THE PI­LOT’S CHOICE

Bre­itling CEO Jean-Paul Gi­rardin on self-suf­fi­ciency and aes­thet­ics.

Esquire Singapore Watch Guide - - THE INTERVIEWS -

Is be­com­ing self-suf­fi­cient the big­gest chal­lenge for you go­ing for­wards?

The main chal­lenge to­day as an in­de­pen­dent brand is this: when you have the know-how, let it be known. We did our home­work re­gard­ing the de­vel­op­ment and pro­duc­tion of high qual­ity prod­ucts, but to­day if you don’t see a high-qual­ity prod­uct it’s worth noth­ing. Now the real bat­tle­field for us is the mar­ket. Dis­tri­bu­tion, mar­ket­ing, that’s why we’re here. I did a lot of vis­its just to let our knowl­edge be as known as pos­si­ble. That’s where we need to fight. We have to con­vince jewellers that it’s good for them to stock Bre­itling, and to push an in­de­pen­dent brand. We have to fight against very pow­er­ful peo­ple. The world watch mar­ket is not in­creas­ing by that much and to grow you need to gain mar­ket share. We know how to make good prod­ucts and we have to let it be known.

When do you think you will be able to build 100 per­cent of the watches your­self?

I think we could do that. The Bre­itling build­ing we are in now has been de­signed so we can have an ex­ten­sion. But it’s also a ques­tion of the mar­ket. We are not pro­duc­ing as much as when you buy move­ments from other par­ties, so the price of our prod­ucts has to be in­creased by a lit­tle. A lot of our con­sumers en­joy our high re­li­a­bil­ity, two-year war­ranty, and things like that, so in-house or not in-house is not too im­por­tant. What they want is a Bre­itling watch, so we have to be able to con­tinue to of­fer this to con­sumers. But it will hap­pen one day and we are ready.

Who are your near­est com­peti­tors?

When look­ing strictly at me­chan­i­cal chrono­graphs, there are brands pro­duc­ing very nice chrono­graphs, such as Omega or Rolex. There are many good brands around. They are the two who are also mak­ing a lot of good move­ments and that’s an im­por­tant point. So to an­swer your ques­tion, what we did from 2004 to 2009 to de­velop our move­ment, what we’re do­ing now, is the same level of de­vel­op­ment, dif­fi­culty and time to cre­ate a Bre­itling. If you com­pare Bre­itling to­day to 10 years ago, it’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

For the past few years we’ve been see­ing a lot of pi­lot watches. Do you think it’s a threat? How would you an­a­lyse this sit­u­a­tion?

I don’t think so be­cause what’s good for pi­lots is also good for pas­sen­gers. There are more pas­sen­gers on a plane than pi­lots! It’s im­por­tant to have good watches for ev­ery­one. A chrono­graph de­signed to be easy to read for pi­lots is also good for some­one while jog­ging. It’s not a threat, it’s for us to pro­duce watches in line with the re­quire­ments of pi­lots — it’s push­ing us to the limit re­gard­ing qual­ity and aes­thet­ics.

Is it dif­fi­cult to keep in line with the aes­thetic of Bre­itling while de­vel­op­ing new prod­ucts at the same time?

Yes, the line is very thin, so you have to be in­no­va­tive with func­tion­al­ity or de­sign, but you also have to be recog­nis­able. Peo­ple need to say, “Ah this is a Bre­itling watch”. This mix be­tween in­no­va­tion and be­ing con­ser­va­tive re­quires deep think­ing. We could do some­thing com­pletely new but it might not work; you have to take it step by step.

So what aes­thetic traits are char­ac­ter­is­tic of a Bre­itling?

Its fea­tures: the slide rule, the turn­ing bezel, the highly leg­i­ble dial, the sharp an­gles, the nu­mer­als and also the kind of sym­me­try. If you look at the dial, you will never have a pusher at two and ten o’clock. We are quite rigid but we have room for cre­ativ­ity in that field. We took the op­por­tu­nity to have more lux­ury fea­tures when we went into the Bre­itling for Bent­ley line. We were a lit­tle more cre­ative with this line; a lit­tle dif­fer­ent.

Is it hard to bal­ance form and func­tion?

Pre­ci­sion and func­tion­al­ity are im­por­tant but the key is strong de­sign. Aes­thet­ics are im­por­tant, as the de­signer at BMW told us once. He said that you may buy a lux­ury car even if the trunk is a lit­tle small for your golf clubs, but you would never buy it if you sim­ply don’t like the look of it. A watch is some­thing that is in­ti­mate. You wear it more of­ten than a par­tic­u­lar pair of shoes or a tie. It ex­presses your per­son­al­ity. Even if some­one isn’t wear­ing a watch it tells you some­thing about them. So de­sign is the most im­por­tant as­pect. It’s the emo­tion be­hind the watch it­self.

What Bri­etling do you wear?

The Bre­itling Emer­gency if I’m fly­ing. When I’m trav­el­ling I wear a Transocean Unitime. But the one I tend to wear most is usu­ally what­ever pro­to­type I’m test­ing for the fu­ture. “The de­signer at BMW told us that you may buy a lux­ury car even if the trunk is a lit­tle small for your golf clubs, but you would never buy it if you sim­ply don’t like the look of it”.

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