THE PEOPLE’S CHAMPION — JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BABIN, CEO, TAG HEUER
If Cartier is the king of high luxury, then TAG Heuer is the king of sports luxury. Because no brand is as completely associated with the story of performance sports than TAG Heuer. On a mass level, particularly in important markets such as the United States, the impact of TAG Heuer is profound. It is the one brand that young people grow up aspiring to own. In underdeveloped markets, TAG Heuer’s power is equally impressive as it is the one mass brand that seems immune to these nations’ reticence in embracing luxury timepieces. TAG Heuer’s CEO, Jean-Christophe Babin, correctly remarks, “TAG Heuer is not just a watch brand. It is one of the largest luxury brands in the world.” What we admire, however, is that along with the mass success of his products, Babin has enacted a parallel focus on the creation of some of the most innovative timepieces of the modern horological era. In particular, the V4 — the world’s first belt-driven watch — and the award winning Caliber 360. In many ways, Babin has demonstrated a capacity to channel the core performance DNA of his brand in unexpected and wildly captivating ways that serve only to make the name, TAG Heuer, one of the most universally admired.
What is the essence of power? Power, according to me, is the capacity to influence structurally by providing superior talent and unexpected ideas to a community, be it professional or social.
Please define the power of your brand. The power of TAG Heuer is the built-in creative energy of the brand accumulated from 147 years of innovative milestones, which triggers passionate reactions to any of its initiatives. The Monaco V4 was a good example. The recent rumors about a potential TAG Heuer mobile phone, which has already generated more than 823,000 links on Google, with some even imagining and designing fancy mobiles, is another example — probably unique in the luxury watch industry.
How do you use your power wisely to further the cause of your brand? Internally, by explaining to everyone that brand glory and creativity is the mission of everyone and that, if they are willing, we could pioneer incredible adventures together. Externally, by sharing what’s going on internally and sharing my passion for the brand, its DNA, its heritage and its unique group of collaborators!
What is the emotional power of high luxury? Probably to provide the feeling of owning for oneself something exceptional and rare, and which is born of a combination of tradition and innovation, and which warrants unsurpassed quality and aesthetic timelessness.
How is the mechanical watch powerful? It beats like a human heart. If you take the TAG Heuer Caliber 360 encased in the Carrera Chronograph, the unique 360,000 beats per hour is, by itself, a symphony like a V12 would be to a Ferrari. It’s emotionally strong for its uniqueness and the legend it embodies, as well as the dreams it generates.
Describe the power of the LVMH Group. Besides being five times bigger than the second-largest luxury group worldwide in terms of sales and profits, the real power of LVMH, according to me, is to have understood contemporary luxury earlier and better than any other luxury company, and to have understood that innovation and creativity were complementary to tradition, craftsmanship and heritage. Generally speaking, this provides LVMH brands with a competitive edge, be it for fragrances, watches, fashion or spirits.
If you were the most powerful man in the world, what law would you enact and why? I would prevent any type of segregation between races, religions, genders and cultures, to make sure that every human being is highly respected for who he or she is, and not where he or she comes from, or what he or she believes in.
Who is the most powerful person you know? Probably Mr. Bernard Arnault. Not because he is the owner of LVMH or the richest man in France, but because he has the strongest personal influence on the world of fashion and luxury, thanks to a unique sensitivity, incredible overall culture and a passionate commitment to innovation, trends and creativity.
What can be done to ensure the enduring power of the high watchmaking industry? It will be very much driven, or not, by its capacity to reinvent itself and to capitalize on its past, heritage and traditions, while integrating technologies of the 21st century. I believe that the TAG Heuer Monaco V4 is emblematic of this capacity, with some components inherited from our past, such as the escapement, and others coming from the aerospace industry or the world of micro-surgery, such as the ball bearings belt. If every major Swiss brand invents its own V4 and Caliber 360, then luxury watches will have a bright future!
THE RARE COMBINATION — PHILIPPE LEOPOLD-METZGER, CEO, PIAGET
A multi-faceted brand like Piaget calls for a man that is as equally multi-faceted, as embodied by Philippe Leopold-Metzger. Because Piaget has something of a split personality: on the one side, the brand is deeply luxurious, and more capriciously, sensually and unlimitedly feminine than any other luxury brand in the Richemont stable — which other brand could take a diamond-set disco ball and turn it into icon of opulence? — but at the same time, the brand has its roots in the manufacture of movements, in particular, the ultra-flat variety. Last year’s Altiplano Double Jeu, at first glance, looked like many of the ubiquitous large-sized sports watches of the modern era; but at second glance, revealed itself to be two complete watches fixed with a hinged case to underscore Piaget’s ability to render movements with remarkable thinness.
But Metzger is pushing his brand in a third direction, which has resulted in the reconciliation between what has been commonly perceived as divergent paths of glamour and technicity. In so doing, he has created some of the strongest high complication watches on the market that whimsically marry Piaget’s expertise in movements with its gem-setting panache such as the Emperador Skeleton tourbillon with diamond-set bridges. However, Metzger then took the game one step further with the creation of the Tourbillon Relatif, which elevated the tourbillon to the status of a kinetic sculpture. This year, Piaget created this same watch, now married with the high decorative arts of ‘grand feu’ enamel, reverse engraving and gem-setting. In doing so through Piaget, Metzger is laying claim to the emotional real estate, where high complication and fine arts are one and the same. Says Metzger, “We know who we are. We will never compete with Patek Philippe, who I consider to be the master of complications. But we are carving out a nice niche. Within this niche is the use of complications in high jewelry watches. People say you cannot have both jewelry and complicated watches. But this is false. We combine both of these. A watch that is a high complication and also an exquisite piece of jewelry is, to my mind, a real work of art.” This is what Metzger had to say on power…
What is power? Power enables one to influence, decide, direct and change.
What is the power of Piaget? Piaget’s power is based on its dual legitimacy as a watchmaker and a jeweler, unmatched creativity, global notoriety and a deep understanding of what exclusivity stands for.
