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Breitling - Georges Kern talks about Breitling’s past and future

Breitling Georges Kern talks about Breitling’s past and future

Recently at the Baselworld Fair, we had the chance to talk one-on-one with Breitling CEO Georges Kern about the brand’s new direction.

During Baselworld 2019, I had the chance to interview Georges Kern, CEO of Breitling for the past 17 months about his plans for the brand, the Baselworld Fair and more. 

Since you came to the helm of Breitling a year and a half ago, what do you feel has been your main accomplishment?  
We have had an amazing year. What happened this past year are two things. Number one, with these summit presentations that we are doing around the world, people understand the brand and direction so much better. Last year, they wondered, ‘Oh what is he doing?’ But this year, they understand the strategy. This year it is very concrete, you have the boutiques updated, you have the advertising campaign in place, the products are in place, and we have the teams in place. It is all in place. Last year it was a power point presentation with ideas. Now it is solid. Also this year we have a very balanced collection with the 806 [Navitimer 806, 1959 Re-edition], which is more historic and perfect for collectors and the capsule collection that is very much on brand and yet different. For the community of people who love the watches of the 1940’s and ‘50’s, the smaller watches, we have it, so we have regained that customer base. Then, on the other side, we are still keeping our current customers who love the big bold watches like the Super Ocean that is larger but with a cleaner design.

Georges Kern talks about Breitling’s past and future

Navitimer 806, 1959 Re-edition © Breitling

What was your biggest challenge in the restructure of Breitling?
The biggest challenge for me was two-fold. First of all, you want to do everything at the same time, the products, boutiques, advertising, etc. The second challenge is to quickly have a team to do it all.  Thankfully, I was able to recruit 30 people in a few months without any headhunters; just with a few phone calls. 

Breitling is a start up now and people want to be a part of it. We have integrated agents, bought them out and are building our own team of very experienced people and who have known me for 15 or 20 years. I don’t have time to train a team; I need people with experience. So the challenge was building a team and at the same time building a new corporate identity, buying the agents, redoing the product, etc. What we have achieved in a year is unbelievable. Still, we have so many projects that will enrich the brand and be reassuring for the customer because now we talk about the history, but are highly relevant to today’s customers as well. We have such a treasure in Breitling, and this makes me very confident for the future. “

Interview de Georges Kern

Premier Bentley Centenary Limited Edition © Breitling

What was your thinking behind the Capsule collections unveiled this year?
I love the capsule collections. We will have more capsule collections. The idea behind it is two-fold: to tell a particular story, but not to overload the retailer. Every time you have a new collection, you can’t expect the retailer to carry everything you make. It is impossible. But with the capsule collection, we can talk about something important in the history of the brand, such as civil aviation, but not do it as a full line because otherwise we will have hundreds and hundreds of new references. Instead we do it with a theme, tell a story and then do another one. They can be limited by time, country, network, but it gives us flexibility to tell different stories that are cool and that enrich the brand and that are just add-ons for the retailers while the capsule collection lasts.“ 

Interview de Georges Kern

Premier B01 Chronograph Norton Edition © Breitling

This year at Baselworld with the Swatch Group gone, you have such high visibility; will you return to Baselworld next year
The new team [Baselworld management] is much more receptive than the previous team. Fundamentally, I would prefer having one show, not two and I would like it to be in January. We are going to launch our products in January anyway. So what I told them is that they need to be flexible in the formant. I don’t need a booth to sell watches. We have had five summit presentations with 400 people or more at each one over the past few days to give them the Breitling experience, which was the key for me. We will not be here with the booth any more, but we asked if there is a way they can help us so that we can implement the format we wish for, the summits. Is Basel flexible enough to accommodate different formats for those who want them? It is not one size fits all any more. We need other formats. Also, they have a structure problem in this fair. Building booths is like building a house; it kills you in terms of costs. If you do a single floor and do it beautifully, like Gucci did, that is better. This up and down is hugely expensive, like putting up and taking down a house. So we are discussing how we can have something here so we can accommodate our summits.”

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From humble family beginnings Breitling grew into a major player in the world of chronographs and aviation instruments. At the dawn of a new era, the brand is poised for a legendary future.

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