In the South, Grupo Aiôn wants to revive the watchmaking industry

From perfumes to leather goods and fashion, France occupies a place of choice in the world of luxury. However, when making the call, one segment escapes us: that of watchmaking. Even in Franche-Comté, still considered the historic territory of this activity. “Today, the supply for designing watches is carried out in Switzerland or Asia.“explains Céline Guth. The leader is the deputy general manager of Grupo Aiôn, a company founded less than a year ago to “recreate the French manufacturing industry” in this market. An ambition that is materialized in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, more precisely in La Ciotat.

Franche-Comté: know-how in watchmaking mechanics recognized by UNESCO

It all starts with the meeting of the four founders, Céline Guth, Olmpiu Salcou, Hubert Patural and Anthony Simão. It is the latter, a trained watchmaker, who wants to offer blue, white and red watches. Because today, made in France means that the assembly takes place in France. It was therefore necessary to remedy the lack of production of the parts. “We had the opportunity to buy a Swiss manufacture“, says Céline Guth. There are 410 machines to allow the manufacture of movements, the parts that serve as the “engine” for the operation of the watch, part of which will pass to La Ciotat. Some elements such as the hands will not be designed in Provence, but “we go through French suppliers” assures the general manager who promises watches at least 98% tricolor. The precious stones and gold necessarily come from abroad.

Workforce and customer experience

The choice to disembark in the South region may come as a surprise. However, it meets two very specific criteria. what of “job volatility“First, as Céline Guth explains.”The Besançon watchmaking school is the most famous, but graduates often go to work in Switzerland.“, he explains. In addition to the living environment that plays its role in recruitment, the Aiôn Group has already approached the Marseille Leonard de Vinci school, which has training in the area.”The principal told us that students often reoriented themselves due to lack of exits“, adds Celine Guth.

The choice of La Ciotat is also based on a commercial argument. “We offer luxury watches, we wanted to get closer French Riviera-based clientele“, advances the leader. The idea is, for example, to propose to a customer who comes to pick up his watch to take it to the creeks on a yacht for the day and then give him his purchase. Faced with this type of approach, the group’s future building has already obtained authorization to build a heliport. A 10,000m2 remote project in the Athelia 5 business area that is not expected to come to fruition until 2025-2026.

For the time being, Grupo Aiôn occupies a temporary space of 2,500 m2. “VSit was not easy to find because our production machines weigh 1000 kilos per square meter“, says Céline Guth. The movement of about sixty of these tools is planned for the summer with commissioning for the beginning of the school year for a manufacturing capacity of 50,000 movements or watches per year. its first operators since the end of last year. In September, production will begin for the group’s two brands: Hegid, positioned in lifestyle with a customizable frame whose boxes will be displayed in a range of 3,000 to 5,000 euros, and Lornet , Anthony Simão’s fine watchmaking brand with prices starting at 25,000 euros. euros Watchmaker Pierre Larnier, which has also moved its production to Alsace, is positioning itself in a lower price range.

Pierre Lannier attends the transfer of production to Alsace

Watchmaking and other industries

However, the Aiôn Group also intends to assume the role of service provider for other watch brands. If the name of the company contains the word “group” it is because it is actually a holding company made up of seven subsidiaries. It contains all the stages of the commercial life of a watch: design office, manufacturing, services (after-sales services, assembly, decoration, etc.), the two brands, marketing and Swiss production. “Part of the machines will not be transferred to the South region to allow us to offer Swiss Made“, explains Céline Guth.

Among the development projects, the purchase of other brands is under analysis. A network of stores must also be opened. Commercialization will take place internationally, in Europe, the United States and the Middle East as a priority. In the long term, the leader also plans to approach other types of industry using micromechanical machines. “But our priority is watchmaking first“, she insists, however. Projects that should be financed with an IPO in early 2024. A way to also give credibility to the brand against competitors that may have a much longer existence.