Newly appointed CEO Christoph Grainger-Herr, takes IWC forward to the next chapter.
After 15 years, Christoph Grainger-Herr took over the reign of Georges Kern, the former CEO of IWC.
At SIHH 2017, Chris or more formally Christoph IWC’S newly appointed CEO tells us more about the todays watch consumer and gives an honest analysis of the different ways he wishes to conquer the new market through E-commerce, together with the various prevailing themes that he will use to shape IWC’S ever growing significance to the current and future generations.
You began your career in Design and Marketing, what kind of emotions do feel about this drastic shift in your vocation?
It feels great! My final project at university was a watch and jewellery store in Geneva, and if you look at my original works that I did back then I believe it was all pointing towards this direction. I must say I am a brand and a storytelling person, and this whole idea of building dreams and telling stories is very much part of that, so for me to take a broader angle to just design the little elements of a brand seemed very natural. I think essentially it is the aesthetic image of a brand that guides the development of a luxury brand and builds its equity. So yes, it may seem like I am branching out into other fields, but it really does feel natural and I don’t think it is in any way a drastic change from the route that I have been taking from day one.
One of our favourite activities that IWC does is when they work with cinema. Will you continue to still use cinema to broadcast on a group level perhaps?
I think entertainment on a broader level is an absolute key element. You cannot think that the luxury consumer or company has a silo thinking, it is the context again, it is not only fashion but it is also cars, entertainment, music and theatre. Our customer lives in a context and when you see someone who is driving an Aston Martin and buying a beautiful watch it is all a context, as long as these elements don’t over shadow the fundamental values of the brand. Many brands have to adapt and they must keep up with the world, so yes there will be entertainment strategies. It is a must today for brands to build content, which they can own and reuse several times.
Do you think a watch with such a high price point can easily sell online?
Five years ago, everybody said forget it, you will never be able to sell luxury products, or jewellery or watches online. Again, our benchmark is the fashion industry, and today people are telling us that we will not be able to sell expensive pieces. I am positively convinced that it is an evolving process. The point is that you will never get rid of this tactile element of purchasing a luxury product, the customer who goes on an e-commerce site probably went to the wholesaler and touched the product, but for some reason didn’t have the chance to buy it immediately. There are multiple touch points before you buy the product, but you need to offer the customer this service, and e-commerce is a service where at anytime and any place in the world one can buy the product without seeing the wholesaler. Therefore, again I don’t believe that you will ever lose the tactile element of choosing a product with that value, but if you have touched it and know what it is, months later you can go online and buy it because you know the product very well. It is about convenience, and an additional offering to our clients.
What about the idea of creating products specifically for online?
I think it is a great idea!
In terms of online convenience, there are two ways people go about shopping. One is where you dedicate some time to shop, and the other is when you are in the middle of your day moving in and out and that is actually when you do the acquisition itself. In this situation, how much of this can be increased by emerging with entertainment?
Yes, I believe there is one option of when one is seeking an experience, and this is why for example we started to localise all our retail concepts everywhere to make sure that the client traveling to Rodeo Drive is not seeing exactly the same experience as someone who is traveling to Shanghai for instance. It is the interpretations of the same concept that give you a unique experience. I think that would be shopping category number one. And number two, is merging entertainment and content experience with a really simple excellent craft to purchase, because at the end of the day the people need to have the option from every touch point, whether you want to do that or not, we leave that option up to our clients. But the service and functionality has to be there, there is no question about it.
In the digital world, figures and great results are very important for watch brands. Do you think that values outside figures are compatible with good results?
Of course! Because building a luxury brand takes decades, and to build an image believe me everything takes time, especially if you want to be sustainable. When it comes to a luxury company everything relates to values, if transmitted in a modern way; now craftsmanship also can be translated in a very cool and attractive way but it is a key element. For me it is not the value per se that is questionable, but the way you explain it should change in my opinion.
Any ideas on this direction of change?
As I said, I think these manufacturers should play the card of digital communication. I always say our problem is not the digital watch, and when you look at the bigger picture and you look at all the companies launching these watches who try to reach a luxury feel and now it is a 180 degrees difference in change towards being a fitness striker, so it is all about sports which makes sense. The core definition of what luxury is will remain in the traditional watch-making, we are not worried about that aspect of the business, the point is we need to use digital to communicate, People today absorb information in different ways and want to consume everything with a thumb and all the experiences we made, for instance with Mr. Porter and Net-a-Porter showed us how successful this step can be and how people contextualise the product itself. This is a place where you have a product with a fashion context, it is not only the watch, but it is the reality of life that makes it extremely interesting. As an anecdote, the female percentage versus the male is hugely more important online than it is offline, which is why I think this can be a great learning experience for us.
While developing a new movement, when will we see the first item you are fully in charge of?
It is a fluid process, we have been working on some products for few months now and we have been discussing watches in development for the future. So, we have a compact creative team that is made up of key people who make key decisions all together. It is a changing and evolving environment, we take strategic decisions and we keep in mind the context of the market and our client preferences. This is a flexible process, and we don’t have a road map straight ahead that says we are going that way no matter what. We get up every morning, we feel the weather and the mood in the market, we have ideas and as a team we decide which way to go. We will always innovate ground-breaking ideas that will keep our brand both timeless and current.
By Lara Mansour Sawaya