Swatch Group

Interview with Thomas Meier, Glashütte Original


July 2018

Interview with Thomas Meier, Glashütte Original

The Swatch Group’s German brand is seeking to get back into the global watchmaking spotlight with models that are a bit out of the ordinary. Europa Star met with their boss Thomas Meier for a look back at his tenure, before new CEO Roland von Keith takes the helm this July.

We can see three major trends in the industry this year: vintage inspiration, smaller watches and more affordable prices. Does that seem like an accurate assessment of what you’re doing?

With the Sixties and Seventies models from our Vintage collection, this is nothing new for us! At the moment, we’re adding some new and really original colours to our Sixties model, including one with a dial in shades of green. So, we’re a part of this “trend”, even if that’s a word I prefer to avoid. We’ve been offering a Vintage collection for 20 years. In that time, it’s become a sort of “classic” collection for us...

Thomas Meier
Thomas Meier

What makes you unique is that you reinterpret watches that were produced at the time in... East Germany.

One of our major projects was the creation of the German Watch Museum Glashütte, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary. And at the museum you’ll be able to see that colours like green were very popular everywhere at the time. Our museum is a direct source of inspiration for us. It’s important nonetheless to note that we’re not focused on vintage models: our two key collections are the Senator line with its Calibre 36 and the PanoMatic line with the Calibre 90.

What is your price range?

It’s very wide, going from 6,000 euros for entry-level models all the way up to 950,000 euros, which was for a single piece sold to an Asian collector. But I would say that the heart of our range is 8,000 euros, which is where the Senator line starts.

As a German brand, is the national market still where you make the most sales?

Yes, very much so. That also includes visitors, who, discovering Germany, want to buy a watch produced in the country. And this shopping tourism naturally leads us to mention the Chinese market, which is where the greatest growth potential lies for Glashütte Original.

A lot of the Swatch Group’s brands have already launched e-commerce platforms or are in the process of doing so. Is that the case for you?

We don’t currently have any plans for e-commerce or online boutiques. We rely on our retailers, because these are watches you want to see, touch, test and compare. Beyond our retailers, we have 15 of our own boutiques around the world. The priority is to find a balance between direct sales and sales by means of representatives. Some clients want to see all 150 of our models. But to do that, you have to come to our own boutiques. Others want to compare them to other watches and so are more inclined to visit multi-brand boutiques.

In terms of products, what is Glashütte Original’s major new release for the year?

We have a model with a completely new design, one that “opens” onto the mechanism of our Calibre 36, all while boasting a dial that’s been entirely guillochéd in-house: the Senator Excellence Perpetual Calendar. A limited edition of 200 pieces in white gold, offered at 32,000 euros. This new design brings a strong touch of modernity to a classic collection.

Senator Chronograph – the Capital Edition
Senator Chronograph – the Capital Edition

You’re still a relatively little-known brand. What steps are you taking to gain visibility among a larger number of people?

To increase our visibility, we’re making use of the world of arts and the influence of German culture. We’re partners with two big festivals: the Dresden Music Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale). We really want to become better known and a festival like the Berlinale is a really good platform, with 4,000 journalists and 300,000 entry tickets, since it’s a festival that’s open to the general public, unlike Cannes. On this occasion, we launched a special series of our Senator Chronograph – the Capital Edition. We estimate that a total of 1.4 million people saw our watch during the Berlinale!

It seems to me, however, that in this effort to build brand awareness, there’s confusion around the name “Glashütte”, which is used by a number of brands. How do you avoid ambiguity, especially when you go beyond Germany and try to break into the Chinese market?

What you’re talking about is a reality. This is why we’re very open to the general public, so that there can be complete clarity as to our brand identity. Our Beijing and Shanghai boutiques serve this end, as does our museum and the fact that we open our manufacture to visitors. We make 95% of our components in-house...