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
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]