1. The results for 2015 and forecasts for 2016 are not generally very optimistic. With all the currency fluctuations we’re seeing, it looks as though some markets are saturated. As an independent manufacture at the top of the haute horlogerie segment, we produce around 900 watches a year; collectors have proved loyal to the brand and maintained their interest in our creations. Although 2015 was an excellent year for us in terms of sales, we’re still going to be cautious during the first six months of this year.
2. For us, it will be a year of consolidation while remaining attentive to our customers. We’re not planning any closures nor any openings. As well as the best retailers, we have a network of 10 boutiques, eight of which belong to us. That puts us very close to our customers. I’m currently working on a watch with large complications and taking advantage of this time to bring some models in our collection into line with current tastes. Where communications are concerned, we’ll continue to cultivate our difference with promotional events by our boutiques for our small group of collectors. Plus a new catalogue and a revamp for our website after ten years of loyal service.
3. I’ve been asked this question several times. No, the arrival of smartwatches is not a threat to mechanical watchmaking, just the opposite. Young people today read the time from their mobile phones, and for them this new smart gadget is the first watch they’ve ever bought. In time, they’ll want to buy a real watch and they’ll be our future customers – even if an F. P. Journe watch won’t be the first they’ll buy. Watchmaking is 600 years old, give or take a few economy-related interruptions, and this inertia always gives me faith in the future.
4. We don’t have a booth at Baselworld since we hold our annual show in January simultaneously with the SIHH but in our manufacture’s own showroom in the centre of Geneva. For us, the week of January 18-22 should confirm that the year ahead will be a good one and allow us to schedule production serenely. However, in Basel on 17 March, we’re organising a press conference for the second year running on the awards ceremony for the Young Talent Competition, of which I am the sponsor together with the AHCI. That confirms our position as the defender of watchmaking values, one priority being to pass on know-how and help the young watchmakers of tomorrow gain visibility. I wish this kind of competition had existed in my day, it would have made the beginnings so much easier.
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?