Something I’ve observed over the last few years is that watches as a hobby have grown to a point where you could make an argument that they’re really no longer a niche any longer. It used to be that watch collecting was thought of as strange, or misunderstood, but we are so many steps beyond that point that there are experienced collectors in the hobby who don’t even remember it. That means that the landscape is increasingly competitive, and brands need to work harder and harder to set themselves apart from the pack. Increasingly, we see brands incorporating unique experiences into the watch purchasing process, and a new brand with roots in French watch media, Balmont, has taken this to an unexpected new level.
Balmont is the product of a collaboration between a group of watch industry veterans based in France, including Benjamin Chamfeuil, founder of the watch brand Vasco, and Ludovic Barrois, who is behind Le Petit Poussoir, a leading French language watch blog. At first glance, the initial collection from the brand, the BDX series, would appear to be a fairly standard issue sports watch. They are nice looking in a kind of classic way, with clean dials in white, gray, silver and black, and a 40mm stainless steel case. There are small premium details here and there that underscore the pedigree of the people behind the brand – they know what enthusiasts will appreciate. The white dial, for example, has a ceramic coating, and hand applied indices have been physically riveted to the dials. These are watches that give off a vibe of elegance but have hearty specs, with 200 meters of water resistance and thick applications of BGW9 lume. They run on the automatic Soprod P024 caliber.
So what sets them apart? Well, it can really only be described as a worldwide treasure hunt. Each year, Balmont plans to bury (or submerge) an airtight capsule containing a single unique version of one of their watches. Each purchased watch contains a “mission briefing” that will lead the adventurous to the hidden watch, and the capsules will also contain information for contacting the brand so that the story of the “mission” can be shared.
A cynic might ask: who will travel the world for a crack at a Balmont? Well, the brand is hoping to reach an audience of adventurous watch lovers who would be willing to do such a thing. Balmont is hoping that the stories that will be almost immediately tied to these watches will become just as important and desirable as the watches themselves. On that front, they’re clearly on to something, as it’s self-evident that brands need to deliver more than just solid watches to maintain a level of success in a crowded market.
The first Balmont collection is available for pre-order right now. The retail price is $721, but they’re available at a discount during the pre-order period. Balmont