BA111OD, from the idea of a business model to the creation of a brand
Neuchâtel, March 2022 – BA111OD is the high-performance start-up people are talking about, the brand that stands out in the traditional watchmaking landscape and that sells. At its head is Thomas Baillod, a vibrant entrepreneur from Neuchâtel, from the ranks of the elite, and who represents today’s world. On his own, without any investors, he created the BA111OD concept at the end of 2019 and sold his first watches immediately thereafter. As the world sank into a health crisis, sales only continued to grow. By the beginning of 2022, the concept had become a brand with exponential growth, with sales exceeding 2 million Swiss francs as of January. This success opens up promising avenues for tackling the crisis facing the watchmaking industry…
What is being done today to save the mid-range segment? We are witnessing the increasing consolidation of a few brands cornering a majority of the industry’s growth and directing it toward ultra-luxury. The pandemic has reinforced this trend, which could ultimately weaken the watchmaking sector, its jobs, and its expertise, like what happened during the quartz crisis. While he does not claim to be the only solution or to have a model applicable to all SMEs, the entrepreneur does develop certain ideas with powerful examples.
As a child, this native of La Chaux-de-Fonds, born in 1971, was confronted with the quartz crisis that hit the watchmaking metropolis particularly hard. After starting his professional career at Publicitas, the largest advertising agency in Switzerland and “a painful example of a company that did not know how to handle its digital transition,” Thomas Baillod spent nearly fifteen years working for independent watch brands. Through his international experiences, he came to realize that the current distribution model is weakening: “Most brands innovate their product while continuing to operate according to an antiquated model when it comes to marketing their watches – a model where customers are still considered ‘end consumers’ instead of being at the center. Brands do not know their customers and only engage with them through expensive marketing investments or paid ambassadors and influencers. In this model, customers turn to blogs for authentic information while official websites act as mere storefronts with photoshopped images. Above all, in this model, production costs represent only a small fraction of the watch’s price, while more than two-thirds of the price customers pay goes to financing the high distribution and marketing costs. Convinced that after marketing, the digital transformation will impact distribution, Thomas Baillod is looking for new ways to optimize the current model to breathe new life into the mid-range segment. His approach was rejected by the brands to which he proposed it, so he decided to put his ideas into practice himself.
Afluendors – “Share the passion”
In October 2019, he created a new watch concept, BA111OD, as a laboratory to test his innovative, customer-centric approach to distribution. Thanks to a revolutionary web app, the start-up has created a networked community of “Afluendors” (a contraction of “ambassadors, influencers, and vendors”), with whom it communicates on a daily basis. Everyone can express themselves through the platform, add content by posting photos and opinions on the watches, and network. After buying a BA111OD watch, Afluendors can also choose to recommend the brand to others and pass on the “right” to purchase available models, an option that comes with rewards.
The first Chapters
Launched consecutively on an experimental basis via the LinkedIn network since late 2019, Chapters 1 and 2 served as a crash test to verify Baillod’s approach. Impressive self-winding watches with a double oscillator that are designed and assembled in Switzerland but produced in Asia with reputable partners in the Swiss watch industry and sold for less than CHF 400! And it works. As the health crisis sweeps across Europe, as countries go into lockdown, and as sales plummet, Thomas Baillod’s gamble has paid off. The first year saw more than 1,500 watches sold, mostly in French-speaking Switzerland. He reached his first one million in sales within 18 months. In the meantime, he hired his first colleague, quickly followed by others. And he worked on developing Chapter 3, this time made in Switzerland. A self-winding model with an openworked dial and Geneva stripes decoration, priced at around CHF 500. It was met with immediate success. Above all, the ball was rolling. Thomas Baillod only wanted to prove his approach by launching a watch. Instead, he created a brand, supported by more and more Afluendors at his side, some of whom are from the watchmaking world themselves.
At first, his business model makes people chuckle. Then it makes them stop and think. It challenges the status quo. Some find it unsettling. But this insatiable entrepreneur doesn’t care. He steadfastly pursues his idea with a very clear plan in mind, offering this access to high-quality aesthetic timepieces.
…And then came Chapter 4, equipped with a tourbillon, entirely made in Switzerland
On the second anniversary of BA111OD, on 10/11/2021 at 11:10 am, Thomas Baillod surprised everyone by announcing the creation of Chapter 4.1, The Veblen Dilemma*: an individually numbered tourbillon, entirely designed and made in Switzerland, that echoes certain Haute Horlogerie codes, namely its Grade 5 titanium case with an anthracite DLC coating and its mechanical manually wound movement with a 105-hour power reserve (> 4 days). But the approach remains true to the brand’s strategy by limiting distribution costs: its tourbillon is offered through a subscription system to the first 50 purchasers at the insane launch price of less than CHF 4,000. Then it will be kept at less than CHF 5,000 ex tax, whereas this complication is generally available at ten times that price.
Although Chapter 4.1 will not be available until April 2022, convincing posts abound on LinkedIn. Thomas Baillod’s transparency is also compelling, whether in how he explains his business model, how his sales have developed, or how he showcases his subcontractors. Finally, the collaboration with the highly renowned watch designer Olivier Mory, who was responsible for creating the tourbillon – demonstrating in passing that it is possible to produce locally better, faster, and cheaper than elsewhere – as well as with artisans from the Jura Arc, consolidates the excellence of the project. The result? Better than expected sales! The first 50 pieces were sold in less than 24 hours, the 220 pieces of the first series in less than four months!
The resulting buzz earned Thomas Baillod numerous articles. Thus began the virtuous circle. Sales grew, providing BA111OD with a clear success as the start-up doubled its first one million in six months and exceeded a turnover of two million Swiss francs in January 2022.
And the story doesn’t end here: The upcoming Chapter 4.1 tourbillon has yet to reveal all its secrets. A WORLD PREMIERE has even been announced on the subject…