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

Revolution (Hong Kong) - - CONTENTS - IN­TER­VIEW BY Melissa Lim

It’s been a busy year for Omega start­ing with the Master Chronome­ter at Baselworld [2016], 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…

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