Another Step Forward
While the industry might be a tad more cautious, Longines is doing more than just well. talk with CEO Walter von Känel to find out why
Since the beginning of the year, there were signs everywhere that the watch industry is rethinking the way it presents its face to the public. From the fairs to the individual novelties, everybody seemed a bit more cautious than previous years. Longines, however, seemed to be doing well. Even better, perhaps. For sure, the brand seems to keep its focus on enhancing its watchmaking prowess instead of jumping into routes that are more adventurous.
On the flip side, it’s offerings this year seems to be quite a bit more sporty. Take for example the new HydroConquest and the new Longines Legend Diver. Both divers’ watches attracted quite a lot of attention, especially the former, which has also become extremely popular in Mainland China—a market that, traditionally, favors classical dress watches in gold. There’s also the Conquest V.H.P. line. Introduced last year, the collection has now grown to include a chronograph model as well as a GMT variant with a unique Flash Setting feature.
Fortunately, Walter von Känel, the CEO of Longines, is—as always—more than happy to discuss the finer details of his brand’s success story, the changes in his approach to doing business in an increasingly interconnected world and what lies ahead. DAMAN: If I may, I’d like to start with a question about a particular collection—the HydroConquest. Word is that these watches are selling extremely well in China, a market not known for its interest in sporty divers’ watches. Why do you think is this so? Walter von Känel: It’s a good question. If you look at the HydroConquest, this collection was originally one of the very good collections outside of China. Now, I go five to seven times a year to China, but I usually go to the shops, not the offices. So, in the flagship store, the sales manager says to me, “Boss, it’s time to give me the HydroConquest.” It was after 2007 that we decided together with Hayek [Nick Hayek Jr., current CEO of Swatch Group and son of the group’s founder Nicolas George Hayek] to introduce this one at a very aggressive price. This included mechanical watches with an aluminum bezel and with ceramic that we introduced this year. And step by step it became popular, probably due to the young generation first buying them abroad. And we had the same situation in Hong Kong, by the way. So, we had a couple of meetings and we decided to put 20 pieces in each shop. And they sold out. There was huge pressure on us to deliver more HydroConquest watches to the Far East countries.
Walter von Känel Opposite page The new HydroConquest watch