Vacheron Constantin is the world’s oldest haute horlogerie manufacture with almost 260 years of uninterrupted history, Alexander Schmiedt has been brand director for the Middle East since the beginning of 2016. Speaking on his appointment, Schmiedt said: “For somebody who is passionate about fine watchmaking, it is an honour and unique opportunity for me to work for Vacheron Constantin, the oldest watch manufacture in the world. I am greatly looking forward to further sharing this unique watchmaking heritage with the watch enthusiasts of the region.”
Now, as he heads towards the end of his second year with Vacheron Constantin, it’s a good time to reflect on what he’s learned, what he’s changed, and to discover what’s next on his to-do list. Alexander loves watches, and with all the heritage and history that Vacheron has, he’s derived great pleasure from the experience of the past two years, and has uncovered a treasure of inspiration.
“It’s a brand with big potential”, he says, and one where he’s been able to “take what we already have and bring it to the next level”. “We need to raise the brand’s awareness and tell the story, having history is extremely relevant as it allows you to do things that others cannot do – and that’s what we’ve started doing. We are on our way to achieve the absolute target”. There’s no doubt that he’s proved he’s on the right track, but it’s equally clear that there’s potential for strong growth ahead in the region.
According to Alexander, the key to success that can never be changed is to become and stay relevant to your clients. Nowadays there are so many changes in communication with digital and complete transparency, immediate response, everything is going so fast in communication and there is so much information going around left and right. Modern means of production, 3D printing, robotics, all that are giving the people the feeling of information overload. A certain group of people, still appreciate the things that last. In the end, it’s talking about what will give you the true luxury in the future. Relevance is something that is authentic, real, and exclusive. When you have something that is relevant to you, you get the feeling of authenticity.
Alexander tells us “Here at Vacheron, we have always been exclusive, always living a passion, and aiming for something beyond functionality. People never bought a Vacheron Constantin watch to only tell the time, it was something that you have an emotional relation with, it’s all about craftsmanship and passion. This doesn’t mean it has to be old fashioned, on the contrary, something that has a long tradition, out of which you can develop something that is extremely modern.”
With 260 years of history comes heavy responsibility, however the current impact it has on the brand is certainly empowering. When both are combined then innovation occurs. Alexander quotes an Arab Sheikh “I learned something from right here in the Middle East, it’s that only the ones who understand their past, understands his present and knows where he wants to go in the future.” We learn from the past, which allows us to re-invent and renovate to move forward. Tradition and innovation is like the two sides of the same coin. The tradition of today was the innovation of the past. If you want to stay traditional you have to constantly innovate and remake yourself, to create a traditional tomorrow.
2017 has been a stellar year for Vacheron Constantin. The highlight must include $1 Million Celestia Astronomical watch, and the recent Historiques additions. Vacheron always comes back to heritage and traditions, it’s always a question of how to make it relevant but also how to stick to the heritage and tradition and Celestia is the perfect example, it was the most complicated astronomical watch ever created. It’s a lot of information and innovation in one piece. Many times making the complicated things simple is the most complicated task. For Alexander, that was the most major accomplishment for the Celestia. “This bulk of innovation in a piece that is very wearable, beautiful, and simple. The final client for the Celestia is actually from the Middle East.”
As a constant traveller, Alexander Schmiedt has met many watch owners and collectors. When asked about what they expect from Vacheron in the future, Schmiedt tells us “They expect that we as Vacheron continue to stay true to our roots, don’t change who we are but continue to surprise them. Also for us to continue to reinvent ourselves in a way that we haven’t before, hopefully we have something to show next year, that would definitely surprise them.”
We are definitely not huge fans of smart watches, but there is a place for them in the market. However, according to Alexander, you cannot compare them with Vacheron watches or any other watch. They are two different things, that follow different rhythms of lifestyles. The smartwatch might be the coolest thing to wear today, but in three months there’s a new one out. Also, it is only based on functionality. As for Vacheron you don’t buy it purely for functionality, it is like a piece of art, you will love it today, and in 50 years as well! After that, you might even pass it on to someone else in your family. It would still stay as relevant and elegant as it is today.
We noticed Alexander was wearing a Vacheron classic! We couldn’t help but ask about it. “I’m currently wearing the Vacheron Overseas watch; this watch was developed for the travellers. I consider myself one of those, it can happen that one day I’m on a beach in Dubai or in the office so this watch is the perfect one for me to be wearing as it fits my lifestyle.” Time is a funny thing, some of us have so much of it, while others have so little to spare. When asked about his own relationship with time, Alexander answered almost instantaneously, “It is the ultimate luxury! When you are born, you are given a certain quantity of time and once a second is over you cannot take it back. There is no recipe on how to use it. My advice is to use it in a way that you don’t regret, and you make the most out of it.”