Laurent Lecamp HOW WAS IT… IN A THOUSAND YEARS
What ties a Japanese ryokan, Indian jewelers Surana and Zenith’s El Primero caliber? Transgenerational values for a lasting DNA.
Taking the time to write a book between meetings and catching flights to visit retailers all over the world—that’s uncommon in the watchmaking industry. But for Laurent Lecamp, Executive Vice President of Sales for Carl F. Bucherer, this isn’t his first time doing so. While this project in particular took 18 months of thought and research and is the first he has completed solo, his literary works are comprised of several books as the co-author and academic journals, most notably the Independent Luxury in 2015, selected by The New York Times International Edition as one of the three referential guides on luxury strategy. What motivated him for write this book that is at once captivating, original and illustrated in a playful and engaging manner? “Numerous trips to Europe, Japan, India, the visit to several companies, the willingness to try and understand the secrets of their durability as well as the strategic issues, the obstacles and challenges that have come in their way…” says Laurent while thinking back on his travels, during which he was able to ascertain information often shared from one generation to the next and not easily accessible to readers, even those in the press. Printed in both English and French, How Was It in a Thousand Years? A Concise guide to the Art of Enduring in Business with illustrations can be ordered here.
© Laurent Lecamp
The idea for the treatise was inspired by the discovery in Japan of a ryokan or traditional hostel, over 1,300 years old, that remains in the same family to this day, still faithful to its original activity. Such longevity is astonishing in this age of rapid change. Even more incredibly, the thousand-year old business remains impervious to the onset of digital technology, showing that it is indeed possible to endure without hyperconnectivity.
Intrigued by this initial discovery, the author embarked on a quest to find other businesses that have successfully stood the test of time, while holding on to their original trade and remaining faithful to their values. His search led him to India, where he met one of the country’s oldest jewellers, SURANA, a family firm that has been in the same business since 1735, following precepts that are as astonishing as they are effective. The current generation is convinced that progress depends on trial and error. No decision is taken without first considering whether it will benefit future generations. Here, there is no short-term thinking to appease shareholders. Instead, every metaphorical brick used to build the business is carefully weighed, with an eye on the ultimate outcome.
The author also pondered the people behind these companies, the business leaders, those ambitious, audacious builders committed to seeing their projects through to the end. Charles Vermot is a fine example. A former head of production at the Swiss watchmaker ZENITH, he believed fervently in the firm’s mechanical movement created in 1969, the EL PRIMERO, scorned by the management owing to the lightning rise of quartz watches in the 1970s. Charles Vermot hid away plans and production tools for almost ten years, convinced that the EL PRIMERO mechanical movement would someday be fashionable once more…and he was proved right. Thanks to him - and him alone - the movement has now become of the most iconic mechanisms in Swiss watchmaking.
This treatise contains a selection of unconventional and obscure examples, stories of successes and failures, largely due to a lack of long term vision and a propensity for short-term profitseeking.
The author ends with a look at RYOAN-JI, a magical, metaphorical philosophy that helps us find our place in the world around us. Despite their efforts to embrace everything, humans constantly feel a need, a deficiency to be assuaged, endlessly confronted by their own incompleteness and the shortcomings of their endeavours. Perhaps, though, that need is precisely what opens us up to new possibilities, renders us capable of imagining new solutions, looking at things in a fresh light and building upon what we already have. What if that need was the key to longevity?