ZODIAC - a marriage of Swiss & International know-how

February 2003

Just over a year ago, Zodiac launched seven new collections onto the international market. To learn about the company's first year of activity under the Fossil flag, Europa Star spoke with Isabelle Maujean, Zodiac's Brand Manager.

Founded in 1882 by the Calame family, Zodiac has what it calls 'a rich Swiss heritage'. Today, the company is a part of the very successful Fossil group, a Dallas-based organization that has earned an internat-ional reputation for itself with such brands as Armani, DKNY, Diesel and Starck+ to name just a few. Zodiac, however, remains resolutely Swiss.

Dynamic and innovative with a well-established international network of subsidiaries and distributors, Fossil took only a calculated risk when it decided to 'go Swiss' with the purchase of Zodiac. But has the venture reached expectations?
Europa Star: After more or less a year's activity, can you offer an overall appraisal of Zodiac's performance to date?

Isabelle Maujean: Less than a year after its re-launch, we are satisfied with the performance of our new brand. The brand and the collection were received positively in all the countries where it was launched last year and the watch market in general was quite amazed in what we have succeeded in doing in such a short time. The brand can now be seen in world-renowned retailers such as Tourneau in New York, Ernest Jones in the UK, Grimoldi in Italy, Christ and Knapp in Germany etc. In today's market, it is not easy to launch or re-launch a brand when nobody specifically needs a new brand, but our company demonstrated once more that it is able to achieve its goals. We are very satisfied with the first sales results we are obtaining.

ES: Last year, Enrico Margaritelli who presides over the holding company of Zodiac and Antima, mentioned that “... the purchase of Zodiac is just the first step that will allow us to enter into the circle of Swiss watchmakers ... we see the Zodiac purchase as a trial gallop.”

Do you feel that re-introducing the Zodiac brand is merely a 'trial gallop' or can it establish itself as a genuine and commercially viable brand name?

IM: I think that Mr Margaritelli meant that Zodiac was one of the first steps of our introduction in the Swiss watch business and that from there on we would even go higher and with other brands. We have learnt and continue to learn a lot with Zodiac, but Zodiac is a fully established brand of its own and thanks to the results we obtained after the launch, I can say that we have a great growth potential in front of us. It is definitively our intention to maintain Zodiac and develop it as a genuine Swiss watch brand with its own personality and very commercial assets.

ES: What has been the largest stumbling block in the re-launch of Zodiac?

IM: Finding the correct positioning for its re-launch. We had the quality and the craftsmanship for the products, we also had the distribution thanks to Fossil's excellent worldwide distribution network, but we had to find the right positioning in terms of brand image - prices (€ 360 to 4499 for the diamond-set watches), quality and design of the watches - and then develop the marketing aspects. Who do we want to be? Who do we want to touch?

ES: In which particular countries has Zodiac been most successful so far?

IM: The most successful countries so far are the USA, Italy, UK and Germany.

ES: It was stated that Zodiac's goal last year was to be present in 14 markets by the end of 2002 and 40 countries by 2004. What were your criteria for establishing the first 14 countries, are the established goals being met and in which countries can the brand now be seen?

IM: The 14 countries mentioned are the countries where Fossil has its own subsidiaries - Italy, UK, Spain, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, USA, Canada and Australia. We are satisfied with the results we obtained in each country, we learnt a lot through the launch and we have already received a lot of precious direct information on what were the best selling styles, where we have to improve and what were the most positive marketing aspects. The 40 countries we planned to be in are still our target and will surely be reached and we are now ready to launch the brand to the rest of the world at Basel, but our main new distributors for this year are in Turkey, Portugal, UAE, Kuwait, Oman and South America. In addition, we are very pleased with the new collection that we will be presenting at Basel 2003 and I am sure that our partners will also be impressed.

ES: Zodiac is a Swiss brand with a long history and Fossil, in watch manufacturing terms, is a relative newcomer. Which of these 'names' has proved to be more advantageous in the development, establishment and distribution of the Zodiac brand?

IM: It's a good 'marriage'. Each has its strengths. Our Swiss infrastructure has proven to be very good in all that is product, design, manufacturing and heritage. Our mother company has made all the difference in terms of distribution through its existing network and subsidiaries. Fossil is well respected in the market and the understanding that behind Zodiac is a very solid, large and respected international company with the capacity to sustain every step that we will have to take in order to be successful, obviously helps. I think that we have found the right combination between our Swiss infrastructure, Fossil and all the international components that we have in our team to make Zodiac successful.

ES: The Fossil group has 16,000 sales points around the world, of which 3,600 were ready to handle Zodiac as of last year. Can you give an idea of the quantities of Zodiac watches sold to date and how that compares with your original business plan?

IM: We did not take the direction of 3600 points-of-sale for the good reason that the Swiss do make great watches, but they are very often very late in delivery! We had to fine-tune our new capacities in Switzerland and, unfortunately, we were late in delivering the watches. We then decided to go for only the top retailers in each country and wait for 2003 to increase distribution. At the end of December we had around 1500 points of sale. Our Swiss production facilities have now reached their optimum capacity and 2003 should see no further delivery problems.

ES: What are your sales targets for 2003 and have the 2002 results made you re-define them?

IM: Yes, 2002 has made us redefine our targets. We are now aiming for a higher sales target and we have planned to reach 4000 points-of-sale for 2003.

ES: What has been the reaction of consumers to the seven new Zodiac collections and which of them has been the most successful?

IM: The reaction has been very positive for all the collections, especially for the quality and finish of our products. In terms of design, the collection that received the best reaction is the Ambassadeur. These watches have an extremely nice design, are very wearable and the watch is innovative. We have already developed new versions of this collection in order to present it at Basel.

ES: All the movements in the Zodiac watches are quartz with the notable exception of the Dubois Dépraz automatic movement in the Calame Sport chronograph. Given the sales results to date, do you feel that there is a future for the mechanical watch in the Zodiac stable, or is its presence merely there to help establish Zodiac as a bona fide watch manufacturer?

IM: We could do with more mechanical watches in our collections especially since we have received several requests from our partners for them. We are introducing some additional watches with mechanical movements at this forthcoming Basel and we intend to introduce some more in the following year with 'personalized' movements. Zodiac is a true Swiss Watch with a rich heritage, so we are going to do everything that it takes to keep it on this track.