“We wanted to make ornamental stone dials something which more people could enjoy,” says Alexandra Loth, vice president and area sales manager at Alex Benlo. Her father and founder of the brand, Eric Loth, picks up the story: “It’s a novel approach which is rooted in the desire to live a healthier life, in a more balanced world. The idea is not just to nurture our ego but to surround ourselves with good vibrations. It’s an alternative to the endless round of consumption.” This watch industry veteran, co-founder of British Masters then Graham, set up the Alex Benlo brand in 2015 in order to leave his children Alexandra (Alex) and Benjamin (Ben) Loth (lo) “a brand that conveys values which have been patiently amassed and make sense for the future.”
Harnessing the benefits of minerals is an ancient practice known as lithotherapy, an alternative to conventional medicine. For thousands of years, stones have been chosen for their symbolic or curative properties, although the term “lithotherapy” was coined in the twentieth century by Edgar Cayce, a clairvoyant whom many regard as one of the founders of the New Age movement. The debate as to how much scientific credence can be given to the healing power of stones continues, fuelled by recent research including studies by Robert Blanchard, author of La lithothérapie scientifique (2005). The principle is apparently simple: like all natural elements, stones are made up of atoms and electrons. By exchanging ions with neighbouring bodies, they produce certain effects.
For Alex Benlo, this neighbouring body is none other than our wrist – with the added benefit that lapis-lazuli, malachite, white or pink rutilated quartz, jade, tiger’s eye and moss agate are beautiful to behold. The brand’s Chinese customers have a particular fondness for milky jade while the Swiss, says Alexandra Loth, adore pink quartz. “We can associate each stone with a virtue or a type of behaviour,” she continues. “We’ve actually observed how individuals are instinctively drawn towards the stone that best defines them. For example, rutilated quartz appeals to creative people, lapis-lazuli appeals to the more charismatic among us and malachite is for those who are happiest when they have a project to develop. It’s actually been my favourite stone from being a young girl!”
High quality, low prices
Adding to the mystique, the translucent stone dials, such as quartz, light up at night. The “trick” is a Swiss SuperLuminova composite under the dial. “Alex Benlo is the only brand to propose ornamental stones that glow at night. We’ve developed a method that allows the luminescent substance to become sufficiently charged, despite the thickness of the stone. This phosphorescence brings out the texture and veins that make each stone unique.”
As a brand founded in Switzerland, and which fosters family values, Swiss-Made is high on the agenda. So as to offset the higher costs such a choice entails, Alex Benlo sells mainly through its website, along with pop-up stores and shop-in-shops. “Nor do we compromise on the quality of the stones,” insists Alexandra Loth. “Our next objective is to make other ornamental stones, and precious materials used in watches and jewellery, accessible to more people.” Whether for their beneficial properties or natural beauty, for Alex Benlo the world is stone.