A tiny Australian-based watch design company with a Swiss heart is about to step into the big time with a new product line and a swag of high-profile sporting endorsements.
And big is the right word for it, with Bausele announcing its latest release will be worn on the wrists of giant Australian basketballer Andrew Bogut – Australia's highest-profile player in the US-based NBA – and Jenna O'Hea, a star of the WNBA.
Bogut was recently named Australia's highest-paid sports star and Bausele owner Christophe Hoppe, a Swiss-raised Frenchman who now calls Sydney home, says the Melbourne-raised basketball player could easily have splashed out on a vastly more expensive Swiss timepiece.
“It's a pretty big thing that he decided to support my little brand,” Hoppe says.
The company has also formed a licensee arrangement with the ICC World Cup of cricket to be played in Australia next year, and will produce a special commemorative model for the tournament.
The high-profile moves come as Bausele prepares to launch its second model line, a sporty design offered with the company's first automatic movements.
Bausele was first profiled 12 months ago by Executive Style as the company that put a small piece of Australia – sand, red dust or coal – into the transparent crown of each of its watches, creating a strong selling point to both tourists and Aussie expats. So much so, that the company now supplies watches for Tourism Australia to use as part of its international marketing efforts.
Hoppe has spent the past year making plans and finalising designs for the new automatic – or self-winding – line of watches, featuring a choice of high-quality Swiss or more affordable Japanese movements.
- Bausele watches are available to buy from the SMH Shop
The Pilot Automatic line will go on sale in April from $888 and marks the arrival of Bausele as a serious player, yet still offering niche appeal courtesy of several design quirks.
With the aviation theme firmly in mind, Hoppe has delved into history and designed a face on which the 12 o'clock marker is oriented to the traditional 2 o'clock position. This means that if the wearer is flying a plane – or driving, or even typing or fixing something – they can read the time accurately without needing to move their arm.
It's a design first used by Swiss brand Vacheron Constantin in the 1920s, and later reprised by Longines in the 1950s and 60s.
“I didn't invent anything, I just took that approach and made it a bit edgy and a bit different,” Hoppe says.
“It's good for driving, at first you are not sure which way to look but quickly you learn you can just look straight in front of you while driving. Once you have worn it for about two hours you wonder why more watches are not like it.”
He says the Pilot Automatic is “half the price of the competition” with a design that includes a matte black ceramic case, crystal face, quality band and choice of movements.
“That's the approach I took to give something to the customer that looks way more expensive.”
Hoppe's design for the Pilot Automatic still leverages the unique transparent crown but adds more local inspiration – the dial design contains a nod to the geometry of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, while the second hand is reminiscent of Centrepoint tower. Three of the four colour schemes to be offered are sourced from a uniquely Australian palette and with Hoppe being an adopted Bondi local, that includes a model with red and yellow highlights, inspired by Aussie lifesavers.
In spite of Bausele's rapid upscaling plans, Hoppe still works full-time as the finance director for a clothing company but believes that will soon change – due in part to the sponsorships he has secured for the brand. Other sporting ambassadors include surfer Ace Buchan, who won the Billabong Pro tour event in Tahiti last year, plus cyclist Rachel Neylan and yachtsman Julien Villon.
Bausele is also the official watch partner of Yachting Australia. “They could have chosen another brand and got money out of that deal, but no, they chose Bausele because we are local, they like the idea, and we have a good connection with yachting already,” Hoppe says.
The exposure deals will help to beef up growing sales in Australia, mainly from the company's website. The brand has also found a strong following in Indonesia where 15 retailers stock it, plus Hoppe and business partner Dominique Portier currently have a single stockist in Los Angeles.
A memorandum to bring new investors on board is due soon, which Hoppe hopes will take the brand to the next stage of development.
Bausele watches are available to buy from the SMH Shop.