Vacheron Constantin is the world’s oldest haute horlogerie manufacture with more than 260 years of uninterrupted history, Alexander Schmiedt has been brand director for the Middle East since the beginning of 2016. Accepting the mantle of such a great legacy is something Schmiedt continues to take in his stride.
Being the oldest and, perhaps, the most bound by its traditions, hasn’t prevented Vacheron from presenting attractive propositions to a whole new demographic of watch buyers – the FiftySix is a case in point and, similarly, the Overseas – but this hasn’t diverted the essential essence of the brand at all. The company’s ambition is to champion artistry, agility and human interaction.
With the end of the year approaching, we could do one of two things. Look back, or look forward. We prefer to look to the future! Let’s talk 2020!
Vacheron Constantin’s past 12 months have been largely about the Fifty-Six. What can we expect to see in 2020? You can look forward to a continuous development of Vacheron Constantin. The beauty of Vacheron is that we are really a generalist brand. We can make classic watches, we can make sporty elegant watches, we can make high class complications – all of which we have done over recent years. Indeed, I’m here in Kuwait for a private customer-only high-complications event.
Then there are also ladies’ watches. So, for 2020 there might be something we haven’t focused on in recent years – and part of it might just be something to do with our ladies’ collections! We have sophisticated female connoisseurs entering the watch market. For these ladies, the same as for our male customers, elements such as craftsmanship and rarity are becoming increasingly appreciated.
How much further do you have to travel along the superb Fifty- Six road as far as new editions go? It will continue to develop. It was not launched as a one-shot, but rather as a pillar within the Vacheron collections. In itself, the Fifty-Six is an emblem of sportiness and elegance.
The motif “One of Not Many” was a great success for Vacheron. It engaged a new generation of customers. Who are the new ambassadors to be added? And what’s the new direction for 2020? In truth, the motif added no new direction – the concept simply offered a different way of expressing the 260-year-old values of Vacheron. So, this will not change. However, in 2020 we will bring a fresh expression of the concept – perhaps something for ladies. The celebrities we partnered with for One of Not Many aren’t our ambassadors – the man or woman of the right caliber who chooses to wear a Vacheron Constantin for its authenticity… these are our ambassadors. We look forward to adding to their numbers in 2020.
Bespoke is increasingly important in many sectors – what’s the impact on your business growth with Les Cabinotiers? Is this something we might see become more accessible? (meaning, less expensive – in the way the Fifty-Six made the brand more accessible when it was launched). Les Cabinotiers is the level of watchmaking we originated at. Today, it exists as a special department within our company. Effectively, Les Cabinotiers is our ‘dream factory’. It is for the few that have a passion for the finest of fine watchmaking, and it’s for the few that also have the patience and will wait for bespoke pieces. So, it’s not something that could ever be made more commercially accessible – nor do we want to try to see it become so. What we have done for the past two years, however, is to create ultra-limited editions by the artists of Les Cabinotiers – these pieces suit those amongst us who want a rare and very special piece, but who don’t want to wait. 23 22
In 2020, Baselworld and SIHH will share days in the calendar. A good move for the industry? Who are the winners here? I think everyone is a winner – we all get to go to Geneva during better weather! Seriously though, it is a good move – logistically for our guests, and also because the renamed Baselworld – Watches and Wonders – has become less of a B2B show and became increasingly an experience for press, clients, and the public. It makes a lot of sense for brands and visitors.
You’ve been in your role four years now. Given your insight across the region, how do your national markets compare? Dubai is different from Qatar. Muscat from Manama. How do you quantify the markets? And Kuwait – how do you view Kuwait? What identifies the market as unique? All of our GCC markets share similarities, yet all are different. In general, they are countries where have a very strong history, and we’re developing well in all of them. Each has a sophisticated clientele, and each a growing strong female clientele.
The differences reveal a lot about the individuality. For example, Dubai is exposed to tourism in a way no other market is. Saudi Arabia is potentially our largest market – but retail in the Kingdom is still developing towards its potential.
As for Kuwait – it may be a small country, but it is the home of a very sophisticated market. Kuwaiti’s are the region’s trend-leaders. We come to launch something here and we find they already knew about it six months earlier! It is a challenging market, and one that I enjoy hugely.
What, to you, defines ‘luxury’ today? Luxury began two hundred years ago amongst royals and industrialists. They sought things that were rare and fine.
Twenty to thirty years ago, luxury changed. Luxury was democratised. Recently, through the omnipresence of social media, today’s new generation understands the value of a brand, they appreciate rarity, and authenticity becomes important. This is playing in to the hands of companies such as Vacheron Constantin.
The ultimate luxury is something that was made by someone else, but exclusively for you. We live in an age where we have a super-fast life cycle of products, we have 3D printing, AI, and more and more things can be made by machines. People appreciate objects that are not made by a machine. People want objects that were made by another human. This is what we stand for.
To understand true luxury – one must discover the truly authentic.
Two years ago, we asked you to assess your relationship with time. We can remind you of your answer: “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.” Have the past 24 months done anything to change your view on this? Nothing. It still stands! One thing I will add though is that my time spent in the Middle East during these past two years has been time well spent!