The Future of Tradition
Virtuozity speaks exclusively with Lionel Betoux, the CEO and owner of independent Swiss watchmaker Cabestan. the niche Brand specialises in creating incredible, ultra-luxurious timepieces, featuring fascinating movements developed entirely in- house – Betoux says that the mantra is creating the ‘future of tradition’.
Just over 12 years old, the young company has already made a name for itself among Middle Eastern watch aficionados, and now the Brand is looking to Build on that success.
Could you give us an overview of the concept behind Cabestan?
The future of tradition is our driven philosophy that probably identifies us the best. Carrying the tradition of the fine watchmaking in a very futuristic concept and vision of the entire industry. As the winch on boats (the capstan is the literal translation of Cabestan in English) the fuse and chain are part of our product DNA. As we are in a world of passion and emotion, our watches have special, unique, crystal sapphires that highlight the amazing in-house-made movement. Cabestan is definitely an in-house, hand-made manufacture. To summarise, I would say that it’s about the future of tradition, in-house, hand-made, and sharing the emotion of some unique timepieces.
Cabestan has been in operation since 2003, but in 2011 the company embarked on a ‘new start’. What was behind needing a new start and what did the rejuvenation involve?
Actually I took over the brand in 2013. The product was there, but a true identity was missing. We have worked very hard to define this identity, put it in place and to re-establish the faith of the market. Also a captain was missing; the team didn’t know where and how to go. It involved lots of patience, persistency, trust, belief, hope and massive hard work to put the brand at its level today.
We optimised the production, reorganized the product development, created a marketing department, created a sales team, and travelled everywhere in the world to show the products and share the new project. We believed in our brand, no matter how high the mountain was.
Cabestan talks a lot about micro- mechanical prowess. What does this allude to?
Imagine watches with more than 900 components per movement, with a three- dimensional perspective. There are open glasses on the full movement, a fuse and chain in every single model, with an in-house-developed movement. All of these things are made in-house; every single component is decorated by hand, by our amazing team of watchmakers. And on the top of that, all our models include a vertical tourbillon or triple-axis tourbillon.
The triple- axis tourbillon is the fastest ever made and the only one fusée- and chain-driven, which brings an accuracy probably never reached for mechanical watches. And this is all from a small, independent brand. In this case, I believe that Cabestan can be proud to talk about micro-mechanical prowess.
What are some of the stand-out pieces that Cabestan has created?
Cabestan has now four different models – two of them are from since I took over. In the past, some partnerships with other brands, like Ferrari, brought some beautiful pieces. But as we are an independent manufacture, we spend most of the time delivering unique pieces for the happiness of our customers. I will give the example of the Saturnera,
the first and only Saturn phase ever launched. On the base of the Luna Nera, we have switched the moon to a Saturn with rings, and modified the movement to adapt the speed of the rotation – 29.5 days for the moon to a 1,041-hour rotation for Saturn. We also have a very special and unique Winch Tourbillon Vertical with a Rose Gold case fully handmade by a jeweller.
We even have a ladies watch, with a solitaire. As her name starts with an ‘A’, and her lucky number is three, we have put a special color on the ‘A’ and 3. We will come soon with other very unique watches.
Is creating your own movements necessary in the age of other manufactures licensing out their movements?
Yes, Cabestan creates its own movements, entirely designed by our master watchmaker and in-house designer. This is part of our DNA and strong identity. We have a very unique concept and follow our own philosophy. We develop the watch to have the perfect marriage between the case and the movement. Only this full, in-house development allows this prowess. It makes the watch even more unique, and I believe that, for our identity, it is necessary to have it done this way.
Obviously Cabestan is a niche brand – but which niche does it specifically fill?
It’s mainly for collectors, purists and customers looking for something unique and personalised.
Can you take us through some of the new models that are being planned?
My apologies, but nothing can really be told at this time. But be sure that we will
keep launching watches (around every 12 to 18 months) that are on the same level of what you have seen to date. Not that this is anything that is absolutely confidential, but we don’t want to promise anything until we are sure that we can keep these promises. I hope it is clear enough and that you will understand our position.
Which geographical markets (if any) is Cabestan heavily targeting in the next few years?
We are very well represented in Asia, and the Middle East is starting to become good, but we will put more energy there, especially in the UAE and Dubai. We will focus on developing the American and European market, but as we want to still be a very exclusive brand and control our in-house production, we want to go step-by-step and have our actual partners (like Ahmed Seddiqi and Sons) happy before we jump into other markets.
Would you be open to the idea of creating special editions for the Middle East?
The Middle East is an amazing geographical area, and we are proud to have a partner such as Ahmed Seddiqi and Sons, which believed in us from the beginning. What they have done with the Dubai Watch Week and the show of the Rebels of Independents is amazing and I am sure it will have a massive impact on the education of local collectors in a near future. In return, we have a very high motivation to be more present – to push – and we have a massive trust in the possibility of the Middle East market.
The development of a special edition for the region can be a good opportunity that Cabestan can easily provide with its organisation, but this is something that will have to be discussed with the local partners, as they perfectly know the local market.