CEO The CEO View of What to Expect from 2021
Will 2021 see a fresh start? Here’s what the CEOs think.
The only thing we know for sure is that nothing is ever for sure. Despite some small glimmers of hope, what was true - how very true - in 2020 will remain so in 2021. Asked by WorldTempus to share their perspectives for the year ahead, many CEOs declined the invitation. “The current situation (Germany back in lockdown / uncertainty in Switzerland) makes its extremely difficult to make any kind of forecast for 2021,” wrote one. Another, having initially accepted, backtracked: “After further consideration, we will not comment on the subject.“ This is about giving an opinion, nothing more, yet many brands prefer to sit tight and stay silent. Thankfully not all: several CEOs have outlined their sentiment for 2021, albeit still a fairly general one. Comments are given below in the order they were received.
Cautiously optimistic: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele, Co-President, Chopard
As vaccination against Covid-19 gets under way, we expect to see an improvement for the watch market in key regions, particularly in the second half of 2021.
Karl-Friedrich Scheufele © Chopard
Surprising: Max Büsser, CEO, MB&F
Covid or no Covid, fairs or no fairs, upturn or no upturn, when I look at what we have in the R&D pipeline and the launches scheduled for next year, 2021 should be the most intense, most incredible year yet for MB&F.
Max Büsser © MB&F
Uniting: Laurent Dordet, CEO, La Montre Hermès
Trade fairs should continue to restructure in 2021. We will go forward with the organisation of a broader event to deliver a single, strong message. It’s important that we set aside moments during the year when a large part of the industry speaks as one. It’s hard to predict what lies ahead in 2021. The situation should progressively improve. The industry seems better prepared. Authenticity will be one of the keys [for brands] to emerge in 2021.
Laurent Dordet © Hermès
Impatient: François-Henry Bennahmias, CEO, Audemars Piguet
Let’s not jump the gun. We’ll start the year as we ended. Some are a little anxious about the final economic impact but we’re almost out of the woods. No premature joy and no drama either, not at Audemars Piguet anyway. We forecast -25%, we’ll be at -7%. As for fairs, we’d already left so there will be no difference, there. What matters most is to have all our staff back together and to be able to connect physically, not just through screens!
François-Henry Bennahmias © Audemars Piguet
Determined but realistic: Mario Peserico, Managing Director, Eberhard & Co.
We expect the market to pick up next year, probably around springtime. We hope there will be a similar upturn in consumption. Regarding fairs, we believe there was a real missed opportunity when some of the major brands moved from Basel to Geneva. Right now, it seems unlikely that fairs will take place in 2021. It will be another year of virtual gatherings.
Mario Peserico © Eberhard & Co
Looking to Geneva: Manuel Emch, strategic advisor for Louis Erard
Not everything can be moved online, even if our industry is lagging behind in the digital transformation. We need a human ecosystem: exchange, discuss, feel trends. There will be a fair, maybe in summer or autumn, along the lines of Geneva Watch Days. At worst it will be in 2022 but the epicentre is definitely Geneva.
Manuel Emch © Louis Erard
Also looking to Geneva: Xavier de Roquemaurel, CEO, Czapek
I think Geneva is, without contest, the capital of watchmaking and that the time has come to give watchmaking back to the Genevans and to all collectors. I see two possible options. The return in 2021 of Geneva Watch Days, which was a resounding success, or a showcasing of independents at a fair in Geneva that would be specifically for them.
Xavier de Roquemaurel © Czapek
Confident: Pierre Jacques, CEO, De Bethune
There’s no real point in asking whether “everything will be different” or “the same”. “Everything” will be what we make it. The extent of the shock and how much was thrown into question creates opportunities, in particular the opportunity to unite. While De Bethune came through the crisis well equipped, independent watchmakers will be stronger together to satisfy demand. Our collectors still have a healthy appetite.
Pierre Jacques © De Bethune
Upbeat: Walter Ribaga, Managing Director, Cyrus
Cancellation of fairs in 2020 and the decision not to hold in-person fairs in 2021 creates difficulties for niche brands which – like Cyrus – were unable to present their new products. We have managed to keep revenue loss to a minimum. We will continue along these lines in 2021 and ramp up our digital communication. We must think positive and take an optimistic view. Once the pandemic is under control, and let’s hope it will be by the end of the first half of the new year at the latest, I’m convinced markets will respond in a positive way.
Walter Ribaga © Cyrus
Multipolar: Marc A. Hayek, President and CEO, Breguet
The phygital approach is ideal, with an event that lets guests sit down and discover new products while connecting with enthusiasts on the other side of the world who can be part of the experience at the same time. Our industry needs to turn the page and move towards a new format, like Fashion Weeks, with Watch Weeks in different places that are open to all. This is the direction we’d like to take.
Marc A. Hayek © Breguet
Looking to Asia: Nicola Andreatta, CEO, Roger Dubuis
In 2020 we had to revolutionise how we did business and, carrying on from this, we’ll see more creative ideas emerge in 2021. I have every hope that by the end of next year, things will be back to a certain normality, particularly in Asia.
Nicola Andreatta © Roger Dubuis
Part online, part offline: Julien Tornare, CEO, Zenith
Online communication will continue to play a key role but fairs will remain important. Nothing can replace the human element. We held our event at Dubai 2020 and will continue in this direction for the coming years. However, we absolutely must find more effective, more innovative ways to do so, all the while maintaining the digital momentum that began through Covid-19.
Julien Tornare © Zenith
Local: Edouard Meylan, CEO, H. Moser & Cie.
2021 will be a year of transition towards a new normal with a stronger human dimension. The most important things for a brand are its customers and the connections it has with them. Dependency on occasional customers (tourists) is a dangerous thing because of the difficulty of building relations with them. Brands will look to develop closer ties with their local customers through more innovative, more creative products. They will use new technologies to spark a dialogue and elicit authentic emotions. Also, they will move towards fairs on a more human scale.
Edouard Meylan © H. Moser & Cie.
Mathematical: Christophe Golay, co-founder of Golay Spierer
In 2021 there’s no doubting that the large brands and groups will have sufficient strength to survive the kind of crisis we’re experiencing. Small brands on the other hand - the ones that make up watchmaking’s “biodiversity” - will really suffer and it’s likely that many will disappear. As for us, more than twice as many people saw us on social media in 2020. However, there’s been a fourfold drop in the number of enquiries.
Vigilant: Niels Eggerding, Managing Director, Frédérique Constant SA
We need to prepare ourselves for a long, slow recovery in the wake of this epidemic. At least a year. The fact that the international watch fairs were cancelled means we must rethink how we communicate, concentrate on small, personalised, local events (where possible) and focus on omnichannel strategies. Because e-commerce is now so essential, improving the user experience will also be a priority.
Niels Eggerding © Frederique Constant
People-focused: Jean-Marie Schaller, CEO, Ateliers Louis Moinet
A new world will emerge in 2021. We can’t simply fall back on old habits. We must look towards a different future and meet new needs. Virtual will slowly give way to human contact. The need for fairs, the need to share with others is already felt and will probably happen in the second half of the year. In the meantime we’ll make the best use of digital, thanks to which we were able to bring 2020 to a successful conclusion.
Jean-Marie Schaller © Louis Moinet
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