Raymond Weil: Businessman who founded a company which went on to become a world leader in the luxury watch industry

 

Raymond Weil was the founder in 1976 of Raymond Weil Genève, the maker of Swiss luxury watches. "Watchmaking is a great activity in which you can immerse yourself and rejoice," he said. "You think of new models and new exhibitions every day."

He was born in Geneva in 1926 and grew up in Paris, Salon-de-Provence and Nice. On graduating from Geneva's business school, he started work with an insurance company but met his school friend Maurice Stroun, who encouraged him to join his father's firm, Camy Watch SA, in 1949. "Even when I was just a teenager, I seldom walked past a watch shop without taking a close interest in it," he recalled.

Weil worked there for 27 years in a variety of roles, latterly leading the company. During the mid-1970s, the Swiss watchmaking industry was hit by the "Quartz crisis". The advent of simple and inexpensive electronic watch movements, using a quartz crystal to provide accurate time, meant watches were available and affordable to everyone. Faced with low-cost imports, Swiss manufacturers had the choice to either convert to selling electronic models or to continue making watches in the traditional way, with a mechanical movement. Weil chose the latter route, although he did later make concessions to the newer technology.

He founded his company at the height of the crisis, in 1976. His aim was to create watches as an affordable luxury accessory, maintaining the quality of manufacturing and service for which Swiss makers were already known. Initially called Dinita (a contraction of the names of his two daughters, Diana and Anita), following a suggestion from a Saudi client he changed the company name to Raymond Weil Genève.

The company created an international network of distributors, reaching out to markets such as the Middle East and, more recently, China. The company now sells 200,000 watches a year, at an average price of £1,000.

While other makes have been absorbed into larger groups, his company remained an independent family business, run by three generations of the Weils and Bernheims. The chief executive, Olivier Bernheim, who joined in 1982, is married to Weil's eldest daughter, the pianist Diana. Bernheim said working with his father-in-law had been relatively easy: "The only two times we had lively discussions were when I had wanted to install a computer in his office in 1984 – and when I had spent a bit of money to advertise in a newspaper."

Flying was a passion for Weil. Inspired by his friend Pierre Bergerat, he took it up in the same year he founded his company. He has passed this enthusiasm on to his grandson Pierre, who is now a keen stunt and seaplane pilot.

Weil was also active as the president of the Geneva Watchmaker's Union, vice-president of the Watchmaking Industry Training Centre (CFH), and as a member of the Fédération de l'Horlogerie (Watchmaking Federation). In the UK, the company sponsored the Brit awards and produced a special watch edition for the Brit winners, including, for last year's awards ceremony, a design by Damien Hirst.

MARCUS WILLIAMSON

Raymond Weil, businessman: born Geneva 10 October 1926; married 1952 Eliane Bloch (two daughters); died Geneva 26 January 2014.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all