Category Archives: Passion

Royal Huisman Expands

Sailing, my other passion. Still involved as advisor for Royal Huisman, the shipyard that makes these beautiful sailing yachts:


On 14th May 2019, the Port of Amsterdam finalised the acquisition of the former Holland Jachtbouw shipyard in Zaandam. Subsequently, Dutch builder Royal Huisman has moved into the facilities on a long-term agreement, strengthening its business position in Amsterdam.

Jan Timmerman, CEO of Royal Huisman: Extending our facilities in the Amsterdam region, we will be able to properly meet the growing demand among current and new customers. This second shipyard will, over a longer period of time, serve as an excellent addition to our existing site in Vollenhove, both for new builds and for refits.


Founded in 1884 Royal Huisman has evolved from modest builder of wooden workboats to multiple award-winning creator of some of the finest superyachts in the world. Read more at Royal Huisman.

S/Y Alpina Win Maxi Cup

Not only passion for watches: Congratulations on the podium finish for Alpina in the Maxi Rolex Cup.  It has been great to see Alpina competing in this event, a perfect opportunity to show off the new improvements and reconfirm her excellent performance.

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S/Y Alpina performing well after recent refit

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S/Y Alpina Hull 007 at the Maxi Cup 2016


Making The Wonderful Accessible

I’ve blogged a couple of times about one of my favorite companies, Frederique Constant, a remarkable maker of fine watches in Geneva, Switzerland. Their distinctiveness is what they call “Accessible Luxury” and their slogan is “Live Your Passion.” In discovering more about their history and brand, I came to realize that their distinctive approach to watches parallels my own approach to wisdom. Since I left a great university position nearly twenty years ago to spread ancient wisdom across the culture and globe, I’ve actually been focused on what you could call “Accessible Wisdom” – not wisdom that you need a PhD to understand, or years of study in distinguished libraries to acquire, but deep and practical insight of the highest order that applies to the challenges of everyday life, and answers the questions that we all inevitably ask.

Peter and Aletta Stas, the founders of Frederique Constant, were lovers of fine watches in their early years together, and wanted to find a way to put such a luxury within the reach of more people. They understood that luxury is not at its core about inaccessibility, or elitist cost, but rather that it essentially embodies such qualities as great beauty, excellence, high functionality, comfort, and ease. With the right focus and tremendous ingenuity, they’ve been able to live their passion and realize their dream of including more people within the realm of high end luxury, making it more widely accessible. And they’re having resounding success around the world, as a result.

Wisdom, also, is not about inaccessibility. The truth is that you don’t have to be a legendary guru, or a top scholar, in order to attain and benefit from the greatest insights available for living in this world. But too often, the deepest wisdom has been treated as exactly that – as if you have to be first inaugurated into an esoteric cult, or initiated into a gnostic order of insiders who study rare documents in arcane languages, or you have to learn to speak a technical jargon far beyond the comprehension of those who have not been trained in its use, or else, unfortunately, the best of human insight can’t be yours. And that, I’ve been determined to show for the past twenty years, is just not true.

It has indeed taken me years of formal training and decades of dedicated work, like a top Swiss watchmaker, to be able to separate truth from falsehood, and insight from illusion, in matters of human life and aspiration, where the differences can sometimes be subtle but crucial. What are our greatest insights? How can they best be applied? How do we separate mere appearance from reality? Part of the reason I’m so impressed with Frederique Constant is that they’re doing for watches what I’ve long sought to do for wisdom. And their passion has helped me to clarity mine. On the basis of all my own hard work and study, refining my sensibilities and logical acumen to the highest degree, I’m now able to offer people accessible wisdom that they can use and enjoy, and that can enhance their lives, as it does mine, every day.

The more we can make accessible to others what we’ve perhaps worked so hard to achieve ourselves, the more we make our distinctive mark on the world, and we can seek to serve from the riches and blessings of our own lives, bringing these riches and blessings to others.

What are you really good at? What can you make more accessible to others? How can you do and share with passion? These are questions always worth asking.

Ask them today.

Sponsoring and Charity

Sponsoring and charity enjoy high priority at Frédérique Constant. You started with sponsoring, so let’s begin by talking about that.

Peter: In 2004, when our business was still located in Chêne-Bourg, we held a meeting with our advisory board.

