An Interview With Vartkess Knadijan, CEO of Luxury Watch Maker, Backes & Strauss

Can you tell me a bit about how Backes & Strauss began.

Backes & Strauss began in 1789 when Mr. Backes registered as a goldsmith in Hanau, Germany. The business prospered and in 1814 his son moved to London to open a workshop in Holborn Viaduct. We have been present in London continuously since that time.

What does Backes & Strauss specialize in.

Today- Backes & Strauss crafts high end diamond jewellery watches in partnership with Franck Muller in Geneva.  Historically it began as a goldsmith, became jewellery manufacturers and from the 1880s till 2006 focused on diamond manufacturing and distribution.  I was recruited by Backes & Strauss in London as a trainee diamond buyer- I was sent to  Antwerp , Belgium to learn the trade!  I was fortunate to have some extremely talented ‘diamantaires’ as my mentors- one of them was Eddie Tolkowsky whose elder brother Marcel ‘created’ the ideal cut diamond whilst reading for a Physics Degree at University College London. During my training I developed an affinity for Antwerp and decided to stay and work in the Belgian office of Backes & Strauss.  In 1982 I was appointed head of the Antwerp operation and by the end of the millennium I had become the Group CEO.  In 2003 I lead a management buy-out of the company and immediately set about to migrate the business into the high end luxury space. 

Are there indeed other areas of the business. 


Describe your typical working day as CEO.

As the Chief Executive of a relatively small company my day can be very exciting.  I am involved not only with setting the strategy for the company moving forward and managing its day to day operation- but also in creating these beautiful time pieces. I meet with my design team to discuss ideas and review designs. I also schedule meetings with the craftsmen who make these special timepieces- always challenging them to be more creative.  I also have the privilege of meeting with our clients and sometimes together with their very special clients who discuss bespoke pieces with me.  On top of this I meet with Press and bring them up to date with our new collections and developments in the company.

How important is maintaining Backes & Strauss as a family business behind the scenes to you. 

Our clients like the idea that this is a family business- they are usually self-made people who like to meet the owners behind the Brand. It adds to the history and heritage of the company and gives that personal touch. I am delighted that my son Levon has joined the business and is bringing a fresh and millennial approach to the Brand.

You currently focus on watches do you plan to venture into jewellery or accessories, in the future.

I do hope the next generation in the family will fully embrace a jewellery collection and grow the offering of the Brand.

The rest of this interview will be published at a later time.