1. During 2015, the strength of the franc was a principal factor for the reduction in watch exports. Moreover, since the Second World War, the world has never experienced such great instability. Everything can change very quickly but we shouldn’t lose hope, there are always opportunities and the important thing is to know when to seize the right moment. The Asian countries, particularly Hong Kong and China are experiencing a slowdown, but we shouldn’t forget that for over 10 years, the Swiss watchmaking industry experienced explosive growth that was unprecedented in the past. This slowdown is not a collapse but simply a levelling out process. In view of the continuous improvement in Chinese living standards and free-trade agreements, the market should continue to progress but at a slower pace. However, we shouldn’t neglect that other emerging countries can offer interesting prospects due to their increase in living standards and, although caution is the key, the will to move ahead is clearly there.
2. This year we celebrate our 50th anniversary and our story will be recounted in a book to be presented at Baselworld. We will carry on concentrating on the essentials: i.e. our products. A fine creative selection where emphasis is given to steel watches, greater affordability, but maintaining unique high quality pieces. Our development programme has led us to patent Nacrilith, a new technical achievement; this consists of sealing mother-of-pearl within our Century sapphire to make it eternal. Our energies are also focused on our sales outlets where new opportunities can be targeted differently and more creatively. Indeed, as an independent and niche brand, we sometimes have more difficulty convincing retailers to commit with us, whilst large group brands certainly have greater bargaining power.
3. The mechanical watch will never disappear, it will outlive us all! It will remain an eternally functional item whereas the smart-watch will always need to be re-invented. Moreover, the notion of “Swiss Made” would be doomed to extinction if the smart-watch swept the mechanical watch aside, on the basis that the components are not Swiss and cannot be — perhaps a potential danger to the entry level sector! I imagine that despite all, the two worlds could live together and be complementary since their markets are not the same. Finally, if all that was to change, why not have a watch on each wrist: classic left and smart-watch right? Then, both can do well.
4. Of course it’s important to have a presence at this fair! It’s the only time of the year that we have the opportunity to present our new collection to the world, to all get together in one place over a short space of time. It gives us the chance to invite the industry professionals (retailers, agents, international press, etc.) to experience the brand within its own universe. CENTURY will have a showroom fitted out at the Ramada Hotel to receive our guests and give them the opportunity to touch, wear, test and experience our products. Their opinions are of great interest to us and are of capital importance to our development projects. These meetings are a time for privileged exchanges that maximise networking objectives. Even if the order levels are perhaps not as they were was in the past, the wealth of exchanges and opinions that emerge give us a very valuable overview.
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?