By Air, Land and Sea

Bre­itling Cre­ative Di­rec­tor Guy Bove sits down for a chat on the new di­rec­tion and creations of the brand

DA MAN - Caliber - - CONTENTS -

Things are chang­ing at Bre­itling. But in­stead of sim­ply go­ing “out with the old, in with the new” the brand has reem­braced its rich her­itage in a de­cid­edly con­tem­po­rary fash­ion. Case in point, and per­haps, what most peo­ple will no­tice first, is how Bre­itling’s winged logo has been re­placed with a B in the brand’s fa­mil­iar script. This new ap­proach is also pal­pa­ble in its al­len­com­pass­ing mes­sage that goes be­yond clas­sic avi­a­tion, with an in­creased pres­ence of col­lec­tions like the Su­pe­r­o­cean, land-themed part­ner­ships like the one with Bent­ley Mo­tors as well as ocean con­ser­vancy ven­tures along with an ex­panded ros­ter of “Bre­itling Squads” to en­com­pass cin­ema, ex­plo­ration and surf­ing. And of course, this is also seen in the nov­el­ties in­tro­duced this year.

Spear­head­ing this era of change is Bre­itling’s CEO Ge­orge Kern and cre­ative di­rec­tor Guy Bove. Ear­lier this year, I had the chance to sit down with the for­mer for an in-depth chat about what the “new Bre­itling” en­tails. DA­MAN: So, we’ve seen a lot of changes hap­pen­ing in Bre­itling, from the watches to even the logo. Why is it all hap­pen­ing this year? Guy Bove: Well, change in man­age­ment, for sure. I’m not sure so much is chang­ing. I think that we’re re­or­ga­niz­ing into what I would say are com­part­ments that we can com­mu­ni­cate to. For in­stance, the Su­pe­r­o­cean Her­itage which was re­launched in 2007 and again in 2017 for the 60th an­niver­sary of the col­lec­tion. It’s a diver’s watch—the first from Bre­itling dat­ing back to 1957—but it was ad­ver­tised with a float­plane. It’s talk­ing about wa­ter but from a plane’s per­spec­tive. We’re just chang­ing things so that if we’re talk­ing about wa­ter, we’re go­ing to talk about wa­ter.

It’s just that it was avi­a­tion that was con­tem­po­rary when the watches were de­signed. Like with the 52 Nav­itimer, that was the world that the watch ex­isted in. That’s why you might get the feel­ing that it’s vin­tage, when it’s ac­tu­ally just re­fer­ring our new and old cus­tomers back to the ori­gins of these prod­uct lines and of the brand.

If we start with all peo­ple, then if you take out all the women [ laughs] and you take out every­body who is not in­ter­ested in avi­a­tion, then we’re talk­ing to a small per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion. But if you look into Bre­itling’s ori­gins for its first hun­dred years, they had watches for tim­ing foot­ball games, they had div­ing watches, they were tim­ing the Tour de France, the tour of Italy, they were worn by movie stars, they were worn in space ... there’s a huge amount of touch points that the brand used to have. And ba­si­cally, all we’re do­ing is

“To­day no one needs a watch, re­ally. But if you’re buy­ing a watch, the odds are that you’re go­ing to find out a lot about the prod­uct or the brand be­fore you de­cide to in­vest in it”

putting them back in, be­cause the watches are al­ready there. We al­ready have the Transocean which is ba­si­cally based on a premiere col­lec­tion from the ’ 30s to the ’60s. We have the Su­pe­r­o­cean col­lec­tion which was based on the first div­ing watches. And then we have the Nav­itimer 1 based on ’ 50s pi­lot watches. Now we also have a Nav­itimer 8 which goes back 20 years be­fore that to the very be­gin­ning of avi­a­tion and Bre­itling.

The idea is to cre­ate con­nec­tions with the brand as it was. Be­cause to­day no one needs a watch, re­ally. You look at your phone, you look at your com­puter or you look in the car. But if you’re buy­ing a watch, odds are that you’re go­ing to want to find out a lot about the prod­uct or the brand be­fore you de­cide to in­vest in it. And with the con­nec­tions we’re re­cre­at­ing, when you go to a Bre­itling bou­tique, re­ceive the cat­a­log or go on the web­site and in­ves­ti­gate, you’re go­ing to say, “Ah, the Su­pe­r­o­cean!” and no­tice that it had the same bezel as it did back in 1957 or you look at the Nav­itimer 1 and go, “Ah, 1952—that goes way back.” When you start Googling those names you’re go­ing to see decades of beau­ti­ful watches.

I think for some­one who is con­tem­po­rary, who is in­ter­ested in Bre­itling, there’s go­ing to be a di­rect con­nec­tion be­tween the prod­ucts, the bou­tiques, the logo, the cat­a­log, the web­site—all the touch points are go­ing to fit in well with what you would’ve seen at Bre­itling in the past, but with a con­tem­po­rary ver­sion. The idea is to take some of the in­gre­di­ents from the past, make the new prod­ucts fa­mil­iar to peo­ple who know the old Bre­itling but still make con­tem­po­rary prod­ucts that have this sense of her­itage. That’s what we’re do­ing in a nut­shell. DA: You men­tioned the peo­ple who knew the old Bre­itling. For those new to the brand, how would you de­scribe the DNA of Bre­itling as it is to­day? GB: As it is to­day last week or this week? DA: This week. GB: I think, I would say con­tem­po­rary cool with a sense of her­itage. DA: On a re­lated note, how would you de­scribe the typ­i­cal Bre­itling owner or wearer? GB: If I re­fer back to the old Bre­itling which is ba­si­cally the orig­i­nal ver­sion of where we’re go­ing, I see them as amaz­ing tool watches with such a great sense of style that you can wear them with a din­ner jacket. So, they’re not bulky, they’re so re­fined that even the div­ing watches can be worn with a din­ner jacket. And I think where we’re go­ing is ba­si­cally try­ing to re­cap­ture that.

