eadquartered in Connecticut in the USA, the group employs more than 5.000 people worldwide. Interview with the new President and Chief Executive Officer of Timex Group, German-born Tobias Reiss-Schmidt, who details in an exclusive talk with Europa Star the capacities of its diverse entities to face a rapidly changing market.
The watchmaking industry is at a crossroads, after experiencing a difficult year in 2016. Where does the Timex Group stand in this delicate context?
There are obviously things that we need to improve upon to face the situation in the industry. At the same time for Timex Group this economic climate is an opportunity: we have evaluated our assets, set clear priorities and increased investment in strategic initiatives. We focus on what we do best: be better than others and grow market share!
What were the best performing brands in your portfolio in 2016?
The brand that grew the strongest in 2016 was actually Versus. It is from a small base, but we see a huge opportunity for this brand. Our power brands are Guess and Timex. Both of these are strong brands with long and rich histories that we intend to capitalise upon in the years to come. We are very optimistic for the future and we are also excited about the outlook for our more luxury brands Versace, Ferragamo and Gc. Our design teams have done an amazing job taking the collections to a new level.
Where do you see your assets to face the current industry situation?
Our diverse product portfolio of strong brands across a wide range of price-points, our watchmaking know-how and innovative capacity as well as our manufacturing base are obviously major strengths. For both Timex and Guess, we have decades of fantastic archives that we can explore, as you will see in new collections that will soon be hitting the market. We need to show the world that with Guess, we still are the authority in fashion watches. To do this, we want to offer a richer experience and to be more relevant and engaging in our communication and at point of sale.
Another of our strengths is the diversity of our distribution channels: our established retail partners which give the consumer a great brand experience. We are successfully building new distribution in fashion retail and consumer electronics and are investing in our e-commerce presence, but it is in our established brick-and-mortar stores that we have the greatest possibility to make a difference. It is by having a good brand presence in the marketplace that we can also grow online.
What is the structure of your consumers? How do they differ between brands?
This is actually our focus this year and an area in which we are investing in research, as it is very important for us to really understand the consumer of each of our brands. Who is our true target? Our most loyal customers? Our potential customers? With this information, we can segment our brand offerings accordingly.
We believe so strongly in this that for Timex we have realigned our whole organisation in this way, segmenting the team into business units of experts dedicated to the Business Units of Market, Boutique, which is more premium, and Sports & Advanced Concepts. What makes Timex special in the watch category in which we evolve is being a true watchmaker brand with a 160 year history at a very affordable price point. We even make our own movement parts in France – it’s the real deal. We are creating a buzz around the brand through collaborations with Todd Snyder, Mr. Porter, and Carhartt. The consumer response has exceeded our expectations and we have a lot more in the pipeline.
Where are the main markets for each brand?
- Guess chronographs
We are very satisfied with the brands that we have and positive about their future. Versace and Ferragamo are dynamic brands with a great deal of room for growth and Versus by Versace also offers new opportunities for the non-Swiss side. For Gc, we have both Swiss made and an offering in Swiss Movement as an answer to the market demand for further segmentation and a broader customer target.
So as to adhere to the new Swissness laws, we decided to internalise a lot of our operations and now have our own assembly in Lugano for example. This not only helped us to comply with the new regulations but also to improve quality. For both Swiss and non-Swiss we have very strong manufacturing and assembly capabilities and we are now opening our infrastructure to other brands in the industry.
Are you also open for more licensing business?
Yes, we are open for discussion.
New players are rapidly coming and others disappearing in your price category, especially with the new tool of crowdfunding... Does this new competition eat into your market share? How do you react to this?
In my view, new players can also be seen as an opportunity. The watch industry is very traditional but many new players have been very successful. We can look at their ways of working and learn from them and, if it makes sense, apply these to our business. For me in the end, these brands bring new consumers to our industry. You can reach out to people who might have never worn a watch before. It is the same for smartwatches. It broadens the market and this can only be a good thing.
Do you envision, in a few years, at least one connected module on all watches in your price segment?
Perhaps the idea of everyone being connected is a little extreme, but certainly smartwatches will play a role and it is important to understand this market, to be present in it and to learn. It is a new market and we are in a better position than a lot of others, due to our tech know-how: we already have our own connected IQ+ movement; we propose connected/analogue products that look like a normal watch as well as the Guess and Gc Android Wear products. With these, we can learn how the consumer is using the watch and adapt accordingly. In an ideal world, you come in the end to a watch that gives you all the functionality of a smartwatch but without any compromise on the design – the new face of the fashion watch, which is what we do best.