Marc Gläser, Maurice Lacroix’s Managing Director, talks to Revolution Switzerland’s Sophie Furley about why he left the company and came back, and how, with the help of a new owner and an amazing team, he is taking the watch industry by storm with an impressive manufacture, new distribution and a passion for design.
Marc Gläser: I start by highlighting our beautiful manufacture; it communicates the substance of the brand and reflects a modern approach to watchmaking and product development. It isn’t just a marketing story, but genuine industrial and movement know-how.
I like to compare Maurice Lacroix to Audi. At the more affordable end you have the A1, A3 and A4, but then you have the more luxurious automobiles like the A5, A6, A7, A8 and the Q family of cars, but you also have the aspirational cars like the R8. Maurice Lacroix has the same range of more affordable products, but we also have our aspirational timepieces like the Masterpiece Roue Carrée and the Masterpiece Seconde Mystérieuse, which communicate clearly about what we can do.
We are very proud of having 12 manufacture movements. We have developed them on our own and we also develop most of the parts here. In 2006, we started with the chronograph skeleton movement, then a manual movement, followed two years later by an automatic caliber. Our in-house production is growing, which is very important for us.
Our manufacture, our movements and our design. But it is also important to note that we are working with a core price between 1,000 and 5,000 CHF. This is where we try to focus in terms of development. It is so much easier to be innovative at the high end when you can play with new materials and new functions. At this price point, you need to think about design, colors and so much more.
I think that the best illustration is the Pontos collection. One of the greatest products in our collection is the Pontos S; it reflects perfectly what I mean. It has a strong design, small technical innovations, a crown (coupled with the chronograph pusher) that turns a bi-directional inner bezel, and it has a beautiful bracelet and strap—all for 3,900 CHF—which is very competitive. Another perfect example is the Pontos S Diver, which has been the bestselling timepiece this year because both the design and the price fit, and this combination sells.
The Pontos Day Date is also our overall bestseller; it’s a fantastic product. This year, we are proposing a “vintage” execution of this timepiece which has also been hugely popular. Everything comes together so well. I am proud of what we have achieved. It isn’t so easy being innovative at a lower price point.
When I look back over the year, it is incredible to see how fast we have been able to achieve things. What used to take a year now takes a month or two. For example, we started a subsidiary in the United States, then we took over distribution in Spain; we also had a number of product launches, followed by a new booth at BaselWorld and a new advertising campaign. We even opened five new boutiques—all in the last 12 months. I am curious to see how this will affect the success and the growth of the company. We also have three to four really exciting projects in the pipeline; it is very exciting.
(DKSH, a Swiss company based in Zurich and a leading service provider for market expansion in Asia, acquired a controlling stake in the Maurice Lacroix group in 2011.)
Yes, absolutely. We have taken over our distribution from third-party distributors and integrated the process into the company. Three years ago, third parties distributed 80 percent of our timepieces; today, we are in control of 80 percent of our distribution. If you control wholesale, you are in control of the brand.
Maurice Lacroix was in a privileged position before with a male/female split of 50/50; now, it is more like 80/20 towards the men’s pieces. We have lost our edge with the ladies because we were favoring a mechanical strategy. We had to focus on the men first, but 2014 promises great things for the ladies too. We have a new iconic ladies’ piece on the way, and our goal is to readdress the split to 50/50 again. We are, after all, a unisex brand.
I left the company to take over my father’s luxury furniture business. Since the age of five, I was conditioned for this, but my father and I had different ideas, and I was younger, and not quite ready to compromise.
I had been working at Maurice Lacroix in marketing and products and had continued to follow the brand. I knew that Maurice Lacroix was changing, and I was interested in coming back to take over the international sales position. I had gained a lot of sales experience working in the field at my father’s company. When I started my career at Unilever, the marketing people (me included) were always so arrogant towards the sales people. I have changed my opinion of sales people since! I gained a lot of experience with my father and I am very grateful for this.
So I came back when Phillip Merck left to go to Audemars Piguet. It has been a rough three years, where we were repositioning the brand and cleaning up; it was a challenging time. In June 2011, DKSH (who were already the brand’s distributor in Asia) became the majority shareholder and started to make big changes.
This was a great opportunity for me, and the timing was right, and my experience was right. I had known the brand for 12 years and I had been watching. I always thought the products were great. It is a different ball game with a huge company in the background. DKSH is very successful; they are confident and pass this on. They think big, act bold and go for it, and always back us up. It is a very interesting period for us. Expectations are high, opportunities are there, and I am personally convinced that Maurice Lacroix will be very successful. If we do things right, the growth is there. The outlook for the next ten years is bright, especially with China in the picture. The Chinese love Swiss watches, our country, our values and our culture.
The Mainland Chinese are the ultimate customer of the future. One third of our watches go to Chinese clients. In five years, it could well be 50 percent. I take care of China directly from here, with help from management. This is the market of the future.
It has become very important. We had neglected it slightly, as we were focusing on China, Hong Kong and Russia, but tourism is becoming more and more important for Switzerland, and the country is the window on the world.
One thing we have done this year is to sponsor a Maurice Lacroix locomotive, which shows our creativity and how we are being different. The train is decorated with Maurice Lacroix’s logo and watches and was on the Zurich to Basel line throughout this year’s BaselWorld fair. A lot of people took the train and came to our booth to tell us about it.
We also started working with the luxury retailer Gübelin in Lucerne one year ago, and we have lots of marketing activities on the go; these are small, but quality events.
The Masterpiece Le Chronographe Squelette (in blue) is my favorite timepiece. The combination of aesthetics and mechanics is what appeals to me the most. It is a hand-wound timepiece, and as I wind it up every morning, it reminds me of my role as leader of this watch company, of my targets and responsibilities. It reminds me of the challenges I have, but also of the amazing environment in which I work, my great colleagues. It is the perfect symbol of the way I feel.