Image courtesy of Chronopassion
There’s no longer any need to introduce Laurent Picciotto, founder of Chronopassion. A well known international expert who is always found where he is least expected, he has built up a true expertise in outstanding brands and in the process acquired the loyalty of no less outstanding clients.
For The Watch Lounge, Laurent discusses the crisis, Paris Hilton, and brands to follow closely in 2010. Let’s meet a passionate visionary!
Please note, this interview is also available in French.
TWL: The SIHH recorded a 10% increase in visitors for this year, the ″2010 branch study” reported that the watchmaking industry is the third strongest industry in Switzerland, etc. So, we can assume the crisis is now behind us, isn’t it?
LP: Not necessarily. I wasn’t that concerned about 2009. I’m more doubtful about the prospects for 2010, because 2009 is now behind us, and looking back we came through it quite well! On the contrary, nothing is sure for 2010 yet. Resellers are not right just because they are buying watches. As far as I’m concerned, I did not want to have a crisis window for Chronopassion last year. Many of my colleagues did, that’s why I wanted to stand apart and offer the same choice as before to my clients, which finally turned out to be the right decision.
We’re now coming out of a period of excessive euphoria, where a lot of wizards as much as institutional brands sold a lot of watches. That was possible thanks to the global dynamics of the customer environment. But the crisis has above all had an impact on the state of mind of the client, whatever his level of finance or addiction.
We’re waiting for serenity to come back. In the meantime, the addiction is still here, but the decision process is more carefully thought-out. Irrational and accumulative attitudes are left behind in favor of reason. I don’t foresee any switch back to the kind of dynamic we saw in the past years, especially for the pieces that cost over 100,000 euro.
The positive point is that, apart from the watch itself, customers are now looking more closely at the future of a brand, the legitimacy of their purchase, etc. And this is where our role as advisors is so important, both for our clients and for the brands we sell. In the case of the latter, my primary goal is to build a long-term partnership rather than a collaboration based upon fleeting trends, even if the beginning of that relationship can sometimes be difficult.
On that note, we should not forget the influence of show-business people such as Paris Hilton, who suddenly declares that we should really control our impulses to buy – and who suddenly becomes a philosopher or even a stoïc! Rational thinking is taking over, and I think it’s here to stay.
Chronpassion and the Hublot Boutique also managed by Laurent on behalf of the brand on Paris’ exclusive Rue Saint-Honoré – © Ian Skellern
TWL: How do you feel about the super high-end watches in 2010?
LP: They are my major concern. Our choice of brands and product range will be decisive. We’ll have to align our selection of watches to achieve the perfect ratio between price and amazement.
TWL: During one of our recent meetings, a reseller told us that the old clichés die hard: The Chinese want shiny jewellery pieces, women favour sober luxury, while men are voting for technical pieces and enthusiasts for elite watches. Do you share this analysis?
LP: It’s a logical analysis which must be true up to a point; but as far as we are concerned, we have as many stereotypes as we have clients. Each client is a particular case.
Nevertheless, the women’s watch market was a difficult one for us. Initially, we bought pieces from famous brands, without the expected success. Afterwards, we focused on our core business, that is to say niche watches…but without achieving any greater success!
I have to admit that Swiss watchmaking is a little chauvinistic. Nine times out of ten, women’s watches were simply a feminine version of men’s watches. That was the wrong approach.
When we looked back, it became clear that women’s relationship to time is not the same as that of men. For women, time is an enemy, bringing with it signs of getting old. Consequently, chronographs, whose purpose is to measure time, had no sense.
Therefore, we had to completely rethink the conception of a watch for women and adapt them to enable poetry to take its place. We had to develop an appropriate educational approach.
On that note, stay tuned as we have an agreement with a well known company and we’re going to propose a completely new approach to watches for women in the coming days!
Antonio Calce, CEO of Corum Swiss Timepieces, and Laurent Picciotto – Image courtesy of Chronopassion
TWL: You’ve been very visible in poster campaigns, even on some stamps, but the Web seems to have started more slowly. Was that intentional?
LP: Indeed I started a year ago, but now all our communication channels are at the same level. We’re on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. But I run a small business and I have to manage quite a busy schedule – and web activities are very time consuming!
Nevertheless, it’s an important channel for business development, because it’s clearly linked with sales.