How do you use your power to further the cause of your brand? I use my power today to redirect resources towards a repositioning of the brand as one of the top watchmakers of all time, a more comprehensive design team and a continued integration of production.
What is the power of luxury? The real power of high luxury lies in its invitation to people to dream. This is achieved by a perfect blend between the aesthetics of the watch, the quality of its movement, precious materials and making sure that attention is paid to the slightest details.
What is the emotional power of the mechanical watch? There is a perceived uniqueness about a mechanical watch — the knowledge that expert watchmakers have worked in a very artisanal way to make each tick of time individual.
What is the power of the Richemont Group? The power of Richemont is unique. It has a superb knowledge of the luxury world, the ability and the will to let each brand develop a long-term strategy, and very strong financial means.
If you were the most powerful person in the world, what law would you enact? I would work hard to provide equal rights for all citizens and focus on giving a free and quality education to each and every one of our children.
Who is the most powerful person you’ve ever met? Bill Clinton.
What can be done to ensure the enduring power of the high watchmaking industry? The power of the high watchmaking industry will remain if and only if we continue to: invest in training watchmakers and designers; focus on innovation and creativity; invest in production facilities; and promote healthy competition between brands.
THE LEADER OF THE KINGDOM — BERNARD FORNAS, CEO & PRESIDENT, CARTIER INTERNATIONAL
You can say what you want about the Richemont Group demonstrating remarkable intelligence with its policy of internal competition amongst its various brands. But in Richemont, there is one brand that remains aloof and wholly apart from the ebb and flow dynamics of this power structure. And that is because it occupies the rightful throne of the single most powerful brand in high luxury, having attained this ranking based on its titanic turnover. But there’s more to Cartier than sales. The magic of Cartier is this: whether it is the most accessible or the most expensive item in its resplendent array of finery, each and every item will evoke the same pure emotional impact. Women have been known to break down, overcome with emotion, at the mere glimpse of the signature red Cartier box. Cartier and the red box it has become synonymous with, is the one brand in the world that embodies the high luxury dream… The truth is, nothing else even comes close. What is amazing about Cartier is that it reinforces its immense brand equity in unconventional ways, such as its traveling museum exhibitions that cement the place of Cartier, not just within the fabric of luxury, but that of global social and economic change.
The man running the biggest luxury marque on the planet is the equally powerful Bernard Fornas. And it is to him that we pose our questions on power.
What is the essence of power? It is the ability to use one’s influence on others, by means of actions, authority and ideas, to generate creativity.
Please define the power of your brand. It is the power of style as well as constant creativity, elegance, conviction and seduction.
How do you use your power wisely to further the cause of your brand? By boosting the spirit of creativity and innovation throughout Cartier to give a future to our past.
What is the emotional power of high luxury? It is a combination of several factors: excellence, rarity and a sense of excitement when confronted with the ultimate craftsmanship.
How is the mechanical watch powerful? The conception of a mechanical movement symbolizes the desire to master the passage of time.
If you were the most powerful man in the world, what law would you enact and why? Amongst the array of laws I would welcome, there is one I feel strongly about: equal opportunity for both men and women. Because we believe that women pave the way for future generations, Cartier has joined forces with the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society to launch the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award, which will recognize innovative projects led by women that help preserve and develop traditional or current know-how.
Who is the most powerful person you know? The one who strives to fulfill his dream, whatever its scope. I have met a few of these fortunate persons — anonymous or famous.
What can be done to ensure the enduring power of the high watchmaking industry? By ensuring the transmission of our know-how, and the constant pursuit of innovation through new technical and creative challenges.
I feel strongly about equal opportunity for both men and women… cartier has
launched the cartier women’s initiative award to recognize innovative projects led by women that preserve and
develop traditional or current know-how he has created some of the strongest high complication watches in the market that whimsically marry piaget’s expertise in movements with its gem-setting panache
Who are the eleven most powerful bosses in the Swiss watch industry? We define them based on the power of the brand equity they’ve helped build, and their general impact on the Swiss watch industry over the last decade. Since the time they took the helm of their individual brands, each of them has respectively brought their brand significantly forward through products that have perfectly amplified their visions of luxury timekeeping. They have embarked on groundbreaking products such as Jean-Christophe Babin’s TAG Heuer Caliber 360 and V4; focused on enhancing their brand equity as in the case of Glashütte Original’s Dr. Frank Müller; and took their brands to new record levels of commercial success as with Cartier’s Bernard Fornas. Here then is our list of the men who have each played an invaluable role in the current success of the Swiss watch industry.
THE CUSTODIAN – HAMDI CHATTI, MANAGING DIRECTOR, HARRY WINSTON RARE TIMEPIECES
Hamdi Chatti, now in his second year as managing director of Harry Winston Rare Timepieces already had an impressive career before taking the company’s helm. At Cartier, he was involved alongside Carole Forestier-Kasapi and De Bethune’s Denis Flageollet in the industrialization of the brand’s famous monopusher chronograph caliber. At Montblanc, he (along with Kurt Klaus) played an influential part in the creation of what was to become the brand’s intended 2006 Halo watch, a GMT perpetual calendar chronograph.
So, the product-centric Chatti already had a plan once his new role was confirmed at Harry Winston. He explains, “The Opus watches have been an instrumental project in the history of modern horology and there was no way I was going to let it die.” Determined not to miss even one year in Opus product development, he immediately contacted the independent watchmaking team of Robert Greubel and Stephen Forsey, who were famous for their double axis tourbillon with a balance wheel inclined at 30 degrees. Says Greubel, “When Hamdi first approached us and we realized we had only six months to realize this project, we were unsure if we wanted to participate. Then, Hamdi took us aside and told us, ‘We will work on this together, putting forth all our best efforts to create something exceptional. And on the day before the 2006 Basel Fair, if the watch is not ready, then I will never force you to show it. We will have a coffee together and we will simply continue our work.’” It is precisely this respect for horology that has made Chatti a new champion for independent watchmakers.
