Episode #8: Independent watch brands with Remontoire68...
The world of watchmaking is vast both in size and volume. Those familiar, recognisable names that you see plastered throughout various sports on the weekend take up most of the general public's attention while other brands work hard in the background building loyal, dedicated fan bases. The latter is where our next guest spends his time, managing his company Remontoire68. Stephen Lee is the main man behind Remontoire68, a company that represents some of the most interesting and unique watch brands the industry has to offer.
Let's jump straight into 15 Questions With: Stephen Lee...
1. Let’s start with something everyone is always interested in, what’s on your wrist at the time of writing this?
Today I am wearing the Lonville Virage Fuel Tank 4-day power reserve in 18ct White Gold, limited to just 18 pieces.
2. What was the first watch you remember that left an impact on you?
There have been so many for many different reasons. Early in my career I met John McGonigle and saw what he was making, they're incredibly artisan. The Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Perpetual Calendar has been a big favourite of mine for a long time now. And that's not even mentioning brands such as FP Journe and Urwerk. Like I said, so many!
3. How did you start working in and around watches?
I fell into the trade by accident after a complete change of career from the police. I found myself in the luxury jewellery business and management before eventually moving to Bremont as the UK & European Sales Manager. After that, I was approached by Parmigiani Fleurier to head up the UK for them and after 7 years building the Bremont brand from just a handful of stores to 90 in the UK and 10 in Europe, I accepted the new challenge with this very prestigious brand.
Unfortunately, restructuring meant the UK subsidiary was closed down. I then formed my own business and carried on with Parmigiani and added a number of other indie brands to work with.
Finish the following sentences:
4. The best kept secret in watches is...
Parmigiani Fleurier and Schwarz Etienne. Two watch brands that manufacture their own movements and hairsprings. Parmigiani has 16 other high-end brands that come to them for components, escapements, movements, cases and dials. Their facilities are so impressive.
5. The one watch that got away from me was…
When you love watches you see so many that you want, one particular watch is the Bremont EP120. It's a real collector's piece that was released as I joined the company. Alas, I didn’t buy one and of course, they're worth a considerable amount these days.
6. If I wasn’t working in watches, I’d be working in…
The military police. I did think about rejoining if things hadn’t worked out; fortunately, things did!
7. What is one thing you think is missing from the watch industry today?
Transparency on where things are manufactured. So many brands profess to make everything themselves and the reality is that very few do.
8. Tell us about one watch that took your breath away recently?
Definitely Garrick’s new S4. In fact, it took my breath away so much that I've actually ordered one from the British watchmaker based in Norwich. They truly manufacturer as much as they can.
9. What is your most prized possession in your collection?
I love my Tutima Glashutte M2 a lot. It's my go-anywhere watch and has such a great shape, the quality is better than many brands several price points above it. A special mention goes to my Arnold & Son TEC1 and Parmigiani Kalpa XL in rose gold.
10. Date or no date?
To be honest I'm not really too bothered. For me, it's mainly about the watch, the movement and how it emotionally impacts me. That said, I do love a retrograde date.
11. What was your most recent watch purchase?
That would be my Garrick S4 which is currently in the works. Before that, it was my Tutima M2.
12. And the next watch you’ll be adding to your collection?
I am like a kid in a sweet shop so there are a couple I am thinking of:
- The Lonville Virage 59 “Kind of Blue”
- The Schwarz Etienne Roma Synergy in Blue
- Parmigiani Fleurier Tondagraph GT
- Angelus Ratropante
- Arnold & Son DSTB
13. What is something you feel passionate about in the world of watches?
Personally, I love complications, the finishing of movements, dials and cases. Take GoS watches for example, they're sublime! The finishing of a Parmigiani movement is pure horological etiquette. On the Parmigiani Tondagraph Tourbillion they have mirror-finished bridges which take 20 hours to do just 1 bridge.
14. What is one piece of advice for people out there looking to make it in the world of horology and watches?
Don’t be a lemming and follow the commercial brands. Do your research, spread your wings and study the indie brands you'll find it is much more interesting and will gain greater knowledge.
15. Tell us about something you’re working on that is really exciting?
Parmigiani recently brought out a rattrapante at Watches and Wonders this year so I am super excited to see that.
We'd like to take this moment to thank Stephen for his time and for featuring on 15 Questions With.
To check out everything about Remontoire68 make sure to check out his website here.
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