We’ll be launching quite soon a brand new website dedicated to the sale of accessories. Why? Because I want to produce accessories that I couldn’t find elsewhere!
TWL: Some of your partnerships with other brands, like Richard Mille or Corum, have received significant media coverage. Did that not upset your other brands?
LP: Some of my brands are also my friends – and in any case it creates a healthy competitive situation. When I launch a partnership with a brand, other brands want to go one step further and then we create a more innovative operation.
That said, to be honest, I don’t schedule anything. I just enter into arrangements, and see where they take me. I just try to bring to my brands communication ideas to take them where no one expects them. But in the end, my work with a given brand benefits all the others. Do not forget that our primary goal, as resellers, is to be visible everywhere.
TWL: Do you sometimes advise one of your clients against buying a given piece? How does that come across?
LP: Yes, it happens. The first feeling is surprise. Then, a move towards greater trust. So, yes, I might miss out on an immediate sale, but I’ve built a long-term trusting relationship, and that’s what I’m interested in.
For instance, I had a client who only bought proven pieces, from well known manufacturers. But one day, he chose a watch for which I had bad technical files. It was a watch costing 350,000 euro. I consciously lost the deal. But I didn’t lose the client.
Laurent at home in the Chronopassion office – © Ian Skellern
TWL: Indeed, you have atypical clients… Any anecdote to share ?
LP: I have lots of them! Once I had a client who, after quite a long time of reflection in Chronopassion, chose a 4,000 euro Paneari. As we were preparing the watch, during the time it took for the sale to be processed, I took the opportunity to show him our latest models. Amongst these, the brand new RM01, that had just been shipped. Price: 170,000 euro. The client literally had a crush on it….and me, I got seriously insulted!
I was on the receiving end of a strong flow of insults, for the simple reason that I had not shown him this model before! In fact, this client was only venting his anger as he was caught on the spot, too weak to resist an out-of-control and impulse purchase of a watch that was 42 times more expensive than his first choice! He had to let the anger out…
I also received a call from a client one morning, telling me “Laurent, I feel depressed“. I answered: “How depressed are you?“ He came in the afternoon and left me, but not without having said with a wink of an eye: “Goodbye, thank you, doctor!“
TWL: As far as you are concerned, does the oversized watch have a bright future?
LP: Good question. I think we reached the anatomical limit at a standard of between 42 and 44 millimeters. The purity of some designs is complete at this size. It’s a trend year after year. I don’t think we’ll ever get back to small watches.
TWL: In recent years, some brands unveiled several limited series in a row, which at the end are not limited. What do you think about that, from both a business and a strategic point of view?
First, a collection is not guaranteed successful just because it is limited. It has to deliver a real added value. Then, it’s important to set the right ratio between price and the number of units manufactured. A watch can be successful at 300 units, and not at all at 800. Besides, the production process of a series that was initially intended to be limited kills the concept.
You should not tire clients with limited series. Sometimes brands devote 15% to 18% of their total production to limited series. I think that’s a lot, even if I have to admit that there’s no golden rule. As far as I’m concerned, I base my choices upon my personal conviction. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t!
TWL: Are there some specific brands that you would advise us to closely follow in 2010 ?
Urwerk, De Béthune, Van Cleef, MB & F…I have advanced projects with some of them so stay tuned!
About the Author (Author Profile)Olivier Muller is half Swiss, half French, and has been raised in the world of haute horlogerie & luxury watches right from the cradle. He now works in Public Relations in Paris.
Sites That Link to this Post
- Interesting Interview With Laurent Picciotto - Chronopassion Owner And Horology Ambassador | aBlogtoRead.com | February 13, 2010
- Ladies, Its Time | The Watch Lounge – the Online Watch Lover's Magazine | February 17, 2010
- Van Cleef & Arpels And Ladies Watches: The Love Story Continues | The Watch Lounge – the Online Watch Lover's Magazine | March 4, 2010
- GMT Italia – Home To Some Of The World’s Most Amazing Timepieces | The Watch Lounge – the Online Watch Lover's Magazine | April 30, 2010
- Laurent Picciotto Of Chronopassion Talks Brand Selection | The Watch Lounge – the Online Watch Lover's Magazine | May 31, 2010