Daniel Riedo, CEO of Jaeger-LeCoultre, presents to Prestige a summary of the watchmaking market over the last twenty years, and evokes the novelties of the House presented at the SIHH 2017 and his perception of the future of watchmaking.
«Jaeger-LeCoultre combines Professionalism and sophistication»
How do you evaluate the last twenty years of watchmaking? The main changes relate to the size of the watches market, the number of brands that have appeared, disappeared, or some that have remained. For Jaeger-LeCoultre, our turnover and presence in all markets have increased significantly, particularly over the past decade. Twenty years ago, we were not even part of the Richemont group.
What has marked you mostly in this evolution? Professionalization. The world is accelerating, it has become much more sophisticated and the watchmaking scene of twenty years ago is totally different from the present. The world has become more unstable in terms of market, the appetite for luxury has grown, the rise of the Chinese market has changed the reality of the watches world.
Did the culture of the customers in watchmaking evolve in terms of expectations? The idea of the art object we wear on the wrist has remained the same. The expectations on the product, on the customer service have changed. People do not want to repeat the same experience as before, but there are different expectations depending on the country and the maturity of the market.
Does the emergence of these new markets influence or change the product presented? Yes and no. As we listen to our customers and these markets account for half of our clientele, we are inevitably listening to them. No, to the extent that we do not develop specific collections for these markets. For the time being, Europe is the «trendsetter». The perception of luxury is a very European value that is exported, French luxury and Italian taste remain predominant in emerging markets.
What is your wish for the future of watchmaking? Our brands are really strong. In these somewhat troubled times when people lose their identity, there is an aspiration to find roots in something that is authentic. Much is said about millenials today, millenials have been stuffed with advertising from a young age, so they are more aware of what is pure marketing than true content. They want to have an identity, hope that it will be with us and not with others (laughs). I’m still asked this question with the Apple Watch. If everyone carries one, I am sure we will have a category of people who will seek out the difference, something that is a different expression of the personality versus the mass.
In your opinion, what explains the resurgence of craftsmanship in the watch industry? There is the word art in Crafts, and art generally has much more amateurs than there were before. Just look at the auctions, the aspiration to have something artistic, with real value, is entire. This is valid for painting, but it is also valid for the wealth put in the watches. Complications, movements with so many complicated little pieces that tick every day in such a small space is art. If we also add a little bit of crimping, guillochage, this authenticity, this exclusivity, this wealth of craftsmanship, all this will be very appreciated.
What do you think of the female segment in watchmaking? The feminine segment has fundamentally changed in recent years because there is a maturity, watchmaking knowledge in the feminine world as well. For many years we have seen demands on more fashion brands. When you spend 10,000, 20,000 or 50,000 euros in a watch, you hope to have a piece that is sure to last. There is the aesthetic appeal but there is also a value of the representation of the brand. We saw this by launching the Rendez-vous line. We tried to send a message with an authentic line dedicated to women. This was a great success. The aesthetics pleased, but also the content that was different. We have introduced a Pair Watch offer for some Asian markets that want the same watch for men and women for weddings. There is a real demand for it, but that is not what most women buy from us today. This is visible through the Reverso line which has three or four sizes, intended for small wrists. Last year we introduced the Reverso One, it was a real success because it is a Reverso that caters to women. Its form is more slender, more feminine. We also have the Reverso Squadra that we made a little more unisex, a little more sporty and it worked well.
What was the importance of offering to the customers the possibility to indulge themselves, through the Reverso workshop and personalization? There are three reasons for this. We want to prove that the Reverso has two sides. When you buy this watch, you have two pieces at the price of one. What other than the Reverso gives this notion of exclusivity, personality that one expresses in different ways! The demand exists for limited series, exclusive series, series by country, and this demand is growing, year after year, so what better than doing it on the Reverso where you have a face, the classic recognizable icon, and by turning it, you have engraving, enameling or another dial?
Do you have a final message for our readers? We take our roots in the past. I would also like to underline the opening in our factory of a new area for heritage restoration. This increases our credibility with our customers. Interview Conductedin Geneva by MARIA NADIM