By  on July 20, 2009

Swiss watch dynamo Christian Bedat is back with a new Web-based project, WWD has learned. More than two years after exiting Bedat & Co., the luxury brand he founded with his mother, Simone, in 1996, Bedat will go live in September with, an animation-packed e-commerce site whose first product is a sporty timepiece with a red rubber crown and a rotating bezel festooned with evocative words. Combinations such as “America Asia Europe Africa” or “Red Yellow White Black” in compass formation evoke Red8’s one-world philosophy. And in a new twist, the $880 timepiece will be marked: “Designed on Earth, Produced in Asia,” as Bedat said the law forbids him from saying, “Designed in Switzerland, Produced in China.” “I’m doing this for fun,” he said in an interview. “I wanted something young, interactive and fresh — not pretentious. I didn’t want to go back into the race of luxury, expensive.” Given his deep roots in Geneva and its haute watch- making traditions, Bedat, 44, insisted on high-quality technical features, including a curved, sapphire crystal, a screwed-on case back and a Japanese automatic quartz movement he dubbed “I-Matic.” However, he flew to Korea, a country prized for its high-speed Internet capabilities, to conceive his “lifestyle, online brand,” enlisting boutique design firm Idea Picnic, whose ambition is to become the “Pixar of Asia.” The Web site includes a realistic-looking boutique that allows users to try watches on a swiveling wrist, as well as just-for-fun animations depicting a Barack Obama look-alike grooving to DJs and a high-fashion runway show for watches, after which a likeness of Bedat comes out waving. The visuals are vivid and quirky. For example, the watch’s waterproof capabilities are demonstrated as it drifts in ocean waters, narrowly escaping a shark’s jaws. Bedat said he opted for online sales simply to avoid “dealing with stores” and to foster Red8’s in-the-know, “exclusive” positioning. He said he ultimately plans to layer on additional accessories, including eyewear, and children’s sizes of the same watch. “Don’t forget, every good brand relies on one style,” he noted. Bedat sold Bedat & Co., known for its elegant, precision timepieces, to Gucci Group in 2000 at the height of the luxury acquisitions spree. He went on to design timepieces for the group’s Gucci and Boucheron brands. However, Bedat stepped down as creative director and chief executive officer of Bedat & Co. in 2006 amid undisclosed differences with the conglomerate.

Earlier this year, Gucci Group sold the firm to Malaysia-based Luxury Concepts Watches & Jewelry. Initially straddled with a noncompete clause, Bedat, an avid athlete, trained for the New York City Marathon, finishing his first attempt in three hours and 40 minutes, and in an Ironman Triathlon. But he was itching to flex his creative muscles, and conceived of Red8 as a business concept in tune with an online generation and post-luxury-boom realities. He said he tested the market by selling sample timepieces at Sports House, a boutique he owns in the skiwear resort of Villars, and sold more than 30 items in two months. He has since also given it to about 200 people to test drive, and is banking on word-of-mouth to drive awareness, along with downloadable animations to be posted on and a forthcoming iTunes application. The Web site also has a design-your-own-watch feature, with contestants vying monthly for a chance to vote on the best designs and win a free watch. Bedat said he expects the U.S., Japan and Korea to be among the key markets, and plans to travel this fall to promote his new brand. “I think it’s the right timing,” he said. “The brand is about values.”

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