NO TIME IS THE RIGHT TIME

Executive Magazine - - Executive Life -

De­spite so­cio-po­lit­i­cal is­sues, in­sta­bil­ity and lit­tle to zero eco­nomic growth, the world’s top watch brands are clearly in­vest­ing in Le­banon. The new A. Lange & Sohne bou­tique is one of only 16 in the world. Though the brand has been present in Le­banon for 13 years, the sin­gle-brand store opened in May 2016. Why in­vest here, and why now? It is part of a long-term plan, says A. Lange & Sohne CEO Wil­helm Sch­mid, ex­plain­ing the de­ci­sion was made two years ago when the out­look was bet­ter. Un­fazed, he says, “If you wait for the per­fect time you’ll never get any­thing done and we al­ways aim for the long run, so it doesn’t mat­ter if we start on a low or high – busi­ness and mar­kets are cycli­cal.” The brand’s only other bou­tique in the re­gion opened in Dubai four years ago (an Abu Dhabi store was also opened but has since shut down). A. Lange & Sohne has no points of sale in the whole of Africa, and go­ing fur­ther east, it has sin­gle-brand stores only in Hong Kong and Ja­pan.

When asked who the strong­est buyers of the niche brand are in­ter­na­tion­ally, Sch­mid ad­mits it is hard to think about it in tra­di­tional terms be­cause many clients pur­chase watches in coun­tries they do not live in. “Cur­ren­cies do funny things so if you buy a watch for $300,000 and the price di er­ence is 10 per­cent, that $30,000 makes a di er­ence and is worth a ight,” he quips, ask­ing, “If an Amer­i­can is buy­ing a watch in Ja­pan, is that a strength of the US mar­ket or the Ja­panese mar­ket?” In­stead, he says their main client base is best de­scribed as watch col­lec­tors, and 7075 per­cent of their clients are re­peat cus­tomers.

Jaeger-LeCoul­tre is happy to be in Beirut too, de­spite the sit­u­a­tion. The brand’s Mid­dle East Re­gional Brand Di­rec­tor Marc de Pana eu says, “Le­banon is a very im­por­tant mar­ket for us be­cause it has a very unique pro le. Be­ing be­tween the Mid­dle East and Europe, Le­banon has the best of both worlds in a way. Our style, and what we stand for – cra sman­ship and un­der­stated lux­ury – speaks a lot to the Le­banese cus­tomer.” He adds that the sit­u­a­tion is com­plex in the whole world right now, not just in Le­banon.

THE BEAUTY OF THE CRAFT

Though watches were orig­i­nally tools for telling time, to­day they tell a lot more than just that. Con­nois­seurs do not nec­es­sar­ily fol­low big names, but in­stead re­search to un­der­stand what brands stand for. Wear­ing one brand or an­other may re ect a cer­tain im­age the wearer wants to con­vey. “I would go as far as say­ing that some­times the pur­pose for which the watch was made, which is telling the time, is not the pri­mary use of the watch any­more,” Pana eu ad­mits.

The core rea­son these watches are con­sid­ered lux­u­ri­ous is the cra sman­ship and tech­nol­ogy that go into each piece. “What makes a watch beau­ti­ful is the cal­iber in­side the watch, as well as the de­sign,” Pana eu says. He de­scribes it as: “tak­ing what’s hap­pen­ing on the uni­verse level and putting it in tiny com­po­nents. This is how watch­mak­ing started – us­ing the sun and stars.” Sch­mid calls A. Lange & Sohne watches “lit­tle mir­a­cles” and “mini machines,” ex­plain­ing that most of their de­signs are quite un­der­stated on the out­side, but the me­chan­ics are vis­i­ble through a glass bot­tom when the watch is turned over. “Our de­sign is el­e­gant, but when you turn it around it’s quite op­u­lent. We do ev­ery­thing for the owner, not so much for the pub­lic,” he says.

Many brands pro­duce all watch parts in-house. “By do­ing ev­ery­thing in-house we main­tain our pat­ri­mony and en­sure con­sis­tency. Peo­ple want au­then­tic­ity, they want to know where prod­ucts were made, by whom and us­ing what tech­nique,” he ex­plains, adding that they have al­ways pro­duced ev­ery­thing them­selves, but com­peti­tors who did not al­ways do so are now shi ing to in-house pro­duc­tion too.

Leg­endary IWC watch­maker turned brand am­bas­sador Kurt Klaus in­sists that watches must be as­sem­bled by hand, ex­plain­ing that even though machines pro­duce the tiny parts that go into a move­ment, a ma­chine could never put them to­gether. “Ev­ery piece has to be ad­justed, oiled in the right place – and this is a highly quali ed watch­maker’s skill. Most of our watches have a glass bot­tom so the move­ment must

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