Launching his brand at SalonQP, Alexandre Meerson is a designer and entrepreneur with a pedigree as impeccable as his Altitude Premiere watch is exquisite
Tickets for Salon QP 2017 are now on sale – book now.
Alexandre Meerson is a design perfectionist. The dial of the Altitude Premiere, the watch range with which he’s launching his eponymous brand, went through 27 prototype iterations before he was completely satisfied. “We were in a meeting and I changed one tiny parameter and it was like hearing music – I realised this is it, it’s finished,” he says.
Meerson, an expat Frenchman whose firm is based in the Surrey countryside, had the advantage of learning from the best. His father, Emerich Meerson, was a celebrated watch and jewellery designer, creating pieces for the likes of Tiffany and Mikimoto before launching his own brand in 1975. His elegant, Art Deco-inspired classicism was quite the thing among fashion-forward types in the 1970s and ‘80s (the brand closed in 1993).
Since apprenticing in his father’s studio as a teenager, Alexandre, now 42, has steeped himself in watch industry pedigree as a designer, manager and brand consultant working with the major luxury houses. “But I was always ranting about wanting to do my own stuff, and finally someone said to me ‘why don’t you just do it?’ It took me a long time to clarify my vision though.”
Meerson started working on watch designs in 2007, honing his ideas at his own pace. In 2011 he set up his bespoke design studio, working for major brands, but with the aim of launching his own “maison de luxe” marque.
An instinct for minimalist elegance clearly runs in the family. Like many of the finest designs, the Altitude has the sense of a watch that has been around for aeons, while retaining its own freshness and character. A circular dress watch characterized in particular by its unusual horizontal lugs, it isn’t just on the outside that the Altitude impresses: Meerson was able to leverage his Swiss contacts to gain access to high-grade movements from the Vaucher manufacture in Fleurier – calibers normally found in Parmigiani and Hermés watches.
“We wanted real brilliance in execution,” Meerson says. “Vaucher is extremely high tech, but they cherish tradition and they’re obsessive about quality. They reject plans from a lot of people, but we showed them we were not building a watch but a brand – I grew up in a watch workshop, so I think we spoke the same language.”
Meerson also worked with independent craftspeople in Switzerland to realise his team’s ultra-detailed designs. For instance, the centre of the case-back is shaped into a gentle scoop, the concave curve continuing through the crystal – hard to achieve at precise tolerances. Even the dauphine hands are unusual, brushed on one side and polished on the other, to give a clearer indication. Up close, those emblematic lugs are a mass of contours and facets.
“I wanted something that looked extremely simple, but when you really looked at it you would discover all these elements that make it interesting and also tactile,” Meerson says. “You caress it like a talisman – it’s pleasurable.”
True to his vision of launching a fully-fledged brand rather than simply a watch, Meerson is launching the Altitude in an array of variants. Two-hand, date and small seconds versions are available, in rose gold, platinum or beautifully rendered titanium, each with dark or light dial options. A more casual version with baton hands and Breguet numerals, the Altitude Officier, is also offered. Moreover, since the watches are being produced in extremely small volumes, Meerson is providing plenty of customization options, with prospective buyers (who can contact the brand via its website) being treated to individual consultations – including wrist measurements so that each strap can be designed on a bespoke basis.
“This is a new interpretation of classicism, which is understated and has to be pleasurable in every way,” says Meerson. He also believes that his adopted UK base has a specific benefit. “Being in the UK is an advantage not because of the horology but because of the British spirit: you are allowed in England to be who you want to be. That’s what this is about – it’s doing things as I wanted them to be done.”