Opus 6 was a natural extension of the Opus vision, which celebrates creative ways of telling time. Says Chatti, “With this watch, I wanted the movement — in particular, the dancing double axis tourbillon with inclined balance — to take centerstage.” The watch was also the unexpected hit of the 2006 watch fair, creating a massive boost in brand equity for Greubel Forsey. Bolstering this high complication, Chatti continued to push forward strong commercial products in the Ocean Diver platform.
In 2007, Chatti’s next Opus was perhaps the most polarizing watch of the year. It is simultaneously captivating and frustrating: a highly complex dual function mechanical watch that forces the user to interact with it to tell the time. Will Opus 7 sell? It’s likely. And although it isn’t necessarily our kind of watch, we salute Chatti’s willingness to push horology further to enhance the important connectivity between end user and watch. Chatti has mentioned that, this year, he will move to New York to have greater proximity to the New York corporate power base of Harry Winston. How this affects his ability to remain horologically creative… Well, time will tell.
What endows your brand with power? Harry Winston is a magic brand that makes people dream. Our fundamental brand values are strongly committed to the history of ultimate gemstones that are the living symbols of “eternity” and “emotion”. From the design to the final execution, our universe is all about subtlety. More than a symbol of authority, it’s the power of being recognized as an art. And “art” means the power of making people move — in their head — to transcend existing limits in different areas.
What does “power” mean to you? It means having the freedom to orient our own destiny by expressing personal opinions and achieving individual goals. In other words, it means to live up to my passions in life.
What can be done to ensure the enduring power of the high watchmaking industry? By creating “the exceptional and nothing else”; to stick with Harry Winston’s views and capabilities for constant innovation. As our founder did, we need to keep raising the bar by pioneering new techniques and concepts. By educating people about the subtleties of high horology, we will make them discover the emotions driven by a piece of “art-craftmanship” that sublimes all technical functions.
What has enabled you to succeed in spite of the challenges you’ve had to overcome? A spirit and mentality fed by continuous learning from past experiences, while keeping my passion and determination alive; and my ability to integrate different points of views before coming to a decision. Also, I rely on my team, who has always supported my initiatives once we’ve made the decision together to go ahead with a project.
What has been the greatest leadership challenge you’ve had to overcome? As you may know, Harry Winston is a fast-growing company and we are working on great challenges ahead of us. Over the years, one of our key challenges has been to make sure that our freedom in creativity will continue to lead technical challenges by keeping our brand substance and spirit even more exclusive. Keeping our team unified, while extending the organization was also one of my key goals. And, in that respect, I will admit that I was greatly helped by the construction of our new manufacture, which will be officially opened by next September. It’s a concrete example of our dynamism and our people are proud of it. We are all moving forward together. To reach such a symbiosis was a great challenge and our success will be a tribute to the commitment of all of Harry Winston’s employees.
THE PATHFINDER — JUAN-CARLOS TORRES, CEO, VACHERON CONSTANTIN
Juan-Carlos Torres has a daunting job ahead of him — he is at the reins of both the oldest manufacture in the world and a brand that occupies a place in high watchmaking’s “Holy Trinity”. As a brand, Vacheron Constantin has gone from floundering to renewed health in a decade, thanks to a renewed focus on winning products. However, since the onset of Torres as its CEO in 2006, Vacheron Constantin has begun to show interesting sparks of creativity, which are an emphatic statement that its status as the world’s oldest manufacture doesn’t mean that it can’t create appealing contemporary products. Amongst these are the highly successful Platinum Excellence collection of 2006, which took the basic iconography of timepieces like the Malte Chronograph and the Patrimony Skeleton Minute Repeater and infused them with the stark monochrome cool of platinum. This year, Torres and his team took the jumping, dragging indicators of the Métiers d’Art watch introduced for the brand’s 250th anniversary in 2005 and recreated it using tiny reproductions of primitive masks. The result is one of the most arresting and unexpected product ranges of the watch year. In product terms, Torres has revealed a capacity for daring that has injected a healthy new dose of youthful energy into the manufacture. In this way, he has found the path for the manufacture to follow into its next 250 years of living history. While rumors abound about the internal political maneuverings at Vacheron Constantin, we are certain that this is just the by-product of a period of adjustment due to the arrival of a highly capable and exciting new CEO.
What is the emotional power of the mechanical watch? The emotional power of the watch is the man behind the watch. The watchmaker. What is a watch movement made from? Steel and brass parts. These are not precious metals or “precious” in themselves. It is the human being who takes these parts and gives them life.
What is the unique power of Vacheron Constantin? Our power is derived from our people. When I started with the brand, we had 55 people. Now, we have 500 people. Everyone is connected with the same spirit. Each personality is different, but adds something to the collective spirit; and that collective spirit is our foundation.
What is the power of creating the world’s most complicated watch? The power of making high complications like the Tour de L’Ile is that is enables us to develop new technologies that we can use for other watches. For example, this year, we have an extraordinary tourbillon repeater and the sound of this watch is incredible. We used a new type of centripetal speed regulator to control the striking of the watch. There are generally two types of regulators: the flying type, which is silent, but has a limit to its adjustability; and the escapement type, which you can regulate the strikes quite significantly with, but makes noise. We developed a new type of inertia regulator during the process of creating the Tour de L’Ile and we have used it here.
What is the power of over a quarter millennium of living history? The power of having over a quarter millennium of history is that we don’t need to create fashion watches. All the watches we make are innately timeless. This can be seen in what we’ve created this year. We have one collection called Les Masques that is deeply rooted in ancient human culture in its connection to primitive arts. On this watch, you will see that the masks are elevated before the time-telling indications as a statement that the human connection here is of primary importance and time-telling is secondary. At the same time, we have a collection that is increasingly subdued and minimalist. This idea of really pure, elegant and understated watches was initiated in last year’s Platinum Excellence collection. The concern today is that there is an overriding trend for watches that are bigger and crazier-looking, but my concern is: how will these watches age over the next few years? Because a watch is also an heirloom — something that is passed down from generation to generation. While it should reflect human culture of the period in which it was created, it should not be a slave to trends. Some may perceive us as the oldest legitimate manufacture in high watchmaking, but I like to think of us as having the longest history. This history must never be broken. It must be transmitted and retransmitted for future generations using the power of our past, and also our vision for the future.
