Antonio Calce: We didn’t take over the bankruptcy assets. We hired the founder, Laurent Besse, and bought a number of files, plans and tools that concerned us as the starting point for our own development studio. This opportunity arose for us to take a giant step forward, and move ahead with vertical integration faster than planned.
Six months ago, I had a five-year plan that I thought was watertight. Now Swatch Group’s decision to focus production on its own brands, a decision I respect, means we must review our choices. Everything happens so fast! By ending deliveries of regulating mechanisms, Swatch Group is forcing us to add another string to our bow.
Absolutely, although if we consider the situation in the market in the 1990s, nobody apart from Swatch Group had integrated production. Richemont was barely in its infancy, Cartier only did quartz… Very few people realised the importance of what is now a priority. Just ten years ago, watchmakers were playing Lego! It’s amazing how fast the situation has changed. I think we warrant some indulgence; we’re facing up to a challenge that takes more than money.
No. One of our flagship collections, Corum Bridges, isn’t exposed at all.
We will have to forge alliances and develop common solutions that will show horological patriotism. Ideas for European supplies are in the pipeline. We’ll also be taking on new staff to glue balance springs and make balance wheels. The aim isn’t to manufacture balance springs but to bring the regulating mechanism, the entire movement in fact, under our control.
There are companies making balance springs in Germany. This would involve adapting structures to take delivery of parts, inspect them, etc.
Yes, but not always. It can also mean placing joint orders or setting up joint resources.
And everyone has their sights trained on the little there is to hunt! But were a company to come onto the market, Corum couldn’t integrate it all by itself. Volume and profitability need to be considered. Also, doubling production isn’t necessarily a goal. Instead we should be looking, with partners, to secure those segments that are a cause for concern. Which leads me to think that movement-makers’ business model, like that of outside design studios, has a limited lifespan; all brands, once they have reached a certain size, start integrating, and not just to secure production. It’s a question of credibility too. There comes a time when you have to father the child yourself, so to speak. A brand that doesn’t have its own identity can’t last.
Yes. The plans are ready. However, even though Corum is in good health, we can’t embark on a project this size when the macroeconomic situation is anything but serene. As CEO and minority shareholder, I can’t take that risk. For the moment, staff are squashing up. Obviously though, I can’t wait another two years to speed up integration.
We’re fairly optimistic, given the high growth potential in some of our markets. In Italy, for example, we doubled revenues in 2011.
We just moved our American subsidiary from Irvine, near Los Angeles, to Miami where it will open in November with new management. It’s a driving force, a “new generation” subsidiary that employs fifteen people.
If we’re talking revenues, not that important. We have around 50 points of sale. But we are very pleased with results over the past five years and the warm reception our products have enjoyed. Robb Report Magazine recently singled out the Golden Bridge for its Best of the Best Award. We’re meticulously rebuilding the brand with our Admiral’s Cup and Corum Bridges flagships. We’ve put together a network of targeted retailers for the latter collection, fifteen of which only carry the Ti-Bridge and the Golden Bridge.
We entered the Chinese market two years ago, where we now have around fifteen points of sale. Ideally, we’d like to increase this to forty. China is a very important market: not for making money – the margins are poor – but for drawing attention to the brand. It’s vital for a brand to have a good image in China. Some points of sale in Italy and the US depend on how the brand is perceived in China. In Rome, tourists account for 80% of sales.
In China itself, not much, but the Far East accounts for more than 50% of our sales.
I’m confident. Corum hasn’t yet reached maturity in China. Our growth isn’t founded solely on growth in the economy but also on increased awareness of the brand. The Golden Bridge, for example, really sets us apart. We can’t keep pace…
Article published in BIPH