third time lucky
PARTNERSHIP AFTER AN ILL-WITH FATE THE D SWATCH GROUP, TIFFANY ’ S RE ACHING INTO IT S PA ST TO SECURE IT S FUTURE , WITH MODERN-RETRO PIECES LIKE THE‘ C T 60’.
Don’t feel embarrassed if you’re not familiar with famed jeweller Tiffany & Co.’s considerable heritage as a watch brand. Before being approached to become Vice President and General Manager of the Tiffany Watch Company three years ago, Nicola Andreatta was blissfully unaware that timepieces had been sold in the shadows of blinding diamond rings since 1847. “I knew the brand. I didn’t know anything about the watch history,” says Andreatta. “As nobody else does, well, as nobody else did.” As a third generation Swiss matchmaker, Andreatta has a greater grasp of horological history than most, having developed his own brand of bold watches – NOA, purveyor of large, avant-garde, almost sculptural pieces – before being lured to Fifth Avenue. That overlooked history has become the cornerstone of Tiffany & Co.’s third crack at a slice of the multi-billion dollar watch industry. Andreatta started in his current role just as the company finished a messy divorce with the Swatch group. The ill-fated partnership, launched in 2007, was meant to propel Tiffany to major player status among the Swiss set. Instead, it ended, acrimoniously, in the courts, with recriminations on both sides. Now, Tiffany is clearly moving on. “The fact that the partnership with Swatch failed was a great starting point,” says Andreatta. “Though, the equity in the world of watches has been a bit destroyed by the venture that didn’t work. I love challenges [and] it was definitely a challenge to start... well, to restart the watch business. “We didn’t have a company in Switzerland. We didn’t have a team. We didn’t really know where to start from.” That’s when Andreatta’s history lessons began, looking through the company’s archives, which spanned early stopwatches, diamond-encrusted lapel watches and sparkling cocktail watches. “I was trying to understand the DNA of the brand, taking that DNA and putting it into a new category. Even though we have a long history, the category has been left apart for a few years. And so it was about completely reinventing a watch brand.” That reinvention is encapsulated by the ‘CT60’ collection, launched last year and named for founder Charles Lewis Tiffany. This year, the ‘CT60 Dual Time’ was added to the range. It may look like a chronograph, but its two buttons actually adjust time zones. “The idea was to get back the credibility that we had. We were once the first players in the world of watchmaking – both Rolex and Cartier came after Tiffany. We had to gain back that credibility to make sure that we could be a legitimate player in the world of watchmaking. Andreatta says the idea of starting with the ‘CT60’ was a necessary step to speak directly to the watch world, connoisseurs and experts whom Tiffany needs to support them. The inspiration for the ‘CT60’ was a Tiffany watch worn by US President Franklin D Roosevelt at the Yalta Conference in 1945. This quintessentially American timepiece, present at the carving up of post-World War II Europe, managed to give Andreatta the inspiration he was looking for with Tiffany Watches. “To be successful, every brand has to be true to its DNA,” he says. “It was important to me to understand what we did. We had to find the design sensibility of the brand. We had to find this American angle, which we did, to design this timepiece.” The American angle is something Andreatta describes as “sophisticated simplicity,” evident in the streamlined design and straightforward functionality. “I love complications and I love complicated movements,” he says. “At the same time, I understand that sometimes, things can become too complicated. I’m pretty sure that 99 per cent of the people who buy tourbillons don’t even know what a tourbillon is for. That’s the bad part. It’s about just wanting to show off. It’s about something moving and you don’t even know what it does. “And Americans are much simpler in the ways that they live their life. Even with our complications, we wanted to work with complications that make life easier. Not watches that have to be sent back to the house to be set properly. That doesn’t resonate well with the American mindset.” That American spirit is tempered by the fact that the watches are manufactured in Switzerland. Since March, the timepieces have been assembled completely in-house, but Tiffany Watches still sources components from a range of suppliers. “The advantage we have today is that not owning any manufacturer gives us the possibility to always work with the best. Some factories are the best in aluminium dials; some are best for mother-of-pearl. Today, we can go to different suppliers for the best of what we’re looking for. That’s the way the industry was 70 years ago.” Things change in 70 years, and, with rivals taking production in-house, this positive spin looks set to change in the near future. “We definitely can’t stay at the window and look at the others acquiring all the best players in Switzerland,” he says. “We want to make sure we control the quality and the way of manufacturing. We’re going to think about some acquisitions.” It’s a bright future, thanks to a nod to the past, with Andreatta adamant that watches won’t disappear from Tiffany’s offerings again. When he started with the brand, the goal was for the watch division to claim 10 per cent of Tiffany’s business within 10 years. “Things started pretty well. We’re on track with what we were targeting. We knew since the beginning that it was an aggressive target. But now I’m thinking, ‘Perhaps [we can hit our target] before 10 years.’”