Breguet Interview with Marc A. Hayek
Marc A. Hayek, President and CEO of Breguet, talks about 2020.
Ladies first: how is the Reine de Naples doing after almost two decades? Has there been a shift in clientele?
I’m sometimes tempted to think that the Reine de Naples is too successful! It continues to top world sales, starting with the original version in small and medium sizes. Its Princesse version appeals to more youthful customers, as do the annual color variations that have recently won over dynamic trend-conscious dynamic young women. It's wonderful to be able to count on such a strong ladies' watch that appeals to all generations: well-established in Europe, much younger in Asia as a whole and China in particular. Our clients appreciate its design and the complications it offers – such as moon phases or the power-reserve display – and some are especially attached to its history behind the Reine de Naples.
Reine de Naples 8918 © Breguet
The 2020 vintage of the Tradition collection features a much more contemporary face with the Quantième Rétrograde; how has it been received worldwide?
The Tradition collection is generally very well regarded and this new model has enjoyed a positive reception despite the distinctive nature of this year. It allows us to nurture the relationship with collectors and connoisseurs who understand the historical heritage of Tradition, while reaching a new modern clientele attracted by its more contemporary aesthetic appeal. Its architecture is fundamentally special and extremely technical, yet this watch exterior reinforces its contemporary character and appeals to a new market segment. The collection is thus expanding, while maintaining its harmony. It plays a dual role: to preserve the tradition to which classic connoisseurs are sensitive; and to win over by its design those who are less familiar with Breguet's watchmaking history.
Quantième Rétrograde 7597 © Breguet
In the Classique collection, the new Double Tourbillon Quai de l'Horloge is particularly impressive: what was the biggest challenge and what do you see as the most distinctive feature of this model?
We tried to push the limits in all areas, and it took us several years to achieve this, as well as adapting and redeveloping for this model an existing double tourbillon. The value of this model lies in its two extremely sophisticated faces. The challenges implied by the miniature hand-engraving on the back are mind-boggling; it takes several weeks of hand craftsmanship to achieve this meticulous decoration. Those with a penchant for history will find numerous details and motifs that tell its secrets, immersing careful observers into the European and Parisian culture of the time, into the philosophy of Breguet himself, as well as into the watchmaker's trade. All of this is staged within a very modest thickness. On the front, the aim was to restore lightness and transparency as well as depth in order to highlight the movement and the horological complexity. Each timepiece requires several months to craft and the manual engraving of each makes it truly unique, while its assembly process is extremely complicated – all of which naturally limits production to just a few watches per year.
Marc A. Hayek © Breguet
Which exhibition format would you tend to prefer in the coming years to present your new products?
As you know, we started thinking about this in 2018 when we left Baselworld. We need flexibility, and we need to be able to put the end customer at the center of our thinking. Freeing ourselves from an artificial time constraint has been very beneficial for us. We are not in the wine-growing business where the vintage depends on nature; we need to be able to address customers several times a year, in different places, as occurs in the automotive or fashion industries, without having to reveal everything at once. We already had several levels of presentation in Basel, because communication with retailers is not at all the same as with private individuals, more closely resembling that of journalists. The dual face-to-face and digital approach ideal, with an event enabling guests to discover new models around a table, while connecting with enthusiasts on the other side of the world who can enjoy this experience simultaneously. Our industry needs to turn the page and move towards a new format, like Fashion Weeks, with Watch Weeks in different locations, open to all. This is the direction we would like to take.
Which markets are you finding the most resilient this year?
The most resilient of them all is China, especially since the Chinese cannot travel, resulting in impressive local performance, as all those who used to buy watches abroad are now making their purchases within their own borders. Korea has remained very dynamic as well, as has Taiwan. In a number of European countries, local consumption has shown some pleasant surprises, and to a lesser extent the USA, which is expected to stabilize. European sales remain below normal years but above our expectations. Local customers are very encouraging. The most severely affected market is Switzerland, which is overly dependent on tourists and where we need to work better with Swiss customers. Our results for the year are heartening. The shift towards digital in consumer habits has helped us stay in touch with our customers, and we will increase our accessibility by this means. Geographical distances should no longer be an obstacle. The virus has served as an accelerating factor and we will emerge stronger from this period despite the dramas we are witnessing.
The year 2021 will bring the next Only Watch biennial event; do you already know if and how you will participate?
Luc Pettavino is as active as ever; he’s a fantastic person who always does his utmost on behalf of a just cause; we will of course support him. However, the format has not yet been defined and we are awaiting details, especially with regard to the environment, but we hope to be able to take a decision regarding our product approach based on a full knowledge of the facts. Moreover, will the Only Watch format include a more digital component? Technology and increased familiarity with these presentations should enable Only Watch to extend its reach into previously uncharted territority
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