A truly great grooming company understands that purity and efficacy of design stems from the art of discreet observation.
Entering the glossy heart of Braun’s architecturally immaculate, clean lined and glass edged headquarters we are about to be given full access to their “reconnaissance” rooms.
It is here, cloistered behind a two-way mirror, that Evelyn Zechel collects some of her best intelligence. In neat, pristinely fitted out bathrooms men come to perform their shaving routines. The volunteers range from teenagers learning the art of the shave for the first time, to hyper groomed businessmen. As they shave and denude their faces, their observers look on in unseen close-up.
Demonstrating how she sits one side of the mirror while a volunteer shaves looking into the mirror on the other, Zechel explains “It allows me to look really close-up at the shaver without intimidating him. But I admit I sometimes feel a bit like a police detective watching a criminal being questioned.”
This secretive observation forms the basis of research that leads to the kind of truly ergonomic and beautifully precise pieces of shave ware that underline Braun’s shaving and design leadership. “We want to learn about the spectrum of different shaving habits people utilize”, says Zechel, who travels globally to observe individual shaving rituals. Investing in this deep dive research allows the Braun experts to perfect their prototypes and the products that reach the shelves.
Our access all areas pass has permitted us in to one of the most sensitive rooms in the building. Replete with an armory of high tech gadgets Dr Martin Fullgrabe, a physicist by training, is able to scrutinize and explore the secret science of the perfect shave. “High-speed cameras like those used by car manufacturers running crash tests enable us to watch the shave process in slow motion. High magnification cameras give us intense detail and shavers fitted with fibre optic cameras allow us to examine exactly how the hair is being cut”, he explains.
A major challenge Fullgrabe faces is that men’s facial hair varies in the way it grows, the direction it grows, and how thickly it grows. His mission is to ensure a shaver doesn’t miss hairs when passed across the face. Longer stubble often lies flat on a man’s face, not captured by the holes in the foil of the shaver. In-depth observation lead to an ingenious knuckle design shape for the trimmer. This ensures even the most stubborn hairs are lifted from the face and cut away by the blades beneath the foil.
The culmination of this artful watching is preeminent design and form. Entering the sleek environs of Braun’s design studios we are met with an array of prototype shaving tools all exuding chic elegance. For Global design director Oliver Grabes this meticulous attention to detail and understanding of how the product interplays with the consumer’s hand, hold and touch – in the confines of the studio these are referred to as the pipers grip, the picker grip and the first grip - are essential to crafting these exquisite facsimiles. Each one is accurate down to thousandths of a millimeter.
“Every Braun product is created according to principles of strength, innovation, modernity and function” says Grabes. “It’s our guiding ethos and it’s what we call ‘strength of pure’”
As we leave the Kronberg base we ask Fullgrabe about the work he is currently doing on the successor to Braun’s Series 9 shaver. “I could tell you about it but, of course, then I’d have to kill you,” he jokes.