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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not Yet Seen in the US… Caran d’Ache Introduces Two New Amazing Pens in Its 1010 Collection in Basel, Switzerland

While at the recent BaselWorld watch and jewelry show in Basel, Switzerland, I attended a variety of really enjoyable evening events hosted by the watch brands, which offered a welcome change from my heavy schedule of meetings during the day. They usually involved wonderful food, entertainment of some sort, and my personal favorite, an opportunity to talk with people I rarely see. One such event (though hosted by a pen company) was Caran d’Ache’s soiree (held March 19), intended to introduce some amazing new writing instruments. It was held on the thirtieth floor of the Ramada Inn, adjacent to the official trade show space. After a little while I figured out how to get there on an elevator that seemed to go no higher than “9.” Lucky for me, I rode it with a Swiss comedian (I had no prior evidence there was such a thing, and I’m still not sure, though I once met a Swiss mime), who really made the time fly (I’m really still not sure). My feeling is if I’m alone in a strange city in an enclosed space with someone who says he’s a comedian, the only proper thing to do is be amused. Besides, my mind was on Caran d’Ache and the party, which I was then a few minutes late for. The comedian went elsewhere.

Aside from the fact that the company offers some wonderful pens, I must admit that the Switzerland-based Caran d’Ache has—and always has had, for as long as I can remember—one of the most cordial executive teams I have ever met. I was greeted by a few members, then made my way to the back of the long and narrow room where both the champagne bar and a few heavily veiled showcases stood. My hosts included a real hero of mine: Mr. Jacques Hubscher, President. I’ve known him for at least twenty years, and he remains as vital and interesting—and interested—as ever. His charisma stems in part from his obvious intelligence as well as his absolute engagement in any conversation he is having. He moves fluidly between languages, and maintains a quiet, humble and focused demeanor. A real charmer in my book. Also present were CEO Philippe de Korodi and Urs Messerli, International Duty Free Manager /Export Manager Americas. They, too, carry the Caran d’Ache message with great style and aplomb. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. de Korodi last year, and he is thoughtful and smart. Mr. Messerli, with whom I work most frequently, is approachable and very insightful.

At precisely the appointed time, the veils were lifted from the showcases, and the newest novelties were revealed. The ones that immediately caught my eye were the new one-of-a-kind 1010 Diamonds and the 1010 Chrono Sport. The former is made of white gold and is set with 850 diamonds. Like its predecessor, it recalls fine watchmaking in its design and sparkles like there's no tomorrow. In the words of the company, “The sophisticated cap is created by a unique process of hammering and mounting that recalls the gear teeth theme of the 1010 Collection. Its 26 lines of 22 baguette-cut diamonds are set individually in the purest traditions of the craft. As a touch of supreme refinement, alternate lines are inversed to reveal the “culasse” (the base of the diamond) which is specially cut to give the stones a wonderful sparkle. Each line of baguettes is given its own dimensions, making a total of 44 different cuts.

“The diamond-encrusted cap is crowned with the Caran d’Ache monogram and its clip, in the form of a watch hand, is set with a glittering brilliant. At the other end, an oscillating weight, a marvel of precision, is paved with diamonds. The body of the pen comprises two cages created in the purest spirit of jewelry. The bridges of the exterior cage are inspired by the gear train of a watch and are set with 150 emerald-cut diamonds. The interior cage, entirely in white gold, evokes the wheels of time. Lastly, the ring explodes with a brilliance that competes with any jewellery. Its 96 white baguettes are punctuated by black diamonds that indicate the quarters on the dial of a clock.” No one there even ventured a guess at its price.

The other pen from the 1010 Series, the 1010 Chrono Sport, was equally impressive and very clever, but obviously in a, well, sporty way. I really liked it. Again in Caran d’Ache’s words: “With an astonishing interplay of depth and volume, the two cages that constitute the body of the 1010 Chrono Sport evoke the wheels and gear trains in the movement of a watch. On the skeleton fuselage, three delicate engravings suggest the counters and the decoration of the bridges, while the black inner chassis depicts the gear train of a high-performance chronograph, with one wheel meticulously hand-painted in red. The ring, like the bezel of a watch, carries luminescent hour markers visible in the darkest of nights. The cap, coated with velvety black lacquer, is fluted like a watch crown, giving the impression of a streamlined racing body. The clip, in the form of a watch hand, is topped by a sparkling ruby. The fountain pen, set with a ruby, has a piston pump finished in black, soft-touch matte lacquer. The nib, in 18-karat rhodium-coated gold, is polished by hand and offers a supple and unmatched level of writing precision that testifies to the expertise of Caran d’Ache craftsmen.” No price has yet been established.

After a second glass of champagne and some wonderful food, I hopped on a tram to the apartment that I called home for the week, feeling fortunate that I’d experienced such an evening.

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