1. I’m not over-optimistic about the world market in 2016. Firstly, I’m concerned by the geopolitical instability; and yet, trust is essential in the business market. Secondly, because of the extremely low oil prices, the Middle Eastern markets which account for a significant share may regress and I don’t believe that the Asian market will expand in the short term. At best, I envisage stability but unfortunately at worst, a slump in the world market.
2. Our objectives for 2016 are very important in terms of product range and distribution networks. In relation to the second, in 2016 we will be opening new boutiques of our own and concentrating our energy, strength and budget commitments on our own distribution network. However, we’ll continue to support independent multi-brands who are motivated and “play the game” with Raidillon. Otherwise, we will clearly curb the exploration of markets that “turn up their noses” and who for whatever reasons, fail to support us. As far as our product range is concerned, for Raidillon 2016 will be a year for consolidation and for launching a quality range of accessories, closely aligned to our image and standing, that of the gentleman driver and the beautiful eternal object, without ever being old-fashioned or outdated. As such, we’ll be introducing luggage, leather goods and accessories such as: cufflinks, key chains, wallets and travel kits, as well as some “menswear”.
3. Not for a minute do I think that smart-watches will have an influence on the volume, the quality or the value of the mechanical watch market, indeed the opposite. On the other hand, I believe that more and more, we’ll find ourselves surrounded by electronic components such as micro-chips, codes etc. These will be found inside rings, clothes, belts, briefcases, etc. and will be able to track an object, measure physical activity, monitor health, set up security systems, open doors, provide communication links, etc. Everything is still to be invented! I’m convinced that we have no need for a second mobile phone on our wrists, and in evidence would cite the fact that the size of smart-phone screens has exploded over the last few months; the smart-watch does not offer the opportunity to read a screen in comfort. In addition, electronic components are becoming so small and powerful that they can be installed in a bracelet, a buckle, perhaps even in the mechanism of a watch, etc. Certainly, we cannot read the newspaper on the dial of an automatic Raidillon watch but neither can we do so on the screen of an Apple watch. I therefore believe that these electronic components constitute a genuine opportunity and that the market is exciting, particularly for the mechanical watch, especially if we can find interchangeable systems. Indeed, the problem with electronics is their extremely limited life, as opposed to the several generations offered by a mechanical watch. Imagine if within the watch-clasp we have the means to electronically connect the watch; after three years, just change the clasp to replace it with the latest version. We then retain our watch intact!
4. The question is more than relevant to Raidillon; in fact only a few weeks ago we decided not to attend Basel in 2016. The most important reason being, that we have directed budget commitment towards investment in our own new boutiques. Furthermore, another significant deciding factor was the cost: within three years for a business trading within the Euro zone, the cost of the Fair at Basel has increased by almost 50% (including the 20 to 25% exchange rate). The required investment therefore becomes quite staggering for a few hours’ participation and return on investment is too vague. For the moment, we’d rather place this investment in the opening of a new boutique, although we can’t exclude going back in 2017!
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?