Keeping It Fresh Part IV: Franck Muller, Jaquet DrozWritten by Alvin Wong
“It is impossible to always reinvent the wheel.”
In the final of our four-part series of interviews on line extensions, we speak to Franck Muller’s chief operating officer, Nicholas Rudaz, and Jaquet Droz’s CEO, Christian Lattmann, to understand how each brand approaches the challenging but necessary process of ensuring longevity for their top-selling watches.
Nicholas Rudaz, COO, Franck Muller
Approximately what percentage of new releases each year is devoted to line extensions?
While our philosophy has always been to be extremely innovative, both in design and in complications, it’s just not possible to always present a long list of new models. I would say that 60 per cent of our novelties are an extension of one of our collections.
Extending the range of our collection is important as it widens the choice for our clients. Offering a large variety of a certain model is one of our strengths. With such vast offerings, be it complications, colours, diamonds, sizes or shape, everyone will be able to choose his or her own Franck Muller.
We understand that each time a brand introduces a new collection, the brand has always planned for a number of years ahead.
It is very difficult to plan ahead and anticipate the success of a novelty. Of course, we always hope that each novelty will still be around in 30 years. Then again, some models may do particularly well in one country, but not so in others.
Franck Muller Vanguard Backswing for ladies from 2017
The success of our Crazy Hours is also an interesting example as when we first advertised this model 17 years ago, there was no such thing as social media and when people saw a photo of it in a magazine, they didn’t necessarily understand how it works. But today, with social media, it is much easier to present the Crazy Hours and people immediately fall in love with it. It’s still a very successful model in our collection today.
Is there a specific process to determine the add-on features or changes that you always have in line for new references?
We tend to spend more time in designing and developing new watches than planning a certain strategy. Once a new model has passed all the quality tests and we are happy with it, we present it to the world. Of course we are always careful not to cannibalise another model by doing so.
Franck Muller Vanguard V45 World Timer
A lot of times when a brand releases a new reference with cosmetic changes, some collectors are quick to deride that the brand isn’t doing anything new. Is it a fair criticism?
I do think that such a comment is a little harsh. Subtle changes can make a big difference and it is impossible to always reinvent the wheel. We currently hold many patents, but this is a process that takes time.
Franck Muller Vanguard Lady Jewel Asia Exclusive from 2020
Christian Lattmann, CEO, Jaquet Droz
How important and necessary are line extensions are to your sales turnover?
First of all, every new product must meet the expectations of our customers, and have an aspect of innovation, whether in terms of colour or material. We also produce extremely limited editions, to give us the means to create products made from very rare materials that require a high level of expertise. And to answer your question, line extensions help support or prolong the life cycle of each collection and, therefore, have a significant impact on the company's turnover.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantieme from 2013
Can you give us a sense of what goes into the creation of each new collection?
Lots of factors are involved in a development strategy: the needs of the market and its trends, our drive to remain innovative, but also the resources and ability of our workshops.
Jaquet Droz specialises in artisanal and automata aspects of horology. These involve human processes that cannot be performed by just anyone, as they are limited by the rarity of, and high level of expertise from designers, technicians, artisans and watchmakers. Therefore you also have to contend with the human factor, but that is the beauty of our work.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Deadbeat from 2015
A lot of times collectors are quick to deride watches featuring cosmetic changes as examples of a brand not doing anything new. Is it a fair criticism?
It is a question of balance. Each year, we launch products that have undergone a face-lift, as well as significant new products. Innovations may come in the form of the colours and materials we use, instead of simply pertaining to movements or technical features. Being innovative is not as easy as it seems. The Jaquet Droz way demands that each new creation not only respects the codes and history of the brand, but also tells a story.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Skelet-One from 2018
Let's take this year's Loving Butterfly Automaton. These unique pieces with opal dials were sold out in a week, as collectors were able to appreciate not only the difficulty in finding opals that were large enough in size to create our dials, but also the exceptional beauty of the pieces themselves. It is not just the beauty of the Loving Butterfly Automaton Chinchilla Red we cherish, but the symbolism of the stone that calls into question our relationship with time. The dial is made from petrified wood that is more than 50 to 150 million years old! Each piece really is unique.
Can you give us an examples of a successful collections with good line extensions within Jaquet Droz?
The Grande Seconde is a perfect example. It is our brand's signature product. In 2002, it was launched in a version with hours and minutes and large seconds. Since then, we have continued to equip the collection with new complications, while making sure its extremely strong codes are respected.
Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantieme from 2020
To innovate and bring about change whilst respecting the codes is not easy, as the scope is quite narrow. Our loyal customers appreciate our efforts and our high level of creativity. This year, we have created the Grande Seconde Quantième (gold and steel), the tourbillon, the minute repeater, the independent seconds, but I would like to highlight two models - Grande Seconde Moon, and the Grande Seconde Skelet-One – featuring extremely modern styles, which have become our bestsellers.
Alvin promises not to be a douche when talking about watches. He may have scoured the Basel and Geneva watch fairs for the past 15 years, and played an instrumental role to the growth of Singapore's pioneering horological and men's lifestyle publications, but the intrepid scribe seeks to learn something new with each story he writes.