Inspired by Australia’s beaches, French watch designer Christophe Hoppe decided to create a brand that epitomises the beauty of the country.
Founded in 2011, Bausele – Beyond AUStralian ELEments – is the only premium watch to be designed in Australia and made in Switzerland. Designed by founder Christophe Hoppe, every watch contains a small sample of Australia – beach sand, red earth and coal – in its crown.
After moving to Australia to be with his wife, Hoppe wanted to develop his own brand based on an original concept. Having worked in the Swiss watch industry for 10 years, Hoppe pursued his creative passion through Bausele while maintaining a full-time job as Director of Finance at clothing brand Hurley.
We spoke to Hoppe about his experience in creating a brand and balancing priorities in business.
What has been the biggest challenge in setting up the company?
Bausele is not the first company I have set up; however it is the first time I have had a full time job while doing so. Combining the two with a family life can be a challenge sometimes but nothing is impossible and there is always a solution to every problem.
How have you managed to balance your time between full time work at Hurley and the setting up of Bausele?
I wake up very early to reply to emails, before going for a run to get my energy for the day working at Hurley. I come home every evening to spend some time with my two kids. I always put them in bed every night without fail; it is the most important part of the day for me! After putting the children to sleep I cook and eat with my wife Alex before returning to my desk to start to work on Bausele again. I only do the administrative aspect during that time. The creativity with marketing and brand design is non-stop – while driving, on the bus, eating lunch, at the beach, or running.
You worked in the Swiss watch industry for 10 years – what was your role in those companies?
After working as an auditor and consultant for PWC in Luxembourg and Switzerland, I took my first job in the profession as Group CFO for TechnoMarine based in Geneva – Switzerland. It was a great learning experience to be 28 and the second in charge to Frank Dubarry, the sole owner and founder of the brand. It was certainly a big step that allowed me to be involved in much more beyond accounting and opened my eyes to the watch making industry in Switzerland and Asia.
I then started my own company in Hong Kong and Switzerland manufacturing watch components for customers in Switzerland. Alexandra, my wife was a professional contemporary dancer in Basel, Switzerland and it wasn’t easy to live apart. I decided to sell my 50% of shares in the successful company and move back to Switzerland where I took the position of CFO for Universo, a company of the Swatch Group which employs 500 people manufacturing watches in various locations in Switzerland and abroad.
What key points have you taken from your experience in that industry that you’ve applied to Bausele?
The Swatch Group were so well organised and I have learnt how a company of that size should be organised financially. It works just like a Swiss clock. I also had the amazing opportunity to enrol into a class where I learnt more about the intricate process of making watches.
You funded the business privately – how did you achieve this?
At the beginning of 2010 Bausele was just a project. I started by designing and producing a sample of each of the existing collection, and showing these to retailers and potential partners. We secured half of the initial investment by having a retailer buying watches in advance and my business partner Dominique brought the other half. He brought more than cash to Bausele, however. He is a successful entrepreneur who has the experience of building successful businesses and he looks after the online and corporate side of the business.
What were the risks involved?
The risk is very limited. Apart from the initial investment that paid for the first watches, we are only spending the revenue of the watches we are selling. Each dollar is re-invested in something to develop the brand.
Where do you hope the business will be in 5 years time?
Bausele has the potential to become a broader Australian luxury brand. We will introduce new watches and the brand will then expand into sunglasses. We already are developing a different approach around the unique concept of Bausele to capture elements of Australia.
The corporate side of the business is growing more important for Bausele. We are working with different companies that would like to create their own watches as corporate gifts for special events or to be sold as additional products that tell the company story.
We have also started to work on geographical expansion. Thanks to our logistics platform in Hong Kong, we can deliver to anywhere in the world within 5-7 days. We already have a distributor in Russia and the website has been translated into French, with Brazilian, Indian and Chinese versions on the way. And of course, the US is a market we are focusing on more as well.
We have so many ideas for potential developments. The main focus now is to get the right partner to go for all these opportunities!
Do you have any advice for people looking to set up a business in addition to working in a full-time job?
I chose to be transparent from the beginning, which was an obvious decision to me but I quickly realised the importance of having an understanding boss. Jason, my boss at Hurley is an intelligent man that understands my situation and values my entrepreneurial spirit.
Stay focused on your objectives. Anticipate challenges on every level of your life so there are very little surprises. On top of your day-to-day duties, plant a seed and hope it becomes a nice and healthy plant down the track. It is important to do something every day to keep the brand/company moving forward. Similarly with all actions taken to get the brand progressing, some investments don’t bring any return and some may take six months to provide the return.
Remember to have patience everything in business takes longer than expected. And last but not least, have a very supporting wife or partner!