Davide Traxler was in fine form at Corum’s Baselworld press conference this year, which is understandable given that he had been awarded the title of interim CEO of Eterna watches on the eve of the exhibition’s opening day. Snappy soundbites abounded in the style of Donald Trump, whose trademark red baseball cap Mr Traxler had appropriated for the day, complete with the slogan “Make Corum Great Again”. With little in the way of good news at Baselworld, it was nice to hear that the stock of Corum’s Chinese owner, Citychamp, was the best performing watch stock in 2016 (even if it has declined so far this year, while the stocks of Swiss groups have enjoyed double-digit growth over the same period). In 2016, any watch brand that could show any sign of growth – however small – was doing well, so a whopping 38% increase in sales is something to be proud of, even if it is on the back of years of losses. Whether the claim that Corum is “the first luxury brand to understand that the biggest marketplace in the world is Amazon” (and that Eterna, unsurprisingly, was the second) carries any weight will be borne out by history and the figures announced at the all-new Baselworld 2018.
Whatever your thoughts on the above, Davide Traxler is undeniably carving out an interesting niche for Corum and I for one applaud his attempts to bring some fun into an industry that often takes itself far too seriously. I was so in tune with the vibe that I thought the Bubble Disconnected was stuck on 12:08 in real life as it was in the tongue-in-cheek promotional video and I was actually a bit disappointed to find out that it actually worked and had a functioning, old-school LED display. Whether all 999 models in the limited edition will sell (at 1,500 Swiss francs it is competing head-to-head with TAG Heuer’s latest-generation Modular 45 smart watch) is a different matter. I drew the line, however, at trying one of the blue “Bubbliagra” tablets the brand offered us. Baselworld is hard enough as it is.
Back in 2016, we had a chance to go hands-on together with all the Corum Golden Bridge Round that was a departure from previous Golden Bridge watches by employing a round event rather than the angular cases the collection was famous for. For Baselworld 2017, designer Dino Modolo helps return the Golden Bridge to its angular roots together with the Corum Golden Bridge Rectangle. Since its initial release in 1980, the Corum Golden Bridge has observed more than a couple of variations, and this version keeps the collection’s trademark feature – a movement that shows the entire transfer of electricity from its spring barrel in 6 o’clock into the escapement at 12 o’clock. The grade CO113 is what Corum refers to as a “in-line baguette” movement, which has all of its components stacked up at a column-like shape. Like the numerals, the bridge construction that supports the movement is constructed of 18k gold and decorated with an assortment of engravings alongside the brand name. This unique movement layout permits the wearer to view every part in motion as power is moved from 1 end of this case to the other. The detailed execution of this 18-karat gold Roman numeral structures and rivets that surround the motion are very cool to check at it – it seems like something King Midas would approve of.The grade CO113 is what Corum describes as a “in-line baguette” movement, which has all its parts stacked up in a column-like form. Like the numerals, the bridge construction that supports the motion is made from 18k gold and decorated with an assortment of engravings alongside the brand name. This unique movement design permits the wearer to view every component in movement as power is transferred from 1 end of the case to the other. The motion itself operates at 4Hz with a power reserve of 40 hours.
The revived Bubble collection lends itself perfectly to all things fun at Corum. The new Big Bubble (at 52mm diameter, “it’s yuuge”, says Davide Traxler) literally catches the eye, with a huge Iris staring back at you through the magnifying bubble crystal on the limited edition of 88 Big Bubble Anima watches designed by Italian DJ Matteo Ceccarini. As the competition to design your own Bubble last year proved, there is no limit to the creativity you can add to this blank canvas, with new designs this year from Booba and Elisabetta Fantone extending the possibilities even further.
Although the lion’s share of the publicity goes to the Bubble, Corum still has its venerable Admiral’s Cup and Golden Bridge collections. The former is the guinea pig collection on sale in certain markets (Italy, Spain and the UK) on Amazon, while the latter sees a new interpretation with the rectangular and “Stream” models. These models use movements from Vaucher Manufacture, which has had a long-standing partnership with Corum that suits Davide Traxler well and is unlikely to change (“they have stuck with us through thick and thin,” he says). Together with Eterna’s in-house movement capacity, Corum certainly has no need to strive for full manufacture status.
Most of the above-mentioned new releases, however, are limited editions and will only account for a minor share of Corum’s overall sales. As is often the case, the new watches that we see showcased in Basel are just the tip of the iceberg. To boast of similar growth next year, Mr Traxler needs to sell in excess of 50 million Swiss francs worth of other watches in the Corum collection over the next 12 months.