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The subtle charm of Jaeger-LeCoultre
Point of View

The subtle charm of Jaeger-LeCoultre

Monday, 29 June 2015
By Louis Nardin
Editor Image
Louis Nardin
Journalist and consultant

“Audacity, more audacity, always audacity.”

Georges Jacques Danton

“A quality watch is a concentration of creativity, rare technical and scientific skills, and age-old gestures. It appeals to the desire for uniqueness and distinction; it is a badge of knowledge, power and taste. A watch has many stories to tell; the details and secrets provide the relish”.

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4 min read

Chief Executive Daniel Riedo announces growth above 5%, a new collection this autumn, and a forthcoming increase in production capacity.

Jaeger-LeCoultre, which has been designing and producing watch movements since 1833, employs 1,350 people on-site. Already the biggest watchmaker in the discreet Vallée de Joux by far, it is preparing to increase its workforce again. Appointed Chief Executive in July 2013, Daniel Riedo talks us through latest developments at one of the region’s most highly integrated brands, with a catalogue that appeals as much to women as to men. The interview took place in the recently opened Maison d’Antoine, on the top floor of the imposing manufacturing centre. Close-up on one of the rare flagship brands whose watches begin at CHF 4,000 and rise to over a million.

How have the markets evolved since the Swiss National Bank abandoned the cap against the Euro in January?

Daniel Riedo, CEO, Jaeger-LeCoultre: This decision by the Swiss National Bank obliged us to up our prices in certain regions by a maximum of 8% for gold watches. We held out for as long as possible as we waited for the dollar, the most decisive currency, to stabilise. These adaptations concerned the entire watch segment, and had the beneficial effect of smoothing price differences between sales zones. What were sometimes substantial disparities have disappeared such that local consumption can develop normally. Jaeger-LeCoultre in itself didn’t suffer from this decision and has maintained growth above 5%. We have been taking advantage of this lull to finalise projects on standby and improve production processes.

The fall in sales in the early months of the year is due to a combination of factors.
Daniel Riedo
What about the Hong Kong retailers who recently campaigned for brands to lower their prices?

We have received no requests to this effect even after meeting with retailers from the region. In my view, the fall in sales in the early months of the year is due to a combination of factors, namely the continued slowdown in the Chinese economy, an unstable geopolitical context, and the Chinese New Year holiday period.

How are the other markets faring?

European markets are booming and have been for over a year. This upswing is boosted by Chinese tourists and their purchases. The United States is gaining in strength too, first of all thanks to our improved presence there, with six store openings in six months including on New York’s Madison Avenue. Secondly, the US has always been known as a market for sport watches. Increasingly, however, the American clientele is turning to the classicism and elegance that are typical of Jaeger-LeCoultre, with positive repercussions on our image. We will continue to extend our network of points of sale with between 20 and 25 new boutiques over the next two years.

We are facing strong demand.
Daniel Riedo
Will this mean changes to production capacity?

Absolutely. A 1,000 square-metre building opposite the Manufacture in Le Sentier is slated to become our research and development think tank. Building work will begin in 2016. At end September this year, staff employed in international activities, communication, marketing and the Swiss market will move to new premises in Meyrin. On the production side, we are reorganising the different workshops to make them lighter, more functional and to facilitate flow. We have also recruited in the artistic crafts in response to growing demand. In-house training processes have been implemented to develop skills and become more flexible. Lastly, the watch production and micro-mechanics site in Porrentruy, which opened ten years ago, will see its workforce increase from 50 to 250 people over the next three to four years, hence we are looking for experienced watchmakers and other technical staff. We are facing strong demand, in particular for our Fine Watches. Waiting times are now stable at a maximum three years.

A seventh product line will be added to the catalogue this autumn. Can you tell us more?

It will be positioned between the Master and the Duomètre, at price points between €10,000 and €20,000, and will incorporate special technical refinements. This development is taking place alongside the gradual withdrawal of models with a definite sports style which are generally based on partnerships, such as the one with Aston Martin that has now ended. We will of course continue to exist in the sport watch segment, but with sophisticated designs. Apart from that, there will be some exciting developments for the 85th anniversary of the Reverso, revealed at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva next year, with a complete revamp and new models. We will be making this a shorter range while further accentuating the signature features for even more visible, more identifiable products.

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