1. 2016 gets off to a flying start for Bell & Ross with our entry into Formula 1. I am more or less relaxed about this new year, even if the worldwide economic situation isn’t favourable and is pulling the market downwards with the weakening of oil prices, exchange rates and the strength of the Swiss franc which increases the cost of watches relative to other forms of currency. Even in an unfavourable environment and through its “start up” method, Bell & Ross is familiar with managing these crisis moments which also create opportunities and enable us to gain market share.
2. We are in the process of integrating our distribution system throughout the Middle East and Asia by creating our own subsidiaries. We are also developing our own distribution network with the opening of new Bell & Ross boutiques throughout the world. We have always had an innovative strategy in relation to our products and we never rest on our laurels! As is well known, our major focus has always been related to aviation and that will be complemented this year with automobiles, not only Formula 1 but also through the unveiling in Basel of a superb concept car entirely created and fabricated by my associate Bruno Belamich.
3. A beautiful mechanical watch is a cultural object that gets passed from generation to generation and I’m not aware of any civilisation that does not have jewellery that distinguishes it from others. The smart-watch may represent a threat but in my opinion, it will never replace the mechanical watch that will endure throughout time. Conversely the smart-watch is already outmoded the moment it’s purchased.
4. Basel remains a crucially important fair for us in that it’s the opportunity for the complete industry sector to come together for useful and convivial exchanges. We have over 1000 pre-arranged appointments before starting the show, during which we will display all our new products and create a barometer for the coming year. This is an exceptional period for meeting the press and retailers from around the world, not to mention the local distributors. The current economic crisis will demonstrate that it’s not the size of the stand that sets the brands apart but the innovation of the products they present.
EUROPA STAR’S FOUR QUESTIONS
1. What are your predictions for 2016? Do you think that exports will recover, or will the markets stagnate or continue to decline after the slump we saw in 2015? And what do you think were the reasons for the downturn in 2015?
2. What are your priorities for the coming year: consolidating your existing markets, actively exploring new markets (if so, which), rationalising / consolidating / expanding your distribution network, launching new products, PR initiatives, etc.?
3. Over the longer term, do you believe that mechanical watchmaking will gradually die out, hybridise, or continue to occupy its own exclusive niche? Do you see the advent of smartwatches as a potential threat, or an opportunity for growth and diversification?
4. What exactly do you hope to achieve from your participation in Baselworld 2016? Do you feel your presence at the fair is essential to your business, or are such forums less important now than they were in the past?