Let It Be: Raymond Weil CEO Elie Bernheim on Their Latest Beatles Watch - Oracle Time
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Let It Be: Raymond Weil CEO Elie Bernheim on Their Latest Beatles Watch

Raymond Weil Elie Bernheim

The Beatles are, without hyperbole, the most important band in history. Their body of work is as impressive today as it was when crowds nearly brought San Francisco’s Candlestick Park to ruins with sheer sound. Needless to say, any association with the Fab Four is worth talking about.

So how did this happen? How did the relatively low-key, albeit musically-inclined watchmaker land one of the biggest musical properties in history? We caught up with CEO Elie Bernheim to find out.

Raymond Weil Maestro Beatles Limited Edition 2016

Raymond Weil Maestro ‘Beatles 1’ Limited Edition (£995)

“It started from one guy to another guy! It began with Craig Leach (Raymond Weil UK Brand Manager) having dinner with the Managing Director of Apple Corps (the multimedia company founded by members of the Beatles). They had a chat about our position in the market, other things that we’d done in the music world and the conversation just went from there. “They liked the fact that we’re a family business, an independent company that I’m the third generation at its head. We’re also at a good price point for what they wanted: we’re not a niche brand and we’re not cheap and mass-produced. Then, perhaps most importantly there’s the human connection. We just clicked!”

That click was properly noticeable in the initial Raymond Weil collaborative timepiece with the first Maestro Beatles limited edition in 2016, which paid homage to the many studio albums the band put out. It was still a surprisingly elegant timepiece – despite the band’s ‘Help’ silhouette at five o’clock. It was a big move for Raymond Weil and one that would test the nerves of any watchmaker. So was Bernheim nervous?

Raymond Weil Maestro Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club
Raymond Weil Maestro Abbey Road

From left to right: Raymond Weil Maestro ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (£1,195) & ‘Abbey Road’ Limited Edition (£995)

“All the time! It doesn’t matter whether it’s a Beatles watch or a new Raymond Weil timepiece, I always feel like that when we launch something. You just never know for sure how it will be received. Sometimes you feel like it’s going to do well and then little things – the hands, the price, the case materials – tips things in another different direction.”

Nerves or not, the partnership’s evidently gone well. Since that first limited edition, Raymond Weil has produced three more equally distinctive timepieces, all of which encompass various aspects of the Beatle’s iconography and back catalogue. With Abbey Road and Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band editions now sold out, the newest version is dedicated to Let It Be.

Raymond Weil Maestro The Beatles Let It Be Limited Edition

Raymond Weil Maestro Beatles IV ‘Let It Be’ Limited Edition (£1,750)

The big question, looking at the quartet of limited editions together, is how does one decide what goes into a watch like this and what doesn’t? There are so many logos, symbols, various bits of Beatles mythology that could be mixed in, it’s almost overwhelming.

“It’s always a question of finding the right balance,” explains Bernheim. “We want these watches to appeal to both Beatles fans and watch fans. It’s not just these of course, it’s the same with AC/DC, David Bowie or Frank Sinatra. It needs to be something highly original but not too much.”

Raymond Weil Maestro The Beatles Let It Be Limited Edition caseback

If that sounds a touch restrictive, it can be. As he says, “It has happened – not with the Beatles watches but it has happened – that we’ve held ourselves back a bit too much and the end consumer didn’t get the watch they were hoping for. It just means we know better for next time.”

Well, this is the next time and the Let It Be edition is a big change from the previous trio. They maintained a sleek, dressy appearance from afar, only revealing the band-centric details much closer up, whereas there’s something eye-catching about the new watch from the get-go.

As he puts it, “there’s a more horological aspect to the new watch, with the open aperture the shape of the UK and the fact that it’s a skeleton piece.”

Raymond Weil Maestro The Beatles Let It Be Limited Edition

The aperture is more like a balloon animal version of the UK, but the contrast between the inner workings of the work with all its brass and silver and the anthracite dial makes for a very distinctive look. Otherwise, the only obvious touches are the Beatles band logo on the left side of the dial and the quartet of indexes marking four o’clock, one for each member. Indeed, while it’s more striking from afar, up close it feels slightly less on-the-nose than previous musical limited editions.

As with the previous pieces, the Let It Be is a limited edition of 3,000, enough that most die-hard fans have a decent chance of getting one for themselves but not enough to devalue its exclusivity. And value it has, given that the automatic timepiece has a price tag of £1,750. Not a bad coda to a quartet of timepieces in honour of the greatest band in history.

More details at Raymond-Weil.

About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.

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