Jaquet Droz Interview with CEO Alain Delamuraz
As the brand completes its repositioning, Swatch Group disciple Alain Delamuraz outlines the contours of a radical new strategy
One year after taking the lead of Jaquet Droz, what is your perception of the situation?
First, I’m extremely proud of how our staff successfully jumped into the new strategy because, without a united team, we wouldn’t have been able to move forward. When I arrived at Jaquet Droz I discovered an atmosphere of exceptional benevolence, which I owe to my predecessor Christian Lattmann. It’s vital that everyone pulls together, because the brand has taken a radical new turn. We defined the JD 8.0 Disruptive Legacy principle with the Hayek family and the Swatch Group. Goodwill was even more necessary given the destabilising context of Covid. But the vast majority of our staff has enthusiastically embraced the project, and it doesn’t go unnoticed by visitors at the manufacture, who can see that the team enjoys its work. Also, the average age in our Ateliers is 31, which is young for watchmakers. This vision is shared by the majority of our distribution partners, for whom the rules are drastically changing.
The second moment of pride has been to see the results of our initial actions which have taken place last winter and have led to the average price of our top-of-the-range watches (above CHF 100,000) increasing by 250%, as well as a two-fold increase in sales of six-figure products. This keen interest by the market was corroborated at auction, not just Only Watch, but also three subsequent sales. Jaquet Droz is considered an exceptional brand at the very high end of watchmaking, as it used to be almost three centuries ago, at the courts of Spain, England and originally in the Forbidden City of Beijing. That is where the brand is repositioning itself.
Alain Delamuraz, CEO Jaquet Droz © Jaquet Droz
Your new slogan makes direct reference to Disruptive Legacy 8.0: what exactly does that mean?
From 1738, Pierre Jaquet Droz was a trailblazer and an innovator with his automata that he was already disruptive as far as his contemporaries were concerned. Indeed, he narrowly escaped being thrown into prison because his ability to create objects that sang, wrote or played music led him to being suspected of having made a pact with the devil! I found myself wondering what he would have done if he had been alive today. Pierre Jaquet Droz was clearly a pioneer. To respect his legacy, we had to shake up conventions, take risks and lead the way. To remain a great brand, you have to be a leader rather than a follower, which means you have to break existing rules. Our heritage includes six-figure art watches and automata, so we have eliminated the timepieces that do not fit this category. Where some brands have an average price of CHF 100,000, our watches start at CHF 150,000 and will never dip below CHF 100,000. Our pieces of art are intended for customers who no longer visit boutiques, which implies closing all our points of sale. We are focusing our relationship efforts on the end customer through ambassadors and people rather than places, forming a circle in which the end customer feels comfortable. Therefore, our only point of sale is our manufacture, where our Ateliers are engaged in almost constant customisation of our timepieces. The 8.0 is a nod to ‘just-in-time’ Industry 4.0, yet our Métiers d’Art and automata go far beyond – hence the number 8, referring to our double dials featuring the 8 shape, which has an illustrious heritage. The rethink naturally extends to products, as well as taking care of our clients well beyond the actual sale of the watch, which is merely at the halfway stage in the relationship.
Dragon Automaton © Jaquet Droz
How will you achieve this?
There are three things our staff members are not allowed to say: “We’ve never done it like that”, “We’ve always done it like that” and “That’s not Jaquet Droz”. My trips to the Galapagos Islands gave me a better understanding of Darwin’s theory of evolution. He said: “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change”. Today more than ever, you have to be very flexible. Jaquet Droz must not forget its roots, which lie in an exploration of bucolic, romantic and natural themes; but it must also be capable of calling itself into question. This means offering, alongside the gold cases which we have retained, new materials such as sapphire or providing alternatives to the black alligator straps, including perhaps materials made from recycled fishing nets or more colourful materials. Given that the average age of Chinese billionaires is 33, Jaquet Droz must project itself into a new emotional universe that mirrors their passions. In parallel, we will be particularly vigilant about our environmental responsibility, because it relies on wealthy people to show the way.
What are your mid-term objectives?
There are a number of aspects to these objectives, which are all in line with our JD 8.0, A Disruptive Legacy philosophy. Our aim is to respect the roots of the brand, and bring some of the automata of our heritage into line with current trends. With the explosion of the digital and the virtual, there is a greater thirst for authenticity, which means it’s almost reassuring to watch an automaton grind its gears. Think of the wonder in the eyes of children at the circus, when they see the horses rear up! We must protect and preserve the know-how of our artisans before it vanishes. Who else than Jaquet Droz can provide work for an artist who creates watch dials with fragments of quail eggs? What makes Jaquet Droz so special is that it relies on a human-scale group of around 50 teammates, but at the same time it has the good fortune of being backed by a fantastic group that supports the preservation of heritage and the promotion of rare craftsmanship.
Of course, this should be compatible with business profitability. This is why we are increasing the profile of unique pieces, with a view to achieve an average price of CHF 400,000 per watch, for around a hundred happy few in the first year. I make a point of meeting them all in person before handing them over to our artists. Our watches are works of art, and their presentation cases are also works of art.
Tourbillon Skelet Watches © Jaquet Droz
Does your Tourbillon Skelet Sapphire represent the new face of Jaquet Droz?
A brand needs a strong face and strong values in order to move forward. This watch will be a future cornerstone of Jaquet Droz. It embodies the basic principle that guided its creation: when we decided to create a sapphire case, we did it on the basis of superlative Swiss quality. We are the only company to make a case from 100% sapphire that is 100% machined and assembled in La Chaux-de-Fonds, that has no screws, magnifying an 8-day tourbillon. These new materials and colours perfectly represent the JD 8.0, a Disruptive Legacy, in a more contemporary and playful form. Modern technologies can combine spectacularly well with ancestral techniques such as paillonnage or transparent opal – it’s an absolutely unique offer! Thanks to our configurator, we can also respond favourably to clients who prefer a more classical approach.
In parallel, we have retained the historic cornerstone of automata, such as our dragon designed by John Howe, the Lord of the Rings illustrator. The client can choose the case material, which may be sapphire or perhaps titanium, for example. Other collections are already in the pipeline, including a focus on female-inspired timepieces.
What does this imply for the manufacture?
The manufacture has become our boutique, and we are opening it up even more than we did before. Clients can discover our artistic crafts; we take them on a journey. We have also set up a professional video studio with high-definition cameras focused on the drawing board, the workbench and the artisan, so that they can keep the client informed remotely about the progress being made on their piece. The client has an access code, they make an appointment with our artisans who take the time to discuss the customisation with them as if they were physically present. These customer service efforts are complemented by a very high level of after-sales service. We want to accompany our clients before, during and after, and we want to include their friends! No one remains indifferent to our artistic crafts, but the unboxing ceremony will be something very special. Each sale will be accompanied by an (optional) experience in our clients’ preferred setting – at the top of a mountain, or on a yacht – with their three best friends. Our marketing department identifies the client’s DNA, and Jaquet Droz adapts to it.
Tourbillon Watches © Jaquet Droz
An elegant, outward-looking philosophy that dates back to the Age of Enlightenment is still at the heart of Jaquet Droz's identity. The fine and rare handcrafts practiced at the company’s workshops produce exquisite miniature works of art and automata that combine the best of design with unprecedented levels of horological know-how.Find out more >
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