When, driven by Franco Cologni, the Fondation de la Haute Horlogerie (FHH) was created by the Richemont group, Audemars Piguet and Girard-Perregaux, its objectives were threefold: inform on and convey the passion, culture and expertise of Fine Watchmaking; be a think tank for the industry; and actively contribute to training professionals in Fine Watchmaking.
Ten years later, and now with 26 partner-brands, the FHH is intensifying its efforts in training “intermediaries”.
Aurélie Streit is a young logistics and supply-chain engineer who, after managing distribution, marketing and customer service first for the Sowind group, then Audemars Piguet and later Piaget, now holds the key position of training director at the FHH. She coordinates the ambitious projects which the Foundation is implementing at a time when intermediaries around the world are confronted with a glaring lack of training opportunities. We have all heard the horror stories, the convoluted answers to questions from customers who are increasingly well-informed and often more knowledgeable than the sales staff whose job it is to vaunt a product’s merits. Nor is the problem confined to the so-called emerging markets. It can rear its head at the very heart of Fine Watchmaking, in Geneva, where a potential client visiting the store of a well-known brand, on politely enquiring whether the regulating organ was in silicon, was told, “But Sir, everything in this watch is silicon!” A watch made entirely out of silicon. This is certainly news to us.
“Open eyes, improve the overall standard, and develop intermediaries’ skills” are the primary aims of the vast offensive which the FHH is rolling out in training. Because as Aurélie Streit points out, “Other than brands’ own in-house training, there was nothing on a worldwide scale aimed at non-technical staff, at sales associates or staff working in brands’ legal or financial departments, for example. However, beyond our mission to impart this culture, our aim in delivering the keys to a global understanding of watchmaking is also to support the brands and improve sales performance.”
A number of programmes have been launched that will gather speed over the coming months and years.
First off has been the creation of an “academy” whose purpose is to “deliver the keys to understanding the techniques of watchmaking and provide fundamental knowledge so that sales staff can carry out their duties with greater competency and greater confidence.”
The FHH has developed three types of lesson, in consultation with experts in retail sales, watchmakers and learning specialists. “These intermediaries work in the luxury segment, and we have taken care to develop attractive Powerpoint interfaces that reflect their professional environment. We have also made each presentation engaging for participants through interactivity and role-play, and by introducing anecdotes throughout,” notes Aurélie Streit. Courses, which are delivered in most European and Asian languages by fourteen trainers based in Switzerland, France, Italy, Germany, the United States, Latin America, China, Hong Kong and Japan, have been an instant success. Launched in August 2014, more than two hundred have been given to date.
The base module, Watch Essentials, is spread over a day and a half or two days. This structured course introduces “students” to the fundamentals of watchmaking with the aim of motivating them to then take their learning to the next level. It is complemented by a hands-on initiation using Unitas movements (often the first movements watchmakers anywhere in the world practice on). “The problem with training, especially on an international scale, is the logistics cost. We have resolved this by developing custom-made workbench kits with all the necessary tools, loupes and lighting, which fit neatly into flight cases.”
we provide intermediaries with sales arguments, and open their eyes to the innumerable details that constitute the essence of mechanical watchmaking.
This foundation course is followed by one-day lessons on specific themes: Chrono Class, Tourbillon Class, Calendar Class and Timezone Class. Each focuses on a given complication, describes its history, considers how its mechanisms have evolved, and presents iconic examples as well as the year’s new launches in that category. “These courses aren’t detached from reality,” insists Aurélie Streit. “They connect with latest developments in the sector and the situation on the ground. Through this training, we provide intermediaries with sales arguments, and open their eyes to the innumerable details that constitute the essence of mechanical watchmaking.”
*Article published in Europa Star Première