Written by: Marco Costa
Swiss-born Australian Christophe Hoppe will take his Australian watch company to the world’s biggest watch fair, Baselworld in Switzerland.
Like selling ice to Eskimos or oil to the Middle East, Christophe Hoppe stands at the cusp of realising an improbable dream – selling Australian-designed watches to the Swiss.
The brand he conceived, Bausele, next month will become the first Australian company to display its timepieces at the world’s largest watch fair, Baselworld.
“You don’t just send an application and say ‘I wanna be there and I’m going to pay the cost of being there’,” Hoppe says of the invitation-only event.
The Swiss-born Sydneysider grew up in a small town just 10km from Basel, where the watch world will gather from March 19 to 26 to not only ogle the industry’s brightest new products, but also to transact tens of millions of dollars worth of stock orders.
The Terra Australis by Bausele:
He attended the Baselworld fair as a child, and later as an adult working for the giant Swatch Group and the Technomarine watch company. Those connections to the Swiss watch industry helped to open the door to Baselworld for his fledgling Bausele brand.
“And now I go back to my Swiss home with a watch I created in Australia. I never thought this would happen,” he says.
The opportunity of a lifetime equally could spell the end of a dream if Hoppe doesn’t land significant supply contracts in Basel.
“I’m all-in on this thing. It has to work,” says the 40-year-old, who was the chief financial officer of surfwear apparel brand Hurley before turning Bausele into his full-time occupation.
Compounding his gamble is the recent decoupling of the Swiss franc from the Euro, which will dramatically increase the cost of the many Swiss-sourced components Bausele uses.
“If it doesn’t work I have to send my resume around and find another job. There is no other alternative, I have so much invested.”
The diamond-set Kimberley model is the brand’s first women’s watch:
Taste of Australia
It’s little more than two years since Bausele launched with a single model and a unique Australian selling point – every model contains a small element of Australia within its hollow crown (the circular winding mechanism), such as beach sand, red dust or coal. The name Bausele was inspired by this detail, as a loose combination of the words “beyond Australian elements”.
Hoppe now produces 28 different watches in seven styles. At the heart of each watch is a Swiss movement and full construction in Switzerland, where the large majority of the world’s prestige watches are still made.
However, the cases for his new range-topping model, the Terra Australis, are created in Australia using a lightweight ceramic composition created specifically for Bausele.
A case of innovation
The material, named Bauselite, is the result of a partnership between Bausele and South Australia’s Flinders University. It is easier to drill into than traditional ceramic casings, and can be created with far less wastage.
“What is really important to me is bringing more (production) back to Australia, so the Flinders University deal we did one year ago, that was amazing,” Hoppe says. “It took one year of research and development but we got it, our own component, Bauselite.”
You will also like to remind TOP 10 WATCHES OF BASELWORLD 2014
Hoppe’s vision is to bring more manufacturing to Australia, rather than sending it to cheaper sources in Asia. He also has Bausele’s leather bands made in Sydney by two manufacturers. The only non-Swiss or Australian componentry in the entire construction is some small case and band fixtures.
Growing up in the shadows of the headquarters of the world’s watch industry, Hoppe fell in love with watches from a young age and developed utmost respect for the craftspeople who dedicate their careers to creating the world’s most intricate timepieces.
“I’m not a fancy guy who likes the bling-bling, I like components, I like real people who are in Switzerland and they have done this for 20 years, every day. They love it, they are so passionate, they can tell you everything about the brand,” he says.
Headlining Bausele’s stand at Baselworld will be a new model, the men’s Terra Australis that creates a new hero and price point ($3520) for the brand to compete directly with the likes of TAG Heuer and Oris. At a sizeable 46mm in diameter it’s equipped with a Soprod A-10 Caliber automatic movement and is water resistant to 50 metres.
The range also includes a new dedicated women’s watch, the Kimberley, which can be ordered set with diamonds; plus yachting, diving, vintage and pilot’s watches.
The brand also has a number of sporting ambassadors including Australia’s best-known basketballer, Andrew Bogut, a star of the US-based NBA side Golden State Warriors.
“Andrew has been a great spokesman for us, he’s just so proud to speak on behalf of anything Australian,” Hoppe says.
Bausele watches are available to purchase online exclusively from the SMH Shop.