Interview Arnaud Pézeron – Founder of SYE Watches

We love to see new projects and new brands emerge. And that’s why we wanted to know more about SYE (Start Your Engine) Watches.
You will find all the details of this project in this interview with Mr. Arnaud Pézeron who is the Co-Founder of this new brand.

Could you tell us a bit about you and about your story with watches?

It’s a long story 😉 but to make it short let’s say I’ve always been fascinated by the beautiful object on the wrist. And for me things became serious 20 years ago when visiting a flea market I found myself at a sudden stand still in front of the Spaceman watch from Andre Le Marquand.
In a few words this watch changed my life because everything snowballed from this moment. I then crawled the emerging web to learn more about design timepieces from 60s and 70s and even started a blog

When the idea to create a new brand came to you? and when do you start working on the creation and on the launch of it?

From the start of the blog, I started to follow young creative designers. Most of them concluded their design was appealing but no watch brand was answering their proposal. That’s why some of them, knowing I had a role in Marketing, asked me to start a brand and breathe life into their design.

This could have been just a fantasy until I looked for new professional horizons and make THE crucial encounter. 17 years on, I found myself face to face with the designer duo I had briefly collaborated with on a previous job, having no idea they were very active in the watch industry. We got to talking, obviously about watches, but also our wishes and frustrations. And we decided to create something fresh, it was more than 2 years and a half.

Talking about watches quickly led us to investigate the incredible creative world of custom garages. We considered how materials were molded together, how shapes were integrated, how the modern touch and traditional craftsmanship were carefully balanced… we were ready to take on the challenge of adapting this spirit into something unique for the wrist.

Creation phase was rather quick, from September 2017 till January 2018, we created the brand concept, the design brief and got our first design drawing, the right one. Things took much longer after that because basically we had to invent each part of the watch.

What’s the most important thing in the process of creating your timepieces?

We set a brand DNA and created clear design guidelines. We took the risk to undertake an hybrid project always melting things generally not associated. We wanted the watch to be sporty yet elegant, to use raw brushed steel but classy dials. Basically we wanted to craft a style that could fit our modern lifestyle, inspired from old savoir-faire and techniques and executed through modern lines and materials.

Same thing for the brand, we had no choice than being different from the start, that’s why from the start we had the idea to use black & white comics style.

What steps do you go through to develop and produce them?

We were obliged to proceed step by step. First, create the case. Then immediately after find the technical solution to integrate the leather strap into the case. That was not so simple because the strap had to perfectly fit the case with a wide rounded edge. We thought about a micro mechanism first to make it invisible but before pushing the (investment) button, I did not feel it was the right thing. It was not matching the brand DNA, it had to be truly mechanical and ultra reliable.

We went back to our bench, took time to digest the idea and this is where we turned a hindrance into a highlight and decided to further develop an interchangeable system.
We invented a ‘sandwich’ system with a true mechanical DNA to tie the case and the strap together. To create the Fastback™ system, a rock solid, practical and playful system to achieve the strap/case integration we wished and offer a unique experience while changing your strap.

The, things were not over, not at all. I thought it would have been easy to pick a strap manufacturer and voilà. I was far to imagine how designing the strap was difficult but we were lucky enough to collaborate with the Manufacture Jean Rousseau. They were excited about the technical challenge we were offering and they are damn good at that. We built the Fastback™ strap together, fined tune the integration, selected top quality leathers and we were ready to show our watches. It took us roughly 20 months of development.

From where come your inspiration concerning the design of your pieces?

As said earlier, the inspiration is coming straight from the motors scene but also from the tailoring savoir-faire, it’s a nice combination at the end and trust me when you look at a Mercedes 300SL, the work done for the bodywork and the interior/seats, this is humbly the approach we made to create our MOT1ON watches.

Do you have an anecdote about the design and creation phase of your timepieces?

Rather than an anecdote I still have the feelings in mind : wild excitement of the creation phase, frustration for the first mechanical system we imagined, desperation when all the answers we got from the strap were that it was not possible except if we decided to make it in rubber and then the acceleration phase working with Jean Rousseau and finally the achievement of handling our first working prototype totally matching the original design drawing we made almost 2 years ago.

Something special about your watches is the Fastback™ bracelet that you produce with the French Strap Manufacture Jean Rousseau. Could you explain us how it works, and how / why you decided to develop it?

It works very simply in fact! Underneath the MOT1ON watch, you have a central screw and a hubcap-style back that let you swap out your strap with ease. With a few simple twists of a tool, you can remove the back, change the strap, and you’re good to go! We really wanted to create this unique experience bringing back childhood memories of playing with Meccano and at the same time we wanted to design something really attractive as beautiful as the dial.

From your perception, what makes your watches so special?

