Certina One-on-one with Marc Aellen
WorldTempus catches up with Marc Aellen, the CEO of Certina to talk watches, business, and plans for the future
After discovering Certina’s exciting new offering for 2021, WorldTempus’ Sophie Furley sits down with Certina’s Marc Aellen to talk about surviving the pandemic, e-commerce, quartz versus mechanical, and getting back out in the markets.
Marc Aellen, CEO © Certina
How have things been with Certina during the pandemic?
During the first wave, we didn’t know how things were going to go, but now after over a year, we have learned to live with this pandemic, even if we hope that it will be over soon. Certina reacted well and has been fortunate in that it is a brand that sells mostly to local populations and less to tourists than some other brands. Of course, we saw the closing of shops, and we all suffered there, but if we take Switzerland, for example, which is a market that is very important for us, as soon as the boutiques opened, we were able to catch up in terms of turnover. Obviously, things are complicated for the stores that are located in the tourist areas, and this will probably remain the case until the end of the year, but the brand has resisted well.
DS Action Diver © Certina
We also have products that are relatively accessible and I also think that for many people, the fact that they haven’t spent money on travel has allowed them to treat themselves to a beautiful Swiss watch at a great price.
You also sell online, have you seen these sales increase?
Yes, we sell directly on our website and we also have retailers who sell online on their own sites. Today, I would estimate that 15% of our business is e-commerce and I predict this will increase to 50% in the next ten years. We have also another option on our website which is our “click and reserve” service, where a client can reserve a timepiece in one of our official retailers and go and see it, try it on, change the strap if they decide to buy, etc. We have had five times more sales through the click and reserve service than direct sales. This means that the client is ready to order, but would still like to see it and touch it first.
DS-1 © Certina
After seeing the new collection, it seems that there are more and more mechanical models than quartz. Is this a direction that you are going in?
I joined Certina last year in July and have been with the Swatch Group for 20 years now. I actually started my career at Certina from 2001 to 2004 and at this time 90% of the production was quartz and 10% was mechanical. Today, it is about 50/50 and the mechanical pieces are increasing as you can see today from our new products where 75% are mechanical.
Who is the typical Certina client?
We work very much with a traditional distribution model so we don’t have exact statistics from our retailers. But what I can say is that it is a clientele between 25 and 60 years of age, predominantly masculine, as our watches are mostly masculine. Currently, 30% of our range is feminine and this is something that we want to grow. We also have some watches at 38mm that aren’t gender-specific so they are great for both men and women. And we are looking at mainly a European clientele. Our clients are people who want to treat themselves to a quality timepiece with the DS Concept and a great history (since 1888) at incredible value for money. These are watches that you can go skiing with, in the water, and even to a business meeting.
DS Podium © Certina
You were one of the first brands to get involved with animal conservation with your turtle program. Can you tell us more about this?
We have a great relationship with the STC (Sea Turtle Conservancy) team in Florida who protect the turtles in Central America. They have a big base in Costa Rica. It is a super collaboration and the more timepieces we sell, the more it supports the cause. We also have the #Tide Ocean straps that are made of recycled plastics from the ocean that are amazing. It is our responsibility to be the most eco-friendly that we can. We try to really reflect on everything that we do. We have also stopped creating consumer catalogues in paper, for example. We have a QR code in the windows so that people can download all the information they need. We are constantly thinking about how we can do things in a more eco-friendly way.
Collaboration with Sea Turtle Conservancy © Certina
What are you most excited about for the future of the brand?
The most important is to continue to strengthen our brand in the different countries where we are already present. With such a great history, we will continue offering an outstanding quality price ratio to our customers. I also hope that we will finally be able to visit our teams and retailers around the world. Since I started in July 2020, I haven’t been able to travel much, and have been spending my days on Skype. So we are looking forward to receiving feedback from our different partner around the globe and together bring this incredible brand to the next level.
DS PH200M © Certina