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Chronoswiss - Interview with Oliver Ebstein

Chronoswiss Interview with Oliver Ebstein

Editor-in-chief Paul O’Neil talked to Oliver Ebstein about Chronoswiss’s recent move to Switzerland, its attractively priced new models and strategic orientation for the future.

Last year you opened your premises in Lucerne as part of a big move back to Switzerland. How have things evolved since then?
Our premises in Lucerne are also our headquarters. We are lucky enough to have everything together, with administration and production side by side. The production area is also a new concept, because it is a walk-in factory. We opened the new premises in August, so it was not so long ago and it takes some time for us to generate the footfall we need, which is what we are working on now.
We are in the centre of Lucerne, which is interesting for us from a marketing perspective, because we have footfall every day. We are now becoming known as a place to go if you want to see how watches are made. We have people calling up to book visits.

Lucerne is rumoured to be the most important city in the world for watch sales and maybe up to 90% of the watches sold there are sold to tourists. Although you haven’t been in the city very long, have you seen any changes in the tourist market, given the changes in the world political situation?
We don’t have statistics to compare to previous years, of course, but a lot of people are complaining about the situation in China. I think a lot of the watches that enter China are being bought outside the country. I have seen that we are selling a little bit more to Chinese but this is not one of our main objectives. As I said, our premises in Lucerne are more of a walk-in factory. We sell the watches at other jewellers in Lucerne but we can see from their orders that the sales are up a little bit, so we can see that tourist sales are compensating for the lack of sales on the mainland.

Your legacy customer base is from the German-speaking world and you want to broaden this and also to appeal to a younger audience. What is your strategy for doing this?
Our partnership with Die Fantastische Vier [a German rap group] is one of the first examples of addressing this, although the people who go to their concerts range in age from around 25 right up to 55. What is missing is the fact that we have a lot of collectors who know the history of the brand and all our collections but even though the Timemaster collection has been around for a long time, it has never really been positioned as first-time watch buyer’s watch. For us, in Europe in particular, people buy this kind of sporty watch as a first watch. But in Asia they are looking more for a classical watch as their first timepiece. So the idea was to come up with a classic watch with the Timemaster and this is the first time we are offering a Timemaster for below 3,000 Swiss francs – 2,850 to be exact.

How important is the 3,000 Swiss franc barrier that you mentioned?
The new developments in the Timemaster are a start but as you put it, the 3,000 franc figure is indeed a barrier. We source most of the components in Switzerland and a lot of the brands who are now reducing their prices are still making the same watch. As a customer, if I see the same watch I bought last year in a window for 30% less, then I may start to wonder whether the brand I bought it from has been fair to its customers over the past ten years. For the new Timemaster I think that this is a fair price for someone who is buying their first Swiss Made, mechanical watch. We are considering having a model in the classic series for around 3,000 Swiss francs as well for next year.

Can you give us your personal feedback on this year’s Baselworld?
I have heard a lot about price strategies at different brands and I’ve seen a lot of talking pieces, which have always existed. I understand that things are going a bit slower, people are complaining about China. People are also talking about the Apple Watch, which is something we have not even discussed, but I see a lot of other brands are at least trying to communicate that they are doing something in this direction.

The brand

Chronoswiss prides itself on being an independent family-owned company that upholds century-old traditions such as enamelling and engine turning. It has always used top-quality components from Swiss suppliers in order to produce the finest quality timepieces.

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