François Thiébaud: Why He Won’t Buy A Watch OnlineWritten by Melissa Kong
He'd rather you head to a real Tissot store.
As Tissot’s president, François Thiébaud is clearly proud of the brand. “In terms of quantity, we are the biggest producer,” he declares. “Number one in terms of units is Swatch but in the whole traditional Swiss watch segment, we are number one because the Swiss watch industry exported 25 million watches last year and out of that, Tissot exported 4 million,” he reveals.
Thiébaud wears many hats. On top of his responsibilities at Tissot, he’s also president of the Baselworld Swiss Exhibitors and sits on the Swatch Group Extended Group Management Board, as well as the Executive Group Management Board. Oh, and he also happens to be a published author.
We caught up with him at this year’s Baselworld fair where he gave us an insight to Tissot’s DNA and shares his thoughts on why there really isn’t a watch trend at the moment.
They are innovators
We have to produce high quality watches but also be innovative. If you have seen our heritage watches, you’ll know that Tissot has proven to be very innovative in terms of design, like with our Banana watch and pocket watches.
Tissot Heritage Banana
We were also very innovative with technology, producing our first Antimagnetique watch in 1930 and the Navigator watch with 24 time zones in the 1950s. We also introduced the first plastic mechanical watch 10 years before Swatch did.
It’s all about the ‘Plus’
At Tissot, we are the Swiss flag of the Swiss watch industry. It’s even in our logo! The ‘plus’ sign means everything we do has to be ‘plus’. In terms of quality and design, packaging and display at points of sale, shop-in-shops, we have to make it all beautiful of course, but what can we do that is ‘plus’?
Firstly, if you want to make a new product, don’t make it to please yourself. Discover what different people like, and create something that meets the needs of others. If you smile when I give you a product like that, it means the product is good. So that’s what we have to do—make products that people like, because we’re not buying, we’re selling. The priority is to please you; and if it pleases us too, that’s a bonus.
Multitasking is a thing
About half of our output is mechanical watches. But we also use quartz because it is convenient and enables us to make beautiful watches at affordable prices, as well as products that athletes wear. The thing is, if you know how to make a beautiful sports or technical watch, when you want to make a classical watch, you can take some of those ingredients and imbue the classical watch with things like water resistance and sturdiness, giving it traits of a sports watch but with a dressy look. That’s the benefit of being able to do both.
Face time is best
We retail our watches online in eight countries but when you buy a watch online, you miss something—you miss, first of all, someone who’s there as an ambassador of the product. When you are at a point-of-sale, you can see and touch different products; you can put it on your wrist, feel the weight and get a technical explanation.
For myself, I might buy books online but I wouldn’t buy a watch online—it’s something that has too much value attached to it. I wouldn’t buy my wife online right? It’s just like buying an Hermès bag; you would buy one in the store but would you buy one from the Internet?
The trend is not having a trend
You have slim watches, you have big watches. Although small watches are making a comeback, big watches are still around. So I think everyone wants their own product. People don’t want to look like everyone else and I think increasingly, people want personalisation because we’re not in the era of Mao Zedong anymore when everyone was wearing the same thing. We want to personalise our identity and the watch we wear is a part of it.
That’s why it is so important to try to accept that the world is big. The trend in Germany, for example, is not the same as the trend in France or Italy, or Spain for that matter. And of course the reality is that Mainland China trends are different from Taiwan and Singapore.
This story first appeared in the June 2017 issue of CROWN magazine. SUBSCRIBE HERE.
Like most people these days, Melissa tells the time with her phone. She considers serious timepieces works of art and thinks the perpetual calendar is the handiest complication to date (pun not intended). She's also a Grammar Nazi but promises not to judge if you can't tell the difference between "guilloche" and "guillotine".