Sad news to report on the loss of an innovator...
I received a query in my email early this morning asking about dealers for Ventura watches. I immediately went to Ventura's watch site and found it was no longer active. So I sent an email to recent Ventura V-Matic Loga purchaser David Alstott to see if he had heard of anything.
- [David's Stainless Steel Ventura V-Matic Loga proudly on his wrist,
- photo used without permission, but I'm sure he won't mind...]
Sadly what he reported back to me, while not a complete surprise was saddening and very disappointing to me:
today, on the 12th of November, the receiver of the bankrupt Ventura Design on Time conducted an auction to sell the entire assets including the brand and the stock.
While I tried hard to get back the control, I stood no chance against the highest bidder, the US corporation Swiss Watch International SWI, who as of now is the new owner.
I am sure that this is good news to those seeking a bargain.
For me as the founder of Ventura, this is the moment to say goodbye to you; thank you for your loyal support over all these many years. You will understand that I will now first take some distance from the events of today.
There are yet many ideas, innovations and designs that are ready to stun the watch community and I have been encouraged to create a new and even bolder corporation; let me think about this for a while. I will publish on this site a new URL with a different name soon, on which I will keep you posted regarding my plans.
For now, I remain truly yours,
Founder of Ventura
Note: Both the above passage and the passage below seem to be at the very least a couple of weeks to several months old. Perhaps this is not "news" in the freshest sense, but it was certainly news to me and something I had not seen in my travels.
David also sent me this link to a thread on PuristPro which I will excerpt here:
Concerns about mechanical driven capacitor watches. Seiko, Citizen, Ventura. Jan 19, 2008,16:43 PM
By: bernard cheong
[NOTE: This appears to be a quoted article, but no source is quoted -- Chuck]
Ventura, the only company that made high quality Swiss type digitals went bust last year, it was sad...here is a short report of note.
High-quality digital clocks bring Volketswiler Ventura into the bankruptcy
Ventura Watch was known for Design-oriented watches and focused since two years fully on high-quality digital watches. Now Ventura deposited the balance.
Since 1990 stood the Volketswil Ventura Design on time for wrist-watches, with which the time indicator was reduced to the substantial. Shortly after the company was founded, the digital clock "Watch" of the designer Flemming Bo Hansen became with 50'000 copies a huge success: A rectangular flat steel housing that encloses a digital display of only four large numbers. It made it quickly into the permanent collection of the museum of modern art in New York. Later Ventura made sensation with mechanical clocks, sketched by the Zurich architect and designer Hannes Wettstein.
Two years ago Ventura founder Pierre A. Nobs wanted to secure their unmistakableness with a courageous decision of the brand. Instead of continuing to compete in hard contest price segment from 1000 to 5000 CHF for mechanical clocks against countless competitors, Nobs decided to go for a niche: Ventura should become the brand for technically innovative, Swiss-made digital watches with high Design quality.
Success took time
But Nobs needed funds. In 2005 A group of investors took over of the firm founder the majority, the share capital by 500'000 to 900'000 CHF was supplemented. But success with the new positioning at the market took time: Was the turnover in 2004 still 5.5 million CHF, it sagged 2006 to approximately 2 million, and in the current year was "the course of business" even worse, as Pierre A. Nobs in a report writes the media.
On Thursday Ventura announced bankruptcy.
Nobs explained, the promised investments weren't made, and accuses the new owner to have pulled the plug too fast: The shareholders which were active in the private Equity and Hedge fund business would have "obviously their own conception concerning the long-termness". Reto Suter, director of Horizon21 private Equity in Pffaefikon SZ and board of directors president of Ventura denies this: "we did not see the perspectives ultra-short-term and also not medium-term". But expenditure and yield could not have been brought to the equilibrium.
By the bankruptcy of Ventura eight persons are concerned in Volketswil and four in the German branch in Nuremburg (babelfish: peppering castle). Pierre A. Nobs raises steep reproaches: In the surrounding field of the bankruptcy "board of directors president and shareholders have served themselves still extensively with valuable clocks from the stock", while the coworkers had to wait for their wages. Ventura executive board president Reto Suter did not want to express himself to these reproaches.
