Revolution (Hong Kong) - - CONTENTS - TEXT BY SEAN LI

The Salon In­ter­na­tional de la Haute Hor­logerie is, of course, about the lat­est time­pieces that the maisons, and now the in­de­pen­dents, are ready to un­veil to the world. How­ever, it’s also a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity to talk to the in­dus­try’s movers and shak­ers, both for­mally and in­for­mally. Here are some of the thoughts I was able to gather from four in­ter­views, with wide-rang­ing top­ics from dig­i­tal prod­ucts, dis­rup­tive cre­ativ­ity, his­toric in­flu­ences, and long term strat­egy in the face of cur­rent chal­lenges.

I’ve been for­tu­nate to meet Juan Car­los Tor­res at SIHH a few times. A vet­eran, and an in­dus­try le­gend, he’s been with the his­toric mai­son since it was “only” 226 years old (to re­mind you, it’s cel­e­brat­ing its 262nd birthday this year. He’s been at the very top since 2005, a pe­riod dur­ing which he has not only been a guardian of the long­est con­tin­u­ous legacy in watch­mak­ing, but also setting the path the mai­son is to fol­low for years to come. I started off by ask­ing him how he felt that 2017 is shap­ing up: “Not bad, it’s true that we’re glad to be in 2017. 2016 wasn’t an easy year, so in 2017 we’re happy to be in Geneva with a more op­ti­mistic out­look than the last. Also, while we did a big launch on the new Over­seas col­lec­tion last year, we’re now launch­ing high com­pli­ca­tions, which is the spirit of the brand, and to prove our lead­er­ship in that seg­ment.”

This strat­egy is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing be­cause it seemed to be very much against the cur­rent trends, where brands are fo­cus­ing on en­try-level watches, and less com­plex­ity. Of course, as some­one with such a lengthy ca­reer, Tor­res said, “I think that the big mis­take is to fol­low eco­nomic events and to al­low them to in­flu­ence the strat­egy of the brand. The brand needs to have a long-term strat­egy.” How does a mai­son op­er­ate though with a long-term strat­egy, when the eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment is so chal­leng­ing? “We’re not in op­por­tunism, we are in con­struc­tion, and in de­vel­op­ment. We’ve lim­ited our quan­ti­ties to ac­cen­tu­ate the rar­ity, we help our re­tail­ers, we in­vest in com­mu­ni­ca­tion; all this is in sup­port of a mar­ket, of an en­tire col­lec­tion. I don’t think that an in­di­vid­ual prod­uct, or a sin­gle el­e­ment can help or save a brand, it’s the brand as a whole that has to fol­low a phi­los­o­phy, a strat­egy so that it’s as an en­tity that it’s moved for­ward.” Cer­tainly some very wise words from Tor­res, who as we know now, will be tak­ing his re­tire­ment very soon, hand­ing the reins to Louis Ferla on April 1st, but he will re­main with the mai­son as nonex­ec­u­tive Pres­i­dent.

Juan-Car­los Tor­res, CEO Vacheron Con­stantin

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