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An eagle and Gérard Depardieu are Cvstos’ passport for...

An eagle and Gérard Depardieu are Cvstos’ passport for Russia

Monday, 05 January 2015
By Jean-Didier Revoin
Jean-Didier Revoin

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4 min read

Cvstos saw out 2014 in Moscow, in the company of Gérard Depardieu, for the official presentation of its “Proud to be Russian” watch. The brand hopes to sell between three and four hundred of this new model, which is reserved for the Russian market, over the next five months.

A filmed invitation whose intimidating (according to some) tone ruffled a few feathers. A reception just minutes from Red Square in a newly and extensively renovated luxury hotel. And the presence of brand ambassador Gérard Depardieu in person. Cvstos pulled out all the stops for the launch of its latest collection of watches. Titled “Proud to be Russian”, the country’s national crest of a two-headed eagle features prominently on the dial.

As far as media attention is concerned, it was mission accomplished judging by the fifty-plus journalists in attendance… although as well as interest in Cvstos watches, questions revolved around the actor’s love of Russia and the projects, both filmic and gastronomic, he has planned. But that’s all part of the game. Cvstos chief executive Sassoun Sirmakes makes no secret of the fact that he is counting on the actor’s fame to open up the Russian market. “We’re a young brand and we need events such as this to make ourselves known, open points of sale and establish the brand in Russia. The big brands only need make an announcement for everyone to take note.”

Cvstos Depardieu Invitation

A watch for Russians only

The context isn’t easy. The rouble has dropped close to 50% of its value against the euro since the beginning of the year, pushing up watch prices in return, which has done nothing to help business. But the founder of Cvstos is unfazed: this is just one of those things beyond his control. Present on the Russian market for six years now, it’s been just over a year since the brand really stepped up its activity there, with more than encouraging results so far. “Russia is one of our main markets and sales there are doing well,” Sirmakes acknowledges. “Hence why we can enlist the services of a personality such as Gérard Depardieu which, obviously, aren’t free.”

According to the young entrepreneur, the brand also owes its good health to the originality of its timepieces, including “Proud to be Russian” which is sold exclusively in Russia. It has, he says, “a strong emotional charge. You can’t compare it with what other brands are doing. When we sell a chronograph, for example, we know there are countless other chronographs out there. In this case, we’re offering something completely different.” Cvstos is banking on Russians’ strong national sentiment, and has embellished the dial with a sculpted double-headed eagle representing the country’s national emblem. This is exactly in line with the Swiss watchmaker’s strategy. “We want to put these watches on the right wrists,” explains co-founder Antonio Terranova who designs the brand’s watches. “We want to attract people who like the product rather than people who buy a brand.”

A revival of Russian watchmaking through Switzerland.
Antonio Terranova
Revive Russian watchmaking

The watch comes with the unusual proviso that potential purchasers must be in possession of a Russian Federation passport, “unless a retailer should bend the rules,” intimâtes Antonio Terranova. A fervent enthusiast of all things Russian, he says the brand has designs in store for the Russian market for the next four years. “There are so many themes to explore, in particular for women. There is also a strong watch and jewellery culture here which has become somewhat dormant, it’s true, but is waiting to express itself.”

The two partners are intent on establishing the brand solidly in the Russian market, and staying close to their clients, and so have even bigger ideas. Under the Soviet Union, watchmaking expertise developed to a level which some experts believe could rival Swiss praxis. With this in mind, Sirmakes and Terranova are on the lookout for a home-grown partner to relaunch watch production in Russia. “We want to create an entirely Russian product which the public can identify with and, why not, bring about a revival of Russian watchmaking through Switzerland,” says the designer. In the mean time, Gérard Depardieu has promised to give a “Proud to be Russian” watch to his “good friend” Vladimir Putin. In Moscow’s horological circles, it’s said that sales of whichever timepiece the Russian president wears always explode. A form of canonisation for Cvstos and its founders? Answer in the new year, no doubt.

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