A lot of people are going into vintage watches now. Even myself. I’ve been with many brands and I’ve been looking at vintage watches. I can tell you that Breitling is really going through the roof now. Not sure if it’s because of me—kidding! But seriously, Rolexes and Pateks are basically gone in the sense that everything’s all taken up so there’s nothing left. Now people are going towards Heuer and Breitling. And prices are going up. Try to find a Navitimer from the 1950s. Forget it.
The beauty of our time is we’re living in the digital age. Push a button and it’s out there. It’s phenomenal how we can in 48 hours change the image of the company. It’s incredible. In an interview I mentioned, just as a side note, that we’re going to stop with the overt macho campaign and suddenly it appeared in papers like Daily Mail, The Wall Street Journal. It was just a side note in a very small newspaper in Switzerland and it went viral, which shows what kind of world we’re living in today.
I remember when we walked in last September, we hadn’t even had our offices yet. We just came with our bags, put our stuff down and just… took over. And so what’s the first thing? The first thing you do is build a team. I quickly called some people I know. Look, we haven’t spent one dime on a head hunter. We’ve recruited 35 managers in marketing, product development, design, etc within a couple of weeks. The good thing is you don’t have long discussions. You make a phone call, ask do you want to join, yes, ok I send you the contract. That was it. We have an amazing team.
The market is changing. The attitude of consumers is changing. Understand that analogue watches are not commodities. A car is a commodity; transport will be commodified. A car will become an iPad with four wheels and all emotion around it will be gone, even the experience because there will be autonomous driving. A watch, on the other hand, is not a commodity. It’s about style, a lifestyle, a relationship or a memory. Analogue watches will remain but tastes are also changing.
You can implement a change in management but you have to do it right, obviously. Remember when Porsche launched the Cayenne, everybody said: ‘ok this company will be bankrupt in five years’? Then they launched the Panamera, Macan, etc and guess what? The best seller at Porsche is now the Cayenne, it’s not the 911. We should stop listening to the 0.0000001 per cent of geeks who think everything should stand still.
I’m not worried about increasing product. Plus, we have a great collaboration with Tudor. We want to gain efficiencies and quality because we give each other volume. I don’t think all brands need to do everything by themselves. I don’t have that ego. Now that I’m an entrepreneur, we need to be rational.
I don’t believe in digital watches for the traditional Swiss industry. It has not been successful. I know the figures. None of the brands have been successful. If you want a digital watch you go to Apple, finito. But a watch is not a commodity; it will remain analogue but everything else surrounding it will become digital. We had a reach of 250 million for our international roadshow, 250 million! And Breitling never did digital. This is the change. Everything we do including aftersales has to become digital because this is how people behave and consume and read. This is reality. If you miss this one, you’re dead.
We need to talk about omni-channel, not just e-commerce. This means we have boutiques, retailers, our own e-commerce and pure players like Mr Porter. You have to be everywhere and offer a seamless experience across all these platforms. The consumer doesn’t care where he buys. He wants to buy Breitling and Breitling has to have the same appearance throughout these platforms. The purchase process might take months but the purchase act takes 30 seconds, and you need to be able to offer that possibility to buy the watch Sunday morning 2am if the guy wants it after eight months of decisionmaking, which is influenced by digital marketing, bloggers, communication, articles in the press…
The grey market is one craziness of our industry. Every industry has a secondary market except ours. For years I’ve been fighting this. Why are you able to buy a Mercedes with 70,000km that’s officially certified by Mercedes with a guarantee, beautifully done, and yet not enjoy the same with luxury watches? All those watches on Chrono24, where do you think they come from? They come from retailers who can’t get rid of unsold stock.
We’ll soon put in place a system of stock buy-backs which we will sell either through partners like Tourneau which has a pre-owned division, or through our own stores. These watches will be refurbished, we’ll invoice the retailer, give them a guarantee and provide a seal, certified pre-owned. This is the reassurance for the client. Did you know that clients are willing to pay up to 15 percent more for a certified pre-owned watch than one on the grey market? This is the best way to curb the grey market and to keep the perceived value for guys buying new. Other guys like Jean-Claude Biver (LVMH) and Francois-Henri Bennahmias (Audemars Piguet) are also seeing this, so this will happen. I guarantee it.
I think BaselWorld has to ask itself: “Is my objective to rent surfaces or do I offer as a fair a service platform for my clients?”
Regarding BaselWorld, the question is how relevant fairs are per se. Look at the car industry. Not all car manufacturers are going to the fairs anymore because it’s very expensive and because you can communicate your novelty in a different way. The second question any fair has to ask is: “Do I use this as a sales platform or a PR platform?” We don’t need fairs to sell. We did our sales of Navitimer 8 during a road show which is super efficient so you can sell in a different manner which you couldn’t do 20 years ago. Today with transport, communication, etc, it’s very easy. Then if it’s a communication platform, you have to do it differently. I think BaselWorld has to ask itself: “Is my objective to rent surfaces or do I offer as a fair a service platform for my clients?”