Elie Bernheim joined the company in 2006 after graduating from the prestigious Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne. As third generation of the family-owned company, Elie and his brother Pierre – both grandsons of Mr. Raymond Weil – ensure the continuity of the Brand’s heritage based on watchmaking know-how and the ongoing adherence to its values. Proficient in watchmaking, marketing and business management, during recent years, Elie has been in charge of developing and enhancing the global strategy of Raymond Weil. It was in the context of a continuing respect for this heritage firmly entrusted to him, which has constituted the cornerstone of the remarkable success of this watchmaking Brand over the years, that Elie Bernheim embarked on his career in the company.
His sense of traditional values, combined with a young and fresh vision, make him the perfect candidate to manage the Brand’s corporate image, communications and social networks, thus enabling Raymond Weil to get closer to its clients in a new and interactive way. Thanks to his curiosity and enthusiasm, he has acquired an in-depth knowledge of the markets, resulting today in his excellent contacts with the Brand’s partners.
Elie Bernheim was appointed CEO of Raymond Weil in April 2014, succeeding his father, Olivier Bernheim, who joined the family company in 1982, becoming its President and CEO in 1996. In parallel, Elie and his brother Pierre in 2012 decided to combine their talents and know-how and created the 88 Rue Du Rhone Brand, which today is entirely managed by Pierre, with the ambition of offering its customers an elegant selection of well-priced Swiss watches.
Elie Bernheim’s profile would not be complete without mentioning his passion for life, the Arts and music. His love of wine and gastronomy naturally led Elie to open two restaurants in Geneva – the Café des Banques and Chez Lucien. As a well-informed music-lover, he perfected the piano, before specializing in the cello. Essentially acquired from his mother, a professional pianist, the passion for music is today a second inspiration, influencing every new product development or marketing orientation at Raymond Weil. In an interview with Luxury Arabia’s Contributing Editor, Eldrich Ferns, Elie Bernheim underscores the importance of the region for Raymond Weil.
Raymond Weil is one of the few independent brands in the Swiss luxury watch industry, what are the main challenges you face because of this?
The main challenge we have to face today as an independent brand is distribution and the fight for space against big groups in points of sale. The current worldwide economic situation is obviously another big challenge for us. We need to be cautious, but we remain optimistic. Being a family business gives us a lot of opportunities. We can react much quicker and count on our very reliable partners with whom we have built long-term relationships since the beginning. Continuity and consistency are keys for us, our greater flexibility also allows us to adapt quicker to changing trends and requirements and our agility as a brand will stand us in good stead.
As an ‘affordable luxury brand’, how do you position your brand and keep it relevant?
It has always been the priority at Raymond Weil to produce and offer qualitative products at a reasonable price. Beginning with my grandfather, we as a family company have always stuck to this principle. We are focusing on products between the middle to upper middle price range and we continue to stress on providing customers with the best craftsmanship at very reasonable price points. This is I believe one of our USPs.
The US and UK are our biggest markets. Historically, the Middle East market has always been important for our Brand and it is growing in significance as one of our chief driving markets, which is expected to outpace many other regions.
What is your preferred distribution strategy?
As an independent brand, we have to remain profitable and that’s the reason why we do not have any own-name boutiques. We’d rather work with our strong and reliable partners to build a successful long-term distribution strategy.
What are your best-selling men’s watches till date?
The freelancer collection is, today, one of our best sellers. Launched in 2007, this collection underscores that Raymond Weil is one of the last independent watchmaking companies. Free of all constraints, the freelancer has never stopped evolving since its creation in 2007, but it always keeps true to its character: having an urbane personality, with an elegant yet casual appearance, with beveled horns and emblematic screws.
Which do you consider as the most effective communications channels?
As a family-owned Company, it is very important for us to be close to our aficionados and provide them with information in an efficient way. We have a strong online presence and we fully embrace social media as it enables us to talk to our customers and fans that are increasingly using alternative channels to get in touch with the brands.
To what extent does your brand relate to lifestyle?
Raymond Weil offers a wide range of products to please the taste of our wide range of clients. Our collections are inspired by the dear passion of the Weil-Bernheim family for music, but also reflect the personality and lifestyle of our different customers. Distinctive, powerful and determinedly masculine, Nabucco is destined for a new generation of strong-minded men – confident in their own style and appearance. The Feelancer is dedicated to free spirits and personalities wanting to remain in control of their own destiny whereas the maestro collection symbolizes harmony, elegance and timelessness with its classic lines. Every Raymond Weil watch carries a lot of emotions and this is what we want to share with our clients.
Have you ever considered diversifying into other product categories? i.e. smartphones, accessories etc?
I’m a great believer that a brand should focus on its core business so we’d rather concentrate on ours, which is watchmaking! However, we must keep our eyes open and carefully listen to our customers’ needs. The arrival of smartwatches definitely opens new horizons for example as it attracts a new range of customers who previously had little or no interest in Swiss watchmaking.
What will be your focus for the future?
Our strength lies in what we are: a recognized name worldwide, with clearly defined positioning and elegant and affordable luxury products. We shall focus our efforts on where we are strong. We will further develop our key markets and continue to enhance our music marketing strategy with strategic partnerships in key regions.