Esquire (Singapore) - - Style -

Min­ing its long his­tory for in­spi­ra­tion has proven to be a suc­cess­ful strat­egy for Longines. The brand has spent the last six to seven years pro­duc­ing limited-edi­tion trib­ute watches which were en­thu­si­as­ti­cally re­ceived by col­lec­tors, who find the price-to-qual­ity ra­tio dif­fi­cult to re­sist. In­trigu­ingly, the brand has a markedly dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on the vin­tage trend, ac­knowl­edg­ing its me­te­oric rise and im­pact on the mar­ket but also main­tain­ing that it is just a small per­cent­age of its 1.5 mil­lion watches per year an­nual pro­duc­tion. Per­haps as proof of Longines’ strength with vin­tage reis­sues, its Avi­ga­tion Big­Eye took home the Re­vival Watch Prize at the 2017 Grand Prix de la Haute Hor­logerie de Gen­eve.

CEO, Wal­ter von Känel:

“I started looking at her­itage pieces in 1987. We made the Lind­bergh 1928-1988 be­cause it was the 60th an­niver­sary. Next we re­launched the Her­itage 1954 and 1957, and step by step the Her­itage col­lec­tion was formed. Some of our watches we have to keep no mat­ter what the sales are. Watches like the Weems, the Avi­ga­tion… We keep them be­cause they’re part of our his­tory, proof that we were prob­a­bly the real brand in nav­i­ga­tion. The Her­itage 1954 how­ever has been amended with sap­phire crys­tal and slightly big­ger be­cause we don’t have the old move­ments any­more. The Flag­ship 1957 is our big­gest star, we sell about 7,000 pieces a year. Yet not all are suc­cess­ful.

“But I won’t make ex­clu­sive move­ments for these watches. We al­ready have a fan­tas­tic move­ment as­sort­ment. Also ex­clu­sive move­ments are ex­pen­sive. Re­mem­ber, this com­pany is 1.5 mil­lion pieces per year. That’s between 9,000 and 10,000 a day. I agree to do her­itage but us­ing ex­ist­ing cal­i­bres. The col­lec­tions are do­ing very well. At the Grand Prix de la Haute Hor­logerie de Gen­eve we got the vin­tage prize.

“I in­sist that we pro­duce less than be­fore. I keep the main core and I ac­cept the vol­ume for her­itage pieces won’t be big. The Flag­ship is the only ex­cep­tion. Hav­ing his­tory, hav­ing her­itage, hav­ing a mu­seum, hav­ing archives, hav­ing great doc­u­ment al­lows us to tell the truth. We’re not a brand building her­itage with­out her­itage. Ev­ery year we will have some, but that’s it. They’re be­low five per­cent of my busi­ness.

“These watches ap­pear to be very hot but the mar­ket still wants ba­sic mod­els. For ex­am­ple, div­ing watches are sud­denly huge in China and sud­denly I have to pro­duce 200,000 watches there. So it’s not all about her­itage watches. This is a jour­nal­ist think­ing. The truth is 90 per­cent of my busi­ness are ba­sic mod­els, which is very prof­itable and we’re prob­a­bly num­ber three now in the watch in­dus­try in terms of con­sol­i­dated turnover. Her­itage we love of course, it’s food for the press, but it’s not a big vol­ume and that’s the truth.

“We are the king in our pric­ing seg­ment. We dom­i­nate it. That’s my ter­ri­tory. We can con­trol our mar­ket share and we can ex­actly mea­sure it be­cause the sta­tis­tics are based on con­sumer by price seg­ment. With the big brands like Rolex, Omega, Longines, Tissot, the change is not what you think. Look at what we’ve in­tro­duced here in Basel, this Mas­ter col­lec­tion is 344,000 pieces per year which is not a peanuts busi­ness. We in­tro­duced two an­nual cal­en­dars and re­tail­ers get crazy on it.

“There is no fac­tory boss stupid enough to kill winners. If you have very good stuff, why should you kill them? We in­tro­duce new things here and there like the Con­quest VHP, which is big vol­ume here, very big vol­ume. We keep the div­ing watch with alu­minium turn­ing bezel but we now add a ce­ramic insert, but it’s not what you think in my com­pany, and we’re num­ber three in this in­dus­try.”


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