You’ve just created a new bespoke watch service; what is the expressive power of customization? It is to reinforce the truly human dimension of high watchmaking. The most important period in watchmaking and the most important watches have come out of a collaboration between manufactures and individual clients, and we want to help bring back the spirit of this golden age with our bespoke watch service. In fact, these pieces are not really profitable because the amount of time, energy and development costs related to creating a one-of-a-kind piece is so substantial. But for us, we would like to think of this as returning watchmaking to its roots. The most important people related to the mechanical watch is the watchmaker who transmits his emotions to the watch, and the client who adopts this watch as part of his life. The manufacture is only here to ensure quality and service. When we present our Tour de L’Ile, we invite the watchmaker to present the watch to the customer because he is handing over his child.
THE VISIONARY — ANGELO BONATI, CEO, OFFICINE PANERAI
While Richemont’s senior executive director, Franco Cologni and design chief, Giampiero Bodino collaborated with Angelo Bonati in transforming what was once a military tool watch into the most phenomenally successful new brand of the last ten years, it was Bonati who truly understood the full capacity of Panerai. It was only in Angelo Bonati’s mind that a word had taken form. That word was ‘manufacture’ — a term used for a brand that consolidates the majority of its production and the entirety of its intellectual property within its own doors. The thing is, Panerai — even throughout its history as a military secret — never had a focus on in-house movements. Iconic watches such as the 1936 California dial Radiomir used a Rolex movement, while the Egiziano diving watch created for the Egyptian navy used an eight days power reserve Angelus movement. Throughout the first seven years of its existence, Panerai similarly depended on well-made, externally sourced workhorse movements for the robust sports watches and the small series of complications that made up its production. But in 2005, Bonati unveiled the P.2002 — a three-barreled eight days power reserve movement that shared a genetic lineage with the eight days Angelus movement used by military divers. At the time, little did we know this movement represented the birth of a new era for Panerai. The movement itself was a revelation, boasting features that Bonati felt expressed the military fixation with precision: zero reset, GMT, a date synchronized to local time and a linear power reserve were all features Bonati felt, “The divers of that era would have wanted.”
In 2006, Bonati focused on the launch of the Ferrari watches engineered by Panerai and, to a certain extent, many felt that he had lost his passion for Panerai. How wrong they were. Because in 2007, in tandem with Panerai’s 10th anniversary, Bonati launched three new in-house calibers and a full array of products that would have to rank as the most significant collective product launch of any single brand this year. You see, now Bonati has it all. He has the legitimacy of in-house calibers — a basic movement, an eight days manual and a ten days automatic caliber; he has medium complications — an eight days automatic vertical clutch caliber; and he has a groundbreaking complication — a vertically rotating tourbillon. In each these instances, the calibers fully represent the DNA of Panerai. Now, this is the interesting part… Because the range of watches using 1950 and Radiomir cases (in both precious metal and steel) housing these movements now represent one of the most powerful collections in the men’s watch market, with the legitimacy of the engines within these watches, Panerai could arguably eclipse IWC and even Audemars Piguet’s Offshore with their commercial clout. We spoke to Angelo Bonati to learn about the power of his long-term vision for Panerai.
What is power? It is the possibility of realizing a dream.
What is the emotional power of the mechanical watch? To know that you have a machine on your wrist made through human intelligence.
What is the power of Panerai? Panerai.
What can be done to ensure the enduring power of the mechanical watch? In 1982, I was doing a study and I realized that mechanical watches represented ten percent of the watches made in the world. And I declared that the future is with mechanical watches. People told me, “But are you crazy? The future is the quartz watch. With electronic timers, you can do anything you want.” I understood this, but I also felt that with the electronic watch, the craft of watchmaking becomes banal. You cannot pretend to sell watches just through the cases and not through the content. Over 20 years later, the sales figures prove that I am right. And mankind is better for this, because the mechanical watch represents our culture, our heroism and our intelligence.
What is the power of creativity? The possibility of formalizing a dream and distilling it into one single object.
Who is the most powerful person you know? He hasn’t been born yet. You know why? You cannot say in absolute that this is the most powerful person because life is continuous. Every minute, people are being born and each person has the possibility of achieving something great.
Who are more powerful, men or women? Women. Because they have the ultimate ability to create and nurture. The world itself is perceived to be feminine because of its ability to sustain us.
BABIN HAS DEMONSTRATED A CAPACITY TO CHANNEL THE CORE PERFORMANCE DNA OF HIS BRAND IN UNEXPECTED AND WILDLY CAPTIVATING WAYS
WHEN I DECLARED THAT THe FUTURE IS WITH MECHANICAL WATCHES… PEOPLE TOLD ME,“BUT ARE YOU CRAZY? THE FUTURE IS THE QUARTZ WATCH…”
BY EDUCATING PEOPLE ABOUT THE SUBTLETIES OF HIGH HOROLOGY, THEY WILL DISCOVER THE EMOTIONS DRIVEN BY A PIECE OF “ART-CRAFTSMANSHIP”
THE WATCH LOVER — MARC HAYEK, CEO, BLANCPAIN
Taking over the helm of Blancpain — a brand once singularly associated with the man who revived it, Jean-Claude Biver — was a daunting task. But in many ways, what Marc Hayek has achieved with Blancpain is more impressive than the marketing campaign and mythology created around the brand’s status as the world’s oldest manufacture. What Hayek did was to turn the focus away from himself and back onto the products created by Blancpain. What is the identity of Blancpain? It has evolved into a brand that is deeply rooted in the values of Vallée de Joux watchmaking, but which also represents original, modern aesthetics. Watches such as the Tourbillon Transparence have brought a fresh contemporary spirit to Blancpain by ingeniously emphasizing, rather than departing from, Blancpain’s core values of finish and refinement. The brand’s GMT Alarm watch was issued last year in a brushed titanium and rose gold version because titanium made for the perfect lightweight travel watch. Titanium also enhanced the sound dynamics of the case and ushered in the introduction of industrial/performance materials to the brand. Hayek has also looked at traditional complications like the perpetual calendar, and created functional augmentations such as hidden finger-operated pushers for the calendar displays that are recessed into the watch lugs. But our favorite Blancpain thus far has to be the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms tourbillon — a watch that fuses diving watch performance with the chronometry of a tourbillon regulator. Based on the power of his products, we are happy to elect Marc Hayek as one of the most powerful ‘bosses’ of the Swiss watch industry.
