On the eve of the Baselworld Watch & Jewellery Show, Mr. Fran ois Thiébaud, who has been the president of Tissot since 1996, has been smiling. He has every reason to be so happy, as the mid-range brand of the Swatch Group sold more than 4 million watches in 2013. Here is an excerpt from a long talk with Europa Star.
Mr. Fran ois Thiébaud, CEO of Tissot
Europa Star Watch World: Recently, Mr. Nick Hayek emphasized that the Swatch Group is not only a luxury goods group, but also its fields, diversity and complementarity are its advantages.
Fran ois Thiébaud: I agree with this, and I understand the significance of Tissot’s contribution to the group. But at the same time, we can also say that the entire Swiss watch industry is a luxury industry. As one part of the world’s annual production of 1 billion watches, Switzerland has only 28 million watches. What is this concept? Only 3%, very trivial! This is the luxury industry! Moreover, all the watch industry is actually a luxury industry, because no one needs a watch except for some specific occupations: you can watch time everywhere.
‘For the one billion watches produced each year worldwide, what proportion does the 28 million watches produced in Switzerland represent each year?’
With his ingenuity and keen intuition, Nicolas Hayek has created a series of brands that build a true pyramid. In this sense, he is far-sighted, because you can’t eat caviar at every meal, then you will not survive.
But from the bottom of this pyramid to the spire, it is important to be able to produce high-quality watches at all levels. In 1983, the advent of Swatch showed that Switzerland could produce quality watches for all. It was Swatch that once again funded and promoted everything else. Without the Swatch or Tissot, Omega would not be where it is today.
‘Products and images also need to be consistent. To do this, you need to respect the brand’s DNA and have a thorough understanding of its history.’
Tissot’s T-Complication Astronomy
怎么 How do you define the mission that Tissot gave you nearly 20 years ago?
FT: In 1996, Tissot produced 840,000 watches. Despite some achievements such as Rockwatch, the brand is somewhat lacking in vitality. At the time, I could only say that Tissot was a good Swiss watch brand, but that’s all. However, it is not enough for a watch to be ‘good’. It should also have technical innovation, material innovation, and surrounding and accompanying aspects. Product and image also need to be consistent. To do this, you need to respect the brand’s DNA and have a thorough understanding of its history. In addition to technology, I have always been interested in history.
When I came to Tissot, I followed a company motto: ‘Sell real gold at the price of silver.’ To achieve this, I pair all watches with sapphire crystals (our production allows us to control the cost of doing so). Sapphire crystal with ETA movement: two essential ingredients for a good watch. But you also have to understand what customers want, and sometimes customers don’t know what they want. In this case, the decisive factor is not price but confidence.
The launch of the T-Touch is undoubtedly very important.
FT: In 1997, staff at Asulab (editor: Swatch Group’s R & D Lab) introduced the touchscreen technology to the heads of various brands. Who wants this technology? I raised my hand and brought it back to Tissot (laughs). Two years later, the watch went on sale with what is now known as success. This success is also due to the brand behind Tissot and the trust of the public in Tissot. One of our slogans is ‘have a tradition of innovation’. We can even claim that it is our T-Touch watch that is starting to make the public aware of touchscreen technology. We are the ancestors of iPads and iPhones.
You talked about confidence many times, but this is just a concept and it needs to be maintained for a long time …
FT: Yes, it is necessary, which is why the quality of after sales service is important. We must constantly strengthen the confidence we have built. If confidence is hindered, then there will be problems. This is why we always have to optimize our service and market position. This year, we will close some points of sale that do not provide sufficient display quality and do not have this confidence. Our sales point will be reduced from 14,000 to 13,000. (Editor’s note: Tissot’s core series sells for between 300 and 800 Swiss francs).
‘If we can successfully guarantee quality and continue the spirit of innovation, then in another ten years, there is no reason why Switzerland cannot sell 100 million watches a year!’
Glamorous by Tissot
S: You look confident in the future of the Swiss watch industry, not as frustrated as other observers.
FT: The space for the Swiss watch industry to move forward is huge. By analogy with wine, good vineyards abound. But Bordeaux and Burgundy are unquestionable references.
The same goes for the watch industry. Switzerland is the supreme treasure of the entire watch industry. At this point, I would like to congratulate the major luxury goods groups in France for making the right choice: their watches are not made in France but made in Switzerland. This is a recognition of our ingenious and unique technology. If we can successfully guarantee quality and continue the spirit of innovation, then in ten years, there is no reason why Switzerland cannot sell 100 million watches a year! Think of all developing countries where purchasing power will increase significantly, not only in Asia, Russia and South America, but also in Africa.
That is why, as the chairman of the Swiss participation committee at Basel, I want to open the door to the entire watch industry, whether Swiss or foreign. This is a healthy and exciting competition.
Say an irrelevant topic: What do you think about the arrival of smart watches? Do you see it as a positive competition for the entire watch industry, especially Tissot?
FT: I don’t think this is a bad thing. Many young people don’t wear watches now. With smart watches, they will slowly return and start wearing watches. I think smart watches are complementary to traditional watches, and they are used differently from traditional watches. After the advent of the mobile phone era, although the phone can display the time, the number of watches we sold has not decreased.
But you can wear a smart watch on your wrist …
FT: Yes, but remember we have two wrists. Nicolas Hayek sometimes wears eight watches (laughs). But seriously, I think the more we do for the watch industry, the better the results. Including competition. In the past, people wore the same watch all their lives. Today, you may have used 5, 10, or even 15 watches. Diverse choices create habits, so the more choices the better. We cannot change the way we measure time. What we have to do now is to beautify time, cater to trends, and meet people’s requirements.