Luxury Swiss watchmaker Vacheron Constantin of prestige watches and a brand of the Richemont Group was founded in Geneva way back in 1755 by Jean-Marc Vacheron. It is the world’s oldest watchmaker which has also remained in continuous operation. Its motto remains “Do better if possible and that is always possible’. Highly sought after in Russia, it celebrated its 260th anniversary in 2015 when it revealed the world’s most complicated mechanical watch named 57260 which took three watchmakers eight years to build its 57 complications. Aviamost met its Brand Director for the Middle East Alexander Schmiedt to know more about its plans.
Tell us how you feel participating in the Dubai Watch Week?
For us in a salon like this we don’t expect hard selling. We don’t mind if it happens. In the end it should be a meeting point of exchange for watch aficionados and those who can appreciate fine watchmaking and a point of exchange for us to show what we are doing in high complications. So that’s why we brought some exceptional pieces there. In a salon like this we need to exchange not only with watch collectors but also people who are passionate about watchmaking. If we manage to generate some future clients or we see some of our existing clients, who come there,
Which exceptional pieces you brought to this Salon?
We only focused on complications apart from Overseas which is the main theme for this year collection. We also brought the collection of outstanding complications, which is one of the strengths of Vacheron so we brought the Patrimony Chronograph launched just one and a half months ago. It combines two of the high complications, the chronograph, finished to all the standards of Vacheron. We also have very exciting pieces and different pieces to highlight the strengths of Vacheron.
We have the only piece that you will see all around the world as a finished piece: the Harmony Rattrapante Chronograph which was launched officially last year to celebrate the 260th anniversary in a limited edition of 10 pieces, and we have the only piece at the moment that is physically existing here in Dubai: outres link, split seconds chronograph, with the peripheral rotor and automatic. It’s a really unique piece.
We have one of our Unique piece Maitre Tourbillon which is fully paved, diamond-set which shows another craft of fine watchmaking. The chronograph is more on the movement and we have gem setting and the grand complications tourbillion.
Tell us about your Chinese customers.
The Chinese market has tremendously evolved. Their learning curve has seen an amazing speed. Ten years ago there was a need to buy luxury watches but no knowledge but today you can have really sophisticated discussions with them.
Tell us about your new collection, Overseas.
We have been here 260 years but its more than being old we have been keeping the tradition but also reinventing. The Overseas collection has its roots going back to 2004 – 5. We want to bring continuity and it’s an icon. So we walk a thin line. We keep the DNA but bring in innovation .it’s more fluid forms; its case is cleaner it’s closer to the triple two from 1976 but brings a lot of innovations, with new in-house movements; three new calibers; innovative system to change three straps: leather, rubber and metal. You can even change the buckle. So it’s extremely functional, easy to use and made keeping in mind clients lifestyles. It is a sporty elegant expression of Vacheron Constantin. You have three watches to suit the demands of your lifestyle. It is for the modern cosmopolitan traveler and is a lifetime companion as Vacheron is a brand that has always been open to the world.
There is a trend to produce more affordable luxury in the watch industry.
That’s a subjective term for the person. Yes and no. Affordable is a subjective term. We have always been on top of the pyramid in terms of quality, exclusivity, craftsmanship and also in terms of price positioning which I won’t call excess luxury as it’s on purpose. But it’s not so much about affordability as it’s important to give client in each segment strong value.
But the trend we see is brands are focusing on the ‘cash-cow’.
But the launch of Overseas was six years in the pipeline as it was such a big project that we cannot say that the market environment is difficult and we will not launch it. We had always wanted to launch it despite the market conditions.
The new Overseas has a slight increase in price and it has more innovation than the Overseas 2. And is priced around $100,000.
How is it as an investment?
If you buy the right piece from the right brand it can be a good and safe investment. You won’t find that many Vacheron Constantin pieces in an auction as we bring out only 20,000 pieces. Buying a Vacheron is a purely emotional decision.
Do you plan to bring anything special for the Chinese New Year?
Our clients are global. The zodiac is a very special limited edition of the Chinese Zodiac which will continue. Other than that we don’t develop for specific markets. So we try to develop global clients. We will be having one for the Middle East we will be having a special collection with the falcon.
Which are your best markets?
Asia, specifically China, is an important market, where we are the number one watchmaking brand. Our Hong Kong boutique is still among the no. 1 or 2. In the Middle East the brand has a huge potential to further develop which we are going to work on this year and the next year.
How have you benefitted by being part of the Richemont Group?
We benefit in many ways as we have the support of the Group on one hand and we also operate independently. So they don’t push one brand and investing more in others. Whatever we create, we get a lot of shared services, the platform we are here. But in the end the core functions of the brand are done by itself. So evolution of the brand is done by itself.
What do you feel about connected watches?
I think the connected watch has a lifespan of six months. It maybe coolest thing today but in six months people will laugh if they see you wearing it. But when you have a Vacheron Constantin you will like it ten years later and even pass it on to someone in your family. Our biggest high complications collectors are also those who have the newest technology. So the more faster the information technology develops they also want something which lasts. We produce 20,000 watches a year Apple produces four million. We have a lot of clients who are watch collectors for instance in this region from the younger age group 30 – 40 years.
Today, the pure technology of a mechanical watch is beyond mere functionality, it is something personal which has a human touch. And that is the challenge for traditional watchmakers to keep the desirability for handcraftsmanship which technology will never give you.
Russians love the brand. At one time Vacheron was the second name for watches. How do you keep the interest in the crisis?
Vacheron is really the pinnacle of fine watchmaking. This is continuing to be nurtured. It’s a natural continuation we have been there for a long time working for the Tsars and making special pieces. But the market became difficult due to conditions beyond our control which has affected Russian clients in Dubai. It has shifted from very strong two years ago to very slow now. But we still believe that it’s important to keep true to your brand and keep connected to your clients. And that’s why we still have Russian-speaking clients in our boutiques as they are coming in general less to Dubai. The purchasing has shifted from where it was two years ago to slower. We have seen many ups and downs in the 261 years we were there. In the end we believe it’s important to stay true to your brand and the when the situation shifts you will once again benefit.