What is the essence of power? Power has many ways and many faces, ranging from the physical to the mental… But its essence is always the same — it is focused on the strength to achieve something exceptional and very powerful.
define the power of your brand. The power of our brand is the watch — the product itself. But also our ethos and devotion to traditional watchmaking values ranging from our painstakingly applied hand finishes to our working methods of one watchmaker building a watch from beginning to end or, as we say, “A to Z”. Each of our watches is a powerful symbol and reminder of these traditions.
How do you use your power to further the cause of your brand?We see innovation as a traditional watchmaking value. So, our watchmakers are as energetic today in advancing watchmaking art as their predecessers were over the preceding two centuries.
What is the emotional power of high luxury? High luxury is nothing more than emotions. We want the emotions expressed in our watches to connect with the emotions of the collectors who admire and buy them.
How is the mechanical watch powerful? From a technical viewpoint, it is a long power reserve that is able to work for several days. From a philosophical viewpoint, mechanical watches represent extraordinary human achievements — the conquering of time with mechanical elements and realizing extraordinary complications in the dimensions of a wristwatch. These are all testaments to the creativity, devotion and artistry of master watchmakers. When people learn to appreciate this, they will experience a powerful connection with this small object on the wrist that has come to mean so much.
Describe the power of the Swatch Group. It is the biggest group in the watch industry. Its power is not only through all the brands, but also through its know-how and facilities in every field of watchmaking within the group, such as micro-mechanics and micro-electronics. This makes for a complete and powerful entity. Blancpain’s affiliation with the group gives us the ability to attract the finest watchmaking talent and to make the investments we want, to advance our watchmaking art.
What is the power of innovation? The power of innovation related to movements is to further distinguish our watches and our performance ambitions for them. As you know, last year, we launched our caliber 13RO, which is a three-barreled movement with eight days power reserve. One of the recent subjects that was discussed in 2007 was whether a long power reserve could provide consistent power over its entire life span. What we devised with the 13RO was a way to use the first two barrels to power the third barrel, which is the one that contacts the gear train. As such, although the power supply in the first two barrels goes up and then down as power supply diminishes, the power in the third barrel remains consistent. For this year, we’ve brought this technology to some of our other watches. We’ve done an automatic version of this movement that we’ve used in the new version of the Fifty Fathoms. We’ve added an even bigger balance wheel, so that while power reserve may have diminished somewhat, its stability is better. It’s even more stable than the 13RO, which is already very stable. We lost a little bit of power reserve, so it’s closer to seven days power reserve than eight, but we gain in stability. This is the right kind of movement for a sports watch. So you see, at Blancpain, when we make a sports watch, it’s not just a watch that is sturdy on the outside, but also one with a movement optimized inside.
What is the power of honesty? You have to be honest with the consumer. They are getting so educated today, with the proliferation of good magazines and websites. This is a big part of the direction we take today. We decided that watches will stay bigger than they were 50 years ago. And we decided, “Look, we have to take advantage of this in an honest way.” So many people are making big watches, but with small movements.
I said “Let’s make a larger-sized movement, but with all the best performance enhancements possible.” I wanted a stable movement using inertia screws for regulation that had a long power reserve and that remained stable across its eight days power reserve. This is one example of honesty.
Another example is that, this year, we introduced a Fifty Fathoms chronograph, which has no screws on the pusher. Why? Because you can use the chronograph underwater… If you are going to make a diving watch chronograph, then logic dictates that it should be functional underwater during your decompression, when it is most needed. Otherwise, you make something that is purely a design watch. It is Blancpain’s way to make real watches. At the same time, we are very transparent with our communications today. For example, we are happy to mention that Mr. Vincent Calabrese has played a large part in the birth of our tourbillon…
What can be done to ensure the enduring power of the high watchmaking industry? By never ceasing to question ourselves, by taking new challenges, and by creating and improving every day.
you have to be honest with the consumer today, what with the proliferation of good magazines and websites. this is a big part of the direction we take today
THE TRAIL BLAZER — GEORGES-HENRI MEYLAN, CEO, AUDEMARS PIGUET
If we were going to give an award for the manufacture of the decade, names like Panerai and Jaeger-LeCoultre would be bandied around, but Audemars Piguet could well be the most serious contender for the prize. That’s because, more than any other manufacture, Audemars Piguet has consistently led the way and almost totally defined a vast part of the modern horological design lexicon. One look at the sports watches of today and you cannot miss that — despite arguments to the contrary — at least half the successful watches on the market are in some way aping the Royal Oak Offshore. But beyond this design reference, Audemars Piguet has consistently been a company that dares to push new boundaries. And the man leading the way is its CEO, Georges-Henri Meylan.
Under Meylan, Audemars Piguet was the first to introduce ‘industrial styling’ through watches like the Royal Oak Concept and the afore-mentioned Offshore into haut de gamme watchmaking. Audemars Piguet was the first to successfully marry industrial materials like tantalum, carbon fiber and rubber with horology. The fact that AP is one of the brands that occupies the very top tier of Swiss watchmaking speaks for Meylan’s daring. Because no other brand in this small core elite, which includes Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, would possess the daring — the sheer audacity — to so boldly take the traditional values of high Swiss watchmaking and connect them with contemporary culture. And so, while Jean-Claude Biver was the first to give the name ‘fusion’ to this bridging of cultures, it was Meylan and AP that were the primary proponents of modernizing the haut de gamme watch. It is also AP that has had a huge influence in emotionally engaging a whole new generation of watch buyers, as evinced by the Royal Oak Offshore being co-opted as the de rigeur rap star or playboy accessory in the new millennium.
