In a market with some huge players, Vacheron Constantin has the challenge to continue to be innovative and forward thinking, but somehow still recognises its extraordinary past and produces some of the most complicated watches on the market.
With a history of 263 years, watchmaker Vacheron Constantin is one of the oldest in the world, but today it is still relevant; attracting new consumers and audiences thanks to its ability to develop, reinvent and innovate. Last year’s introduction of the Fiftysix watch was a big success and allowed the brand to reach into a previously untouched market. As we look to the future Vacheron Constantin presents some exciting new novelties in 2019.
With fifteen years of experience managing global brands, Perves joined Vacheron Constantin as Chief Marketing Officer in 2016 and was tasked with growing the modern day message of the brand while embracing its history. We met with Perves earlier this year at Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie to discuss how he is doing that and discover the latest novelties from the high watchmaker.
What can you tell me about the new collections?
The Mécaniques Sauvages is a segment that is progressing very fast. There is high customer demand for unique pieces now because clients don’t want to wait for custom-made watches, so we create these pieces that are still only one unique piece but are accessible. It was important for us to have a story behind the pieces. Our clients want a story, they want depth and they want emotion.
There is such a powerful motion of mechanics in Les Cabinotiers and the animal kingdom is always a very good way to start because it is something that is universal in all cultures. We really looked at the animals in various countries and tried to create a link with complicated savoir-faire. The Lion is a 14-day tourbillon with enamel treatment. The Tiger is represented with engraving and the G4 movement.
We used a lot of different techniques and complications. We recently held a clients event in Paris and what we saw was, even if the pieces were very few, people were interested to see them and we are very happy to be able to propose at least some of them to a wider audience with SIHH.
What are the pre-requisites in creating an object of desire today?
I think the answer is emotion. Of course, our watches are telling the time and of course, they have movements that are complicated, but before anything customers buy our watches because they have passion. There is something irrational about the thrill of owning and wearing a beautiful object – your heart beats faster, you get goosebumps, and we try to express this in our watches.
The second point, which I think is very typical of Vacheron Constantin is to never compromise on having both technical excellence and innovation with beautiful aesthetics. We’re not here only to create perfect objects of engineering – which they are by the way – but they also need to be beautiful and well-finished.
To what extent do you think storytelling is still relevant today?
It’s relevant but it cannot be everything. You can have the best stories in the world but if your product is not up to the standard of the story then it won’t work. In the arena where we play, you have to have both the story and the mechanics. The story you are telling needs to deliver the excellence of what you are producing and its quality.
What is the strategy you are using nowadays to ensure Vacheron Constantin continues to appeal to its existing clientele but also to the new generation?
I think and hope that our strategy is always the same and that’s why the brand has existed for two hundred and sixty-three years. There are a couple of tricks. We are over two centuries old but we don’t move that fast. We always look to our past and make sure that we are loyal to it and we pay tribute to it. We always try to respect what we’ve done in the past and we also look forward with innovation. By doing this it means we can be relevant to today but the message is still the same.
I’m sure if you met someone from Vacheron Constantin 150 years ago they would tell you the same. Beautiful, high watchmaking, expert craftsmanship, key aesthetics, etc. The message and core values are still the same. The world around us is changing so we are changing the way we communicate the message and we have to be creative.
Do you think diversifying the offering is also helping?
We have always had a diverse offering, it’s just that at some point we were less active in some segments. It’s always been there it’s just that now our clients are demanding from different areas. Fiftysix was a missing segment so we wanted to add that, but at the same time, it is a life cycle. It’s a natural organic process and I think Vacheron Constantin has always maintained the ability not to just follow trends and not to always do the same thing we have always done. We move and live with the time and you have to be relevant. That’s the only way you survive for 263 years.
What is something that you still want to achieve at Vacheron Constantin?
For me, I hope we’ll be able to keep challenging ourselves to be visible to more people. I think that’s something Vacheron Constantin can do and it’s always been in our DNA to spread the goodness of high watchmaking and make people love watches. I would love to contribute to the knowledge of high watchmaking and the knowledge of the savoir-faire of Vacheron Constantin. We want the generations of tomorrow to understand what we are doing.
What is the challenge you face today?
The key challenge is more media channels that create a lot of noise. So it’s difficult to catch people’s attention when they have so many messages coming to them from so many industries. There are 1.2 billion watches produced every year in the world. That’s one watch for seven people – that’s huge.
So within that universe and our very exclusive positioning, we need to make sure that a maximum amount of people can enjoy what we are doing. Of course, we are exclusive and only for a certain portion of the population but our message and values can be admired by many. Our mission is to make sure that high watchmaking is alive in another 260 years!
What can you tell us about the women’s sector for this year?
Roughly one watch out of three that we sell is for women, which is great. We take great pride that most of these watches have automatic movements and are complicated watches. One of our best sellers is the traditional Moon Phase. Overseas has also started to really pick up in the women’s sector which is particularly satisfying for us. We’re going to keep bringing new novelties for women and we also see watches working for both genders. It remains a priority to Vacheron Constantin but we must always remain true to our values and our high watchmaking and ensure we are the best.
What do you say no to?
Many things. I say no most of the day! A couple are compromising because with our positioning and price point you cannot accept compromise and you always need to deliver the best. We say no to quantity and opportunism. And we will keep saying no to being dictated by trends. Vacheron Constantin is talking to a client who is a connoisseur who likes watches and who has a passion. You don’t come to us randomly and we stay true to this.
What book have you read lately that inspired you?
There are two books. I read a book from Chile that is about a person who travels a lot and is very open to the world and cultures. It’s a very poetic story, sometimes with suspense, sometimes with love, but it’s more about the journey and the writing of that person. It always makes me think about Overseas somehow. The second is 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I had the training years ago but I never read the book. My wife advised me to read it and I have to say it’s way better.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice what would it be?
Don’t change anything.
What do you think travel adds to you as a person?
For me, travel is the purest expression of experience. First of all, it is something physical that encourages you to actually go somewhere. We live in a time where people just look at pictures that other people took and I think travel is the real thing that opens your mind to new cultures and opportunities. Sometimes it can change everything and your life can twist which is really the spirit of the brand as well. As you know Mr. Constantin was an explorer going with his suitcase full of watches and movements to try to convince other cultures to buy. For me, that is the most fascinating story of the Maison.
What makes you happy?
Being here at SIHH. It’s a lot of work for all of our team however the hard work pays off. We have to manage everything; the visuals, the displays and more. We have the creative team working hard and the watchmakers – everyone is working together and this year it is a success again.
What’s your professional motto?
It changes with time, I have to say. When I was younger it would have been “live fast, die young.” I think now with a bit more experience I still have the will to go very fast but something that is very important is to see the glass half full. We are extremely lucky to be with an amazing Maison, we are in Geneva, a beautiful place, we should take some time every day to contemplate what we have and what we’ve achieved. It’s good to want more but I think it’s good to always look on the positive side of what you’re doing and eliminate negative focus.
How would you describe Vacheron Constantin in one word?