Sascha Moeri, CEO of the 133-year-old Lucerne-based Swiss watch manufacturer Carl F. Bucherer, shares his views with Fortune India on the year gone, the market for fine watches, and new launches for the year ahead. Edited excerpts:
What do you have lined up for this year in terms of launches and new watches?
Carl F. Bucherer participated in the all-digital version of Watches and Wonders that offered an excellent platform to be globally unveiling new products this year. We presented the Manero Minute Repeater Symphony and our Patravi ScubaTec Maldives. The masterpiece, Manero Minute Repeater Symphony, is a unique combination of traditional and new technical achievements like the triple peripheral technology and its functional design developed through our in-house manufacturing, with a movement with three patented technical innovations. The Patravi ScubaTec Maldives is a dive watch which celebrates Carl F. Bucherer’s long-standing partnership with the Manta Trust, a non-profit organisation which aims to study and preserve manta rays. Apart from these, we have introduced our Heritage BiCompax Annual and an Adamavi FullCalendar earlier this year. We will continue to announce some global partnerships over the course of the year.
How was 2020 for Carl F. Bucherer?
The entire industry was in a very difficult situation and all of our 400 points of sales and stores across the world were closed, so of course it affected the business. Our sales were down in line with the rest of the industry. The growth and forward business development happened a couple years ago with the acquisition of Tourneau [America’s largest luxury retailer for watches]. On the one hand, we continued focussing on our manufacturing with further research and development, and on the other hand, we further strengthened our position in e-commerce.
Do you see bricks and mortar stores going out of business for watches?
I’m convinced that the way forward is going to be a mix of digital and bricks and mortar. Why? Because at the end of the day you can never replace a handshake. That being said, we are up to speed with how digital is moving. I have no problem selling €50,000 limited edition Patravi watches on my Instagram page. It’s important that we keep the balance, bearing in mind that personal experience will remain essential before buying a luxury watch.
How do you see the broader economy impacting consumption and luxury non-essentials like fine watches?
I’m not so worried about the watch business. There are more serious problems in other sectors that include tourism, real estate, and food and beverage. Ours is by and large a sector that is crafted by artisans and art will always be ‘in’. In 2019, we sold over 30,000 watches and we will attain this level once more as more than ever it’s important to think global and act local.
How has the India journey been for you since you got here?
We are privileged to have Ethos Watches who has built CFB for us in this market. Their great distribution and positioning has led to annual sales increasing steadily. Even during the pandemic, thanks to their digital presence, we have had decent sales.
You have a lot of big ticket names flaunting your pieces on social media and your Instagram pages, like Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and others. Do you have plans for a brand ambassador In India?
To be honest, we may work with stars and celebrities but the real star is the product and the main focus is always the consumer.