by: Laurie Kahle
What if your watch could change up its look as easily as you change your clothes? That’s the idea behind Hegid’s EVOL system that allows wearers to pair various case styles and straps with a central capsule housing the movement and dial.
The French boutique brand made its U.S. debut last month at Manfredi Jewels in Greenwich, Conn. In June, Hegid scored a coveted place in Paris’ beloved department store La Samaritaine after it reopened after a 16-year, US$894 million refurbishment.
Hegid’s co-founder Henrick Gauche, 43, became fascinated with mechanical watches when he was working at the Louis Vuitton boutique in Deauville, France. After the brand launched its Tambour watch, he was sent to the watchmaking facility in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, for training in 2006.
“I just discovered this small engine, and it was really a revelation,” Gauche says on a conference call with his partner, Hegid CMO Emeric Delalandre. “Then I spent my free time studying it.”
A few years later, he took a position at Godechot-Pauliet, a luxury jeweler and watch dealer in Deauville, followed by a move to their Paris flagship in 2013.
As a hobby, Gauche would purchase watches on eBay, dismantle them, and reassemble his own creations by mixing and matching the various elements. “I had the knowledge and the tools to make my own watch,” he says. “But I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if everybody could do that, without any tools or any knowledge.”
Gauche, his brother Gregory, and Delalandre started working on Hegid in 2015 and unveiled their first watch three years later. The brand’s proprietary EVOL system allows customers to choose their favorite elements to build their own creations.
The beating heart of a Hegid watch is the capsule, equipped with the movement and a choice of five dial designs priced at US$3,000 and US$3,250. Then, pair the capsule with at least one of three “carrures,” or outer cases, that give the watch its identity—from sporty to dressy.
The outer cases range in price from US$320 to US$500. And lastly, pick from 12 different straps ranging in price from US$60 to US$250 to finish the look. A complete watch runs about US$3,500 to US$4,000. Hegid also offers a Royaume wardrobe set with one capsule, three outer cases, and three straps priced from US$4,780 to US$4,950.
In total, there are currently more than 400 different combinations, which not only allow wearers to create a personalized design but also let them change up that design on a whim by switching the elements.
“I represent the new generation of watch clients who are younger, ages 30 to 40,” says Delalandre, 28, who underscores Hegid’s bridge between fashion and high-end watches. “This generation doesn’t want the same watch as their parents or their boss. They want something different. We want to bring some French liberté to this very old-fashioned, high-end Swiss watchmaking world.”
To reach this younger, design-driven audience, Hegid enlisted the help of Jerôme Coste, a veteran luxury accessories designer and consultant, who serves as art director for the brand. He tapped his friend, the well-known French fashion photographer Arno Bani to shoot the brand’s images, capturing a clean, cool aesthetic.
When it came to the movement, Gauche turned to Swiss specialist Sellita to produce a special Hegid version of its workhorse SW200. For example, Gauche switched out the hairspring, and other parts to upgrade the standard caliber for optimal durability and reliability.
“I am very fond of brands like Rolex and Omega because they do very simple watches made to last more than a lifetime,” he says, noting that was his goal for Hegid. “It’s not high end in the sense of complications and precious materials.”
However, the quality shows when it comes to the finishing and details. Hegid uses durable 316L steel for the capsules and outer cases. While this super-tough steel alloy is more challenging to finish in satin or mirror polish, it holds sharp, clean lines and edges and offers superb scratch resistance.
The cases and capsules are produced and hand-finished in France, as are the Grade 5 titanium locking rings of the EVOL system and the straps, while the dials and movements are sourced in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, not far from the French border.
“Ninety-nine percent of the watch is made in a circle of 80 kilometers around Morteau, France, a small town close to the Swiss border,” Gauche says. “This is the center of watchmaking history in France.”