As one of the first families in the world of horology, Favre-Leuba, a brand that has been around for 280 years, is picking up the threads of its glorious past to make a bold comeback for the modern connoisseur. Here’s how the brand is reviving its huge affinity with indian consumers.
Old is gold, they say; Favre-Leuba proves this true. As the second oldest Swiss watch manufacturer, Favre-Leuba first set up shop in India in 1860 when the brand was already 120 years old. As they celebrate their 280th anniversary in 2017, Favre-Leuba has re-entered India in a revived and contemporary form with 21 new references that retain its heritage, while being relevant for modern times. From being the first to produce a single push chronograph to being the first to produce the only diver’s watch with a depth gauge and many more of such firsts—the brand is set to bring a rich heritage of technically astounding mechanical watches to India. We speak to Thomas Morf, CEO, Favre-Leuba, on his visit to India about the brand’s relaunch strategy and its endless quest to ‘Conquering Frontiers.’
How did you think of reviving the India chapter at Favre-Leuba?
Honestly speaking, India is rife with several stories and bonds of the brand inheritance—of fathers and grandfathers owning our watches—and that has given us huge confidence. Besides many other reasons, Favre-Leuba has a longstanding association with India; it was almost a household name in 1960-70s and there is still a huge recall value of the brand. We have been an enormously strong Swiss watch brand in India and, now with Ethos, we have found the right partner, along with the ownership of Titan Company of the Tata Group, which convinced us to start once again here. For me, it’s not always about the strategic rollout plans; it’s also about finding the right people and partners to make a business successful. We believe in India, and the road to prosperity of this country. We are entering with the right know-how of this market with our partners.
Do you think the absence of the brand since the past so many years would make any difference to the relaunch of Favre-Leuba?
At the end of the day, what really matters is the right set of people, who make the right difference. We have seen several big and strong brands falling down. According to me, people make or break brands. For the re-launch, we have set a clear vision with several milestones in our journey, and we are set to grow step by step. We have focused on brand positioning with the right offering of products, keeping their USP in mind, and more importantly, we have learnt from our past mistakes. For us, the product is key, and we have worked hard on them. Along with men’s watches, women’s watches are soon to follow which will be an extension of the Favre-Leuba heritage and legacy. Our watches are not just about following trends, but watches that are timeless and represent the spirit of modern women. There’s a void in the women’s market and very few brands have attractive watches that are not stereotypically women’s watches. So, we have attempted to break this and make something for the modern woman, who wants to wear her personality on her sleeve.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR US AT THE BASEL FAIR?
It’s going to be a rather special year as we are celebrating the 280th anniversary of the brand and we are going to launch a limited edition collection of the iconic Bivouac, which was created in the 1960s. Just 280 pieces! We have two super iconic watches, which have also fetched the highest prices in the collectors market for Favre-Leuba, the Bivouac and Bathy, so we will honour that achievement with the anniversary watch. I believe that to create real desirability of a brand you have to show the world what you are capable of. Every year, we want to achieve this by creating some technical highlights and advancements in some of our collections. Another important factor is perceived value; we want our customers to be positively surprised with our watches. We want to give our customers value for money.
HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED TO STRIKE THE RIGHT BALANCE BETWEEN THE PRICING AND PRODUCTS?
For us, suppliers are key [players] as they help to make and achieve the target price for our products. We sit with them and define the target pricing, for instance, in Switzerland we have price plus taxes. We decide on an acceptable price and then we break it down so as to define reasonable pricing that is well justified across markets. You will not be disappointed with pricing and the offerings from the brand.
Sky Chief Chronograph
YOU HAVE WORKED WITH MANY OTHER WATCH BRANDS, WHAT MAKES FAVRE-LEUBA DIFFERENT FROM THEM?
Although it has a little gap in its 280-year-old journey; what takes Favre-Leuba beyond all other brands is its history and legacy. It was well ahead of its time, [it was] a 100-year-old brand, when most other brands had just started, which is a significant fact. Favre-Leuba has been a part of many childhood memories for people like me across the world, and I wouldn’t have taken up this challenge for any other brand. Also, there’s pure passion and dedication in this company to revive the brand to where it originally belonged. Many brands disappear, but to bring a brand like this back is not a job, it’s a mission or maybe even a religion. The distinction lies in how we manage the brand now. We understand that you can buy awareness, but the desirability of a brand needs to be built. Our team has really embraced the principle of how a brand or a market needs to be managed. From our product team to our leading marketers in various countries, it’s the dedication and passion that sets us apart. In the next 10 years, you will see many cool things—you know you are not going to invest in something that’s driven just by a trend or something that will be outdated tomorrow—this is a classic investment. According to me, if you have hooked the next generation, then you have made it. A strong brand management starts with managing elements like product, price and promotion, which you do over a certain period of time to create confidence. And lastly, it’s the support from the parent company for our vision that’s makes all the difference.
DOES THE BRAND BELIEVE IN BRAND AMBASSADORS?
We don’t advertise with people, but the brand motto ‘Conquering Frontiers’, which brings to life the brand’s inherent spirit of technical and innovative spirit and we want to demonstrate it through our products. In the future, there will be people wearing the brand. I call them hidden champions. Our consumers are not aspirational people, but those who have arrived in life, and they know what they want. We truly believe that the brand is the celebrity in itself.
WILL YOU BE BRINGING THE GLOBAL COLLECTION TO INDIA?
Yes, totally; the brand approach is a global approach. We do not believe in a regional approach, neither from a product or marketing, nor from the communication standpoint. We offer universal pricing and collections as people are becoming global travellers. We try to harmonise the pricing in all markets so that people can buy our products easily.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT ENTERING INDIA IN THE WAKE OF GST AND DEMONETISATION?
It gives me the indication that India is trying to mature. I believe that in the long term, it’s going to be beneficial. It’s like weight loss; short term is painful, but in the long term it makes sense. From a visionary standpoint, it’s a great move. There will be many such changes all over the world that are bound to happen—we cannot stop ourselves from entering the markets because of these reasons. We have to grapple with these changes and be confident. China also underwent a major change when they came up with the anti-corruption law. We have a strong mother, a top partner and we are ready to go. We believe in India
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