At the inaugural Watches & Wonders Asian High Watch Fair held in Hong Kong at the end of September, Guanchao interviewed Alain Zimmermann, CEO of Baume et Mercier. He shared with us the relevant strategy and development of the brand plan.
1. Baume & Mercier watches are relatively low-key and are not familiar to many non-professional watch consumers. What is Baume & Mercier’s position among all Richemont watch brands? What distinguishes a Baume & Mercier watch from other similarly priced watches?
Market positioning is important. We do play a certain role in Richemont Group, but the Group does not set roles or status for each brand. Since joining the Richemont Group in the 1980s, Baume & Mercier has always positioned itself in the tradition of high-quality watchmaking at affordable prices. In the future, we will continue to maintain this strong brand positioning, that is, making elegant watch series with high cost performance. Observing the prices of Baume & Mercier reveals that this market positioning is not just for China, it is the same worldwide.
2. After the cooperation between Baume and Chow Tai Fook, what has changed in strategy?
This change means that we will have a team dedicated to the development of Baume & Mercier watch in the Chinese market. Obviously, the Chinese market is very important to us. It is a huge market full of potential. But the market environment is also quite complicated, because there are different regions and first-tier, second-tier, and third-tier cities. We have strong partners with targeted markets, targeted retail channels, and targeted promotions, so we can make informed decisions: first, increase brand awareness, and second, increase purchases in the Chinese market as much as possible Desire, including male and female consumers. Although we entered the Chinese market late, we have made active efforts in the Chinese market and I am confident that we are on track.
3. You used to play an important role in Cartier of the group, so what do you think is the difference between your current job as CEO of Baume & Mercier and your previous job?
I have not worked as a CEO at Cartier or IWC. The role of Baume & Mercier CEO is different from that of IWC marketing director and Cartier product manager. It will shoulder more responsibilities and have a more comprehensive work content, in charge of commerce, product research and development, marketing, publicity, human resources, etc. So it’s a full range of challenges, and that’s the beauty of the CEO role. You are the leader, and people expect you to lead, tell them when to do something, you have to make a decision and believe in everything you do. Generally speaking, the same is true of strong brands. IWC and Cartier are both strong brands, but they both have their own brand DNA and brand temperament. My role is to protect the brand DNA of Baume & Mercier and to pass on the 183-year brand history to the next generation. What I do every day is to perform this role with my team. And the team is important. A CEO without a good team can do nothing.
4. What specific plans does Baume & Mercier have in the Chinese market?
On the one hand is to expand sales channels, we will continue to cooperate with existing dealers. We attach great importance to improving the exposure of first- and second-tier cities. In the near future, we will open boutiques in Changzhou. As long as we guarantee quality, we can find opportunities to open stores. We need to continue our efforts in brand promotion and pass a lot of training. We are very successful in China, we have history, quality, brand stories, classic designs, and are best suited for celebrations and gifts. We have superior quality and affordable prices, and now we need to move on. Watches and miracles are a great platform to convey our message to the media and customers. But it takes time. Miracles don’t happen in a flash.
5. In your eyes, in the next five years, what is the prospect of China’s high-end watch market?
The speed with which the Chinese market obtains information is amazing and rapid. It took Europe 20 years and China only 2 years to understand the watchmaking industry. Because of the mass media, brands provide a lot of content, and more consumers receive brand education. I think the new middle class is on the rise, and we have launched different brand education after entering China. Some people in the middle class have been to different parts of the world. They explore the brand and the content behind it, which is a perfect opportunity for Baume & Mercier because we provide content and meaning. As long as you enter the world of Baume & Mercier, you will find its high quality, good reputation and true Swiss watchmaking history. Brands need to keep in touch in conversations. With the help of emerging information channels, including the Internet, especially young people are becoming more and more digital, they can access the information of celebrities through various channels.
6. What do you think of Chinese consumers and how their consumption habits will change in the future?
First, I think there will be a change. Chinese consumers will be at different levels and well-educated. They not only focus on the logo, but also the interaction with the brand. Second, quality and credibility are becoming increasingly important. In other words, it is the life cycle of the product. Will consumers buy my product within 10 years? Will I buy twice? Can the company guarantee that the product can be repaired within 20 years? I believe that women’s consumption habits will change dramatically, luxury consumption will evolve, and acting will become more personal rather than show off the logo.
7. Could you tell us what new models Baume & Mercier has launched this year at the first ‘Watches and Miracles’ Asia High-end Watch Show, and what is different from the new ones that were exhibited earlier in Geneva?
We will continue to focus on the Crichton series, which is our main market strategy. We released the Clayton series for the first time in Shanghai last year, and have also exhibited this year at SIHH. Now we have launched chronographs and gold watches. The top priority of the watch exhibition is the tourbillon. Although expensive, it does not mean that we change our business model and we will not compete with high-end watches. We show the tourbillon because Asian consumers may be unfamiliar with Baume & Mercier and prove to them that Baume & Mercier is trustworthy. This is the first time we have brought an antique watch from Switzerland to highlight our heritage. We made the tourbillon with the Geneva mark in 1892, and after 183 we were still masters of precision and complex watches. This flying tourbillon is exquisite and exquisite, showing the superb watchmaking craftsmanship that can be achieved if we want to do it. My duty is to realize the dream of Baume & Mercier. Baume & Mercier always manufactures high-quality luxury watches at affordable prices, but Baume & Mercier also has the ability to make expensive and skilled tourbillons. Therefore, the tourbillon is the focus of this exhibition and also contains powerful brand information. There are many watch brands in the Chinese market, and young people are puzzled by this. My role is to convey the brand DNA-the seventh oldest brand in the watchmaking industry today.