Can­did Watch Boss In­ter­view #1

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CONTENTS - MONT­BLANC

Da­vide Cer­rato, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Watch Unit, Mont­blanc

What were you do­ing be­fore you be­came man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the watch busi­ness unit at Mont­blanc? I have been in watch­mak­ing for more than 15 years. I started out at Pan­erai, then moved to Rolex to take care of the Tu­dor brand. I moved here, to Mont­blanc, al­most two years ago.

What did your work with Tu­dor in­volve? Tu­dor has al­ways been the… let’s say the se­cond brand of Rolex. It had been sleep­ing for a long time. In 2007, they de­cided to re­vamp it and I joined the com­pany to com­pletely re­shape the whole col­lec­tion and to reawaken the brand. It was a very in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Quite com­pli­cated, as you can imag­ine.

What was the driv­ing de­sign phi­los­o­phy be­hind the Tu­dor rein­ven­tion? The big thing was that we cre­ated the idea of a her­itage prod­uct line by look­ing back to the archives. We did the very first one in 2010, which was the Chrono Her­itage. That was a huge, huge suc­cess. Then in 2012, we launched the prod­uct that has be­come re­ally the most iconic and suc­cess­ful watch for Tu­dor, for now, which is the Black Bay. That pushed many other brands to go back into their archives and do sim­i­lar things.

I was in­trigued to dis­cover in your pre­watch ca­reer you worked in mar­ket­ing for Fer­rero. Were you in­volved in the in­fa­mous Fer­rero Rocher “am­bas­sador’s re­cep­tion” cam­paign? No. To be fair, that was cre­ated be­fore I joined. Fer­rero in Italy is what Proc­ter & Gam­ble is in the US. They are re­ally, I think, prob­a­bly the strong­est com­pany in terms of mar­ket­ing. There you have a fully in­te­grated ap­proach and this very strong bond­ing be­tween the prod­uct it­self, its per­for­mance and ev­ery­thing else. It was a fan­tas­tic school for me.

Is there such a thing as a typ­i­cal day’s work for you? Sure. I live in Geneva but I work in Le Lo­cle, which means it’s a one-hour-45minute drive away. So, a nor­mal day for me is wake up at 6.00, pre­pare my­self, leave my home and ar­rive at the of­fice around 8.15. I get in, check my mail, order my first cof­fee, then jump into prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and the de­sign de­part­ment to fol­low up on the dif­fer­ent projects. Then I have a walk, nor­mally at the be­gin­ning of the af­ter­noon, in the pro­duc­tion premises. Very of­ten I have a meet­ing with HR to check the gen­eral mood. I also have com­mit­ments in terms of fi­nance and that kind of thing.

A one-hour-45-minute drive! Have you con­sid­ered mov­ing closer to work? It is quite a com­mute. The man­u­fac­tur­ers of watch­mak­ing — most of them — are here in this val­ley be­tween Le Lo­cle and La Chauxde-fonds or in the Saint-imier val­ley. As you know, watch­mak­ing was born as a win­ter job for farm­ers who were look­ing af­ter cows dur­ing the sum­mer and blocked by the snow for months into the moun­tains. In terms of watch­mak­ing com­pe­ten­cies, it re­ally stayed here and it’s far away from any­thing else.

You’ve been de­scribed in print as “one of the most sharply dressed men in the Swiss watch in­dus­try”. Is that ac­cu­rate? Yes. It’s true that I very much like to dress well, as many Ital­ians do.

Al­ways the bow tie? Al­ways the bow tie. That came about be­cause of a mind­set shift four or five years ago. It has be­come my sig­na­ture. I like very much not to have the neck­tie, which has re­ally be­come the stan­dard ac­ces­sory for all men. I must say, I don’t have many tra­di­tional suits, ei­ther. I like to wear colours and to look for dif­fer­ent pat­terns.

So what in­spired you to start wear­ing bow ties? I think I al­ways looked at the bow tie with cu­rios­ity, though I prob­a­bly never re­ally ques­tioned my­self about wear­ing one. Then, once, I was in an Eng­lish shop and I saw one and I started to speak with the sales guy. I won­dered how you could tie it be­cause it was look­ing very com­pli­cated; he knot­ted a bow tie on his leg to show me that it was not so dif­fi­cult. I bought one, started wear­ing it and found it nice. Then I dis­cov­ered that E Marinella — you know, the Ital­ian silk tie pro­ducer that does ev­ery­thing by hand with in­cred­i­ble ma­te­ri­als — was also do­ing bow ties. The first Marinella one I bought in Lon­don. It is re­ally fan­tas­tic. The thick­ness of that bow tie is just per­fect, the silk is beau­ti­ful and the way in which it stands once you have tied it is re­ally nice. Then, as al­ways, you get into the game and you start to get dif­fer­ent pat­terns and colours.

What do you do to re­lax away from the world of watches? I’m a crazy fly fish­er­man. I have been fish­ing since I was six years old. I fly-fish for trout and grayling nearby, and I go away once a year to fish for salmon. I have been to Nor­way, Rus­sia, Ice­land and Scot­land. I like a lot this feel­ing of ad­ven­ture that you get when you are com­pletely car­ried out of ev­ery­thing and you can re­ally melt into na­ture.

Where would you like Mont­blanc watches to be po­si­tioned? What we are do­ing now is re­ally a key step, which is cre­at­ing a space for the brand and for the mai­son in sport pro­fes­sional watches. That’s a big mar­ket. Also, it’s very much in the fo­cus of watch peo­ple now. If you look at auc­tions, the mo­ment where the high-sell­ing pieces were high com­pli­ca­tion or gold — or gold with stones — mod­els has gone. Now ev­ery­one is refocusing on steel chrono­graphs from the Thir­ties and the For­ties, which shows you that this con­cept is be­com­ing very rel­e­vant for to­day.

Mont­blanc is a Ger­man com­pany. Do you find that peo­ple tend to think that it’s French? Yes. Or they think it’s Euro­pean with­out know­ing ex­actly from which coun­try it is. The head­quar­ters are in Ham­burg.

Over­all, how would you de­scribe your affin­ity for watch de­sign? Some­one de­fined me at a cer­tain mo­ment as a watch ar­chae­ol­o­gist. There is some­thing true in that. I dig in the past of the brand in order to re­ally un­der­stand the DNA and the orig­i­nal vi­sion of the founder, be­cause that is of­ten very crisp and crys­tal clear. Then I take that spirit and re­shape it with con­tem­po­rary el­e­ments in such a way that you keep this iconic power that the brand has. To me, it would be very dif­fi­cult to work on a brand where you have no his­tory and you have to create ev­ery­thing from scratch.

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