Continuing from Part 1, Revolution asked the heads of your favorite brands to turn back the clock and look back on 2018, as well as the promising year ahead.
CEO of Favre-Leuba
This past year, I have loved seeing the gaining of respect for Favre-Leuba in terms of visibility, product feedback and the increasing distribution network. It is all a clear sign of the brand heading in the right direction. One of our highlights was definitely winning the WatchStars 2018 “Best New Watch” award for the Raider Bivouac 9000. I was also wearing the Raider Bivouac 9000 for most of this year—I was testing the model even up to the Himalayas.
The growing momentum and respect for Favre-Leuba is certainly key for the coming year. The industry should remain innovative and find answers to address its attractiveness to a younger generation. For Favre-Leuba, I want the brand to continue in its path to greatness. Favre-Leuba must climb up the ladder—every year a notch higher to become relevant again. The key for our industry is to never stop creating fascinating timepieces, and I want it to view things a bit more from a longer-term perspective. I’m also really keen to see how the trade show business is going to develop in the future.
CEO of Montblanc
Definitely one of my highlights was the launch of the 1858 collection and the campaign shoot we did with Hugh Jackman in Colorado. It was not only great fun, but being in contact with nature really brought to life the “Spirit of Mountain Exploration,” the thrill of adventure and a metaphor for achievement and pushing beyond your limits. Another highlight was also travelling to some incredible places to meet people who love Montblanc and all the values the Maison stands for. Whether watch aficionados, writing instrument collectors or a new generation of Montblanc enthusiasts, it is inspiring to see Montblanc products in the real world and hear the stories of their owners. It helps us think about where we should innovate, and how we can play a meaningful role in our customers’ lives.
The luxury mindset continues to evolve. In the past status, function and benefit used to be purely physical. Now it is intangible and often focused on experience. It is no longer about what we have, but who we are as individuals. This means that Montblanc has to offer more than a product, it has to be part of the connected lifestyle of our clients. From the celebration of the 160th anniversary of Minerva I learned how fundamental this watchmaking history is to our overall approach to watches, and the extent to which many watch lovers and aficionados have developed a strong bond to Minerva and its rare timepieces.
I am excited about the industry trying to constantly evolve to bring younger watch enthusiasts into this world by offering more affordable pieces that still deliver quality and performance. That is certainly what we have done with 1858 and the TimeWalker featuring manufacture movements and exceptional attention to detail at a fraction of the price of other watchmakers. I want to continue to nurture the Montblanc watchmaking legitimacy, leveraging our unique Minerva heritage for the next 160 years, and keep surprising clients with unexpected approaches and innovation and pushing boundaries while always nurturing a commitment to the Maison’s rich heritage of craftsmanship.
CEO of Omega
It’s been a very full year, starting with the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang where we once again served as Official Timekeeper. We’ve also been celebrating the 70th anniversary of our famous Seamaster and the reissue of our Seamaster Diver 300M, which is a truly extraordinary watch. We’ve had wonderful events in St. Petersburg, Venice, Berlin and Shanghai and the year is still not over! I’ve enjoyed every minute. There were many highlights but a standout moment was the phenomenal success of our Limited Edition #SpeedyTuesday which sold out in less than 2 hours. Though, I have to say that I think it deserved the attention as it’s an exceptional product which balances fun ‘70s science fiction references with genuine space credentials.
There hasn’t been so much a new lesson as a strong reinforcement of what I already knew, which is that Omega customers, from all over the world, make an incredibly strong personal connection to our watches.
I can’t discuss our new watches yet, but we have some very exciting new products to reveal, one of which will be a celebration of the Moon landing anniversary. July 21st 2019 will be an incredibly emotional moment for us. In regards to the industry, I think it’s going to be a year of significant innovation in regards to materials and technology.
We are a very traditional industry, but we have to become more engaged with our customers via every channel available to us. I don’t want to see change just for the sake of being trendy. Heritage brands like Omega should embrace change, but not at the expense of what has come before. I don’t want to see disrespect for the past.
CEO of Zenith
There has been so much learning. First of all, what I discussed with Mr. Biver almost two years ago, is true. The brand is an amazing brand, there is so much value, that we really need to make it shine again, and it is still very true. When I came on board, the team was really down, and my first task was to put everyone back on track ASAP. Without a good mindset, I couldn’t accomplish anything. I asked those who wanted to stay to jump on the boat. After a few months, I could feel the first changes. Now, the company is totally a different one.
A highlight this year was the launch of the Defy collection. We presented it in 2017, but this year was important to reinforce this product line. It is the speed train for the brand. Defy 21, the Defy Classic and the Zero G are really strong for us. This year, the main focus was to strongly establish this product line.
The industry is going through a very interesting period, with the Chinese coming on strong as new clients, with very different purchasing behaviors. It will be interesting to see who is adapting to this new clientele. How do we keep the millennials in general interested in mechanical watches? That is a key challenge for the industry.
As far as Zenith is concerned, in 2019 we have two big events. We will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the El Primero movement, which is different from how other brands have celebrated watches. The second one will be the launch of the Defy Lab in an industrialized version. We are working hard on it now, and we will be able to deliver a few hundred in 2019. It will be limited by the difficulty of producing it.
I think it’s been an amazing year and there have been quite a few changes. I think the industry should be more turned to the future. We are doing that at Zenith and I don’t want all brands to do what we are doing, to keep a competitive advantage. If we continue to only repeat the past, doing the same things people were doing a hundred years, there isn’t much that is exciting. If we don’t want to be a museum industry, we have to be more creative and anticipate instead of react.
CEO of Bulgari
This year, the success of Lucia Tubogas was a dream — to combine Lucia with one of the strongest symbols of the brand, I loved seeing that this worked aesthetically and commercially. Another highlight was managing to get the Octo one step thinner with the new world record, and being thinner while further building a major watchmaking icon. The fact that we can do this while setting a new world record, with the peripheral rotor, was very elegant. This was a great satisfaction because it showed our innovation; we rethought the approach completely. When it comes to creativity, the teams can really think outside the box.
For the industry, this year has been a year of recovery, so I am very excited about the consolidation of that recovery. Watches are an important part of Bulgari’s portfolio, so I am excited about further growth in the watch category, between the new Lucia and the Octo and big news on Serpenti. 2019 will be the year of the snake for Bulgari — it will be an exciting year. And next year will be six years that I have been leading the company, so I am excited that this brand is becoming more and more irresistible. The desire to be part of Bulgari is growing very strongly, and this is very satisfying. I hope I can further inspire my team. Despite my many years at Bulgari, I want to give further taste to the music we try to deliver. I want to continue to regenerate myself.
For sure, the industry could be much more daring, starting with design. At Bulgari, we don’t hesitate to introduce new styles and we use these styles to evolve quite drastically. The industry as a whole should target to grow as much as the overall luxury industry, by being more daring, more lifestyle, more feminine and a little bit less mechanical in a functional sense. We need to attract new generations. We are too conventional in a world that is moving faster and faster. Luxury is not as clear as it used to be.