Philip A. Baechtold
Cadeaux Jewelry (Baechtold Limited)
Some people are destined for the kind of life they live. For Philip A. Baechtold, chief executive officer of Baechtold Limited (license holder of Cadeaux Jewelry), it seemed so much so – a bejeweled life, indeed.
Philip and his wife Dr. Soipetch (Resanond) run Bangkok’s first and only independent Cadeaux Jewelry shop at the Peninsula Plaza where they sell not only the most avant garde jewelry but also four unique watch brands: Corum, Century, and Faberge; a collection of large South Sea pearls by Andy Muller, and the finest objets d’art by GG Treasure. Bangkok has become a key market for Cadeaux Jewelry and Philip is the driving force behind the direction and development of designs.
Born in the UK, Philip grew up in Zurich — the German-speaking part of Switzerland — where he was also educated. But his career started in Lausanne — the country’s French-speaking side — which is of special historical significance to Thailand because the present monarch, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, lived there during his youth.
Philip first came to Thailand in 1983 to set up a gem trading office for Golay Buchel, the Swiss jewelry company he worked with for 17 years. It was the same company that sent him to Kobe, Japan (1978) to be trained by Andy Muller and widen his experience. It was also in Japan that he first met people, such as Evert Hofacker of Cadeaux Jewelry, who were to become instrumental in the direction of his gemstones and jewelry business today. For 10 years, he was a gem trader in Thailand for Golay Buchel; not knowing then that this country will be his future home.
And before Philip turned 40, he decided it was time to start his own gemstone and jewelry business — in Thailand. “Everybody dreams of having his or her own business,” he explains. “And I think the best time in life to start a business is when you between 35 and 45 when you already have much experience, built a capital, and still have a long perspective on what you want to do and where you want to go – so I took it. It would have been easy to hang on to my job but I decided consciously that I will not wait longer and the pieces sort of fell into place.
“Of course starting your own business is like stepping into the void. But you have to dive into the void and see what happens. As it happened, when some associates learned I was starting my own business, they gave their support. That’s how I started my relationship with Corum watches. It was not totally unexpected but it may not have happened.”
“In those days — the 80s and early 90s – Thailand was really booming. Those were really exciting times,” he says. “Soon my company decided to also go into luxury products as well. In 1987, we began to add Christian Dior, Hermes and Corum watches, Bally shoes, and even perfume to our portfolio.”
Philip is grateful to Hofacker whom he describes as a forward-looking designer. “By some chance I was his agent in Japan and I kept contact with him for so many years — nothing strictly business just as friends. Then in 2000, we met for coffee. He asked me if I would be interested in continuing his business,” he recalls, “and I was, so we worked out a deal so I can continue this business. It was good for me to have an existing line of prestigious jewelry like Cadeaux.”
Today, his company is sole licensee for the production and distribution of Cadeaux Jewelry in Thailand.
“I consider myself very lucky to have found this business because we are dealing with a product that is valuable,” he continues. “I think there is no other business where you transfer so much intrinsic value to your customer. In a way it’s like, you give me cash but I give you cash back; and the best thing is, after many years, the intrinsic value of the products, which is kind of permanent, increases even more.”
What’s the key to his success? “You have to be able to stand behind your product; you have to believe in your product, you have to convince people that you have a strong product, and you have to support your customers,” he replies. “Business relationship does not end with the sale. It just starts there. You have to serve your customer, that’s a very important focus for us. You have to preserve your relationships with them.”
Philip – who is also active in many community activities (he was past president of Rotary) – is grateful to Thailand and happy that he has made this country his home. “The great thing in Thailand is that a foreigner is well accepted. I guess that’s because it is a country with a mix of many nationalities and has always been, historically, an open society. It is always possible, even easy, to assimilate as foreigner. It really made things easy for me.”
Perhaps fate has a hand in all this? “I was in this business basically because the company I worked for before was in this business,” he says. “But as a young man, I collected stones and minerals as a hobby, and I almost studied gemology.” Instead of studying it, he joined Golay Buchel, and “it seemed like a great fit from the start.” Of course he returned to school again eventually, earning a masters degree in Thai Studies from Chulalongkorn University.
Even meeting his wife could be the work of destiny. “I came to Thailand with just a suitcase and very early met this young lady,” Philip recalls. “I invited her for an interview at my lawyer’s office – which I rented for an hour as I didn’t have an office then – and when she arrived, an idea came to me. I told my astounded lawyer: ‘I am interviewing my future wife.’ Today, you can see how that inspiration became true; and how she remains my inspiration.”
His wife is also his business partner and Philip likes to say she is the real boss, especially since he decided to take on motorcycles as a hobby a few years ago. “In fact, my wife came into the business more seriously because I was away from business for a while,” he says. “But motorcycling is a great hobby; I love it. “ Already, he has done a big motorcycle tour of Japan and plans to do a tour of the Americas this year.
“I’m having a good life in Thailand, indeed,” he told Lookeast. My wife and I have two grown up children. One — Tevin – is studying to be a goldsmith in Germany, while Natalia is very much involved with animals and is quite keen on the military; she’s in 5th year of military training.
“Looking back, I think my life was really driven by the type of work I did, the company I have worked with, and the people I met, including my beloved wife. It could have been in a different place: say, Brazil, Africa, or North America — but the type of life I lead would have been the same. It still would have something to do with gems and jewelry trading, with import-export, and with sophisticated high-end products — things I very much enjoy.”