Se­crets of Suc­cess

It’s no se­cret that LongInes has con­sIs­tentLy been the Leader In Its mar­ket seg­ment. WaL­ter von käneL, the brand’s pas­sIon­ate pres­I­dent, shares hIs recIpe for suc­cess

DA MAN - Caliber - - INSIDERS -

hen Wal­ter von Känel talks, he booms. He bangs the ta­ble ex­cit­edly, points with his fin­ger and of­ten re­cites num­bers that only an in­sider should per­haps know. All that, how­ever, is what makes him pos­si­bly the most in­vig­o­rat­ing per­son to talk to in the busi­ness. Then again, Känel has been in the in­dus­try for al­most fifty years now, first join­ing Longines in 1969—which is, quite hard to be­lieve, 47 years ago. What­ever he says, then, not only comes out of pro­found knowl­edge but also years and decades of ir­re­place­able ex­pe­ri­ence that only a vet­eran like him would be able to com­pre­hend.

Känel him­self spent his child­hood not far from where the Longines com­pany ac­tu­ally re­sides. Grow­ing up at the top of the Saint-Imier Val­ley in the Ber­nois Jura, he long had dreams of be­com­ing the driv­ing force of global watch­mak­ing which ba­si­cally sprang up from that tiny re­gion in Switzer­land.

It didn’t take long, though, for the en­thu­si­as­tic Känel to at­tain a watch­mak­ing-re­lated job: First, at Jean Singer Ltd., a watch dial man­u­fac­turer in La Chaux-deFonds, in 1963, and three years later at the Longines com­pany as a sales ex­ec­u­tive. In the fol­low­ing years, he took on fur­ther train­ing with the brand in New York and sub­se­quently climbed up the cor­po­rate lad­der ow­ing to his per­sis­tent na­ture. Känel fi­nally be­came the pres­i­dent of Longines in 1991 and has been tremen­dously suc­cess­ful in steer­ing the global brand ever since.

Even dur­ing the eco­nomic dip in the last cou­ple of years, Longines main­tained its world­wide per­for­mance. The brand has ag­gres­sively ex­panded and in­ten­si­fied its pres­ence in many parts in the world, too, not to men­tion in In­done­sia where the brand is now avail­able at re­tail bou­tiques run by Time In­ter­na­tional. As he touched on a num­ber of key points, it be­came clear that any busi­ness­man could ab­so­lutely learn a thing or two from the 75-year-old Känel. DA MAN: Given the cur­rent eco­nomic situ­ta­tion, how has Longines been this cou­ple of years? Wal­ter von Känel: We have a tremen­dous year this year. Last year was fan­tas­tic, too. De­spite the econ­omy, we did not lose any­thing. Longines made more than CHF1.5 bil­lion, so we cer­tainly had a good year. If you’re ask­ing from a wider scope, Longines has been suc­cess­ful in mul­ti­ply­ing the turnover by five in the last ten years! Hah! [ Laughs]

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