Who were the board’s members?

Aletta: Peter, a friend, two employees from McKinsey, a retired businessman and myself. It was a small group and, incidentally, all Dutch.

Peter: We were working at that time to more clearly define the values of our watch brand. What does Frédérique Constant stand for? Where do we want to go? What are our goals? And what makes Frédérique Constant different from other brands? We realized right from the start that market-sensitive prices rank among our most important competitive advantages.

Aletta: Attractive prices were decisive for reaching younger target groups composed of 30- to 45-year-olds with smaller budgets. Most of these potential customers are businesspeople at the beginning of their careers. Many haven’t yet move up the ladder and are still working in lower-tier executive positions. Their incomes are limited and they may also be starting families, which likewise requires funds.

Peter: But these young people are nonetheless enthusiastic about Swiss mechanical watches. They’re precisely the individuals for whom Frédérique Constant offers attractive timepieces. So we decided that our company should produce accessible luxury in the form of beautiful, affordably priced, Swiss watches from Geneva. Our purpose is to enable more people to enjoy luxury.

Aletta: But handsome watches at accessible prices weren’t enough. We also needed to more strongly emphasize the luxury aspect. So our discussion turned to what we could do to give Frédérique Constant the desired image. That’s how we arrived at the idea of sponsoring.

How did you come up with the idea of classic car rallies?

Aletta: A young Dutchman who was working in our communications department at the time and he contributed two good ideas.

Peter: One idea involved balloon flights with a big, dark green balloon prominently labeled “Frédérique Constant.” His other idea had to do with rallies for classic cars.

Aletta: We discussed the suggestions and concluded that car rallies would make sense for us.

Why is that?

Peter: Well, cars and watches simply belong together a priori. Their mechanisms share certain interesting common denominators. That’s particularly true for classic automobiles, which needn’t necessarily be old timers. They clearly reflect our brand’s values.

What did the advisory board decide?

Aletta: We decided to move ahead with the idea. We delegated the tasks and began to explore various options.

Peter: It was in this context that we found Healey.

HealeyAletta: A series of telephone calls led us to a Healey club that organizes a meeting in St. Moritz every two years. But we were disappointed to learn that they already had a sponsor in the watch industry.

Peter: They were nonetheless willing to talk with us because they weren’t entirely satisfied with their existing partnership. That’s how we were able to launch a limited edition of wristwatches for the upcoming event.

Peter: We were also very pleased that we didn’t need to spend a huge sum of money. We very quickly manufactured various watches for the prize conferral.

How many did you make?

Aletta: Not so many. If I remember correctly, we made five timepieces. We also delivered polo shirts and caps. All in all, we supplied articles worth about 50,000 Swiss francs.

So your sponsorship wasn’t purely altruistic?

Peter: Naturally, we talked with the organizers about a license for a series of watches bearing the Healey logo, but tot the Swiss club’s logo because, as I said, they already had a sponsor. In that way, we came into personal contact with the Healey Family, which was much more valuable for us. We and the Healeys arrived at an initial agreement on five-year a license.

Aletta: That agreement enabled us to present our brand at various events and to show our watches in the hotels.

Do you own a Healey?

Peter: No, but Aletta and I participated in a rented car. Our participation was very successful, so we asked ourselves, “What else can we do?”

Aletta: We took part in another Healey event the following year, which coincided with the 25th anniversary of the Dutch Healey club. The festivities took place in a palace. And we were again present there with our watches.

Peter: That’s also true for the planned Healey Museum.

Another success?

Peter: Yes, absolutely. The next year brought the Healey Challenge in Le Mans. Seventy Healeys rolled up to the starting line in the context of the Le Mans Classic. It was the largest fleet of such automobiles ever assembled.

But everyone knows that other watch brands also serve as sponsors at Le Mans.

Aletta: Right. But we focused on the Healey group. A solution could be found.

Peter: We were at the Healey meeting in Heidelberg the next year. The USA and Canada came after that.

And how did it evolve?

Peter: After five genuinely successful years with Healey, we wanted to expand our sponsoring. In the course of our search, we found the Peking to Paris classic car rally, which is staged every three years…

Aletta: … and for which we served as sponsor and official timekeeper.

