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Genus - “A new complication? 1 to 3 million”

Genus “A new complication? 1 to 3 million”

Catherine Henry, cofounder of Genus, looks back over the (short) way the brand has come and the takeaways so far

Is there ever a right time to launch an independent brand? What about the 2000s? Tricky. The major groups were structuring and there was little recognition for the work of the “indies”. 2006-2008? Lehman Brothers, subprimes: not the ideal moment. 2014? European crisis. 2018? Mini stock market crash. 2019? Covid. There’ll always be a reason to hesitate. If the idea is good and the product is good, too, don’t wait for an opportunity. Create one.

This is exactly what Genus chose to do. The brand was set up six years ago and released its first watch three years later, immediately hitting the jackpot when it took home the 2019 GPHG Mechanical Exception prize. Today, Genus manufactures in the region of fifteen watches a year, at an average price of CHF 120,000 to CHF 140,000. But launching a brand is one thing. Building it is another.

“A new complication? 1 to 3 million”

Genus GPHG 2019 Trophy © GPHG

Know your customer

Cofounder Catherine Henry has had time to observe the brand and gain a certain perspective. Starting with Genus’s sales model. “We sell through a few retailers and sometimes directly to the customer. Knowing who your customer is is more important than anything else.” This is especially true for Genus, many of whose models can be personalised, regardless of whether they are purchased through a retailer or directly from the brand.

“A new complication? 1 to 3 million”

GNS1.2 TD © Genus

Mind the gap

Her second observation is the need to react quickly. “When a customer wants their watch, they want it as soon as possible. It’s up to us to adapt, including when they call on a Sunday morning.” Of course, being there to pick up the phone is only a tiny part of it, as Catherine Henry is quick to explain: “Understanding exactly what the customer wants is essential. Being able to execute their wishes quickly is equally as essential. This implies good relations with partners.” But with its orders for a dial here, some gem-setting there, can Genus compete for suppliers’ attention over the major groups and their gigantic orders? Yes, Catherine Henry says: “We manage to slip into the gaps between these very large orders. Our needs are very occasional and in single figures. With respect and goodwill, we always manage to come to an arrangement.”

“A new complication? 1 to 3 million”

GNS1.1 RG © Genus

One and a half times harder

An arrangement... for personalisation but never for pure product development. As Catherine Henry explains, “developing a new complication costs between CHF 1 and 3 million.” An investment that’s not presently on the cards for Genus. That said, the (only) movement currently proposed does have the technical capability (free space and torque) to drive an eventual additional complication. No doubt there are already plenty of sketchbooks full of ideas...

Which leaves one final point: for a customer to make a purchase, he or she must have confidence in the brand. Catherine Henry points to the rise of the independent watchmakers. “We’re following in the footsteps of Max Büsser and Felix Baumgartner. When they started out 20 years ago, it was twice as hard for them as for a group. Now that they’ve paved the way, for us it’s only one and a half times harder!”

“A new complication? 1 to 3 million”

GNS1.2 RG © Genus

 

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GENUS, a singularity of time. Pushing back the limits of watch display, the brand has established its own watchmaking ethos. It resides upon on the experience of its Master Watchmaker, author of an unheard-of complication and its Manufacture movement, crafted of solid gold and enhanced by state-of-the-art Haute Horlogerie hand-finishings.

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