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Customer? What customer?
Point of View

Customer? What customer?

Thursday, 16 December 2010
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Franco Cologni
President of the FHH Cultural Council

“Talent demands effort, dedication and hours spent perfecting a gesture which, day by day, becomes a gift.”

An entrepreneur at heart, though a man of letters, Franco Cologni was quick to embark on a business career that would lead him to key roles within the Richemont Group.

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3 min read
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As we know, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie exists to spread the culture of Fine Watchmaking. Not just among specialists – although they could sometimes benefit from a brief refresher: as the ancients used to say, Medice, cura te ipsum (doctor, take care of yourself) – but all those who, in a demonstration of style and good taste, are careful to go beyond the surface of things and thus fully enjoy the unique character of something as singular as a watch.

This cannot be truly appreciated without a culture of beauty. There is no true competency in Fine Watchmaking without a culture of the object capable of discerning the signs of technical innovation and aesthetic research. Characteristics with which the customer is already well-acquainted and to which he rightly aspires. But it is one thing to “feel” and another to “know.” To say that knowledge is suffering is a falsehood. In Fine Watchmaking, knowledge is synonymous with pleasure.

Spreading this culture must take into account a series of constantly changing factors which concern less how the object may evolve – basic values stay the same – and more changes taking place in the customer. “Traditional” customers – and nothing says they cannot change their habits and tastes – are joined by new types. New from a geographic point of view: aficionados of Fine Watches, who now hail not from emerging but emerged countries such as China, Russia, India and Brazil (at least for the summit of the luxury pyramid that concerns us), constitute the long networks with which the “short networks” of Swiss watchmakers must contend, in terms of tastes, distribution, customer service and communication. What does it mean to convey the culture of Fine Watchmaking to people who don’t necessarily share our history or references?

New from a demographic point of view too. Traditional customers whose loyalty has been earned are joined by newcomers of all ages. Some are curious, some are fans, some are up-and-coming personalities looking for a symbol that will confirm their status, and so on. We shall look at these distinctions in more detail another time.

What does it mean to share the culture of Fine Watchmaking with young generations, with people from a different environment, whose purchasing power differs from that of the “classic” customer? Precisely so it can respond to these stimuli, the Foundation has published a “manifesto” that determines its mission and defines the scope of its perimeter. Because unless we understand the context, we cannot evolve or communicate effectively. If there are points to be improved, elements to elaborate on, values that need to mature, the Foundation certainly won’t back down before any challenge. Yet the customer must perceive Fine Watchmaking as a coherent and cohered world, at least with respect to its principles, united around its values. In tempestate securitas: beyond the inevitable cyclical crises, the principles that define not just an object but an entire world remain intact.

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