INTERVIEW/ JEAN-MARC JACOT, CEO, PARMIGIANI

“Independent enough not to follow”

“Independent enough not to follow”

Parmigiani was set up in 1996... how does it feel to be a young luxury brand competing with the biggies?

Competing with other brands is not exactly the right idea. I believe every brand is walking its own trail and seeking to reach specific goals. It’s looking at the competition of course, and we are definitely looking at what’s happening around us. But, we are on our own quest for growth and progress. I recently read an advertising catchphrase, which could encompass the feeling: “Independent enough not to follow”. This is exactly the mind-spirit. We are aware of our competitors’ evolvement, but our goal is not to follow them; we have our own independent path to achieve.

How important is it to constantly evolve in terms of changes and strategy?

We believe that it’s very important to evolve and adapt according to the customer’s desires, tastes and behaviour. The customer is at the heart of any strategy.

How important is it for you to be independent in the watchmaking business?

Independence is our prime concern, and we have been striving for it from the very beginning. Parmigiani Fleurier has gone the very hard and demanding way of the manufacture. Rather than investing on marketing from the very start, we have created our own manufacture, completely independent and verticalised. This is a feat of tenacity. Today, Parmigiani Fleurier has the means to produce every single component of a watch, from the smallest screw to the case and dials. This is a fundamental characteristic of our history and identity.

What would you count as Parmigiani’s most important landmarks?

There are three. In 1996, when the brand was born with the decisive help of the Fondation Sandoz and Landolt family which, having discovered Michel Parmigiani’s talent in restoration, pushed him to create his own brand.

The second was in 2000, when the investments and care led to establishing a true watchmaking manufacture, thus achieving complete independence.

And, the third was in 2008, when the same decision of independence was taken in the verticalisation of the distribution network. We established our distribution in 10 subsidiaries around the world, thus giving us independence in this realm.

How did the brand fare in 2013, considering the Chinese slowdown? Have your sales been affected?

Our sales rose by 15 per cent in 2013. The slowdown concerns the Chinese market in itself, but does not extend to the Chinese tourists and world travellers, who continue to purchase luxury goods with the same eagerness.

What remains to be achieved in terms of the brand’s success?

We need to improve the fame of the brand and raise greater awareness around it. Then, of course, pursue the creative drive that leads us to new creations and in-house calibres and finalise the distribution network.

Which are your top five markets?

Switzerland, USA, France, Singapore and China (global Chinese buyers around the world).

Which is your bestselling model?

The Tonda 1950. We sold 1,500 units last year.

What is Parmigiani’s current strategy of expansion globally and vis-a-vis the Indian market?

Globally speaking, we want to pursue the expansion of our distribution network in order to achieve both independence and efficiency with greater awareness in a consistent way. As far as India in concerned, we regard it as the key market in the upcoming years. The major challenge resides in the countries’ very expensive importation taxes. But we won’t let that stop us.

Which is the top-seller in India?

The Tonda 1950 priced at CHF 17,000.

A lot of brands have started to introduce mechanical novelties and complications for ladies. What is the future of ladies’ watches?

Women are starting to buy watches themselves and, most importantly, for themselves. Until a few years ago, men purchased ladies’ watches; that was different. Watches are becoming important for today’s dynamic and independent women, and the lack of ladies’ watches was definitely an open breach for all brands to jump into and exploit a few years ago.

The average retail demand for ladies’ watches at the moment is around 40 per cent. This figure alone shows how important the segment has become. It is lower for highly technical brands (more male-oriented) and, of course, much higher for brands like Cartier which are very attentive on the haute joaillerie side. For Parmigiani Fleurier, the figure is above 30 per cent, and in constant progress since we started our ladies’ collection seven years ago. We expect it to reach 40 per cent in the coming years.

How are Parmigiani’s ladies’ watches faring in the Indian market?

We have had a good response on the Tonda 1950 for ladies with its various executions of dials. This is an elegant, timeless watch that suits any occasion and dress code.

“Independent enough not to follow”
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