An independent look at watchmaking – in search of a new, bold Haute Horlogerie

The Gelfman brand was founded by entrepreneur and collector Ilya Gelfman in 2014. However, his journey into watchmaking began seven years earlier.

He has been an avid collector since 2007, which has shaped his taste for fine watches. Talking to fellow collectors and friends, he has gained the strong impression that watches are attractive in many ways. It is not always the factor of a famous brand that comes first, or the traditional watchmaking skills that go into the watch, the fine workmanship of the watch and its movement that shows adherence to the rules of traditional Haute Horlogerie. Often the trigger for a watch purchase is the courage and uncompromising nature of a creative watchmaker who is not afraid to look for a truly new way of self-expression. The Gelfman brand embodies this as a bold new Haute Horlogerie.

When compared to the realities of modern fine art, this is the avant-garde direction of Haute Horlogerie. It differs from the traditional movement in a similar way as avant-garde painting differs from traditional painting. It is well known that Gérald Genta, one of the greatest and most prolific designers working in the watch industry in the second half of the 20th century, has recently been called the “Picasso of watch design”. Who then should we call the “Basquiat of watchmaking”? In 2014, Ilya Gelfman turned to the idea of releasing wristwatches under his own brand name. The idea that came to him was a retrofuturistic electronic digital watch, where the time is displayed via Nixie tubes (cold cathode neon readout tubes). The watch, named IN-16 Nixie, uses two vintage Nixie tubes manufactured in the 1980s. The design combines avant-garde, retro-futuristic, cyberpunk and post-apocalyptic motifs, while the stainless-steel case is machined and finished to high watchmaking standards. The IN-16 Nixie was designed and built as a high-end collector’s watch that combines digital vacuum tube technology, originally developed in the 1950s, with cutting-edge connected technology in a computer application that offers many features, some of which are exclusive to this watch. Production of the IN-16 Nixie is limited to 999 pieces. In 2022, Gelfman IN-16 Nixie watch was nominated in the “Petite Aiguille” category of the GPHG Grand Prix of Haute Horlogerie de Geneve, the most prestigious award in the global watch industry.

IN-16 Nixie No.001 of a limited edition tripled its pre-sale estimate and sold for CHF 21,000 at Ineichen’s Independents 2023 auction in Geneva on May 11.

Encouraged by these successes, the Gelfman brand is looking to expand its horizons. The team has begun to develop new projects as bold and uncompromising as the brand’s first IN-16 Nixie Edition.