Baume timepiece
Baume timepiece
Image: Supplied

Sylvain Berneron may not be a name familiar to everyone but will most certainly resonate with motorcycle enthusiasts. The 29-year-old automotive designer, also known by his alias Holographic Hammer, is responsible for shaking up the customising world together with brother Florent — a former French military aeronautical mechanic — from their Praëm studio and workshop in a forest just outside Paris.

Berneron is best known for concept commissions such as the Ducati Scrambler Project Hero 01, BMW S1000RR, and, more recently, a custom built Honda RC51 with wire mesh bodywork. He also created the BMW Concept Ninety while on the design team at BMW Motorrad, which led to the production of the “customisable”, retro-styled R-NineT roadster.

His early years in racing and intimate knowledge of motorcycles inform his approach to design, which is inventive yet function-led and buildable. What better choice, then, for lead designer at newly launched Baume watches, “a brand focused on encouraging individuals to participate in a design-led global conversation” with customisation and mindful design — in both material choices and sustainable production techniques — at its core. He is also the right age so understands the attitudes, ethical choices, and needs of his generation, one that the watch industry is desperate to attract.

Baume draws on the expertise and 188-year heritage of its mother company, Baume & Mercier, and to offer equally considered pieces, Berneron has created a minimalist collection starting at R7,200. Consultancy firm Bain & Company forecasts that by 2025 a quarter of luxury sales will be made online, meaning that Baume’s fully customisable custom timepieces are not only on trend, but ahead of the curve. The new offering also extends parent company Richemont’s e-commerce strategy of introducing its luxury watch brands to its Neta- Porter and Mr Porter platforms.

The Baume website allows customers to create 2,160 combinations of case size (35mm or 41mm), material, hands, dial, easily interchangeable straps, and engraving.

The collection offers three robust, precise quartz movements (from either Miyota or Ronda): moon phase, retrograde day of the week, and small second. Straps are made from more environmentally friendly materials such as cork, linen, cotton, and Alcantara. For improved comfort, pieces include articulated lugs and a crown positioned at the 12 o’clock, also alluding to early pocket-watch design.

Baume is determined to remain relevant, and has partnered with Waste Free Oceans, a non-governmental organisation that transforms ocean plastic into innovative products. The company is also sponsoring the “material futures” master’s degree at Central Saint Martins in London.

The highlight for me is Berneron’s Iconic 41mm “upcycled timepiece” crafted in aluminium on a 100% recycled plastic resin bracelet. It features an automatic calibre 82D7 from Citizen-owned Miyota, which is partly revealed through its unusual dial configuration and open sapphire case back. The Icon has a 42-hour power reserve and will cost about R15,000. 

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