JEAN-CLAUDE MONACHON Omega
A trying year ruffled many feathers, but Jean-Claude Monachon, Omega Vice President of Product and Customer Service, remains unperturbed, with lofty ambitions for 2017
It’s been a busy year for Omega starting with the Master Chronometer at Baselworld , can you tell us how the start of the year went?
So, as you know, we came up with six movements after the Master Chronometer launched across the world. We started with the Globemaster, we had the Planet Ocean, the Constellation Petite Seconde one month ago, now we have Deep Black. We still have the Annual Calendar Globemaster coming, as well as the Speedmaster Moonphase Chronometer. So we still have other events to do – we are very busy.
Then we had the Rio Olympics, how was that?
I didn’t go – what I heard was that there were no problems. Imagine, these are the big issues we have if something happens. If suddenly you have no electricity, what are you going to do? We have no timing anymore? We are lucky, we had no problems. On one hand we would like to have some, so we can talk about Omega, but it’s better not.
And now the release of the Planet Ocean collection. Can you please tell us about it?
Certainly the Planet Ocean and the Deep Black is the collection where you have quite a concentration; a summary of the latest innovations we have at Omega. Like Master Chronometer; the ceramic in one block, the Naiad lock system that is brand new on the ceramic watch. The Ceragold; the liquid metal and vulcanization of rubber. A waterproofness tested at 825 meters to go to 600 meters. So, everything we have on different models, we put it on one watch.
Speaking about the ceramic itself, is there anything specifically developed because they’re diving watches?
No. We made ceramic because black is beautiful, we had such huge success with the Dark Side of the Moon, so we thought we would do a Planet Ocean in ceramic but there was not a particular meaning or reason behind using the ceramic in the water, in all honesty.
Also, I’m curious about the screw down case back which allows them to align the engraving, how is this done?
It’s a system with a big gasket and you put it at 60 degrees, press it down, turn and it’s blocked. So it’s only on the ceramic, on the Deep Black, for now, but it will come later on other models. We were not ready for the steel version that came earlier on the market and with more quantities. It was not 100% so we thought we would save it for another time.
How have your customers reacted to your collections this year?
Listen, I would be lying if I said they reacted badly; they liked the pieces! Particularly, I was astonished in China, where at the moment, ladies don’t like big watches. I had a presentation and took the Deep Black with me and showed the staff. The ladies saw the watch and said “this is fantastic, this is for us” and it’s a 45mm Deep Black. So maybe there is a trend change in China when it comes to the size of watches, and also the functions. You know, the chronographs, which they generally don’t like in China but it’s changing. There is more interest.
What has been the highlight of 2016 for you, personally, so far?
So many great things happening! Maybe the world tour we made with our new president, because it was many cities in a few days and was about team building. We could talk, many of the VPs were there. To win a battle, you need a team; teamwork is important to us. I think that has been the most special moment for me this year.
What is the planning process like for a year such as the one you’ve just had? When to release a collection and why? It’s been a challenging year for the industry, how has Omega reacted to this and how does it plan to move forward? Are there any new complications or movements Omega would like to explore?
We have the annual calendar and we have the tourbillon, that came in 1994, there were few tourbillons on the market at this time no? Should Omega do perpetual calendars? It’s not Omega. We have other brands in the group and a perpetual calendar means, what? Problems for the end consumer; and the Omega consumer doesn’t want problems. So I don’t think we are going to go into these kind of complications. But a complication we have on Planet Ocean for instance, is the small adjustment of the clasp. This is useful. It’s a complication! Not a mechanical or engine complication, but it’s something that is useful for the end consumer. An annual calendar is useful because you don’t need to change the date from the 1st of March to the 28th of February. It’s useful. That is always the issue when you present at Baselworld – you show all your new products and after, of course, we cannot immediately present all of them on the market the day after. That said, presenting in March then waiting until October or November to release it on the market is also unwise, I have to say. So maybe we need to change this – maybe not present all the models in March, as we did with the Deep Black. It was an opportunity to talk with the press again, and I think we will take this approach more in the future. Not to show everything at Baselworld and to make events later on.
After such a busy year, what is on the cards for the rest of the year? And in that same vein, can we expect an equally exciting 2017?
Alright, tough year for many brands, but we are taking market shares and this is for us the most important because even if we do less turnover, we take market shares. We know it. So all the time when you have bad years, you know the watch industry is always like this. When there are bad years in general, we take market shares because I think the end consumer trusts more a company like Omega than a company that maybe came into this business by opportunity. Sure! We love innovation and yes, tough year next year but many products coming our way.
Nothing you can share now I suppose.
I can share maybe something. You know we had a year that was absolutely fabulous for Omega? It was in 1957, when you had Railmaster, Speedmaster, Seamaster 300 on the market. [pause] Well, it’s 60 years next year…