High Velocity: Coralie Charriol’s Surf Watch

The daughter of an iconoclastic watchmaker and now the CEO of her late father’s company celebrates its 40th anniversary with the launch of the St-Tropez Surf watch.
Wave warrior Coralie Charriol, with her lightning bolt-bedecked surfboard. Photo: Ryan Moore

By Jim Servin

It’s all in the timing. Four years ago, after two decades of living in New York, Coralie Charriol, CEO of Charriol watches, moved to Geneva following the death of her father, Philippe—who founded the company in 1983—after nearly 20 years as head of Cartier’s Asia Pacific division. Following her father’s motto, “L’Art de Vivre la Différence,” or “Live Different,” as she later updated it, Charriol set the company in a new direction, toward the active, modern and feminine. This summer, she celebrates the 40th anniversary of Charriol with the launch of the St-Tropez Surf watch for women. Powered by one of the finest Swiss-made movements, the ETA 2892 calibre, with automatic mechanics that keep time by the wearer’s movements, and a second hand in the shape of a plum lightning bolt, evoking her favorite surfboard, Charriol has created a personal statement of power and play.

St-Tropez Surf watch for women. Photo courtesy of Charriol

“I first learned surfing 10 years ago, in Southampton, Bridgehampton and Montauk, spending hours in the water, going through all the breaks,” she says. “I’ve been completely obsessed with a sport that just makes you feel so good. Holding that board and looking out to the sea, you feel like you’ve lost 10 years and 10 pounds. Washed and cleansed by a sea of salt, you only think of the next wave you can catch. The business is a bit like that. You have a lot of obstacles, things you have to get through, and then you have these moments of joy, when it all comes together, and you think, ‘Oh, it was all worth it.’”

A self-declared lover of fashion, Charriol designed the Surf watch to make a confident style statement, in and out of water. “It’s a glam watch that can be worn with outfits other than a bikini or a wet suit. It’s a watch for a woman who has multiple facets,” she says. While chasing waves, Charriol advises covering the timepiece under a rash guard, secured by a deployable watch band diver’s clasp, because “like any piece of jewelry, the ocean loves to swallow gold and precious jewelry,” she says. “The Surf watch is designed with quick release interchangeable straps, so you can go in the water with your white rubber diver strap, and before you go out that night, you can swap it with the cable or two-tone bracelet for high-glam cocktails.” 

This year, Charriol is doing a global surf to celebrate the company’s 40th anniversary around the world; it kicked off with a promotional lunch in Paris in June, and included a visit to the Hamptons for a late-July party. “I love waking up super-early, heading straight for the break, surfing for however long, then having coffee at Sant Ambroeus,” Charriol says. “At heart, I’m still a Southampton girl.” In October, she’ll spend two days in St-Tropez at a boat regatta. Memories of her beloved father make the festivities understandably bittersweet. “Some days I don’t think about him, some days I think about him every minute of the day,” she says. “He was larger than life, very different from the traditional watchmakers who wear gray suits—he lived in Hong Kong, wore a black velvet cape over black tie.” Charriol lives differently, too. “He raced cars, and I love to surf,” she says. “I’m an original, but deep down, I might be a classic, too. Classic with a twist.” charriol.com