So, [the typ­i­cal Bre­itling owner] is prob­a­bly some­one ur­ban, stylish, who ap­pre­ci­ates the in­trin­sic qual­i­ties of the brand and the brand’s her­itage and re­li­a­bil­ity. I think it’s a great pack­age for any­body look­ing for a stylish sports watch with some her­itage. DA: There’s al­ways a lot of talk in the in­dus­try about reach­ing out to mil­len­ni­als, a new gen­er­a­tion of watch own­ers. How does Bre­itling ap­proach the mil­len­nial prob­lem? GB: Well, ac­tu­ally, that’s ex­actly what I was say­ing be­fore. Al­most by def­i­ni­tion, a mil­len­nial is some­one who’s go­ing to go back and Google Bre­itling to find out a lot about it. If they’re go­ing to in­vest in a watch, they’re go­ing to want to know what they’re buy­ing; maybe even

bet­ter than the sales­men. So, one of the things we can do is to cre­ate these touch points, the vis­ual con­nec­tions be­tween the, say, Nav­itimer 8 and the cock­pit clocks. So, when they go back and search they’re go­ing to say, “Ah, there’s the con­nec­tion.” Other than that, we’re do­ing a lot of work on dig­i­tal to make sure these touch points are avail­able to mil­len­ni­als.

The third thing is mak­ing sure that we are clear­ing our com­mu­ni­ca­tion, mak­ing sure that the brand is cool to them, de­sign-wise. Who would dis­agree with a loft­type ex­pe­ri­ence when they go to a bou­tique and feel a cool in­ter­pre­ta­tion of an in­dus­trial space? So, I think all the way across it’s good. And for peo­ple who don’t know about the brand, just the fact that we’re or­ga­niz­ing our prod­uct lines where they don’t have to think for two hours about it, it be­comes sort of a short­cut for them to learn more about the brand. DA: How about ex­pand­ing into e- com­merce and sim­i­lar plat­forms? Is that also a pri­or­ity for Bre­itling right now? GB:

I don’t know if you’ve checked out our new U.S. site but we are there with the e-com­merce, we have the prices on there and so on. We’re gear­ing up for that. I don’t want to com­ment too much about part­ner­ships and so on, but for sure, yes. DA: How is the brand do­ing in Asia, by the way? GB:

In some places, well. In some places, not as well as we should be. Which has been good, es­pe­cially if we’re talk­ing about the Chi­nese mar­ket. It’s seen a lot of brands go up like a shot and then fall like a stone. We weren’t there, not in any mean­ing­ful way. So, we didn’t go up, but we didn’t go down. We’ve been ex­tremely sta­ble and now we’re ob­vi­ously ded­i­cat­ing ef­forts to­wards huge growth with­out com­pro­mis­ing any­thing. DA: Have you no­ticed any par­tic­u­lar trends that do well in Asia? GB: Cred­i­bil­ity. I think cred­i­bil­ity does well. Peo­ple say that in Asia the watches have to be small, they have to be gold or they have to be pol­ished or they have to be what­ever. In fact, I think brands with a strong pull gen­er­ally do well in Asia. You know peo­ple al­ways talk about de­sign­ing for Asia and so on, but Asian peo­ple

are buy­ing Swiss watches. They’re happy to buy cred­i­ble de­sign, I think—cred­i­ble prod­ucts from cred­i­ble brands. So, once you’re able to com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively in Asia—about where the brand is com­ing from, what it stands for and when they see the prod­ucts, maybe newer ones which are more in line with the vi­sion that we have of ref­er­enc­ing the past with con­tem­po­rary pieces that fit well on the wrist—I think, I hope, that we will be ap­pre­ci­ated. DA: Bre­itling has con­nected watches like the Ex­os­pace, but those are de­signed for pro­fes­sional use within cer­tain fields or cer­tain sports. Are there any plans to in­tro­duce con­nected mod­els for reg­u­lar, ev­ery­day use? GB: Who knows what the fu­ture holds? But I think what Bre­itling is do­ing with con­nected watches is quite dif­fer­ent with what most peo­ple see in a con­nected watch. The phi­los­o­phy of Bre­itling is that the com­puter is at the ser­vice of the watch, not the other way around. That means we use the com­puter to pro­gram the func­tions of the watch, be­cause it’s much eas­ier to pro­gram on the com­puter than on three but­tons. But once that’s done, the watch is a stand­alone prod­uct.

Def­i­nitely our tar­get is not to cre­ate con­nected watches in the sense that it’s some­thing that peo­ple want­ing a Sam­sung Gear are go­ing to rec­og­nize. It’s not our propo­si­tion. We’re do­ing more el­e­gant watches with in­trin­sic val­ues. DA: Do you have a per­sonal fa­vorite among this year’s nov­el­ties? GB: I al­ready have sev­eral, un­for­tu­nately. I think the one that I would prob­a­bly wear is the Su­per8, but I like the black Unitime be­cause I like world­time watches and it’s ac­tu­ally very read­able. DA: Fi­nally, what’s next for Bre­itling? GB: In the near fu­ture we will be re­launch­ing our “Earth” col­lec­tion, the Pre­mier. So, that will be big. It’s a pil­lar that we don’t re­ally have right now. And then, of course, we want to grow, and we want to be big­ger in Asia, we need to im­ple­ment all the changes that we’ve been talk­ing about.

“The idea is to take some of the in­gre­di­ents from the past, make the new prod­ucts fa­mil­iar to peo­ple who know the old Bre­itling but still make con­tem­po­rary prod­ucts that have this sense of her­itage”

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