In 2005, Leonid Khakin took the driving rains from the namesake founder of the watch company Ernst Benz. Just as his predecessor, Khakin has been a total success at spearheading the timepiece enterprise.
[widgetic-mosaic-gallery id=5ab148e6ecb2a17d0d8b4567 autoscale=on width=485 height=501 resize=fill-width] "We build the idea of the spirit of travel and the art of watchmaking, the ideal version in a modern way of the classic watch". Leonid Khankin
Mr.Khakin, give me a bit of the background? How did you end up managing and creating products for Ernst Benz?
Ernst Benz was established 50 years ago by the namesake founder. For 20 years the company produced aircraft instrumentation, which inspired Benz to create the pilot’s watch, a vintage style chronograph from WWII. I grew up doing restoration on such pieces. My forte is chronographs and restoration, so I was chosen by the company to develop the most complicated watch for Ernst Benz. By 2001, I started developing products for the company. Later, I became Managing & Creative Director of Ernst Benz, producing a few hundred watches a year. Fast forward eight years, we’re now producing nearly 5,000 pieces annually with a collection of 300 basic models. For us, the dream was never to run the watch company it was the dream of the watchmaker to build the watch. What we build now is this idea of the spirit of travel and the art of watchmaking, the ideal version in a modern way of the classic watch.
So do you consider yourself as one of those power managers?
No. I consider myself a watchmaker. I don’t consider myself to be in power, businessmen want to be in power. I am an artist who wants to leave tomorrow better than it is today.
Is that the key to your success?
I don't hold it to success; I hold it to an ongoing privilege to be able to work in this field. If I am allowed to do watches tomorrow than that was the success of today. I am not successful I am just getting started.
Is there a sense of power in the watch industry in general?
I think today there is definitely a sense of powerfulness in the watch industry because of the scope that we have. You travel the world from Paris to Moscow, from New York to Mexico City, the watch industry is everywhere. There are powerful men who run the companies of watchmakers, but watchmakers are the
craftsmen who give a service to the men of power. Artists have always been in service to people of power. We work for the people who decide that we are talented enough that they are entertained by the things that we do.
Where’s Ernst Benz headed in the future?
The future of Ernst Benz is very interesting. In the first eight years, we produced watches on a smaller scale. Then cut to this collection, and we’re distributing to the greatest stores in the world. We have an audience to which we get to teach the art of watchmaking. So now the future: new calibers, new production, new stories, new designs. It’s a very exciting time for us. After eight years in the business, it feels like day one. I feel like I am just getting started.
Is it more about the limited edition watches or more about the lower line to just get it out there?
It has never been about mass production. We produce exclusively mechanical collections that are 100% built in Switzerland. The company makes 4000- 5000 watches in a year so everything is limited. The core collection is quite limited in itself, but limited edition for us is not better than our regular watches. A limited edition is just an opportunity to tell a special story, while full production tells us
company’s story. A limited edition is the watch with Mario Batali, the famous chef from New York. From this limited collection, we donated 500,000 Euros to the Food Bank of New York. For us, limited edition serves different purposes:
additional creativity, collaboration and sometimes interesting charity projects where you have a watchmaker who gets to leave the world a better place than he found it.
What is your connection to Miami, Florida?
I actually discovered Miami by chance while celebrating the new Millennium with friends. For the brand, Miami serves as a hub between North America and South America. After I took charge of Ernst Benz we started to distribute a lot in the Caribbean and Latin America, I found myself frequenting Miami with our agents. It’s a very interesting place. Miami is where the whole world somehow connects.