Oldest Swiss watchmaker plans to expand in Gulf region
Vacheron Constantin is the oldest Swiss luxury watchmaker. Founded in 1755, Vacheron Constantin has an uninterrupted history of making watches for over 264 years.
In an exclusive interview with Muscat Daily, Alexander Schmiedt, regional brand director – Middle East and sub-continent at Vacheron Constantin, spoke about the luxury watch manufacturer’s plan to expand its offerings in Oman and other countries in the Gulf region.
He said the region is very important for Vacheron Constantin brand and it has been making investments for several years to expand the business in the GCC.
There are many Swiss watch brands available in the market. Can you tell what makes Vacheron Constantin special among its peers?
We are ‘one of not many’ watchmakers globally. The reason for calling us ‘one of not many’ is that we are the oldest Swiss watch manufacturer. We have an uninterrupted history of making watches for over 264 years. The reason for being the oldest watchmaker is not for the sake of making us a historical brand. We are heading a heritage that allows you to do certain things which are simply not possible if you are not a part of that heritage. Heritage and history are the two things, which money cannot buy. It is because of our rich heritage and culture that we can do things which others cannot do. The reason for this is that since 1800 Vacheron is working on one simple motto ‘Do Better’ if possible and this is always possible. So our efforts are not only limited to tradition but also to innovation. According to us, innovation and tradition are two sides of the same coin. Tradition of today had been the innovation in the past. And in order to remain in the market, you have to be innovative in the way business is done.
Vacheron Constantin has been in operation for over two hundred years, but still the brand is not as popular as few other Swiss brands.
We have been very exclusive from the very beginning. On purpose we have been producing very few watches, which allowed us to make a large percentage of our watches exclusively by hand. A person who buys Vacheron watches is a connoisseur himself, he understands his stuff and he has passion for such things.
We are living in an era where there is not much usage of watches, and companies like Apple and Samsung are giving new meaning to the concept of watches. In such circumstances, how do you see the future for your company?
Digitalisation or technological advancement or whatever word you may use, it is advantageous for us. Because a smart watch and a mechanical watch from Vacheron are two completely different products. Let me make it clear, today no one buys Vacheron Constantin for the purpose of telling the time only. Our watches are a form of artwork and artwork will always exist no matter how technology changes.
With the advancement of technology, the demand for artwork is even growing more as they (mechanical watches) are becoming rarer and the appreciation or demand for something made by human hands is increasing. So, now the ultimate luxurious thing is defined as something which is made by a person for a person. And this is what we had been doing for the past 264 years.
Vacheron Constantin is 264 years old now, so over the years what key changes have you been witnessing in consumer preferences for watches?
You must remember that brands like Vacheron Constantin is not influenced by changes in fashion preferences. So we don’t need to follow any fashion trend. Every piece that we create is something which is loved by everyone. Time pieces created by us remain valuable even after 20, 30 or 40 years. It is something which can be called as timeless. The key to success in your business is to remain true to roots while constantly innovating. So there is a thin red line between both, but the success lies in maintaining a balance between them.
Today we are producing a significantly smaller quantity of watches than our nearest competitor. We are doing this with purpose. So the watches made by us are of higher value but are significantly low in quantity. The reason for this is that a smaller number allows us to devote more time on each piece and add certain artistic features, something that cannot be done through machines.
Do the choices and preferences for watches vary according to geographical locations like they do in cases of cars and other luxury items?
The answer is both yes and no. Vacheron is a very exclusive brand. So, our clients are really connoisseur. They are not bound to one location only. Most of them are globetrotters. So, the taste of a connoisseur is global in nature. But at the same time, we have some specialties for some particular regions. For example, in the Middle East region many men prefer to wear steel or platinum watches. Besides this, there is a big liking for our iconic brands in the region. Moreover, there is also a more liking for larger watches in the region compared to other locations. In other parts of Asia, people prefer smaller watches but the gap is not much.
How important is the GCC region for your brand, and do you have plans to expand offerings in Oman?
The GCC is a very important region for us. For the last two years we have been investing significantly in the region. The investments are made on increasing the presence of brand here. We don’t want to open more shops but we are offering the better quality of distribution to increase the experience of brand by renovating the feel and outlook. In distribution, we want to be exclusive but with significantly better user experience. And in Oman also we are looking to increase our presence.
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