“The real se­cret is con­sis­tency, con­tin­u­a­tion, fo­cus and stay­ing in the same price league. Be close to the mar­ket, and don’t try to do ev­ery­thing”

DA MAN - Caliber - - INSIDERS -

DA: Con­sid­er­ing the slow­down in the mar­ket, what’s the se­cret be­hind that? WVK: Thanks to China. First of all, it’s be­cause we are in the right price po­si­tion­ing. This price seg­ment is not at all af­fected, or not so much af­fected by the an­ti­cor­rup­tion cam­paign. But the real se­cret is con­sis­tency, con­tin­u­a­tion, fo­cus and stay­ing in the same price league. Don’t do this yoyo busi­ness move, up and down, up and down. Be close to the mar­ket; lis­ten to the mar­ket; have lo­cal peo­ple; be very close with the re­tail­ers; and never try to do ev­ery­thing.

While the re­sult has clearly shown the strengths of our com­pany in China, we have un­for­tu­nately lost a lot in Hong Kong. The Um­brella Rev­o­lu­tion in 2014 where the pro­test­ers oc­cu­pied Hong Kong’s tourist area made the gov­ern­ment take a de­ci­sion to dras­ti­cally re­duce group tourist visas. So, the Chi­nese tourists then shifted to Ja­pan or to Thai­land for their hol­i­days. We could, luck­ily, com­pen­sate for the loss of sales in Hong Kong with that from Europe. Even last year with Korea suf­fer­ing from the spread of MERS, we still man­aged to con­tinue our crazy suc­cess story. DA: Speak­ing of suc­cess sto­ries, is it true that the Swatch Group is go­ing to cre­ate smart­watches? WVK: It’s not my prob­lem. Within the Swatch Group, two brands have ex­pressed their in­ter­est in this busi­ness, and you can ask those brands di­rectly. The group has given us lib­erty for the di­rec­tion of the com­pany, and Longines will not go into this line of busi­ness at least for the time be­ing.

If you ask me why, I’ll go back to the state­ment: con­sis­tency, con­tin­u­a­tion and stay­ing in our league. I’m very pleased that Ap­ple, Sam­sung and some of the Chi­nese com­pa­nies do this be­cause they have the ex­per­tise. They pos­sess the ra­pid­ity to play around with such a prod­uct. We have also in­ves­ti­gated the sub­ject in our way. Af­ter the sur­vey we did with the peo­ple who have smart­watches, the main pur­pose of this watch is not time. But, I be­lieve that Ap­ple, Sam­sung and other brands, will help us con­vert some of the peo­ple hav­ing this prod­uct on their left wrist to one day go into the tra­di­tional watch busi­ness.

As per my un­der­stand­ing for hav­ing been in the in­dus­try close to fifty years, a watch to­day is not only about time, but it is also a sta­tus sym­bol. Ap­ple is not a sta­tus sym­bol. A watch is a branded, emo­tional con­sumer prod­uct.

I’d like to an­tic­i­pate the next ques­tion: What do you think about Swiss tra­di­tional watch com­pa­nies go­ing into this busi­ness? We’ll see in one or two years, es­pe­cially of the brands who want to do ev­ery­thing, from cre­at­ing tour­bil­lon, then cheap watches, to con­nected watches, glasses and so on. You know we’re in the

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