As a statement of AP’s market-leading vision in new materials, this year, Meylan unveiled an incredible ‘forged carbon’ case-making facility at AP Technology, which points to continuing development in carbon case technology. At the same time, while it may have taken slightly longer than expected, it appears that AP is also now solidifying the content of its watches with a wider use of the caliber 3120 automatic movement in two in-house chronographs that are being developed. Also launched this year was the ‘TOM’ – the nickname for the simple, deadbeat watch using AP’s in-house escapement designed by Patrick Augereau. Finally, Meylan has answered the criticism that AP is a one-model brand by successfully turning the Millenary into a red-hot symbol of new world luxury.
What is the emotional power of the mechanical watch? It’s far more than reading time. Dreams are in a watch. Human labor is invested in a watch. Hours, days and months of a watchmaker’s life are invested. I always say, if you want a watch just for reading time, please don’t buy an AP. It is far too expensive. You can read time on your mobile. If you want an object that is a piece of art, that joins performance and craftsmanship, you buy an AP. And this is the message we impart with all of our watches. To go from A to Z, why would you buy a Maserati or a Rolls Royce? It is to own part of the dream invoked by the brand and, more importantly, the product itself that is, at its core, a piece of art.
You are one of the most creative brands in horology. What is the power of creativity? You can say that we are probably the most creative of the true haut de gamme manufactures, but audacity has always been a part of our DNA. We were audacious when we launched the world’s first wristwatch tourbillon and when we pioneered new materials with the Royal Oak Concept tourbillon. This year, the Millenary watch with deadbeat seconds is audacious in its combination of the movement and time indications. Next year, we are going to do a Millenary watch that is going to be a little bit crazy with the return of our Starwheel indication, which is both an incredibly legitimate and a highly audacious product for us. The oval shape gives you the opportunity to have indications on one side, or other indications on the other side. You can almost have two movements, because you can have two ways of showing time. Creativity pushes you to accomplish more.
from a historical perspective, how will creativity empower your brand? All we can do is try to work in such as way that we feel we are adding one page to the history of AP. And to do this, you cannot repeat the past. This is precisely what Ferrari does today as well. And it is possible that what seems very avant-garde today may become the classic in the future.
What is the secret to AP’s creative energy? Our energy clearly comes from having great creative individuals in both the design and the movement side who work so well together. You cannot have this level of creativity without a perfect partnership between our artistic director, Octavio Garcia, and the technical director of our high complication division, Giulio Papi. These two guys will go to the bench of our watchmakers and say, “What can we do today?”
What is the power of developing things in-house? In-house capabilities give you enormous empowerment. We saw the technology for forged carbon at the aviation industry and we took the risk to bring this facility in-house. It’s funny, it almost started like Apple in the garage, but we took the necessary steps to make this technology part of who we are. And now, even as we strive to improve surface hardness and other aspects, the technology gives us a huge liberty to be creative with other case designs.
What is the power of evolution? The power of evolution can be seen with what we are doing with our Royal Oak Offshore. As you know, this year we introduced our in-house movement caliber 3120 into the orange-dialed Offshore that collectors are now calling the Volcano. We did this to add greater value and exclusivity to a watch that is already very successful, because you must continue to evolve your product to provide the best value for your customers.
The fine mechanical watch of today is a dialectical object bridging differences — a beautiful anachronism in a digital world, and therefore so interesting
THE BRAND BUILDER — DR. FRANK MüLLER, CEO, GLASHÜTTE ORIGINAL
For watch fans, it is easy to identify two eras for the brand, Glashütte Original. The first is the era in which it was founded by West German medical business tycoon, Heinz Pfeiffer. His stroke of genius was to transform the watchmaking collective — known as the GUB — into his manufacture, instantly providing it with greater manufacturing depth than the majority of other brands on the market. The second era is when Glashütte Original was sold to the Swatch Group and Dr. Frank Müller — who used to run A. Lange & Söhne — took over and ushered in a period of more focused commercial direction. As watch lovers, when you look past the marketing, you explore the nature of the brand simply by what speaks to you the most: its watches. While the watches of Pfeiffer’s era were beautifully finished and boasted some novel innovations, they were largely without a singular identity.
Since Dr. Frank Müller assumed the reigns of the mighty Glashütte manufacture, he has poured the high technical essence of his brand into products with a cohesive identity. Watches like the PanoMatic chronograph, the stunning PanoNavigator and the revised Sports watches all evoke a sense of German retro-cool, fused with appealing designs and innovative movements. Combine this with Müller’s relentless passion for traveling and meeting collectors, and you’ll realize his rare ability to connect the brand with potential owners in a truly human way. So, in essence, while Pfeiffer was instrumental in reviving the brand, Müller has been equally instrumental in solidifying the brand’s equity and communicating its identity. And this, in our eyes, makes him very powerful indeed.
What is the essence of power? Power illustrates the right, ability or authority to do something to generate change. For me, power is a positive energy that is needed to achieve goals in a particular period of time.
Please define the power of your brand. Glashütte Original is a highly dynamic and innovative brand although it already looks back on more than 160 years of continuous existence as a classical watch manufactory. We create, produce, assemble and finish watch movements internally with a very high degree of craftsmanship. As one of the few German watch brands, and looking at the impressively small numbers of annually produced watches, Glashütte Original is surely exclusive. Our dynamism also applies to cultural achievements: we manage our own watchmaking school of 45 apprentices and soon, we intend to inaugurate a wonderful watch museum in the city center of Glashütte. To sum up, Glashütte Original is about the uniqueness and credibility of fine watchmaking.
How do you use your power to further the cause of your brand? My role is to develop the right strategic vision and positioning for Glashütte Original; to invent and plan future collections; to assess our means and develop them further; to enable the teams to achieve our goals; and to control and motivate. In short: to make sure that we do the right things, and that we do them right.
What is the emotional power of high luxury? The emotional power of high luxury makes people dream — and makes dreams come true.
How is the mechanical watch powerful? The mechanical watch is fascinating to us because it represents a synergy of what seem to be contradictions. Today, a fine mechanical watch is about machine production with CNC-routers, spark erosion cutters and so on; but it is still as much about human beings performing their arts as watchmakers, goldsmiths or designers. It is about manufacturing within tolerances of less than 5/1,000th of a millimeter to ensure functionality, but it is also about the ‘useless’ abundant beauty of craftsmanship that is put into every single watch through handmade polishing, creating unique masterpieces.
