In Style + Design

The Australian Brand Redefining Luxury Watches

Born in France, raised in Saudi Arabia and Switzerland and now a Sydneysider, Christophe Hoppe is determined to carve out a luxury Swisse watch industry in Australia with Bausele.

“I just love Australia,” says  Hoppe in a thick French accent.  “It’s the beauty of the country. Everybody in the world dreams about Australia.”

It’s a meritable claim from the man credited with starting Australia’s home-grown premium watch industry – an industry that’s now burgeoning into a serious force on the global stage.

“You can find anything around us that people around the world would dream of. That’s what I want sell, even the dirt…the red dirt, people go crazy for it.”

From souk to Swiss

Horology has fascinated mankind for many a year and in Hoppe, it seems a little more than most. He says he had an affinity for watches from a young age.

“I just love watches, I don’t know why. When I was 12 years old, my parents lost me in a souk in Riyadh [Saudi Arabia, where they were living] and when they found me, I was building a watch.”

While it took some time for him to eventually make his way into the watch industry as a professional, which included  “sending a lot of resumes to watch company CEOs whilst working as an auditor for PriceWaterhouse Coopers.”

But once there, it was clear he’d found his niche.

“I got a job at TechnoMarine and suddenly I was the youngest CFO in the watch industry at the age of 28. When the owner sold the company, I started my own watchmaking company with a business partner – we had offices in Switzerland and Hong Kong and were pretty serious. We made good money in the first year but I was living in Hong Kong to make it work and was just not enjoying it enough, especially as my partner was back in Switzerland.”

So back to the Swiss enclave Hoppe went, landed a gig at Universo (part of the Swatch Group) and continued his journey around the grand old clock face of life unabated.

“That’s where my knowledge of the industry really moved to another level. It was amazing, we were number one in world, you felt as though you knew everything that’s in the industry – all the brands come to you to buy the components, I loved it.”

Hoppe, skip and a jump

Hoppe  in front of the Opera House. Photo: Giles Park

But at the behest of his Aussie wife who yearned for home, in 2010 Hoppe left his life of relative luxury to move across the world to Australia.

“We had it all in Switzerland. A 1979 Porsche Targa in the garage, a flat next to the lake, a big office, a secretary… I was working for the number one watch manufacturer in the world. But we decided to make a clean break and moved to Australia.

“The first two years, I looked back every day… I couldn’t get job, I missed my family, I thought ‘what am I doing?’ and then boom – I found my place. And now, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I would rather be. I love it.”

Beyond Australian Elements

The Scott Marsh Bausele Photo: Supplied

You can take the watchmaker out of Switzerland, but you can’t take Switzerland out of the watchmaker; and so it was that a man so in tune with the highly revered Swiss watchmaking industry, now finding himself transplanted in Sydney, came to start the first premium Australian watch brand to feature Swiss precision.

“You always create something when you’re in the shit,” says Hoppe.

“It’s very rare you do something amazing when everything is good. When we first moved to Australia, I was looking for a job for seven months and I got impatient, so I put a business name down, started creating samples back in Switzerland with all my connections there, and suddenly I had my first order in 2011.”

And that’s how the Swiss-sounding but very-Aussie Bausele watch company was born. The name is actually a loose acronym for “beyond Australian elements” and Hoppe says it was everything about Australia that inspired him.

“The landscape, the lifestyle, the traditions,” he says.

His Bausele watches are known for their distinctive, hollow oversized crown, that contains a tiny piece of Australiana – some contain red earth from the Kimberley, some have grains of sand from Bondi Beach, some even feature coal from Newcastle.

An Aussie icon

“I put sand in the watch and people are like ‘oh wow!’ – and to me, it’s just sand…but it gives that extra emotional element, it’s exceptional. We also have a watch that has a piece of ceramic tile from the Sydney Opera House in the crown, so you keep a bit of the Opera House with you wherever you go. I couldn’t think of a more iconic place in Australia.”

Hoppe says that collaboration has been the proudest moment of his Bausele journey so far.

“It’s all about building a brand that I can be proud of. We used to have Oroton in Australia and that’s sort of what I want Bausele to be – a luxury Australian brand, a household name, that we all can be very proud of. I know it’s a big goal – and it might, no it probably will take 10 years or more, but I’m not in it for a quick buck. I don’t want to compromise along the way for the quick money, for me it’s about quality and doing it locally.”

Dominic Purcell wearing an Ocean Moon Cave Black Photo: Supplied

Some of the most sought after watches in the Bausele collection are the Terra Australis – a favourite of Bausele’s global ambassador Dominic Purcell (of Prison Break fame) – which is fully customisable and retails at $4850; the aforementioned and considerably cheaper Sydney Opera House range ($595); and the quirky Driver Automatic range ($1290).

And then there’s the latest collection, the Noosa collaboration with Australia’s infamous graffiti artist Scottie Marsh (of the Kanye Kissing Kanye mural). The watch features a 3D-printed painting on the face.

The crushed gravel in crown comes “Straight from the railyards Marsh used to frequent in his wild youth, when he was tagging trains”, says Hoppe.

And the Swiss element (apart from Hoppe) in all these Australian inspired timepieces? It’s the ultra-precise Swiss mechanisms inside the watches that are protected by unscratchable sapphire crystal and surgical-grade stainless steel. Married, of course, with that unique hollow crown containing a piece of our beautiful country.

“I am not here for nothing,” says Hoppe. “I am here because I love Australia and I want to sell that to the world through the watches.”

Published 17 April, 2018