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Made by Members: Mark Schwarz

Mark Schwarz knows that time is a precious commodity. This is reflected in his VAULT brand, which produces unique, personalized watches.

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Swiss company VAULT creates exceptional mechanical timepieces that change their look. Founder Mark Schwarz focuses specifically on his customers’ personal requests during the design process. In this interview, he tells us how a drunken idea gave rise to bespoke luxury watches for the next generation.

VAULT assembles unique watches to customer specifications. Can you still remember your first own watch?

I got my first watch when I was about six years old: a red Flik Flak with a motorcycle motif. It was the catalyst for my enthusiasm for watches. My watches then became more and more crazy, expensive and exotic. Until the moment when it was clear to me that I wanted to launch my own watch brand.

Was there an exact moment when you decided to take this step?

The story started during my time in the police. The six years in the police force were an extreme life experience and tough school of life. There were also certain blows of fate that made me realize how valuable time is. This made me decide that I would rather spend my time chasing my passion: for watches on the one hand and for creativity on the other. I wanted to combine these two things and build a watch brand that was not about timekeeping, but about time itself.

And how did you come up with the concept for VAULT?

I had the idea for the concept in 2013 sitting in a Munich beer garden – a drunken idea, as it were. I had taken the approach that time is valuable and uncontrollable, and that each person has a personal sense of time. I wanted to integrate this content into a mechanical watch that had never existed before.

How are VAULT watches unique and new?

Many factors contribute to the uniqueness of VAULT watches. The concept itself and how the timepiece works are unique: The look changes every time the clock is reset. The way we distribute the watches and work with our partners and customers is also unique. Furthermore, also generally the story about the brand, i.e. how valuable time is and not the measuring of time itself.

What has been the biggest milestone for you or the company so far?

The first prototypes after years of work. The presentation of these prototypes in London 2017 was a great moment. The first exhibition at Baselworld also counts as a major milestone. And the three world firsts in terms of materials used and operation: the world’s first timepiece with a carbon-titanium case, the first with a carbon-ceramic case, and overall the first watches that look different when the time is reset.

The watches are complex and each piece is bespoke. What criteria must VAULT watchmaker partners meet?

On the one hand, they must be very good at what they do, and on the other hand, they need a can do mentality. There’s no such thing as “no can do”. The chemistry also has to be right.

Does that also apply to VAULT customers? Who buys the unique watches?

Our customers are very diverse: We have customers all over the world. What links them all so far: They are all entrepreneurs, which is fascinating. I believe that this factor is once again related to the VAULT story. Our products challenge the status quo. We offer something new that is not available on the market yet. People building their own businesses also want to lead the way and not follow the mainstream. The VAULT watch is therefore a good statement for this lifestyle and mindset.

Can you give any other tips to young entrepreneurs?

They should tackle a project they have a real passion for. You shouldn’t be chasing the next “unicorn”, but doing something you’re happy to invest your life in. That’s the most important thing for me: You should really have passion for it and in my opinion you should also start doing it in your spare time. Because if you can’t get excited about it on a Saturday or in the evening, it’s probably not going to happen. You have to have staying power and be able to inspire others with your idea. It takes patience, passion and a good sales strategy – you can’t establish this kind of project on your own, it always takes teamwork.

Did you also learn this in relation to the coronavirus pandemic as well?

The coronavirus didn’t have a major impact on our business because we had already been using this model for our work and had been doing a lot of things remotely and digitally before. My personal learning from the pandemic, however, is not to put anything off because you never know what tomorrow will bring. This is true for both our private and professional lives.


Mark Schwarz Made by Members Portrait