< In conversation >
Mitrajit Bhattacharya chats up with Matthias Breschan, President, Hamilton on his recent visit to Mumbai
Hamilton is a great brand launched in 1892 in America. But we do not know the brand much in India. Take us through its journey in terms of brand ethos, key lines and major milestones.
The brand originally was founded in 1892 in Lancaster in the US. It has a very rich history that is linked to the history of the US. I would say, two milestones in the history of the US that also marked the history of Hamilton are very close co-operation between Hamilton and the US Army to develop military watches and the very close relationship of Hamilton with Hollywood. So based on these two milestones we have redesigned four years ago the Hamilton collection. We have now two product lines, Khaki Line with the military history where we are not talking about military watches any more. We’re talking about Khaki watches. But within the line of Khaki watches we kept the same segmentation that you will also find in the military.
So the inspiration still remains military but you have changed the positioning and calling it Khaki because military doesn’t really fit into today’s scheme of things.
Exactly. First of all there are very few countries left where the army still buys watches for the soldiers. The big exception today is Singapore and Hamilton is the official supplier for the Singapore army. In the US, the US Army doesn’t buy watches anymore for the soldiers.
So the Khaki Line branding came up around 4 years back?
No, this is slightly older. Right after the World War II, based on the military watches, the military inspiration became a fashion trend. You will find today Khaki elements within the collection of all major designers, for apparel, accessories etc. We tried to keep the segmentation of Marines, Navy, Airforce. We kept it also in the three segments that we have in the Khaki line. Khaki Field, Navy and Aviation watches.
When did you get the Khaki Line?
After the Second World War. However, the military watches used by the US Army during the Second World War were already called Khaki. Then Hamilton until the 60s supplied watches to the US Army.
Were you the exclusive supplier to the US Army?
No not exclusive but I would say that we were the major supplier to the US military. They had a very strict specification sheet and since Hamilton was based out of US, so the proximity of the offices was a great advantage to Hamilton.
What does it take to make a good watch for the military? What are the key requirements?
The key requirement is that they have a very strict specification and quality procedure. In terms of design it needs to meet these requirements. The characters for the numbers that you use, i.e. the visibility, the design of the hands etc have very detailed specifications. Also there are strong quality requirements- the shock resistance, rugged, waterproof and the strap is resistant to certain quality levels.
And the other line.
The second line is a close relationship with Hollywood that actually started in the 1950s, so it was a time when nobody was talking about product placement in movies. Hamilton, by this time, was already contacted by producers and custom designers to develop specific watches for movies or for certain characters in the movies to really underline the character in the movie. So for us product placement is not a marketing tool but a part of our identity. Even today we are developing specific watches for specific movies like for e.g. for the Will Smith starrer I am Legend due for a December release we have developed a specific watch which allows him to calculate the sunrise and the sunset times because he is the last human being on the earth and he has to flee from a virus, which is always comes out at night.
Does it mean for this watch you will begin with New York and then develop it for other cities?
This watch was specifically developed for the movie, since the movie is based in New York. The promotion that we are going to do with them during the launch of the movie is also for New York but then it is a very interesting function for pilots because if you have a small private plane you need to calculate the sunrise and sunset depending on the daylight.
You will get the watch into different time zones as well.
We have one watch with different time zones but then the calculation is getting very complicated, so either you make one watch for a specific time zone or the one which we currently have for other cities which doesn’t allow you to calculate for every minute but for every ten minutes. Incorporating too much makes the dial too busy.
If you could take us through some of the other associations like Pink Panther, Space Odyssey, Men in Black etc.
When we started our associations in the 1950s it was with a movie called Frogmen in 1951 which was about the special demolition agents and I would say the big break came when Elvis Presley himself chose a Hamilton for Blue Hawaii in around 1961. And then one of the nicest parts was when Stanley Kubrick approached and briefed us in 1966 as to how a Hamilton watch would look like in 2001 in his futuristic film 2001: A Space Odyssey and last year we brought out a limited edition of the anniversary watch.