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‘Our challenges are many’

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Manuel Emch, President, Jaquet Droz
Manuel Emch, President, Jaquet Droz

Janani Krishnaswamy

Though the Swiss watch giant Swatch was introduced as a low-cost, hi-tech watch, it has travelled far and wide to reach where it is now. With the acquisition of Jaquet Droz, a 270-year-old artistic watch brand, Swatch has managed to gain a stable place in the world of luxury and limited edition watches. In an interview with BrandLine, Manuel Emch, President of Jaquet Droz, spells out his plans for India’s Rs 600-crore luxury market.

Excerpts from the interview:

Jaquet Droz is a name that has apparently almost vanished from the public perception. Why did Swatch group invest in this company?

Only a few names evoke tradition as well as a constant quest for technological and creative advances, and Jaquet Droz is one of them. Swatch’s dream to merge technology with tradition came true with this acquisition. It was founded by Pierre Jaquet Droz, a mechanical genius and a pioneer in the art of the haute horlogerie. Though it was small, it was among important brands around the 18th century. As Swatch intends to perpetuate this astonishing history of artistic watch-making with the continued renewal of unique pieces in limited series, thus contributing to the constant improvement of horological art, the acquisition made a world of difference.

What does the brand Jaquet Droz signify? What is its USP?

Jaquet Droz has developed the concept of unique pieces made to order, where the watch is treated as a work of art. The pieces are uniquely handcrafted and use the best of materials ranging from a dinosaur bone to gemstones such as aventurine, spectrolite, rutile quartz, meteorite and onyx. The Jaquet Droz watches have a trademark figure 8, a union of two circles resembling the mathematical symbol of infinity. The figure 8 is also highly appreciated because it is synonymous with prosperity in Asia; it symbolises eternity, and in many countries possessing an object bearing this symbol brings good luck. For Jaquet Droz, the 8 represents perfect balance. Almost anything about the brand revolves around this number. For instance, even our production numbers range from 8s to 888s.

What is the profile of a Jaquet Droz buyer?

A Jaquet Droz buyer could be anyone ranging from an architect or a ship builder to a sportsman or an artist. Anyone who has a creative mind and an eye for detail could be a prospective buyer. Jaquet Droz starts with a price tag of Rs 4 lakh and maintains an average of Rs 10 lakh.

How do you differentiate your marketing strategies for India?

We intend spending about 15-20 per cent of our turnover on brand awareness and retailing. We have launched four points of sale in India so far and we plan to set up standalone boutiques in the next two or three years. Initially we do not intend investing a lot in advertising. We plan to focus on personalised marketing and the Internet would be one of our biggest marketing tools. We intend promoting the brand through testimonials as we believe that our buyers are our brand ambassadors. Of course, like Swatch always has, there are collectors’ associations and clubs for Jaquet Droz as well and we plan to organise small events to increase the knowledge about the brand.

How’s the market for limited edition watches? How has the watch transformed itself from ‘an object to read time’ to ‘an object that needs to be preserved and treasured’?

The watch is not needed as an object to read time! Not anymore … Access to time is simple these days – you get it on your cell phone, you can check for it on the computer or any other gadget. The watch is the only jewel on a man’s hand, apart from the wedding ring, so it needs to be made special, artistic and technologically advanced for the beholder to preserve it for a life. India is among the top three dynamic markets in the watch-making industry and is growing at an unimaginable pace, of nearly 70 per cent.

Luxury limited edition watches involve more research, more time, and more money. Close to 8-12 per cent of Jaquet Droz’s investment is allocated to research. Developing a limited edition piece takes 24-48 months and making it 2-3 months.

What challenges do you face in marketing luxury watches in India?

For us, India is just a year-old market. The challenges, therefore, are many. To start with, the market is very young when it comes to luxury and limited edition watches. One thing that looms large when you think of the Indian market is the tax-related difficulties. The import taxes are quite high and therefore the cost structure gets really challenging. Real estate is, moreover, a big market in India; one has to be extra careful while setting up retail outlets. The distribution market is quite tricky, but the market sounds quite interesting and assuring. Challenges on the face of differentiating the needs of the consumer are, however, not much. The watch is no more valued for reading time; therefore, that is not much of a problem.

How many pieces do you produce annually and how many do you plan to sell in India?

Jaquet Droz has set itself a target of $1 million for the year ending March 2009. In another five to six years, it hopes to hit the $5-6 million mark. We produce close to 2,500 pieces a year and we plan to sell at least 200 to 300 pieces in India in the next two to three years. Right now, Switzerland, France, the US, Hong Kong and China are among the top markets. Close to 40 per cent of our investment is in China, one of the developing markets for Jaquet Droz. We are hoping India will join the league in a decade’s time.

Related Stories:
Swatch launching Hamilton, Leon Hatot brands in India

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 10, 2008)
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