For me for 4 main reasons:
1- For the appealing and unique design, the leather/steel integration on our watches is truly unique and it creates a watch with a strong personality
2- For the Fastback™system and the wide line-up of Fastback™ straps, our system is unique and playful. Our straps are real luxury straps we use the best in class partners for them and we have plenty of ideas to offer new strap ideas.
3- Finally for the style, we call Sport Tailoring. The idea is to always balance sport and chic, raw and refined and finally have a watch you can always wear and that can match your style.
4- The brand’s bonus 😉 We wanted of course to create really well crafted watches but also create a brand experience like no other, invent an atmosphere, a style every man could dive into.

To describe your pieces you talk about “Sport Tailoring“. What does that really mean?

Sport Tailoring is a combination of two fashions and two mindsets working together to create a style for men wanting to make statement. Sport Tailoring fuses athletic shapes and dynamic styles, with a focus on refinement and precision that has been immaculately woven into the DNA of the watch, right down to the last stitch. The end result is a new kind of elegance that is both modern and practical.

The MOT1ON Watch is your first piece and it has just been launched. What are your goals and expectations?

Our first goal is to create an attraction, bring a new fresh take on the wrist and create connection with our brand and watch fans and amateurs of fine objects.
And to speak about sales performance, we start with a limited edition exclusively for the pre-order limited to 500 units, nice challenge to start with.

Why did you choose to launch directly the Auto and Chrono version?

When you launch a brand, you have to create a very thin momentum and try to interest the widest scope of your target customers. As we’re influenced by the motors world adding a chronograph in the line-up was more than obvious.

And as we praise for Sport Tailoring, a dressier proposal was also mandatory.
But overall we kept the mechanical DNA expressed through the 4 models offered.

Do you have a favorite piece among all the ones you propose today?

My personal favorite is MOT1ON Automatic 24 with its Whiskey Fastback™ strap. I found myself liking a lot the pure dial of the Automatic 24, just a twist with 24h subdial, and the whiskey strap is just amazingly qualitative. The leather is sourced in Alsace from a Chanel tannery and its touch is incredible.

Social networks are really important for microbrands like SYE. Could you let us know how and why do you use them? and what’s your strategy to stand out from other brands in your price range?

That’s true, alternatives for microbands are not many and social networks are also great tools to connect with communities. I started by approaching forums and groups to explain our approach, it’s very important for me as a watch collector and absolute fanatic to learn about the founder and brand’s approach.

It was also very important for me to leave bullshit behind, being frank and talk about the project backstage.
Then, and quite quickly, we shifted to products for obvious passion reasons. The main objective was to focus on our original approach, on the manufacturing quality and the brand ecosystem.

Let’s talk about distribution. Obviously, you use the direct sales strategy which is better for a young brand like yours. Could you tell us how people can buy your watches? In the future you want to develop the number of your retailers or what’s your strategy?

Launch of the brand through pre-order direct sales was our 1st choice for many reasons: build a community, have direct feedbacks from customers, and get some first insights. These are key elements to validate your decisions. We’ve benchmarked the whole microbrand planet on kickstarter and months after months we got a certain feeling that the marketplace was crowded with so various projects that it was really difficult to stand out and more importantly really explain your brand approach. This is why we came to the conclusion that the brand and product experience were the most important. It became obvious to organize the pre-order on our own website and even offer more benefits than Kickstarter can offer.
After the launch our goal is to expand the interest, hence develop through selected retail matching our DNA.

As you are not in the mass market, how many watches do you plan to deliver this year?

Future will tell at least we’ll deliver our limited edition.

Now and more generally, what are your plans for the future?

Our future is already a roadmap. We’ve got plans to bring additional creativity and style through our strap offer. We have plans for watches updates and even ideas of future models. But we definitely need to do it step by step to secure the brand’s basement with the current line-up.

– What aspects of your brandyou think people should know more about?

That’s a good question and this is typically a domain where we need to dig some insights. The first feedbacks are of course about the watches design but the brand’s image is coming right after and bring some positive coolness.

OK, now something more personal. For you, what’s the most important thing to find in a watch?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself the last 20 years since the start of my collection. I’m a real addict to design timepieces especially from 60s to 70s but when turning 40 my tastes widened to more classical watches but I like them with a twist, a little bonus that make them stand out from the horological crowd.

SYE are the initials of “Start Your Engine“, does that mean you’re also passionate about cars and motorbike?

Sure, it all started with cars and motorbikes. There is no other territory generating such a passion… except watches. The name stood as obvious for us and on top this is exactly to goal we wanted to achieve : make people feel new emotions, to make their heart tick loud again.

To finish, are you also a watch collector? If yes, what kind of watches do you collect?

Hell yeah. I love watches, passionately, irredeemably, to the point where my personal collection vastly exceeded 100 pieces. I started with all variants of Spaceman watches of course and extended it to major design timepieces from 60s to 90s including Lip, Ikepod, Porsche design, Pulsar Spoon, Amida, Braun and so many others. And turning 40, I’ve investigated the Omega’s world quite significantly.

You can follow SYE Watches on their social media channels :

Facebook / Instagram / YouTube 😉

Jonathan Kopp

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