How is Vacheron Constantin doing through the crisis?
I would lie if I say that is has not affected us and times are not easy. However, even in the years of great euphoria we remained cautious in our management and production, this means that during the current crisis we have neither laid off any workers nor have we reduced our production.
For me there were really 2 crisis which requested great efforts from us: the industrial revolution and the quartz crisis of the 70s which totally changed the industry.
How do you think the industry will change now?
I think the age of conspicuous consumption and impulse buying is over. People will come back to products in which they can perceive a true value; I’m not only speaking in monetary terms but in quality and craftsmanship.
Each person has a different way of doing things, what have you changed since your arrival as CEO of the brand in 2005?
I have been part of the company for over 25 years so when I did step up as CEO in 2005 I didn’t decide to change everything that had been done before. Maybe today we have a more coherent and identifiable watch collection.
The designs have completely changed however since your arrival…
I have full confidence in the design team and have given them full power, they have managed to create a fantastic mix of classic, avant garde and even audacious designs. Look at the Quai de l’Ile, it surprised many but as a generalist brand we needed to offer a very modern watch aimed at a younger more design conscious collector.
|Quai de l'Ile Automatic with Date||Quai de l'Ile Day/Date with Power Reserve|
We hear today – due to the crisis-that there is a return of classic watches, isn’t that rather the result of a lack of creativity?
There are some extremely design oriented high horology watches, like the one you are wearing today (I’m wearing a MB&F Horological Machine 3) and there is place for them on the market but consumers today want to be reassured by what they buy and many brands had come to the market not with watches but some kind of time giving contraptions which will be harder and harder to sell. I also need to stress that ceating a classical watch, with classical proportions and still making it look contemporary is an extremely difficult task! Being classical doesn’t necessarily mean lacking creativity, look at our Quai de l’Ile, it is very modern and audacious yet will be tomorrow’s classic.
7-8 years ago you had to be well off to buy a Vacheron Constantin; today you have to be rich! How do you explain this?
Global income has also risen during this time as well, watches have become an actor of the luxury world and no longer only an accessory and the knowledge of the customer is higher, as such the demand for complicated watches has risen, therefore the average amount spent is higher but in comparison our prices have not risen drastically.
Why is the Geneva Hallmark applied only on the manufacture movements?
As you know the Geneva Hallmark sanctions functional finish and to obtain this Hallmark the movements need to be conceived from the start as such, which is the case of our manufacture movements.
Doesn’t the fact that Patek Philippe no longer applies for the Geneva Hallmark lessen the latter’s appeal?
Let’s look at it this way, for decades Patek Philippe have been applying the Geneva Hallmark and they are not all of a sudden going to turn their back on all they have done. We at Vacheron believe in an independent certification from the Geneva authorities, that we are the only ones or not will not change the quality and value of the criteria. The State of Geneva has set up a think tank on the evolution of the criteria and to make the Hallmark it into a horological reference. Vacheron Constantin shall submit to these requirements.
Why the Geneva Seal? Shouldn’t the name of the brand on the dial be enough in terms of quality?
Of course our name can be enough but supplying our clients with a quality seal obtained from an independent authority can be an extra plus.
What is your take on the use of silicium in watch components?
Lange has developed their own hairspring and JLC their own balance. Vacheron still uses outsourced components. Why?
We are a movement manufacture and we obtain supplies from outside specialists. If we have suppliers who have the expertise and know how in making certain components which are tried and tested and comply with our quality criteria I do not see where the shame is to buy from them. Our pride resides in the fact that we have some of the best watchmakers who master the assembly and regulation of our watches, that’s the most important! You can make all your components inhouse but have terrible finish and regulation…what’s the use?
When will we see a Vacheron Constantin chronograph movement and what will it look like?
I don’t want to get into details but you need to wait another 5 years. Until then we shhall continue using the Lemania based ebauch which is a fantastic movement.
Why so long? There are just so many ways to reinvent the wheel.
It takes a long time because we have a limited team of extremely capable watchmakers and engineers who work simultaneously on the development of different calibres. Furthermore, our main goal is reliability in time, everyone can create a movement and quite rapidly but if you want to do it seriously and keep in mind the reliability and durability of the movement, then it takes time. You know that Vacheron Constantin has one of the lowest return rates of the market with our inhouse calibres?
Richemont owns or has stakes in movement specialists such as Greubel Forsey and Minerva, do you see Vacheron Constantin working with them in creating complications?
