Blancpain Interview with Alain Delamuraz
WorldTempus spoke with Blancpain’s Vice-President and Marketing and Communication Director, about the brand’s associations with world of gastronomy.
At a brand where the product is the star, how do you match the marketing to the product?
I’m the type of person who is convinced that you cannot do anything without the right product, nor without a certain amount of credibility. At Blancpain we are well placed on both counts, since we have the products and a heritage that dates back to 1735. So there are plenty of historical facts rather than just marketing concepts.
For example, we have only ever used our own movements in our watches. We have never, ever bought them from outside. This is largely thanks to the strategy we inherited from our forefathers that has now become one of our main strengths. So yes, the product is the star. But we also have to recognize the fact that, as with wine and cars, the industry evolves. Even if you have something unique, it is increasingly difficult to set yourself apart using the product alone. So the way you put your message across is important and at Blancpain we have three different environments we use for this, of which the art of living is one. But this only works if there is a logical fit with the brand as well. Customers who follow a brand over the long term will see whether there is real substance behind it. There is no point in inventing links where there aren’t any. But you can quite easily choose to go in a particular direction because you like it. People will then start to look at who is behind the brand and who is managing it, as well as just the product.
We can clearly see the fingerprints of Marc A. Hayek, CEO of Blancpain, on the brand’s partnerships with Lamborghini and the Ocean. Could we say that the partnerships with the art of living bear your trademark?
Well, let’s not forget that Marc A. Hayek owned a restaurant before he came to Blancpain and that Jean-Claude Biver, who owned the brand before it was acquired by the Swatch Group, is also known for his appreciation of fine food and wines. I am a graduate of the EHL (Lausanne Hotel School) and I also worked in this field. So there has been a continuity in this respect at the brand and we have been involved in this field for around 30 years, long before it became fashionable with other brands. I think it is important in marketing not to simply follow the breeze and to ensure this type of continuity.
The link between the product and Blancpain’s ocean-related marketing activities and Lamborghini is self-evident. How do you tie the product in with the art of living activities?
With Lamborghini, there are of course a number of direct links, starting with mechanics. The size of components may change, but both need oil and both work along similar principles, so there is clear common ground. As far as gastronomy is concerned, it is more about a similarity between the craftsman’s touch. I see the same amount of passion and concentration in a chef as I do in a watchmaker. This is not necessarily restricted to the work of Michelin starred chefs. Authenticity is also a consideration, as is the importance of the raw materials used. Both are as important in gastronomy as they are in horology.
It is also a long-term vision for Blancpain. Our friendship with the world’s biggest chefs started 30 years ago with Frédy Girardet, who wears a Blancpain watch. We also have a strong friendship with Joël Robuchon. And all this is without any contracts or financial remuneration, simply thanks to our shared values.
Is the creative element also important in gastronomy?
Yes. You cannot dissociate the product from the person who makes it, the person who has the ideas. Again this applies just as much to the star chef as it does to the notion of manufacture and Swiss Made in watchmaking. Contrary to what some people believe, it is inconceivable to continue research and development in watchmaking in Switzerland yet produce the movements and finished watches somewhere else. We certainly don’t want that at Blancpain and I believe it is important not to separate the two things.
There is even a frustrating similarity between the worlds of gastronomy and horology: you are never served by the chef who prepared your food, nor do you ever buy your watch from the watchmaker who assembled it. This is why we are particularly proud of our partnership with Joel Robuchon, who is trying to open up the profession and make the kitchen visible to the diner, to give some visibility to these otherwise hidden professions. We want to do the same thing for our watchmakers, by allowing people to visit our factory and bringing our watchmakers to our events.
Does the concept of gastronomic partnerships translate across different countries and cultures?
Yes, we have to adapt it of course to the different countries. We produced a video showing the similarities in gestures between a watchmaker and a Swiss chef. Having travelled a lot and seen different chefs at work, I would now like to update it to bring in elements of Japanese cuisine and others, because you find the same elements in other cultures. Some countries have stronger gastronomic roots than others, and I’m not sure how well ketchup would fit in, for example [he laughs].
How do you see these partnerships going forward?
There are again similarities with watchmaking. A good chef, like a good watchmaker, needs to be inspired by their teacher but not copy him. They need to forge their own path, add their own creativity. However, they also need to master the basics. A good chef needs to know how to make a good stock. Blancpain has never produced a quartz watch and never will, but that does not stop us from constantly innovating.
Blancpain is the archetypal Manufacture: with a watchmaking heritage dating back several centuries, it has successfully preserved its watchmaking tradition, whilst welcoming a spirit of innovation.Find out more >
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