Today’s fine watches are about innovation, of course, but they still follow the ‘old-fashioned’ principles of mechanical functions that were first put to life by a German man named Peter Henlein, a French man named Breguet and other pioneers. The precision of a mechanical watch is relatively weak compared to any quartz watch; however, every mechanical watch tells the story of mankind’s cultural achievements over time with the highest exactitude. The mechanical watch can consist of prestigious metals of platinum or gold; however, its deeper value is made of intrinsic values like tradition and beauty.
The fine mechanical watch of today is a dialectical object bridging differences — a beautiful anachronism in a digital world, and therefore so interesting.
Describe the power of the Swatch Group. There’s hardly anything the Swatch Group cannot do. The Group masters all processes and possesses the resources to invent, produce, assemble and finish any type of watch. There are two reasons why the Swatch Group is the world’s largest manufacturer of watches today: its people and their creativity.
What can be done to ensure the enduring power of the high watchmaking industry? As an industry, we need to agree on a vision for the future. Then, we have to allocate powers to achieve it. Two important things are innovation and customer service orientation. Today, people can spend their money on millions of things: cars, art, travel, fashion, houses, furniture and much more. The watch industry is in competition with other industries for the customers’ awareness, appreciation and, in the end, money.
As long as we are innovative in terms of movement functions, exciting designs and new materials, we will attract collectors and newbies to our fascinating world of watchmaking. Therefore, I believe in having strong competition within our industry to keep the rhythm of innovation as high as possible. We also need to improve the whole customer service orientation of all our processes in the future. I do hope and believe that Glashütte Original is preparing for its future.
With our own watchmaking school, we can create future generations of highly talented and trained watchmakers. However, the industry and, of course, we in Glashütte, need to improve further to ensure that the watch world, which has fascinated millions of people with its wonderful achievements for centuries, remains attractive. Customers first!
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THE SPEAKER OF THE TRUTH — GERALD RODEN, CEO, DANIEL ROTH and GÉRALD GENTA
It can be a shock to the system, but Gerald Roden tells it like it is. After meeting him, he looks us in the eye and says, “In general, I have very little respect for watch magazines. Most copy straight from the PR file. What I don’t like is that they help brands that lie to people, that sell their products using only marketing.” While Roden does acknowledge that marketing is a necessity in the watch industry, he laughingly said, “For Genta and Roth, our philosophy is 80 percent product and 20 percent marketing. For others, it is just the opposite.”
Roden is a man who has faced and overcome one of the greatest challenges in luxury watches. How do you continue to steer and build brand equity for two manufactures so strongly associated with the star watchmakers they were named for? He could have gone the way of Carlos Dias and basically eschewed the input of these watchmakers. But Roden decided on a different path. He explains, “I have the blood of Mr. Genta and Mr. Roth in my veins. For me, it is simply a question of respecting their values.” Roden makes around 5,000 watches a year in Le Sentier — 3,000 Genta watches and 2,000 Daniel Roth watches, each one crafted using the most stringent observation of qualitative testing in the industry. Roden is one of the few who submits each repeater that leaves his manufacture to true scientific testing.
Roden has developed an expertise in sonneries, repeaters and tourbillons. To his credit, he has created all these haut de gamme watches purely in-house and incorporated industry-leading safety features to ensure that they are easy to use, reliable and problem-free. Of the many watches he has created, the timepiece we’re still awed by is the amazing grande sonnerie automatic tourbillon. This watch was introduced at the 2003 Basel fair and is based on an automatic movement designed and developed entirely by the factory at Le Sentier. This particular grande sonnerie beats out the Westminster Chimes, which uses four separate hammers for the grand and small strikes. In addition to having a grande sonnerie feature, this watch is also equipped with a minute repeater. Amazingly, this striking mechanism has even been mated to a tourbillon powered by an automatic rotor. In addition, this sonnerie has numerous safety features that predate those seen on F. P. Journe’s Sonnerie Souveraine. So as you can see, the acquisition of the two manufactures helmed by Roden by the Bulgari Group was not just to tap the in-house high complication expertise, but also to harness Roden’s not inconsiderable managerial skill.
So, what does Roden need to give his brands a little added boost in the years ahead? Basically, it goes back to the opening paragraph of this profile. Because with fantastic products in his pipeline, he now needs to figure out the right way to communicate and connect them with a wider audience than what is currently the niche consumer base of Genta and Roth timepieces.
What is the power of independence? In all honesty, I could be like a lot of other manufactures and buy my perpetual calendar from Dubois Dépraz. But I don’t. Because in addition to giving me legitimacy, by making it in-house, I can monitor the quality of the movement first-hand. Every year, I can refine my movement, to make it perform more reliably and to give better quality to the end user. In 1998, we focused on creating our own in-house tourbillon caliber with a 200 hour power reserve, because I saw that the entire industry was still depending on Lemania ebauches and I thought that Swatch Group might cut the supply of movements. Now, it looks like they are going to do this soon.
Independence for independence’s sake means nothing because what it generally creates is higher prices, unless you have a movement factory that repositions yourself as a brand.
Today, if you want a minute repeater or a sonnerie, you can go to a specialist in making these types of watches like Mr. Claret. You give him a check and he will make the movement, or maybe the whole watch, for you. But this doesn’t make you different from anyone else.
What is the power of the independent watchmaker? One of my close friends is Philippe Dufour. When I look into his eyes, I just see so much passion and this is contagious. What he does, he does purely for love. In some ways, I would like to re-inject this spirit back into our brands, in particular, Daniel Roth.
