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Longines - Bucking trends

Longines Bucking trends

Longines CEO Walter von Känel spoke to us about the 2018 collection, PVD, case diameters and the Commonwealth Games.

It is always a delight to kick off the Baselworld show with an interview with Walter von Känel, the irrepressible CEO of Longines. His straight talking approach, backed up by reams of statistics he shows as hard evidence for what he is telling us, are a breath of fresh air in an industry that tends to prefer mystery and hyperbole. Here is what he had to say this year.

Is 2018 a year of consolidation for Longines?
Our best-sellers continue to form the cornerstone of our collection and it would be foolish for me to mess around with these, especially for a company with foundations that are as solid as ours. Quartz watches have always been an important part of our collection and we never abandoned them. The VHP was first launched in 1984 as an in-house quartz movement and we have now updated it with even better performance. There is strong demand for it from the Chinese and Japanese, so we can see it was a good move.

Bucking trends

Conquest V.H.P © Longines

Our Record models are also doing well for both men and women. They have a silicon balance spring and are COSC certified chronometers [Editor’s note: it is Swatch Group policy to have all movements that use a silicon balance spring certified as chronometers by the COSC]. And it is not easy to have a COSC-certified ladies’ watch with a silicon balance spring, believe me! The Hydroconquest is also in demand even in countries that are not known for liking divers’ watches. They are even complaining that I am not delivering enough of them! It’s important to point out that all this is extra demand that comes on top of what we were already producing and selling. 

A contre-courant des tendances

Record, 30 mm, boitier en or rose et acier serti © Longines

If you had to pick just one watch from the current collection, which would it be?
I have been wearing the VHP for over a year now and I am extremely satisfied with it. So because I am very disciplined I have to pick that one.

You have a new PVD model in the collection with the Longines Legend Diver…
I am an expert in PVD [he laughs]. I started producing PVD models back in the 1980s and we later started to develop models in high volumes. It is interesting to see that you hardly see any plating or galvanic coatings anymore. Our yellow-gold PVD coatings are done in Vaduz (Liechtenstein), where we have acquired a stake in a factory. But rose-gold and black coatings are much more difficult and we outsource those so that we can continue to offer reliable products at a reasonable price. I insisted that our marketing team put the two-tone models with rose-gold in our showcases here at Baselworld because I can see that in some cases the two-tone models in rose gold are selling better than those in yellow gold. In terms of reliability and robustness I’m a firm believer in PVD. 

A contre-courant des tendances

Longines Legend Diver, black PVD © WorldTempus / Philippe Perret du Cray

Do you agree that diameters are getting smaller?
No, but it’s a very good remark you’ve made! If I look at the evolution of the Grand Classique I can see that the trend for Longines is actually towards bigger models since the start of this year, for both ladies and gents. It’s interesting to see that there has not been any drop in demand for the smaller diameters, but that there is increased interest for the bigger models in our collection. So contrary to what you might think, we are doing well with bigger sizes.

What are your plans for the Commonwealth Games?
I’m going to a horse race in China, so I’m delegating Longines’ presence to the younger generation. I attended my first Olympic Games for Longines in 1972 and have attended a further 12 or so after that, including as a guide with Swatch and as a guest of the International Gymnastics Federation. Our experience with the Commonwealth Games is that the atmosphere is more “British funny”. It’s a lot more light-hearted. I was in Glasgow four years ago and I thought the atmosphere was exceptional. For us it is all about identification. Take alpine skiing and gymnastics, where we have a great presence. The same is true for the Commonwealth Games, where the rules are less strict than for the Olympic Games. We have produced a special VHP model for the Games and we will be announcing all world and Commonwealth records on our social media accounts. At the Gold Coast itself we have set up a Longines Record Club on the beach and we will also have a Longines house, where anyone who breaks a record can come to collect a prize. We are investing a lot in the event in terms of finance and human resources.

The brand

Based in St. Imier since 1832, Longines has a long tradition in watchmaking, characterised by the elegance of its watches. Using expertise gained as the company has evolved, Longines has gradually forged ties with the world of sport, where it demonstrates its excellence in precision timekeeping. Today, Longines is the oldest brand still in business, unchanged, in the international registers held by the World Intellectual Property Organization...

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