Apparently Baume & Mercier can trace its history back as far as the Middle Ages. Documents from the ‘Seigneurs de Baume’ from as early as 1440 have been found in the western region of the Jura mountains, however the Baumes only really started watchmaking in the 16th century.
Fast forward to 1834 when the company officially registered its watchmaking facilities in Les Bois. It wasn’t until 1918 that the company changed its name to Baume & Mercier, when William Baume met Mercier when the latter was working at the renowned watch and jewellery brand, Haas. Mercier was not actually his name – his real name was Tschereditschenko and he was the result of a liaison between a Russian officer of the same name and a working-class girl he happened to meet at the Paris Universal Exhibition.
Thanks to his less than auspicious start in life, Mercier had to start at the very bottom learning business administration and several languages in order to further his career. He first started at is career in the industry at Haas, where William Baume encountered him. This was a very profitable partnership evidenced by the fact that Baume & Mercier were not as greatly affected as their contemporaries by the Great Depression of the 1930s.
In 1965 Baume & Mercier merged with the far higher-priced Piaget, leading to the rather unfair description of Baume & Mercier as the “poor man’s Piaget”. When Piaget became part of the Cartier group, Baume & Mercier was almost seen as an add-on to the main event rather than as a fully fledged brand in its own right.
Since becoming part of the Richemont Group, Baume & Mercier gained a reputation as a brand that produced elegant, yet modern luxury watches at a price point that wasn’t crippling.
There was a brief period of innovation in the 1970s, with the brand launching its Tronosonic watch, which contained tuning fork technology manufactured by Ebauches SA under a Bulova license, however in recent times it seemed as though Baume & Mercier weren’t really producing anything that a consumer would rush to spend their pay cheque on.
That was until 2011, when Baume & Mercier shock more than a few watch journalists out of their SIHH-presentation slumber, with the launch of its revamped Capeland collection. The collection contained a beautiful flyback chronograph that was the subject of more watch articles than Baume & Mercier had probably had in the last ten years combined.
Since then the brand has impressed again with its Clifton collection and, just this year, with its first truly desirable collection for women – Promesse.
Not such a “poor man’s Piaget” now.