be made. Whether it’s the dial, the watchband, the casing, or the glass, certain parts can be individually chosen and exchanged to suit any client’s preference, making the piece unique, special, and truly one of a kind.
As for understanding other customer demands, especially fickle consumers and die-hard watch enthusiasts, Daniel has also developed watches in which its owner can change the bezel. So instead of just buying a whole new watch, a piece can simply be modified and personalized just by switching the bezel with any color or style.
In this interview, Daniel sheds some light on his beginnings and how he made it into the industry. He also gives us a brief lesson in the art of watchmaking and the different terms one should know in becoming a well educated customer. Maurice de Mauriac is neither a new or old company, but rather a rising brand that’s trying to distinguish itself as a place where customers can get quality timepieces along with valuable customer attention, all without having to break the bank.
Daniel’s passion is unparalleled, and it is evident in the way he handles both the design and the business side of producing watches. His pieces are beautiful and are made for a wide range of customers. In more than ten years of existence, Maurice de Mauriac has consistently produced high-grade Swiss watches. With a better position in the industry today, the next ten years can only yield better things, all while keeping the same mentality and work ethic Daniel has had in the first ten.
How did you get into this line of work? When was the moment that made you decide you were going to be a watchmaker?
I was a banker until 1987. Leading up to the Big Crisis of 1987, the best part of the day for me was being able to outfit myself nicely in the morning. The rest of the day at the office was scheduled with endless “team-building” sessions and the likes. I’m a colorful thinker. I felt that I needed a change, and I wanted to fulfill some of my inner wishes.
By total coincidence, I met a guy in Geneva, Switzerland who was big into promotional and corporate watches. It wasn’t really my thing doing corporate watches, but I saw this as a chance to enter the watch industry. I was brought on and so began my new career. We had some success but that gentleman went bankrupt quickly.
Still, at that time, I had several important orders that were to be sent to Zurich, Switzerland. It was clear that I had to go into production of my own to complete these orders. This was my big start nearly 22 years ago.
What is your biggest work accomplishment to date?
The biggest accomplishment is still having the business. The watch industry is like Formula One Racing; one mistake and you’re out of the race! Many companies in this industry are of two types: the family run “father-son” company or the big established marketing machine like Louis Vuitton. I’m neither of these, and my company has been able to survive and flourish amidst the competition.
You have specialized in chronometers throughout your career. What exactly are chronometers? And what should you tell customers about them?
Chronometers are watches working on highly defined time precision. These watches exhibit a maximum of 0-10 seconds loss throughout the day. Patek Philippe, Rolex, Breitlings, and our watches have this same precision of timing.
Automatic watches are popular in the United States. U.S. imports of Swiss luxury automatics have jumped significantly. Just what are automatics? How do they work?
An automatic is a mechanical watch, whose metal spring is wound automatically by the natural motion of the wearer’s arm, to make it unnecessary to manually wind the watch. Most mechanical watches sold today are self-winding. The fully-wound mainspring in a typical watch can store enough energy reserve for roughly 42 hours, allowing automatics to keep running while off the wrist. Usually automatic watches can also be wound manually by turning the crown, so the watch can be kept running when not worn, and in case the wearer’s wrist motions are not sufficient to keep it wound automatically.
Because of their unique infrastructure and the know-how and spirit of innovation, Swiss watchmakers have succeeded in maintaining their leading position in the industry. What else would you say differentiates you on an international scale?
The Swiss watch industry has endured both good and bad times. The U.S. had its movement in producing great watches such as Elgin among others, and this helped to revolutionize the Swiss watch industry. However, the American watch industry has since then seen a decline in having a global impact on the watch industry as a whole. We must be careful so as to preserve our craftsmanship and improve on it.
Nowadays, the Swiss population is very proud of the many watch designs in the market. Suddenly, up-and-coming companies are developing highly-advanced modes of micro-technology for their watches – some of the same technology used in modern medicine. This is a very important aspect for the evolution of our watch industry.
I’m sure it varies from piece to piece, but approximately how long does it take to produce one of your timepieces – more specifically your Chronograph Modern model?
