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Happy talk at Jaeger-LeCoultre
Point of View

Happy talk at Jaeger-LeCoultre

Monday, 23 January 2017
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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5 min read

In December, the “Grande Maison” sold a record number of watches in its own boutiques. Orders taken during SIHH exceeded expectations. An interview with CEO Daniel Riedo, in a positive mood.

How is the 2017 Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie shaping up, given the difficulties facing the sector these past 18 months?

On this third day of SIHH, and in light of the context, we can feel quite satisfied. Feedback on the products is positive, as are orders. In fact we met our targets for this edition in just two days. We have, nonetheless, felt a change these past months, particularly at our partners. December was the best month ever for Jaeger-LeCoultre in terms of retail sales, and even though our network of own-name boutiques has grown, with the exception of Tokyo there have been no major openings for the past year and a half. There are now 93 Jaeger-LeCoultre boutiques around the world, and this is pretty much the size we set ourselves. But to come back to the current climate, after a good month in December, January’s figures should confirm the new mood in the markets.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Boutique in Vancouver
Jaeger-LeCoultre Boutique in Vancouver
So you don't share the pessimistic view?

Let’s not overreact to everything. The watch market isn’t in decline, as some have said. Brands became too greedy with the boom years. It’s true we took a downturn this past year and are back at the same levels as in 2013 and 2014, but these were record years, in case we forget. Let’s not give in to doom and gloom. There is still a strong appetite for luxury. There is also a high level of liquidity in the markets and rates of return are low. Our role is to reassure customers as to the added value, quality and legitimacy of our products. There are clearly opportunities to be had.

Launched in 2012, the Rendez-Vous ladies' collection now accounts for 45% of our revenue.
Daniel Riedo
Does this mean you haven't had to buy back unsold inventory, unlike other Richemont brands?

We have been extremely vigilant over the past three to four years, in line with our status as a Manufacture, and were therefore able to limit ourselves to just a few partial buy-backs, for the most part low-value products, so as to “clean up” certain market segments. To give an example, we are currently marketing fourth-generation minute repeaters. Certain retailers were still at the second generation, and so we took these products back. The cases are melted and the movements are destroyed.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Tourbillon Universal Time
Jaeger-LeCoultre Geophysic Tourbillon Universal Time
The products on show at SIHH suggest you're focusing on entry-level. Is this the case?

No. We’re busy in every segment, particularly the very high end with a Hybris Artistica at almost CHF 300,000. Or our Geophysic Tourbillon Universal Time at CHF 150,000. We thought the age of the tourbillon was nearing an end, but the success of this model, whose orbital flying tourbillon offers an original interpretation, proves the opposite. In fact we’ve already sold five times as many as expected. This is our third best-selling product.

Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Sonatina
Jaeger-LeCoultre Rendez-Vous Sonatina
What are the first two?

Firstly, unsurprisingly, our Rendez-Vous collection of ladies’ watches that we are spotlighting this year, with the Reverso in second place. Launched in 2012, the Rendez-Vous now accounts for 45% of our revenue. This confirms that we were right to create this line especially for women, with simple, elegant styles and small complications. There was never any question of simply scaling down our men’s watches. We have imagined a world that is tailored to horology’s female fans. There was clearly a market to be had, and which retains its full potential judging by what’s on offer in this segment. Personally, I was expecting a lot of competition for the Rendez-Vous, but in fact our products retain all their strength.

The online channel represents just 3% of our sales.
At a time when brands are actively seeking customers, what's your view of online sales?

I won’t beat about the bush. I’m old-school and I believe that someone who is willing to invest CHF 10,000 to CHF 20,000 in a watch will probably want to try it on their wrist. How else can something appeal to the emotions. I also believe they are entitled to a special welcome. We’re already talking about a considerable sum of money. Having said that, we would be wrong to close the door on this type of solution. Hence why we are present on four continents with products available for purchase online. However, the online channel represents just 3% of our sales. I think we should wait a while before labelling this the solution for the future.

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