Corum’s movements are now structured in three categories: “Premium” which it purchases from suppliers such as Frédéric Piguet and Valjoux, adding only the decoration; “Exclusive” which incorporate specifications from Corum’s engineering design bureau which the movement manufacturer implements in consultation with the brand, and “In House” which are fully developed by Corum which manages each project with its contractors. This three-tier system – the first two layers each accounting for 40% of volume, the third layer taking up the remaining 20% – echoes Corum’s strategy to upgrade production at a carefully monitored rate.
It’s a similar state of affairs in the brand’s workshops, which were fully remodelled three years ago. They house state-of-the-art tools with which the firm carries out quality controls and water-resistance tests, and assembles small series for the 5,000 yearly manufacturing orders for total production more than three times that. The T-Bridge is entirely assembled at laminar flow workbenches, which give better results than a white room. Furthermore, the extension to the brand’s site in La Chaux-de-Fonds, planned two years ago and frozen during the crisis, is taking shape: the first scale model is slated for early next year. Antonio Calce, CEO, talks us through developments.
Antonio Calce: This hasn’t always been the case. In the 1980s, the brand’s main export market was Japan. In 2000, the balance leaned clearly towards the United States. Since I arrived at Corum in 2005, the Far East has grown in importance as the region’s economy has taken off, to effectively become our biggest market. We’ve added six new points of sale in China, bringing the total to 16, not forgetting the forthcoming opening of stand-alone stores in Shanghai and Beijing, after Hong Kong and Geneva. While China has incredible potential, the last thing to do is rush in head first. We need to control our expansion and allow the brand to mature. That said, we’re seeing double-digit growth in Hong Kong with the same group of retailers. Customers in these regions are knowledgeable about watches, so it’s essential to have something solid to show.
We aim to further integrate production of our own movements as project manager, giving us more independence from our movement suppliers. In a similar vein, we are developing our own hands and dials. We began with the T-Bridge with the objective of developing the “engine,” parts included. The idea isn’t to produce everything ourselves but to intelligently manage our network of contractors while keeping overall control in the hands of our design engineering bureau, which incidentally has just hired three new engineers. We’re now in a position to present two, and shortly three new Corum-made movements. Similarly, we’re planning a power reserve complication on the T-Bridge for 2011. We’re not looking to place orders for finished movements from Vaucher Manufacture or Christophe Claret. That would be too risky, and makes personalisation harder. Our new building, and we hope to unveil the model at Baselworld in 2011, has been designed to this end. It will house manufacturing of the brand’s identifying components, after-sales service, assembly and R&D. The design division and engineering bureau will also locate there.
Distribution is an essential part of the repositioning launched in 2005. We’ve taken direct control of distribution in the United States, which is a more difficult market than I had anticipated. We’ve done the same in Mexico for the LatAm region, with conclusive results. As I mentioned earlier, we’re opening two Corum stores in China alongside our retailer network. I’m currently hiring sales staff with a strong background in watches to raise professional standards in the network. We have a new boss for Germany and for France. In fact Europe is a definite priority, as the opening of the Geneva store shows. However, this is a mature market and competition is stiff. Still, our efforts are beginning to bear fruit. At Basel, I said I was expecting around 18% growth but we’ll probably end the year at around 25%. We will continue to invest in production and distribution in 2011, as both are essential to Corum’s identity and visibility. Provided, of course, we follow through with powerful products, which is exactly what we’ll be doing at the next Baselworld with our Bridge and Admiral’s Cup flagship lines. These are currently the focus of all our attention.