What benefits ensued for the Frédérique Constant watch brand?

Aletta: First, there’s the prestige, and then there’s the Vintage Racing collection, which was derived from this challenging event.

Peter: When we showed the watches in Basel, a lawyer from Chopard very pointedly called our attention to the already existent Classic Racing collection. For the sake of peaceful coexistence, we renamed our collection “Vintage Rally.”

Aletta: In the future, this name will not only cover our commitment to Healey, but also every other type of rally that we support.

The Carrera Panamericana has numbered among them since 2011.

Peter: Our Mexican distributor suggested a prestigious rally in his country. I contacted the responsible individuals and we reached an agreement.

In what form?

Aletta: We became the sponsor and we manufactured a special watch that we could sell for two years.

What will the future bring with Healey?

Peter: Our agreement comes to an end in 2012. The situation hasn’t yet been clarified. We’re holding discussions with the family, but thus far nothing essential has been decided about renewing the agreement. It’s quite possible that we won’t be allowed to sell any more Healy chronographs after 2013. The situation isn’t simple, so we we’re also supporting other rally events.

Do you want to expand your sponsorship activities?

Peter: We’re considering that option. For example, we signed an agreement with Rallye des Alpes

Aletta: … which was cancelled in 2012, although we had already made a watch for it. Now we’re hoping the Rallye des Alpes will take place in 2013.

What else can you report?

Peter: In England, we’re cooperating with the Grand Prix, a rally for classic automobiles. We’ll serve as sponsor and official timekeeper.

Aletta: In a nutshell, our focus is shifting away from Healey and toward other rallies for which we’ll release watches in limited editions.

Will you continue your involvement with the Peking to Paris rally?

Aletta: That rally will recur in 2013 and we’re currently in the negotiating phase.

Peter: I should explain here that the first time is always the most productive. We can manufacture at significantly lower costs afterwards.

Aletta: Sometimes we agree to that, but the pleasure isn’t the same.

What about antique aircraft? They would be a very good match for Alpina.

Peter: We’ve thought about it, but other brands are already strongly represented there. That’s why I believe we should concentrate on what we’ve already achieved…

Aletta: … which not only includes rallies and runabouts, but also our manufacture work, a ladies’ automatic and our classics. These five areas are really enough for us right now.

RunaboutA watch manufacture must first dream up the idea for runabouts.

Peter: That had to do with our own boat, a 1980 Boesch Cabriolet. We belong to a yacht club and we were asked if we could sponsor an event on Lake Geneva. Without our sponsorship, they said, it wouldn’t be feasible. So we agreed.

Aletta: It was essentially just a small, regional event and it wasn’t very expensive.

Peter: Our boat is too young for genuine old-timer regattas. If you want to participate in one of them, you have to own a runabout that was built before 1960, for example, a Chris-Craft, a Garwood or a Hacker. So we capriciously imagined ourselves aboard a fantasy boat – and derived our Runabout collection from that vision.

But that’s something truly elite for extremely wealthy people. Can a watch brand succeed there?

Peter: Oh, yes. Surprisingly, our Runabout watches are more successful than our Vintage Rallies.

So this would seem to have a bright future?

Aletta: Definitely. We’re also continuing our work on the Vintage Rally collection. The etuis now also include an additional stopwatch. The addition of an automobile was warmly received, but has since been copied by others. The exclusivity naturally suffers when imitators appear on the scene.

Do you dream up these attractive extras on your own or do you collaborate with a team?

Peter: Both. Sometimes our sales personnel contribute ideas that we consider and ultimately implement. We’ve also received some valuable suggestions from retail customers.

Aletta: Our advantage in all this is our office in Hong Kong, where our staff can take care of creating and manufacturing these extras onsite in the Far East. We never buy anything that already exists. Instead, we arrange to have the items produced exclusively for us.

Peter: It may be hard to believe, but those are genuinely serious projects. We have to finance the tools for them. We have to take care of the finish for the products. We strongly prioritize worth and preciousness.

How long does something like that usually take?

Peter: Sometimes creating such a box can take as just long as manufacturing the watch itself. One mustn’t underestimate the work involved.

Is there already a collector’s market, for example, for the early Healey collections?