In our Chronograph Model, there are more than 300 pieces for 1 movement, without counting the case itself! If you start at zero, this can take up to 1 1/2 days. A further example, a *tourbillon with repetition can take up to 1 month because there are 700 small pieces inside!
A tourbillon is an addition to the mechanics of a watch escapement. A tourbillon counters the effects of gravity by mounting the escapement and balance wheel in a rotating cage, ostensibly in order to negate the effect of gravity when the timepiece (and thus the escapement) is rotated. Originally an attempt to improve accuracy, tourbillons are still included in some expensive modern watches as a novelty and demonstration of watch-making virtuosity. The mechanism is usually exposed on the watch’s face to show it off.
Your collections have been well-received from the industry. Define your experience at Baselworld these past years. Is there a specific approach you take to the months leading up to the event?
We are always ahead. We were one of the first brands to have black watches in our collection. Nowadays, everybody has incorporated black models! As a principle, we never look at other brands.
At our shop in Zurich, we learn a great deal about the tastes and ideas from our valued clients. We incorporate these great ideas whereas other sales personnel at other stores would not even listen to these suggestions. This allows us to be very aware of the market’s wants and needs. This is all a part of our preparation.
How much influence do trends play in the design process of your timepieces?
Our office has a huge window, so we can see all the new cars and new fashions on passers-by. The daily energy from outside helps stimulate the creativity for our new designs. We create new ideas everyday; whether it is a new dial, strap, or hands. We will still continue to use our classic cases despite evolving trends. We want to establish the reputation of a Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier or Eames. Their contributions to architecture are very inspiring.
You’ve mentioned fashion, cars, and architecture. Besides watches, what else interests or inspires you?
I am a lover of handbags, banker shirts with big heavy stripes, leather and crocodile straps, miniature racing toys from the 70’s and 80’s and racing (cycling, bike, car).
As for inspiration, I really love Paul Smith’s story, which I feel is similar to mine. He was also a guy from outside the industry who worked hard to break in. The fact that he is also into bike racing like myself is inspirational also.
Who else is involved with you in the process of making your watches? Who is part of your team?
My wife, Claudia, is an artist (see www.claudia-ginnocchio.ch) who studied at the famed Accademie del Arte in Florence, Italy.
It was Claudia who helped me to work empirically. You make many errors by that method, but having that deep passion for the work helps to develop your patience.
We have four watchmakers, who all came from the International Watch Company (IWC), assemble our watches. They are presently at university getting a higher degree. They are all astonished by the huge impacts that little changes make on watches. This is my art.
I say to my children, “If you are bored with your room, paint a wall. You won’t remember the old room. Everything has changed dramatically; only by painting one wall.”
What kind of watches can we expect from Maurice de Mauriac in the future?
We will be starting with tourbillon watches now. Unfortunately, I’m not entirely sure of how to go about this or when they will be ready.
The process for me is as such: head, stomach and heart. These three parts are involved in any of my developments.
Who would you say is the type of clientele your watches are made for?
Our clients include celebrants for birthdays, wedding anniversaries and retirees among others. There are also the aficionados who are giving gifts to themselves.
My clients range in age from 18 to 75 years old.
What message would you like to leave our readers about Maurice De Mauriac?
I want my creations to give off positive energy. I hope that each piece can achieve the ability to reward, calm and uplift every one of my clients who work hard daily.
SwipeLife would like to thank Daniel for taking the time to do this interview with us. In an industry where brands like Omega, Patek Phillipe, Breitling, Rolex, Tag Heuer, etc. have secured their place in the world of watches, it’s good to know that a name like Maurice de Mauriac can offer something different that is just as good, if not better, than some of the models the big name labels are offering. Some of us here at SwipeLife are huge watch fans, and we are more than proud to co-sign Maurice de Mauriac as a premier watch brand. We definitely look forward to what Daniel and his company will be coming out with in the years to come.
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Introduction and conclusion by Felson Sajonas
Interview by Dresden Baluyot
Edits by Jason Rodriguez
Images courtesy of Maurice de Mauriac