Every morning, we get these push notifications from social media - this person has requested or accepted a LinkedIn connection, that person has endorsed you, there is a new comment on your post, and you have new followers on Twitter. Going through the first run of emails for the day, I usually brush by these quickly. But today, a name caught my eye. I have a new Twitter follower who is the founder and CEO of one of the world's most interesting companies, and one that I especially admire.
In 1988, Peter Stas and his wife Aletta Bax launched the Swiss watchmaking firm of Frederique Constant. Their vision was simple and brilliant: craft beautiful, elegant watches that would be useful works of art, and accessible to more people than the already existing high-end timepieces for which Switzerland had long been known.
If you are fortunate enough to have artwork in your home that you love - paintings, drawings, sculpture, beautiful rugs, china, or pottery - I hope you enjoy each piece nearly every time you pass it, or sit near it. And if you have easy access to a great museum, or gallery, you can visit to enjoy whatever is on display, sometimes created by the most talented of artists in history, or perhaps in your region of the world. But what about the rest of your time? Are you in touch with beauty in an ongoing way? I've come to believe quite firmly that there is a deep aesthetic dimension to our experience of the world, every day, and that we need frequent contact with beauty, in many of its various forms, in order to be our best, feel our best, and flourish in the most complete ways.
A beautiful watch is a small work of art, inside and out, that can go with you nearly everywhere, available throughout the day to add just a spark of the aesthetic to your experience. But the most beautiful watches, for the past half century, have become exorbitantly expensive, and have, in many circles, turned into rare luxuries whose value has subtly shifted, from intrinsically valuable works of art, to often primarily social signifiers - signs that set their wearers apart as members of the cultural elite, the "one percenters" with power, money, and status. Too many people who purchase such amazing, small handmade machines of intricate elegance that sit on the wrist and provide some of the most important information we can gain, do so these days primarily for show, to prove something, to indicate their level of financial attainment and membership in a rarified club of peers. Luxury, in step with this, has become almost synonymous with inaccessibility, the unaffordable and out of reach for the majority of people who could genuinely enjoy that experience of using the goods and services typically thought of as luxuries.
Peter rightly saw that this has gotten all out of joint. Luxury, at its heart, is meant to be primarily about ease and enjoyment, not social display and status achievement. So he and Aletta set out to create beautiful watches, useful works of art that could travel with you throughout your day, and be accessible luxuries, valued primarily for their mastery of craftsmanship and aesthetic qualities, not simply for their brand symbolism, flash, or bling. But of course, beauty has its own flash and bling. And now their brand, Frederique Constant, has become known for its purity of concern with luxury in its original sense, providing ease and enjoyment, which, of course, for most of us must involve reliability, something else they view as of peak importance. They significantly underprice their competition, not by cutting corners on quality, but by focusing on what really matters, and on what they most want to accomplish. And they provide beauty to more of the world, as a result.
Welcome to my little philosophy family, Peter! You believe in the right things!
You can follow Peter on Twitter, where he exists as @pcstas.