Interview Marc A. Hayek, the guardian of unity
WorldTempus talks to Marc Hayek about the delicate balancing act of managing the Swatch Group’s Blancpain, Breguet and Jaquet Droz brands.
One thing that stands out with the 2015 Blancpain collection is the sheer breadth of inspiration, from the very technical to the very artistic. How important is it for you for Blancpain to cover such different fields?
The core of the collection remains the classic Villeret line and the artistic crafts collections are also in our DNA, but looking back to the 20th century Blancpain had always focused on one particular type of watch. From the 1950s to the middle of the 1970s, for example, the brand produced almost exclusively sports models such as the Fifty Fathoms and Air Command models (alongside its movement deliveries of course) and there were no classical models. From the 1980s to the mid-1990s, on the other hand, the models were only classical in style and nobody would have dreamt of mentioning sports watches.
I followed these developments and I have to say that none of them are any more or less Blancpain. The Fifty Fathoms is as much a part of our heritage as the Villeret collection is. I wanted to bring all this together because it is all part of the brand. But I also want the individual collections to keep their identity, with the sporty models being 100% sporty and the classical models 100% classical.
Equally, there is a complementarity between the diversity at Blancpain and the more purely horological approach at Breguet and the artistic direction at Jaquet Droz…
Yes, this is important. Each brand should stay within its own universe and the teams are so well integrated because they know they have this security. They interact a lot and feed off each others’ ideas without them necessarily being influenced by them. In my five years in charge of the three brands I have never had to step in to say that a product proposed by one of the brands would be more suited to another.
We see a reflection of your personal passions – which are also very different in nature – in Blancpain, such as motor racing and diving. Have you had any time to take advantage of these associations over the past year, such as in the Blancpain Endurance Series?
Unfortunately not. I did do some tests in the first half of the season on the Blancpain Endurance Series. I could do the weekends but I realized I didn’t really have enough time for the tests. Since I don’t like to do things by halves I decided to stop mid season. The passion is still there, but the time isn’t. I’m happy if I manage to dive from time to time and taking a holiday for a couple of weeks with the family somewhere I can dive is still feasible.
Blancpain is also associated with two major events linked to the ocean this year, the Blancpain Ocean Commitment Challenge, which is new, and the Blancpain World Ocean Summit, which you already partnered with last year. Will this continue to be the main form of expression for the Fifty Fathoms collection?
They are of course the perfect associations for the Fifty Fathoms collection but these events go beyond the realm of diving and divers’ watches. There is a big personal interest on my behalf but also on behalf of Blancpain. It’s less about marketing and more about helping to preserve things for future generations. There is of course a financial investment, but there is also the question of finding time for such events. I would rather miss out on the racing so that I can attend these events. There is a great satisfaction about being part of something that is helping to change things.
Both Blancpain and Breguet were very successful at last year’s Geneva Watchmaking Grand Prix. Have you seen a discernible impact on sales as a result of the prizes these brands won?
The most important thing was the recompense and the pride of the entire team in the result, which is highly motivating. There was also a great interest in the individual models but it is difficult to see a direct influence on sales. The prizes help sales in general, of course, but it’s difficult to quantify whether or not it is sales of the particular models that won the prizes.
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