A partner to the event for nine consecutive years, Jaeger-LeCoultre chose the 70th Venice Film Festival to celebrate its 180th anniversary. Some 250 guests, among them Diane Kruger who is the face of the Manufacture’s women’s collections, joined in celebrations at the Teatro La Fenice, one of Venice’s cultural landmarks with a history on a par with that of the “Grande Maison”. Daniel Riedo, who joined Jaeger-LeCoultre as Industrial Director two years ago, chose this opportunity to present the main orientations for the company he now heads. Formerly with Rolex, in July he succeeded Jérôme Lambert as CEO, when Mr Lambert took over at Montblanc which, like Jaeger-LeCoultre, is part of the Richemont Group. Jaeger-LeCoultre employs more than 1,300 people with revenue estimated at CHF 600 million.
Insufficient production of complicated movements
Asked by French daily Le Figaro for his thoughts on this 180th anniversary, Daniel Riedo didn’t beat about the bush: “It’s a proud moment! Jaeger-LeCoultre’s history, legacy, creativity, its capacity to always innovate, its manufacturing autonomy and the solidarity of its teams sets us apart. Over these 180 years, the company has registered 400 patents and developed 1,242 movements. Each year we file patents for some twenty technical innovations and launch half a dozen watch mechanisms. Some, such as the Duomètre, take investment of up to EUR 4 million. Our Manufacture in Le Sentier, Switzerland, has 70 different calibres in production, which is huge when you consider our total production.” Not that the newly-minted CEO was giving much away as to what this production might be, situating it at more than 50,000 but less than 100,000 pieces a year.
Asked about the firm’s strategic positioning and Mr Riedo loosens his tongue: “We want to be a reference in Fine Watchmaking,” he says in the Le Figaro interview. “We need to increase our production of complicated movements, where we have a longstanding tradition and expertise. Also, demand for complicated watches is high, particularly in the Asian markets. It’s not easy keeping up to deliveries. Ultimately we need to have half our watchmakers working on grande complication mechanisms, which implies a vast training programme.”
This has increased our visibility which is driving our growth today, whereas a lack of visibility in the past was probably our main weakness.
An upward spiral
All of which suggests that Jaeger-LeCoultre is in a comfortable position in terms of production, with its own manufacturing resources and no problems with supplies. Its difficulties lie instead in its capacity to meet growing demand, as Daniel Riedo confided to Swiss magazine Bilan just before the Venice festival. The firm is intent on fuelling its growth with complicated watches, in line with strategy, while reinforcing its metiers d’art. “In terms of size, we’ve reached the threshold of what we refer to in-house as the “new dimension” which will enable us to significantly increase our market presence,” he explains in this lengthy interview. “We’ve spent the past ten years developing our network of exclusive stores, stepping up the pace over the last five years. This has increased our visibility which is driving our growth today, whereas a lack of visibility in the past was probably our main weakness. Now we’ve moved up a level and will continue to forge ahead.”
Daniel Riedo also points to th
brand’s “legibility” as another possible sticking point. “Given how creative we as a brand are, it could be that our product ranges are difficult to pinpoint. Consequently, we are working to make our collections more legible for both the markets and our customers. We also need to better communicate the aesthetic and functional principles of each range. We need to express ourselves more clearly.” To achieve this, Daniel Riedo can count on the solid foundations of a company in excellent health. “There can be no better proof of the brand’s vitality than our visibility within the markets,” he concludes. “This means we have sufficient cash to invest in communications, advertising, developing stores, and training. If business were slowing, obviously we wouldn’t be able to tap into these resources. Clearly we’re in an upward spiral.”