Lux­ury watch­maker knows what makes it tick

Omega sees no change to Chi­nese love af­fair with the time-hon­ored brand, says its chief

China Daily (USA) - - Q&A WITH CEO - ByWANG HONGYI wanghongyi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ray­nald Aeschli­mann, global pres­i­dent and CEO of pre­mium watch pro­ducer Omega SA, first came to China about 20 years ago.

He said he has vis­ited a lot of cities in China over the years, in­clud­ing Kun­ming, Li­jiang, Harbin, Chengdu, Chongqing, where he has found a strong af­fec­tion for and ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Omega, the of­fi­cial time­keeper of the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Now Chi­nese con­sumers are bet­ter in­formed and savvy, but Aeschli­mann says he doesn’t see too much change in the Chi­nese love af­fair with lux­ury watches. One of the most fa­mous Chi­nese Omega own­ers is ac­tress Zhang Ziyi.

“We have more than 600 peo­ple work­ing in our stores and six of­fices in China, and Chi­nese con­sumers rep­re­sent the big­gest pop­u­la­tion buy­ing Omega all around the world,” he says.

The fol­low­ing are edited ex­cerpts of his re­cent in­ter­viewwith China Daily.

Who is the typ­i­cal Chi­nese owner of an Omega watch? Why? Can you name sev­eral celebrity own­ers?

With Omega, there are no typ­i­cal own­ers. We have so many dif­fer­ent col­lec­tions and mod­els; each watch at­tracts a dif­fer­ent kind of buyer. How­ever, one thing is true of all Chi­nese cus­tomers. They ap­pre­ci­ate good qual­ity and a re­fined style. Omega is a very as­pi­ra­tional brand and I think our Chi­nese cus­tomers put a lot of value on the ex­cel­lent crafts­man­ship of our time­pieces. They un­der­stand what makes an Omega spe­cial and they make their watch choice based on de­sign, ex­cel­lence and her­itage. Some of the most fa­mous Omega wear­ers in­cludeGe­orgeClooney, Cindy Craw­ford, Zhang Ziyi and Ni­cole Kid­man.

Would you talk about the spon­sor­ship re­la­tions be­tween Omega and golf in the past and the fu­ture?

Golf is a pas­sion of the Omega brand and it’s one of our com­mit­ments to help grow the game around the world. Un­til now, that has in­cluded part­ner­ships with the PGA of Amer­ica, the LET and the ti­tle spon­sor­ship of tour­na­ments such as the Omega Euro­pean Mas­ters, as well as sev­eral tour­na­ments in Dubai. Of course, we­have also part­nered Ray­nald Aeschli­mann,

2013: Mem­ber of Swatch Group’s Ex­tended Group Man­age­ment Board

2010: Swatch Group co­or­di­na­tor for the In­dian sub­sidiary Ed­u­ca­tion : Ma­jor­ing in eco­nomics and MBA from the Uni­ver­sity of St. Gallen with sev­eral ex­cel­lent am­bas­sadors such as Rory McIlory and Shan­shan Feng. Into the fu­ture, we will see how much fur­ther we can go. The re­turn of golf to the Olympic Games was a big mo­ment and Omega proudly acted as the Of­fi­cial Time­keeper. I hope we can con­tinue with this sort of as­so­ci­a­tion.

What’s been your big­gest achieve­ment as the CEO?

It’s only been a short time! But Omega’s suc­cess as the Of­fi­cial Time­keeper of the Olympic Games in Rio was a very proud mo­ment for me. As well as keep­ing time in every sin­gle event, we also had our Omega House on Ipanema Beach and a hos­pi­tal­ity pro­gram that in­cluded many im­por­tant guests and friends. It was a lot of work and in­volved a lot of strat­egy and pas­sion. For me, we achieved ex­actly what we wanted and needed to do.

What’s the se­cret of your busi­ness suc­cess in China?

