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Emile Chouriet - China sets the scene

Emile Chouriet China sets the scene

The Emile Chouriet brand is deeply embedded in China. CEO Jean Depéry and International Sales & Marketing Director Stefan Kunz explain the current implications of this reality.

You have just presented your first in-house movement, Calibre EC5318. Why this development?
Jean Depéry : Developing an in-house movement is really worth it if you deliver added value compared with existing ones; otherwise it’s impossible to compete with movements that have been on the market for decades, work extremely well and come at a very low cost price. An in-house movement endowed with superior technical sophistication brings added value both to our brand and our watches. Producing an in-house movement is a valuable asset overall, since we can handle, modify and decorate it exactly as we wish. We have kicked off with a small movement for ladies’ watches and we will continue with a larger movement for men’s watches. We are going to incorporate this new proprietary movement – a three-hand self-winding base calibre – into all our ladies’ watches within three years. It is important to specify that the regulating heart of this movement, the balance-spring, was also developed in-house, which is very rare for a small brand such as ours.  


Why do you focus on self-winding movements?
Jean Depéry :Because it’s our market. In China, customers are interested exclusively in self-winding movements. Quartz doesn’t interest them, apart from for smart watches. And Chinese people don’t like having to wind a watch. They want an automatic movement with a large power reserve and our new calibre offers at least 44 hours, which a small gain on other movements.

Emile Chouriet belongs to a Chinese group and China is your priority market. Is the current economic climate in the country inciting you to develop other markets?
Stefan Kunz : We have been developing the Swiss market for five years and others markets for two years. While a ‘mono-market’ is definitely not a comfortable situation, the Chinese are the ones who know us best, so we are trying to place ourselves in the path of Chinese tourists in European capitals, in tax-free shops, and mainly in Lucerne and Interlaken as far as Switzerland is concerned. We have also just opened points of sale in Barcelona, Vienna and Frankfurt, and also begun working with distributors in Australia, and shortly in Russia.


You have a pretty impressive collection for a “small” brand.
Jean Depéry : We do indeed have more than 250 models, which when you think about it is a lot, perhaps too many. However, the Chinese market calls for constant renewal and we occasionally eliminate certain models, but we can’t do so for older ones for example, since they still sell well and we have to be able to offer what people want. On the other hand, ongoing development in the West is contributing to further growing the collection, since we develop different designs for these markets. But our aim is not to exceed the 250-model mark. 

"We are putting in place an online sales platform that should be operational next year"

How is 2016 looking from an economic standpoint?
Stefan Kunz : There’s no point pretending it’s not a tough period. Sales are down in China, but our results are still entirely acceptable. Little by little, all the development moves on other markets will bear fruit, even though they are still marginal compared with China, and we will manage to maintain similar figures. What’s more, who knows whether China will recover faster than expected.
Jean Depéry : I was in Shenzhen last week and May 2016 results were +4% compared with May 2015. So everybody was happy and it seems the end of the tunnel is in sight. To be confirmed.
Stefan Kunz : In any case, you have to continue developing and working towards the long term, as well as being inventive. We are for example putting in place an online sales platform that should be operational next year. Online sales are developing strongly in China and Asians are ahead of us in this field.


After the Challenge Deep, you presented the Ice Cliff this year. Are these sports watches a new segment for Emile Chouriet?
Jean Depéry : We didn’t have any sports watches, our customers were asking for them, and I’ve always personally wanted to make one. Salespeople in China listen very attentively to clients and tastes are changing fast. There is a generation that remains traditional, but the new generation wants change. We now have these two models and we don’t plan on stopping there. This represents a significant evolution both in terms of demand from our Chinese clients and of our own determination to develop new markets that call for sportier models, since we know they correspond to Western tastes.


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