There’s a distinct military feel to Riskers’ visual identity, with its illustrations of soldiers carrying rifles or in full army kit. Even the brand’s tagline, Design For Bravery, smacks of the battlefield and the strength of character it takes to survive. There is, however, far more to this up-and-coming brand – which burst onto the scene following a successful campaign on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform. In the eyes of its co-founders, courage goes hand-in-hand with altruism, both fundamental values that go beyond contexts of warfare. The military, it has to be said, remains a popular inspiration in watchmaking. Watches made for the armed forces helped define the functions of today’s timepieces. They also dug the grave of the pocket watch, too impractical in the heat of battle.
The watch that keeps on giving
Which is pretty much how Riskers came into being. Pierre Guerrier, co-founder of the brand, was working at Piaget when his curiosity was piqued by a journalist’s watch, in fact his grandfather’s pocket watch. Rather than leave it to gather dust in a drawer, he’d asked a friend to come up with a way for him to wear it on his wrist. Pierre Guerrier recalls how “I did some research of my own and soon came across examples of watches worn by French soldiers in the First World War. They passed time in the trenches by making objects from whatever they had to hand. One of the things they did was to imagine ingenious ways to convert pocket watches into robust, practical and legible instruments they could wear on their wrist.”
This would be the starting point for Riskers watches. The first model, Prolog, has been rolled out as different “Chapters”. The generously sized 43mm pebble-shaped case in steel is a nod to pocket watches, with a slimmer bezel for easy read-off. The crown guard at 3 o’clock also takes its cue from a pocket-watch bow. Skeleton hands sweep a sector dial, protected by a domed sapphire crystal, whose clean aesthetic incorporates a discreet date and an oversized numeral at 12. The Swiss-Made automatic versions are powered by calibres from STP, part of Fossil Group, which cases and adjusts the movements. The quartz versions are fitted with Ronda calibres.
As good-looking and functional as these watches are, they are only part of the story. As a brand dedicated to “ordinary men doing extraordinary things,” each style is associated with a courageous individual and a worthy cause. “We’ve all heard stories of superheroes with superpowers, but what about the real heroes living among us?” asks Pierre Guerrier. “These are real people behind amazing projects that deserve our attention and our support. It’s their story that we want to tell. We’re not interested in getting noticed thanks to partners chosen for their thousands of social media followers. At Riskers, we believe in the individual and have decided to support charitable causes by promoting what they do and donating a portion of sales to them. This is our definition of authenticity, something you hear so much about in the watch world.”
Because it all began with soldiers from the Great War, one of the brave individuals chosen by Riskers is Albert Roche. Hailed by General Foch, the Supreme Allied Commander, as “France’s greatest”, this ordinary soldier accomplished extraordinary feats. Through him, Riskers is supporting Bleuet de France which assists veterans, war widows, wards of the State and serving military. Guillaume d’Aboville, the man at the head of Enfants du Mékong, an NGO established in Laos in 1958 which enables children in Southeast Asia to attend school, is the second “everyday hero” in the Riskers battalion. Joining him is the mountain guide and emergency room doctor Pierre Muller who works with Douleur Sans Frontières, a nonprofit which, among other actions, helps civilians in conflict zones overcome PTSD. Completing the quartet is not a person but Troupes de Montagne, an elite mountain infantry division of the French army. The unit is commanded by General Pierre-Joseph Givre who draws a parallel between the military and the brand’s team who “embark on a challenge, united by their experience of Haute Horlogerie and determined to uphold their values.” Spoken like a true soldier! The chosen charity for this watch is Entraide Montagne which helps mountain infantry soldiers who are injured in the field or during training.
Capital raised through Kickstarter has been sufficient to launch production. The brand is also negotiating further financial backing from banks. Rolling out a brand in the middle of a global pandemic is no easy task; fortunately Riskers has ample “ammunition” with its close-knit team of industry veterans (including some ex-Richemont), distinctive and affordable watches (under €1,500 for mechanical, under €600 for quartz), strong digital leverage for online sales and communication, and that all-important military vibe.