Peter: Definitely. Some of those watches have already been sold at Antiquorum and Sotheby’s. Naturally, we’re proud of that.

Aletta: But it’s also interesting to note that we sell only ten to twelve watches during the events.

Peter: Afterwards, when the edition of 1,888 watches is on the market, we don’t necessarily sell every one of them.

In such circumstances, it would seem illogical to immediately manufacture all 1,888 pieces.

Peter: That’s right. We usually start with a batch of 1,000. Whether or not we later manufacture the remaining 888 watches depends on the order situation.

In other words, sometimes you don’t produce all of the watches in the originally planned edition.

Aletta: Yes, and that’s good for customers who have acquired the watches.

Why did you choose the number 1,888?

Peter: That’s very simple. We began with 888 pieces because the Chinese believe that 888 is a lucky number. But that number very quickly turned out to be too few watches. So we simply added a 1 and a comma at the far left!

Aletta: Alpina sometimes produces limited series that run for three years. Each is produced in an edition of 8,888 units.

You’re successful and you allow others to share in that success…

Peter: … about which we have something very new to report. We’ll support the World Heart Federation during the next three years. The contracts have already been written and we donated the first check in mid 2012, but the official announcement won’t be made until September.

Aletta: There’ll be a limited watch edition in 2013. Then we’ll start a collaborative campaign focusing on women’s cardiac insufficiencies. With that campaign, we want to heighten women’s awareness of how important it is that they stay healthy, also for the sake of their children.

You’ve also participated in “Only Watch”…

Peter: … and we’ll again donate a watch to that good cause in 2012. Incidentally, we’re also planning to make something unique for the World Heart Federation.

But those are follow-up projects.

Aletta: No, we’ve already contributed to the International Children‘s Heart Foundation, the American Heart Association and the cardiology department at the children’s hospital in Peking.

Peter: But the World Heart Federation is much more broadly positioned. It’s represented in over 100 countries. There’s a foundation in each nation. It’s a worthy cause, so we’ll provide watches that can be auctioned onsite to raise money for local projects.

Aletta: We mustn’t forget to mention the most recent Passion Award, which was conferred on the “Paint a Smile” charitable foundation. For us, it’s really very important not merely to earn money, but also to spend part of it to support worthy causes.

Peter: Our commitment to charity began with the Passion Award. It resulted from our motto, which is “Live Your Passion.” An award for impassioned commitment fits that perfectly.

Aletta: We published our intentions in the “Herald Tribune” and other newspapers. The jury, which includes Peter and me, chose the winners from among the suggested candidates.

Peter: The first winner was Peter-Frans Pauwels, who invented the TomTom navigational system.

Aletta: After the award’s conferral, someone called our attention to nonprofit and charitable organizations. He said that this was another field in which people are passionately involved. I must admit that we hadn’t thought about that at first, although far greater passions are often involved there.

Peter: Dr. Bill Novick is a wonderful example. Alongside his professional career as a physician, he’s also passionately involved in the International Children’s Heart Foundation.

international_childrens_heart_foundationAletta: In our opinion, this professor definitely deserves an award for his dedication. So we’re turning in the direction of charity and we’re very happy about that. We sometimes need suggestions and impulses because they open our eyes. That’s how we learn. After all, so many people on this planet desperately need help.

But you also donate profits from sales of your watches.

Peter: Motivated by our experiences with the Passion Award, fifty Swiss francs of the revenue earned from the sale of each Double Heartbeat watch are donated to charity. Dr. Novick received one check and a second one was donated to “Paint a Smile.”

Aletta: One day we noticed that many famous people are also active philanthropists. When we developed the Chinese market, we became aware that we urgently needed a brand ambassador. That’s not absolutely necessary here in Europe, but it’s tremendously helpful in the Far East.

Peter: We contacted Shu Qi and an agreement ensued. She’s a very well known and extremely popular actress in China and she was personally present when we gave our donation check to the “Paint a Smile” foundation.

Aletta: She joined us on a visit to young patients in the cardiology department of the children’s hospital in Peking. We’re very happy with Shu Qi and she seems equally happy with us because she recently renewed her ambassadorial contract. It suppose it’s important to Shu Qi because alongside her luxurious world, our support enables her to become involved in another, less glamorous side of human life.

