Up Close With Chase-Durer
In a recent publication, it was said of a particular brand of watches known for its aviation and extreme sport timepieces “if you can die doing it, this company makes a watch for it.” That statement, and company, is a topic of conversation for another story. But to riff on that line a bit, if you can kill someone doing it, then Chase-Durer makes a watch for it. The fine folks at Chase-Durer will probably cringe at such a crass statement, but looking at their inventory, one thing cannot be denied: these are serious pieces of equipment for people involved in serious missions. Jet fighter aces, Special Forces demolition experts, and bomber pilots are just some of the serious professionals who wear Chase-Durer timepieces.
Chase-Durer was formed as a collaboration between Hollywood film producers Brandon and Marianne Chase, working together with Stefan Durer from Switzerland. “We stared 11 years ago when I retired from the motion picture business and found that retirement was not in the cards for me,” said Brandon Chase. “I’ve always been a watch lover so I created one single watch.” That initial watch was the Pilot Commander and it remains one of the company’s most popular pieces to this day.
Initially, the company focused on creating top-quality Swiss watches specifically designed for the needs of pilots and the design process began with long periods of consultation with aviation experts. Over the years, Chase-Durer has branched out into military-inspired timepieces, and most recently, a couture line of dress watches. The company now features 50 different watches in the line and a full-color catalog more than 60 pages long.
Smaller boutique watchmakers can often have a difficult time carving out a niche against the large brands that tend to dominate the fine timepiece market. The single biggest necessity for upstart watch makers? Money. “The problem is financing,” Chase said. “To make a name or to last a decade or more, it takes millions of dollars, it takes promotion, a sales force, distribution.” Chase-Durer built their success through making solid watches, and to educate the public about those fine timepieces, the company honed-in on a focused and targeted approach to advertising. “The biggest challenge was to focus in on the best advertising and promotion for what we do. We couldn’t hit with a shotgun, we’d have to hit with a rifle.”
That laser-like promotion paid off and the company continues to release three or four models each year. The men’s watches are all designed by Brandon Chase in cooperation with senior staff. Marianne Chase designs the women’s line. “The designs for men’s watches are usually done in consultation with military people, both special forces types and pilot types,” said Brandon Chase. Chase uses his experience in Hollywood as a unique advantage in designing watches. “I learned in the motion picture business how to overcome my own personal enthusiasm for a project,” he said. Too often in almost all lines of work, it’s obvious when the designer loves an idea too much and becomes so enamored that they ignore prudence, market conditions, or advice from others. Chase brings the cold and objective calculations of a Hollywood producer to bear on every design, making sure that it will withstand the scrutiny of the market. Additionally, Chase-Durer sends prototype information to its customer list to solicit feedback before a single model is every built. The company receives feedback from almost 30% of their customer list which yields not only invaluable suggestions but also proves the customer loyalty this brand creates. This rigorous design process combined with the unique solicitation of feedback from real customers “is the reason for our success,” said Chase.
As to his personal watch preferences, Chase said he is partial to the Combat Command Automatic Chronograph and the U.S. Special Forces 1000 Underwater Team models. Among his favorite watches that are not produced by his company, Chase likes the IWC Portuguese and a couple of Venturas.
In the future, Chase-Durer plans to introduce more automatic models such as the Abyss 1000 Professional diving watch as well as continue growing the dress watch line. And there is no doubt that the aviation and military timepieces will continue to be top sellers as well. The Special Forces Underwater Demolition Team 1000, for example, is one of the company’s top-sellers and “we cannot keep it on the shelf,” said Chase.
The Chase-Durer company itself is growing in exciting ways as well. Anthony Siragusa recently joined the firm to oversee the expansion of the sales force. Siragusa brings years of experience at watchmaker Maurice Lacroix to the Chase-Durer team.
Worn by luminaries such as The U.S. Air Force precision flying team The Thunderbirds, Mount Everest climber John Rost, and Robert Gilliland, the first pilot to fly the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, Chase-Durer timepieces are rugged, dependable, and attractive. These are serious watches, for people who are interested in more than simply a brand-name and some bling-bling from their timepiece. Company information can be found at the website, www.chase-durer.com, or by calling 1-800-544-4365.
In a couple of days, we will review the Chase-Durer Special Forces Underwater Demolition Team 1000.
By Thomas Scott McKenzie