Industry foreigner at power
Company founder Pierre Nobs looked for financial sources in the consequence and found it in the surrounding field of Hedge fund managers, who showed up enthusiastically by the idea and assured an appropriate funds support. On five years the laid out Business plan for the restructuring planned that in the first two years still on red numbers had to be counted, the "BREAK Even" was intended for the third year. In accordance with Pierre Nobs his Ventura was actually fully in the context of this plan, despite compared with the previous years reduced turnover. The investors had however obviously different conceptions of "long-term commitment", displaced Nobs of all positions without further ado and used a new "Interim CEO". Shortly after, "the plug was pulled", although, according to Nobs, there were appropriate open accounts payable in a framework, which would not have required the drastic measure of the balance depositing yet.
The pipeline would be full
Nobs gives himself optimistically and does not want give up his life's work - he is intensive on the lookuot for new partners with whose assistance he can secure himself the bankrupt's estate, in order to make a new beginning. "I will however certainly mess araound any more with ` Financiers ', but only with persons, who have a a genuine, respectable background in the clock industry, and whose horizon goes futher than the next quarter result. Our pipeline is full - many novelties would be ready, several components are already produced ?und could be supplied by the suppliers within short period. Also drafts exist of Paolo Fancelli for a long expected successor of the legendary "Watch" - a simple digital clock in a price segment of 600-700CHF, progressed very far, for which trade and final customers actually wait already longer. This potential best seller was also a component of our five year plan for the Turnaround of Ventura. I hope naturally much that this clock can be nevertheless still realized soon."
Service and repairs:
The question is not yet clarified, how it will go on with service and repairs for existing Ventura clocks - according to Nobs statements, he is currently working on a solution. Spare parts would be present in principle, are however for the time being still blocked in the bankrupt's estate. Until one knows details will depend thus also on how rapidly the bankruptcy proceedings are completed. We will inform you naturally here, as soon as we know more.
The fellow who contacted me initially replyed to me [after I forwarded David's response] that Princton Watches, an authorized dealer of Ventura, currently has closeout deals on it's remaining stock of Ventura's. People who are interested can visit their site, although considering the fact that most of the mechanical Ventura's had a "snapback" caseback which was pressed on with a force of at least a ton, service is up in the air for these watches currenty.
I've long said that of all the watch firms in operation that Ventura and Ventura along had a product line that I at least liked every model it produced. Some models I was much more enthusiastic about than others, but until they started "Icing" some models and producing some gold cased white dialed watches, they stayed true to their coredesign roots and produced elegant Bauhaus styled watches.
While other firms routinely issued Valjoux 7750 based chronographs with 25 Jewels, Ventura's models sported 38 Jewels. All of their mechanicals were elegantly finished and on display via a sapphire back and all had a minimum W/R of 100m dispite the snap on displayback. Their watches were typically available in both Stainless Steel and Titanium, and their Titanium models were nitrogen hardened to the extent that their hardness were only rivaled in hardness by IWC's Titanium process.
If they made a mistake it was trying to compete in the savagely contested $1000-$6000 price range where the bulk of Swiss watch manufacturers compete. It's tough for a small firm of recent vintage to compete with the Omega's, TAG-Heuer's, Breitling's and similar brands with long established reputations and consumer awareness.
I had hoped that a firm operating from a fresh sheet with refined and focused product line could survive the competition. Ventura's ceasing production of mechanical watches several years ago to re-focus it's energies on the high end quartz powered niche. Unfortunately, it would seem that this effort to remain solvent wasn't successful and this move could be seen by history as the beginning of the end.
I for one am very saddened by Ventura's demise. I own a pair of V-Matics, the V-Matic Master [pictured immediately above] and a V-Matic Loga both in Titanium both on bracelet. I only hope that other firms will look to create models which capture some of the style and elegant beauty of these fine fine timepieces.
I am a big fan of Bauhaus design, these watches, which epitomize Bauhaus so well will likely age very gracefully, their modernistic lines and styling cues seeming just as fresh 50 and 100 years from now as they did the day they rolled off the production line.