The his­tor­i­cal re­la­tion­ship plays a ma­jor part. Omega has been in China for a long time and it has al­lowed us to es­tab­lish in the mar­ket here our qual­i­ties of pre­ci­sion and beau­ti­ful de­sign. We have grown to un­der­stand the Chi­nese mar­ket and our cus­tomers have grown to know and love our prod­ucts. So it works both ways.

What’s an ef­fec­tive lead­er­ship for lead­ing a com­pany en­gaged in China busi­ness? How has your style of man­age­ment changed over time in China?

It’s im­por­tant to al­ways re­main true to your brand val­ues. I of­ten get asked if Omega will change its mar­ket­ing or de­sign ap­proach due to the cur­rent eco­nomic chal­lenges. While some oth­ers may do that, Omega is in­tent on re­tain­ing its high stan­dards in every area. As a leader, you have to be strong and keep per­sist­ing with your in­no­va­tive ideas no mat­ter what chal­lenges you face. That’s im­por­tant for some­where like China, be­cause our cus­tomers have stan­dards they ex­pect from our watches and we can’t be seen to be go­ing back­wards.

How do you get along lo­cal part­ners? with

With lo­cal part­ners, our key ob­jec­tive is to main­tain trust and open­ness. Part­ner­ships are strong­est when both sides feel re­spected and equal. I have been trav­el­ing and vis­it­ing our lo­cal part­ners in China for a very long time. Now, af­ter around 50 vis­its to the coun­try, I have a very deep and emo­tive un­der­stand­ing of the peo­ple I work with. I al­ways cher­ish our dis­cus­sions which are based on very suc­cess­ful part­ner­ships.

How do you mo­ti­vate in­ter­na­tional team?

With a brand like Omega, there are many ways to mo­ti­vate an in­ter­na­tional team. First and fore­most, it’s im­por­tant to re­mind them of what Omega is and where it has come from. We have such a proud his­tory and an in­spi­ra­tional story. That in it­self is mo­ti­va­tional. On top of this, I want to en­cour­age each in­ter­na­tional team to be en­tre­pre­neur­ial. They should see Omega as their own busi­ness and look for their own in­no­va­tive ways to progress the brand in their mar­ket and push it into the fu­ture. It’s im­por­tant to give them the con­fi­dence so that they can be am­bi­tious and en­ter­pris­ing. Fi­nally, I al­ways keep a deep and per­sonal con­tact with many of the team mem­bers.

How do you han­dle hard­ships and set­backs, if any?

You have to learn from every chal­lenge. In busi­ness and in life, there are some hard­ships that are un­avoid­able. They are be­yond your con­trol. So you have to be philo­soph­i­cal and look for the pos­i­tives. If you can un­der­stand why it hap­pened and what you can do if it hap­pens again, then you will al­ways ben­e­fit.

What do you think about the Chi­nese Dream? What are your own dreams or am­bi­tions in China?

China is a fas­ci­nat­ing coun­try. It is in­no­va­tive and pro­gres­sive and I think that mir­rors the spirit of Omega. In terms of busi­ness, China is in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant for so many brands. Omega’s dreams for China are all about growth. We want to con­tinue reach­ing as many cus­tomers as pos­si­ble, which means ex­tend­ing our reach with new bou­tiques in ar­eas such as Cen­tral China. We want to be more ac­ces­si­ble. As I said be­fore, Omega and China share a spe­cial re­la­tion­ship and we want to con­tinue that into the fu­ture.

What are your hob­bies? How do you spend your time off duty while in China?

I love to spend time withmy fam­ily. We live near the lake in Switzer­land which is a great place for out­door ac­tiv­i­ties or a healthy run. In­China, sim­ple plea­sures are the best. The great food, es­pe­cially Sichuan cui­sine, vis­its to cul­tural places al­ways al­low me to re­lax.

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Age:45 Ca­reer: June 2016 on­wards: Pres­i­dent and CEO of Omega SA 2004: Di­rec­tor of Omega US 2000: Di­rec­tor of Omega and Blanc­pain Spain

1996: Sales and mar­ket­ing project man­ager, Omega SA

AP FILE PHOTO

pres­i­dent and CEO of Omega SA.

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