What can be done to ensure the enduring power of the high watchmaking industry? There’s too much marketing right now. I’m sorry, I don’t want to kill people’s dreams here, but we will only introduce materials to watchmaking that bring something to watches. We studied ceramic base plates because, I thought, if you mount components directly into the ceramic, you might be able to eliminate the need for rubies. But the problem was, we still had to use rubies and chantons, which, in the end, means we are no better off than when we began. Then, we started to look at titanium plates, but they brought nothing to the movement. What does a carbon fiber plate bring to the movement? Nothing. It’s all just marketing. There is no improvement to the performance of the watch. Silicium definitely has applications. We are all contributing 100,000 Swiss francs to the same joint project that makes Patek Philippe’s parts.
What is the power of real horological innovation? We are working on a movement that beats at a much faster vibrational speed. Now, this would bring something functional to the watch, unlike gimmicks like the “service indicators” you see on URWERK’s latest watches. People say, “Wow, this is fantastic,” but it’s not fantastic. It is a marketing trick. As an industry, we need to watch out. Because if you talk too much bullsh*t, you are going to turn people off one day and then they are going to collect something else. We cannot allow this to happen, because it would erode faith in horology. It is our mission at Daniel Roth and Gérald Genta to preserve and champion real, legitimate high watchmaking, where art and function, and craft and technicity, are one and the same.
RODEN IS ONE OF THE FEW WHO SUBMITs EACH REPEATER THAT LEAVES HIS MANUFACTURE TO TRUE SCIENTIFIC TESTING
THE STAR MAKER — STEPHEN URQUHART, PRESIDENT, OMEGA
The product power of Omega is enormous and in many parts of the world, it is Omega — and not Rolex — that is the better-known brand. And as seen from its capacity to secure, perhaps the most sought-after film star, George Clooney, as its brand ambassador, Omega’s commercial power is also similarly immense. The man steering these two key facets of the brand is Stephen Urquhart, the former CEO of Audemars Piguet. Urquhart’s reputation as a highly capable manager was forged at the Le Brassus manufacture where he oversaw, amongst other things, the launch of the Royal Oak Offshore.
Urquhart has similarly brought his strong commercial savvy to Omega. He has reconnected the brand to a youthful market by positioning it on the wrist of Anna Kournikova. He has also secured what was perhaps both the most brilliant and most blatant moment of feature film product placements in the 2006 James Bond movie, Casino Royale, where Daniel Craig’s James Bond informs Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd that he was wearing an ‘O-mee-ga’. After which, she coolly remarks, “Beautiful.”
In this film, what is remarkable is that every single person — including the croupier (he wears a red dial Speedmaster) — is wearing some kind of Omega watch. Under Urquhart, Omega has also begun to better understand and capitalize on its primary technical cache, which is its co-axial escapement. Created by watchmaker George Daniels and industrialized by Omega, the ultra-flat co-axial was the first implemented alternative to the Swiss anchor design in the modern watchmaking era. While at that time, the concept of alternative escapement design did not spark the commercial wildfire that it has today, it is important to note that Omega has had a considerable headstart on all other manufactures that are, with the exception of Ulysse Nardin, only just launching their escapements now. To create greater market distinction for his product range, Urquhart is rapidly phasing the escapement into all of his movements. In the past few years, he has also considerably elevated the average price of Omega’s timepieces with the introduction of appealing modern watches, such as the DeVille Co-Axial Rattrapante. For 2006, Omega launched Hour Vision — a new series of watches with an all-new in-house caliber designed from the ground up — to optimize the performance of the co-axial escapement. The finish of these watches, as evidenced by their sapphire crystal case backs, is rather remarkable considering their reasonable price points. All in all, Stephen Urquhart has done an impressive job of consistently ensuring the enduring vibrancy and commercial relevance of Omega in an increasingly competitive market.
What is the commercial power of being James Bond’s watch? Well, products and personalities need to fit together. I met up with Barbara Broccili, whom I know well and have worked with for five films now. I said, “Look, I don’t want to have an Omega for Bond that cuts ice and has a harpoon. Since there’s a new watch this year, why doesn’t Q say to Bond, ‘Listen, Bond. Be careful, this is the new Omega with the co-axial!’” Of course, she replied no. She said, “No, this I can’t do, but let me think of something.” And she came up with this great exchange between Bond and Vesper. Initially, I had some concerns because I saw where Bond was going, and it was getting a little too gadget-oriented and there wasn’t enough storyline. This one was great. Daniel Craig is a perfect Bond and I love that they’ve toned down the gimmicks and stuck to telling a good story. It fits perfectly with the profile of Omega, which is completely against gimmicks, and focused on reliability and performance.
What is the power of George Clooney as a brand ambassador? George Clooney was a really natural fit for us. I knew he’d be the perfect ambassador for us when I saw a picture of him and he was already wearing a Planet Ocean — meaning that he was already a fan of the brand. He’s great because he’s obviously a man the women are all in love with for his looks, but he has great content as well. He takes strong political stances, and he’s a very talented producer and director.
What is the power of communication? The power of communication is that it allows the unique message of Omega to be visually vocalized. Today, many brands are using brand ambassadors and we have to careful we don’t send across the message that we are trying to sell a watch based purely on these associations. The fit has to be right. This is what provides the credibility. To me, this means taking the association one step further. For example, with George Clooney, I’d like to meet him and see if there is some project we can work on together; something relevant and meaningful. We should also not forget that, in an era where we are trying to be eco-friendly, the mechanical watch is one of the most eco-friendly luxury objects on earth. It doesn’t require any fuel or batteries. It is not disposable, but endures indefinitely. And it only takes a human being to power it.
What is the emotional power of the mechanical watch? It is a wonderful luxury product that only brings positive things to life.
In light of your highly successful auction with Antiquorum, what is the power of Omega’s past? The past is something that money can’t buy. Look at the sheer wealth and richness of the past embodied by this auction, and you can see the immense effect that Omega has had — not just on the story of watchmaking, but on human culture. No other brand has this breadth of scale. We’ve shown the world what an incredible variety we’ve had. At the same time, the past gives us wonderful inspiration for our future product range. H
Daniel craig as bond fits perfectly with the profile of omega, which is against gimmicks and focused on reliability and performance anachronism in a digital world, and therefore so interesting
A watch is also an heirloom… while it should reflect human culture of the period in which it was created, it should not be a slave to trends