Prestige Magazine has always covered watch trade shows in Switzerland, to keep you up- to- date regarding the latest news of the industry. During our presence at BaselWorld 2018, we had the occasion to be part of a round table, among six other nationalities, with Georges Kern, CEO of Breitling, working to create a new brand identity for the 134- year- old brand. The Swiss brand, best known for its masculine pilots watches is exploring other territories like land and sea, with a new communication strategy and a unique advertising campaign.
Can you tell us about the Breitling Squad concept and your partnership with Brad Pitt and Charlize Theron, who are part of your advertising campaign? First of all there will be many squads, we are going to announce an explorers squad, a surfers squad. I wanted to find a good idea to bridge from aviation to other segments. This innovative idea is rooted in the dynamic values of Breitling, planes fly in a formation, in squads, it’s a team. When you look around in advertising, you see all the brands having a star, one brand ambassador. We needed to find something different and this is why we will create teams, in different fields. We will have international squads illustrating our products, our imagery, if you look at the cinema squad, we have an Asian superstar, a woman, a young actor which face is recognizable and you have Brad Pitt the most recognizable face on the planet. There is total flexibility in bringing people together and the whole campaign is flexible, if a country wants to do something more local it can be done with us.
Do you think it’s the challenge of your life being CEO of Breitling? I had many opportunities to join companies and shareholders, but there are many factors to make it work. Breitling is a successful company, very profitable. I wouldn’t have joined if it was a restructuration case. The challenge is to bring it to the next level, it was a private company, run by very passionate people in aviation, now we have new investors with a team who wants to make Breitling a real global brand. To reach this goal, adjustments should be made in products, in communication etc, etc… to make it truly global. Do you think with the actual economic conjuncture, you can adopt with Breitling the same strategy adopted with other brands before? The current economic environment is positive. The market is stabilized, if I look at Asia, if I look at greater China where we are weaker, I think that the penetration of the market is easier than it was 15 years ago, because the market is totally transparent, digital, and the Chinese know that Breitling is a very strong brand. The Chinese want new brands, coming with a new image, more adapted products to the market. The speed of digital communication will make the penetration of that market quicker, it’s much difficult when you’re an unknown brand. We have this huge brand awareness and now we are launching Breitling’s new brand identity and new Breitling products. I’m confident about that, we want to be a global brand and with the line of products, we will gain a new customer base in the existing market. We will continue to make big watches, but we will also make smaller watches. If you look into the history of the brand, it has invented everything in chronograph, with beautiful designs, so why not use it? A brand needs to be readable to the consumer, we have clear lines, clear aesthetic, clear segmentations of emotions, of words, clear segmentations of movements, clear segmentations of squads.
You said that the company is profitable, but you wish your shareholders invest more in the company. How big you wish the investment to be? It’s huge, we are buying back all our agents and Brad Pitt is not a cup of coffee, all the stars love the squad and know what I have been doing with celebrities in the past, they trust the quality will be great.
You said you are steering a transition period, when we will be able to see the complete new lines of Breitling? A new elegant line called the Premier will come in the second part of the year, and we will have introduced couple of new boutiques, we have four lines: Super Ocean Heritage, Navitimer I and Navitimer II, the Pilots then there will be the Premier, the chronomat. If you walk around the booth you immediately read the brand much better than before.
Which brand is your direct concurrent? We don’t compete with brands, we compete in segments, our segment is between 3500 and 8000CHF. There are pilots watches, female watches, elegant watches, diving watches. In each segment, at this price point, we compete with whoever is there, but we are not looking at competitors, we are looking to bring an interesting offer in the available segments.
Why did you cut the wings in the new logo? There’s a clear trend for simplicity with people’s new mindset. Wars, attacks, anticorruption, ecological disasters make people more discreet, wanting more true values. As for the wings, as I said we are not only a pilots watch, we do water and earth, we cannot artificially put wings on a diver’s watch, which by the way was not the case in the past. The Super Ocean Heritage had no wings, the transocean had no wings. The logo we are using, was basically the logo of Breitling for 50 years, so it is by far the longest logo we’ve used. A small brand needs to have one corporate identity. I don’t know one single luxury brand in the world with different corporate identities and if you have three segments, you need one generic corporate identity. For the pilots watches, the wings can be used in terms of engravings on the case, or on the oscillating mass, the anchor on the diving watches, we go back to segmentation and according to the story telling, the imagery, the function of the watch, there will be a primary logo and the illustrative logo.
You are changing the design of your watches, do you expect your customers will change as well? A brand has to evolve. This is why I want to get out of this mini segment of the pilots watches, because it will dilute the brand. The dilution of a brand comes when in the same segment you make the product in 300 different references, you don’t recognize the product anymore: roman figures, Arabic figures, indexes, we need to have readable designs. I prefer having three or four lines with clear design codes and identities than one line with three hundred varieties, because with this we can build real icons.
How would you describe Breitling in three words? First: Beautiful. Second: Phenomenal price- quality ratio. The customer is getting manufacture movement, 5 years guarantee, chronometer certificate. Third: based on one of the richest histories in the world.
Conducted in Basel by MARCELLE NADIM
Georges Kern CEO of Breitling on a Norton Commando Motorcycle.
Charlize Theron. Adam Driver. Brad Pitt. Daniel Wu.Breitling will create squads ( teams), whose members are recognized masters in their profession. Meet in the picture above the members of the first cinema squad, the star Brad Pitt, Charlize Theron and the gifted actors Adam Driver and Daniel Wu.
Breitling Chronometer Navitimer1 B01 Chronograph 46.
Breitling Chronometer Navitimer 8.