Peter: It’s simply different when you can personally experience things and see how much joy you can bring to people who are less fortunate.

Would you care to sum things up?

Aletta: Collaboration helps both sides. That much is clear to me. I almost forgot to mention Nicole Faria, Miss Earth and Miss India. She also assists us as brand ambassador and accompanies our campaigns to help children with cardiac insufficiencies.

More in our book Live your passion

Tom Morris: Live Your Passion

Over twenty five years ago, Peter Stas and his wife Aletta found themselves entranced by the high end Swiss watches they saw in retail shop windows when they were in the country for ski vacations. But, being young people on a tight budget, they couldn’t afford what they were seeing. And yet, it planted in them an idea. Why couldn’t they start their own business and create beautiful luxury watches that would be vastly more affordable than what they had been seeing? 
They had found their passion, and decided to live it. So, when they published a book on their corporate story, they entitled it “Live Your Passion.” From the inception of the company on, the “affordable luxury” watches of Frederique Constant have delighted people around the world. I’ve mentioned Peter before, a couple of months ago, in a blog post about luxury, but it’s this aspect of his story I’d like to highlight today. By living their passion, the good that Peter and Aletta have been able to do has gone far, and probably beyond their youthful dreams.
The power of passion, well directed, is astonishing.
A young attorney told me last week that when she was growing up and her dad loaded up the kids in their car to go anywhere, he’d pull into any used car lots that he might pass along the way, “just to look,” as he would explain to them. At a certain point, it became obvious to the children that their dad’s passion was cars, in all their variety. They encouraged him to change careers and set up his own used car lot, which he did, and truly found his passion at work – a passion that has helped him flourish in his new business throughout the years.
When his daughter was in law school, a man came onto the lot one day to ask the car guy if he would help him to sell his car. He didn’t usually work like that, but he liked the visitor right away, and they got into a great conversation. The man with the car to sell turned out to be a top attorney. And his firm ended up hiring the young lawyer, the car dealer’s daughter, at first as an intern, and then as a full time member of the firm where she is now truly living her own passion, thanks to her dad, who has been living his.
And that’s the way it works. What do you do with your free time? What do you love? How can you integrate that more into your business life? Or, are you one of the lucky ones who are already there? Wherever you may be in life, living your passion will benefit not only you, but many others as well – as the stories of Peter Stas and the young attorney’s father demonstrate.
Live your passion, indeed.


Live your passion

If you had three wishes for your future and for the future of Frédérique Constant, what would they be?

  1. That we continue to grow;
  2. that there always be a place for independent, family-run watch manufactures because their existence encourages creativity in general;
  3. and that all people on our planet can enjoy good health. Through our charitable activities, we see time and again that people, especially children, suffer from cardiac insufficiencies. Within our modest means, we want to continue to do all we can to combat that problem.

Frédérique Constant Passion Awards – Live your passion!

True passion is the ultimate factor for entrepreneurial business success. Frédérique Constant created the Frédérique Constant Passion Awards to celebrate the passion that is fundamental to entrepreneurial success.


Professor Dominique Turpin from the IMD of Lausanne

The Frédérique Constant Passion Awards has been presented previous years to the most passionate entrepreneur at major Awards Ceremonies. The winner’s company was offered a Business Case Study by Professor Dominique Turpin of IMD Lausanne on a strategic issue of choice, as well as a solid gold Frédérique Constant Manufacture wristwatch.

Winners and short listed candidates cited the global recognition and publicity they received as the greatest benefit. Such international exposure validated their work amongst peers and opinion leaders at home and abroad.

The Passion Awards also build a network of passionate entrepreneurs worldwide.
The Financial Times was the Passion Award’s official media partner. Calls for submission where published in worldwide editions of the Financial Times.

Criteria and Process for the Award were clearly outlined on the Frédérique Constant Passion Award website. There were no restrictions of gender, age or nationality of candidates. Submissions from Social Entrepreneurs were also welcome.

Frédérique Constant timepieces are created with passion. Indeed, passion is the driver of our company’s success. With its slogan ‘Live your Passion’, we aim to attract customers who have a passion to succeed. Peter and Aletta Stas, both passionate watch aficionados and entrepreneurs at heart, founded Frédérique Constant in Geneva in 1988.