Interview With Maurice Lacroix Managing Director Stéphane Waser Sitting down with ML's MD for a chat by Rob Nudds June 11, 2020 MIN READInterview With Maurice Lacroix Managing Director Stéphane Waser
I’ve always enjoyed doing interviews. Having the opportunity to pick the brains of industry executives is a real privilege (which you can add to the long list of privileges we as watch reviewers get to enjoy). Normally, we find ourselves asking the same old questions. In these interesting times, however, it is all changed.
Brands are being forced to think, feel, and react. This is undoubtedly the biggest crisis watchmaking has suffered this century. Yes, the financial crash eventually sent shock waves through our world, but it was business as usual. A little choppy, yes, but normal enough to stay the course and keep doing what had always been done.
Those times are gone. We live in a new world. And the toughest part? We don’t even know what that world looks like yet. Brand directors must poke their heads above the parapet and map the landscape on our behalf. With that in mind, I sat down with Stéphane Waser, Managing Director of Maurice Lacroix, and asked some of the questions that had been burning a hole in my head.
Rob Nudds: Hi Stéphane, thanks for talking with Fratello. This is a very difficult time for all brands, having been forced to replan their release strategies for 2020 at a moment’s notice. How have you done this?
Stéphane Waser: Fortunately, we had already presented 70% of our 2020 novelty prior to the outbreak of the virus. First of all, at our event in Paris, then at the Inhorgenta fair, and finally during visits to key Asian markets before the lockdowns. As a company, we made agility and responsiveness our priority to navigate through these uncertain times, as the environment changes fast with low transparency ahead.
Since the start of the pandemic, we have already revised our marketing and launch plans three times. Originally our plan was to present 1/3 of our launches at Baselworld but we will participate in the Geneva Watch Days at the end of August and also present some products digitally throughout the year. In other words, we are maintaining our program but have rethought the execution.
RN: What can we expect from Maurice Lacroix this year?
SW: At the start of the year, the AIKON Chronograph Skeleton was certainly the highlight. We’re continuing to expand this line with different range levels and complications. Another key focus area at Maurice Lacroix is the development of our women’s watches. We have AIKON models already. Where we have strong potential is the high-end Masterpiece collection. Historically, we didn’t develop manufacture executions in the Masterpiece collection for ladies. However, in January, we launched the Masterpiece Embrace, a watch with either a mother-of-pearl dial or, for the first time at Maurice Lacroix, an aventurine dial.
For the entry range, Fiaba, we are expanding the collection with moon-phase versions. Besides that, we have launched new additions to the Eliros collection, including a Rainbow model. It is our take on what is a popular, unisex, and affordable model! The Eliros line is aimed at customers who are new to Swiss Made watches.
RN: Do you think that the watch industry landscape will be forever changed by this pandemic?
SW: You will have to ask the specialists if the pandemic will change the watch industry landscape forever. Our motto at Maurice Lacroix was to remain agile and responsive, as things change daily. One thing for sure is that this pandemic has accelerated digitalization and has shown us that things can be done differently.
RN: To that end, how valuable do you think physical watch fairs (Baselworld, etc.) are now and for the future? And to whom do you think they matter the most?
SW: Previously, Baselworld was the only event we attended in order to meet international clients. Often, customers would group their annual orders together and submit them to us in Basel. Today, with the digitization of orders, they are sent to us on a continuous basis. Moreover, customers seek shorter delivery times, which has meant refining our order handling processes to fulfill this need. Put simply, we are now more responsive to our customers and our delivery times are now much shorter than before.
Fairs provide an opportunity
Our local teams are presenting new watches and taking orders in each market, which has led to a reduction in the number of customers visiting us at fairs merely to place orders. Now, the primary reason retailers visit us at fairs is to discuss broader, relationship-related topics.
Watch fairs are very important in terms of relationships with retailers and journalists…
Fairs provide an opportunity to meet potential new retailers from an array of different markets, especially those places we don’t ordinarily visit. Another key benefit of fairs is that they allow us to easily meet the press in one place.
Watch fairs are very important in terms of relationships with retailers and journalists. It is therefore important that we can showcase our company and its new models at one or two major events per year. In recent years, we have developed a global roadshow strategy. In this model, we visit different countries, presenting our new products to retailers and the media. This formula has been very popular with attendees as it is easier and more time-efficient for them. The retailers and journalists appreciate that we visit the markets rather than the markets having to visit us.
RN: How is Maurice Lacroix handling the situation with its retail network around the world? Have any provisions been made for your stockists?
SW: The situation changes every day as some markets are lifting the confinements and others are introducing lockdowns. When and how long this pandemic will last, nobody knows. Experts don’t seem to be aligned these days. Business seems to be restarting in China, while South Korea and Europe as well as Switzerland have just lifted their lockdowns, let’s hope this trend continues and that other markets will follow.
RN: Have you noticed a change in traffic and sales online? Is it what you expected?
SW: We have been pursuing our distribution strategy based on brick-and-mortar retail stores as well as eCommerce. As said before, it was key as a luxury brand to also serve our customers during this pandemic, so we kept on fulfilling all orders and supplying our customers. Of course, due to the lockdown imposed on stockists, it was mostly retailers with online stores that kept businesses running. With the lift of the lockdowns, we are seeing the offline business slowly growing once again.
This interview was conducted on May 21st between Rob Nudds of Fratello and Stéphane Waser of Maurice Lacroix.
Follow me on Instagram @robnudds
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About the author
Rob’s first exposure to the watch industry was a part-time retail role for the Signet Group at the age of 17. An obsession with watches soon developed. Following an ill-advised BSc in Archaeological Science, he applied for sponsorship to undertake… read more
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