We wish to master our own development. It may take longer doing everything inhouse rather than ask for outside help but like that we keep the know how inhouse.
Vacheron Constantin has an amazing and diverse production of vintage watches but hardly communicates on this. Why?
You are correct and this is something we are working on. Until now an aficionado who wanted to see Vacheron Constantin vintage pieces had to come to our Geneva Maison as we have an exhibition area, however soon we shall organise one major exhibition of our vintage collection in a prestigious location then organise itinerant exhibitions.
What is your position on supporting vintage market prices?
That’s not our job! We are not going to replace the collector, prices of our watches reflect the market and are not artificially inflated and we want to keep it that way.
Yes but doing so can also be beneficial in terms of image.
Of course but once again what does the brand and the collectors gain in having artificially inflated prices? Imagine what will happen to a brand who decides to stop or is incapable of further supporting the vintage watch market. It can only have an immense adverse effect.
Will we ever see the & back in the brand name Vacheron & Constantin?
It’s something I’ve been thinking of but that would be a change in the brand name which has been Vacheron Constantin for over 35 years, but why not apply it to certain pieces in relation to our heritage?
|Chronometre Royal 1907 rotor|
What are VC’s main markets and which ones do you want to develop?
Asia is the industry’s motor currently and Vacheron Constantin is the number one watch brand in China. Our traditional markets such as Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland are holding particularly well. However, we do not want to be dependant on only one market and our products do not reflect the tastes of only one main market. There are other markets which shall emerge such as India and Brazil but even though we shall push for development in new markets we try to keep a balance.
What is the brand’s production level and where do you want to be?
Currently we make about 17000 watches with only 5% of quartz meaning the time and expertise needed in assembling mechanical watches is quite high. We shall slowly increase production numbers but that will depend on how well we can control quality. If that means continuing making 17000 watches a year then be it. Production will not increase for the sake of increase if quality can not be perfectly controlled and maintained.
What are Vacheron Constantin’s key priorities?
There are 4 points which we wish to develop even further: our patrimony and heritage, our know how, our technology and aesthetics and development of our services.
Where do you see Vacheron Constantin in 20 years time?
We have a specific image and want to continue being respected and estimated by our clients for our quality and relevance.
What are Vacheron Constantin’s weak points?
We need to have a greater offer in the mid and high level complications. Furthermore, I think that we are undervalued in terms of brand awareness and need to work harder in this field to be recognized - thanks to our products - as the reference in high horology.
Vacheron Constantin has been communicating on the Metiers d’Art for the past years. Recently other brands have also been taking this path. Same with the personalisation of watches which VC had launched with the Quai de l’Ile. How do you take this?
It means we were right from the beginning! We have been trend setters for quite some time, take for example the launch of the Patrimony Contemporaine in 2004, it marked the rebirth of the classical dress watch, same as with the extra flat watches. We may not be inventing new materials such as Vacheronium and the like but we know how to make great watches!
Speaking of the Metiers d’Art, enamellers, engravers and guillocheurs are a dying art and the more brands come out with watches using these crafts the better as it would mean a rebirth of these crafts and a new generation who would continue the tradition.
|Dragons||Hommage aux Grands Explorateurs - Marco Polo||Les Masques - Mexico|
Why is Vacheron Constantin so discreet in its communications?
You are right, compared to many high end brands we were a bit discreet but we shall be seeing a lot of Vacheron Constantin adds with the launch of our new campaign.
If Vacheron Constantin was not part of Richemont what would you do differently?
To be perfectly honest, nothing! We have a lot of autonomy and the advantages of being part of Richemont largely outweighs the disadvantages. It’s good to be part of a group where you can benefit from the advice and experience of others and in turn we can share our experience and advice.
Which models do you wear the most?
I’m a huge fan of the Patrimony Traditionnelle Chronograph which I have been wearing non stop. On week ends it’s the Overseas in rose gold on rubber strap and when I dress up I strap my Patrimony Contemporaine Excellence Platine.
Which non Vacheron Constantin watches would you like to wear?
I really like the Patek Philippe 5000 with it’s off centred seconds sub dial, a Rolex Datejust and a Panerai Luminor time only model.
is really something they need to work further but at least VC is an honest brand! I am happy that yesterday, an old friend of mine who's not a watch enthusiast, asked me r/e a watch that he liked and was thinking to acquire. It's Patrimony Traditionnelle Chronograph! Glad it wasn't a Patek he was asking...