Ask Sylvain Auroux, director for the Swiss and Italian markets at Piaget, about the past few months, and he’ll talk about how the brand has progressed, even at the height of the crisis. “Growth has accelerated again these past six months to the point we can no longer keep up with deliveries. The well has run dry! I was talking recently with the people at Bucherer, a Swiss retailer that produces its own in-house movement, about how we didn’t fully anticipate the surge in sales for China this year. We reached forecasts for the twelve months of 2010 in the first half-year. It’s largely thanks to the Asian markets that we’ve done so well and to Chinese tourists who’ve accounted for three-quarters of activity at our Swiss points of sale. Since Switzerland joined the Schengen Area two years ago, the Chinese no longer need a visa to come here, and that makes a huge difference.”
“It’s bad luck for the ones who didn’t anticipate China’s incredible leap forward,” adds Philippe Léopold-Metzger, CEO of the Richemont brand. “As a director with Cartier in China between 1996 and 2000, I could measure the full potential of this market. This is why we stepped up the pace of development in China, where Piaget has been present for 20 years, this past decade. We’re now reaping what we’ve sown, in fact Asia accounts for some 60% of our revenues. Not that we’re neglecting our other markets. The advantage of having a strong presence in Asia is that we can then invest elsewhere, in particular Europe.”
Important developments for the SIHH 2011
The key, for Philippe Léopold-Metzger, is to propose the Piaget touch, the brand’s own DNA, in “the most universal models possible.” “We’re fortunate in that the Chinese appreciate classic products with a long tradition behind them. They also like gold and are drawn to reasonably-sized watches. Our timepieces are all these things. We also pay close attention to our men’s and women’s ranges, of equal importance for Piaget, but with a distinct approach to each. Our men’s watches are classic yet contemporary with movements that serve the watch and mark the return of elegant timepieces, as our recent extra-thin Tourbillon shows. For our women’s models, there has never been any question of simply proposing smaller versions of our models for men. We take an equally creative and conceptual approach. The woman who comes to Piaget is generally sophisticated and the timepiece she buys isn’t her first watch. We have to surprise her and prove to her that for us, the product will always be the star.”
“Jewellery watches make up a large share of our sales but this is mainly a replacement market, hence why we want to alert men to our products, particularly as men tend to be more loyal,” Sylvain Auroux explains. “Because we already have a strong presence in the classic segment, we’ve extended our range with more sports-style models such as the Polo 45, also available in titanium. Timepieces such as these appeal to a younger audience, backed by powerful communications campaigns. We’ve also worked with ambassadors who can boost Piaget’s image with this clientele. Sienna Miller, for example, has helped raise our profile considerably. Then there’s our Piaget Time Gallery which has hosted four exhibitions in two years, which then travel to Asia. The gallery offers fabulous communications opportunities too.” Piaget is promising major developments in its ranges for the SIHH 2011 while “easing up,” in Philippe Léopold-Metzger’s words, on new products at any price. The name of the game now is to establish the collections in the different markets.