Learning From COVID-19
Leaders of the watch industry share their insights and perspectives.
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BABIN, CEO, BVLGARI
“We absolutely must look to the past to learn and understand how to adapt these lessons to present times. If we think about the last post-war period, we cannot forget how much creativity has flourished in challenging times. These are moments in which people display strength and determination.
We also need to be active in supporting non-profit operations. A recent example is the reconversion of our partner perfume production facility in Lodi (south of Milan) to produce hydro-alcoholic gel. Subsequently, we extended this operation to Neuchâtel, our homebase for watches and perfumes.”
SOON BOON CHONG, GLOBAL SALES & MARKETING DIRECTOR, CORUM
“In any crisis, there are waves of impact as well as recovery. Although the sentiment right now is not the most ideal, it is not all gloom and doom. Our operating model of being market-centric has helped us to react and response quickly to cater to the needs of each market.
Many would agree that watches, particularly luxury mechanical timepieces, are very much ‘touch-and-feel’ products best experienced via face-to-face interaction. While we do not rule out the possibility of online presentations in the short-term, where possible, we still hope to be able to physically present our products to our distributors, customers as well as the media.”
NICHOLAS RUDAZ, COO, Franck Muller
“Our staff is our utmost priority. They represent our know-how and without them we cannot produce our watches. Our strongest defense for our business is to maintain our creativity, both in design and complications.
As an enterprise, we will always face ups and downs, both within the watch industry, and outside of it in the global arena. However, thanks to our creativity, we have managed to adapt to the times. We do so with exciting new creations that always push the limits of watchmaking. This crisis will be no different.”
RICARDO GUADALUPE, CEO, HUBLOT
“The business isn’t easy when the boutiques across the world are closed. Nevertheless, we are looking to launch our e-commerce platform, which will debut with the Big Bang as first watch collection, followed by other lines. Of course, we also stay in touch with our partners on a daily basis.
(When the situation permits) I’m in favour of a ‘great gathering’ for the industry that brings everyone together. Trade fairs need to be a big get-together for our industry. These fairs enable us to spend quality time with our partners, journalists and end-consumers. “
CHRISTIAN LATTMANN, CEO, JAQUET DROZ
“Like most luxury brands, the temporary closure of our boutiques, which is absolutely necessary, has quickly disrupted the demand in all our markets. We also had to, for both security reasons and lower demand, stop production in our ateliers and keep to a minimum team – just to respond to emergencies. This is a new way of working that we had to adapt to quickly. Still, we take advantage of this exceptional period to analyse and rethink our future strategies.
The past crises cannot compare to this one by virtue of how sudden it is, its global impact and the massive changes it has imposed on the entire world. This is a new experience, but we are sure we will learn a lot and gain something positive out of this. That’s how we do things at Jaquet Droz.”
NIELS MØLLER, GROUP CEO, MONDAINE WATCH LTD
“Flexibility and adaptability are crucial. Because of store closures, retailers have, of course, partially postponed or cancelled orders. We understand this, but we are confident that they will purchase products from our various brands, especially Luminox and Mondaine, as soon as the worst is behind us.
Thankfully, our main partners managed to receive our new collections in February 2020 and were able to start selling then. Online shops are still running and retailers in our key markets can use our direct drop-shipment. In general, thanks to federal subsidies or loans, we also hope that the dealers can meet their payment obligations, because liquidity is the central issue - it can only work if the entire chain cooperates.”
FELIX BAUMGARTNER, CO-FOUNDER, URWERK
“Most of the team are passionate watchmakers, so all of them have a bench at home. They took some materials with them and kept on working. Our priority is the safety of the team, both physically and mentally. We all know what our tasks are and even if we are apart, we work as a team.
We have to stay humble. Watchmaking is a ‘plus’; a nice, great, pleasant, enjoyable plus. We do our best to create genuine products, and be as innovative as possible. If you are stuck at home, having a passion will definitely help you through this tough time. Beautiful watches can offer you that. But today, the people I am looking at with admiration and gratitude are nurses, cleaners, cashiers. These people allow all of us to keep going.”
JULIEN TORNARE, CEO, ZENITH
“We are doing all sorts of things (to keep going), starting with the development of an innovative digital strategy for sales, and adapting plans for new launches in the foreseeable future. A key part of this is remaining in close touch with our stakeholders, including employees, customers, distributors and retailers. Our HR department is in constant contact to reassure employees and we continue to be very active with regard to training.
The current challenge is unlike anything I have ever experienced. The world has never see anything of this magnitude, not only from the perspective of the pandemic but from the knock-on social and economic consequences. Probably the only common lesson is to keep an open mind and continue to innovate.”
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