PARIS— American consumers might have a weakness for watches that are large and geared to the outdoors, but with the right emphasis, Vacheron Constantin chief executive officer Louis Ferla thinks the dressy, upscale brand can find stronger resonance in the country.“I think for us, with a bit more focus and explanation, we should be able to properly develop that market,” Ferla told WWD, a perfectly folded handkerchief poking out of his suit’s breast pocket.The Swiss label, which belongs to Compagnie Financière Richemont, has just launched three new watch models, the latest additions to a two-decade practice of reissuing historic styles.For two of the three new models, the house reached back to the Forties, a period it identifies as its golden age of calendar complications, a term that refers to mechanisms with specific capabilities.The Triple Calendrier 1942 comes in steel and features a dial indicating seconds, at the bottom of the round watch face. It also displays the weekday and month, in abbreviated capital letters.The Triple Calendrier 1948, made of 18-karat pink gold, has a high-precision lunar cycle.From the Twenties, the American 1921 model features a round face set in a cushion shape and was designed at a slightly skewed angle, making it possible to read the time with minimal wrist movement. The current edition of the watch comes in a reduced size compared to its historic predecessor.Ferla said he still has to nail down the details of the story behind the watch’s original client. An American, as the watch’s name suggests, he was either a driver seeking to tell the time without lifting his hand from the steering wheel or a priest wanting to peek at the hour while delivering a sermon.Either way, the story needs to be told to clients, Ferla said.Like many players in the industry, Vacheron Constantin faces the challenge of finding the right balance between highlighting the house’s deep history and securing its pertinence in a future with a crowded landscape of offers that include models connected to the Internet.Part of the job boils down to getting the message across to watch consumers:“Probably what we need to revamp a little bit is to be more engaging in story telling and our communication, because it’s true our communication is very much focused on tradition and history, where actually we are also a very innovative house. I think we have to counterbalance our message…you cannot last that long if you are not innovative,” said Ferla.The U.S. is a more challenging market for the label than Asia, where it is doing very well, according to Ferla, citing Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Australia in addition to China, with Chinese buying increasingly at home. Free-trade agreements lowering duty taxes between China and Switzerland have helped watchmakers, he noted.In Europe, business is going “relatively well,” according to Ferla. The company does not release financial details for the brand, but Ferla offered that the past 12 months had been “very satisfactory,” businesswise. Richemont’s watch division, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of group sales, last year posted a nearly 11 percent decline in sales, reflecting an industrywide slump that has recently shown signs of abating.“It’s a little bit more complicated in the U.S.…we have probably underinvested in some form,” he said of the brand’s performance by region. While demand in the country tends to be driven by bigger watches, and pieces meant for outdoor use, there are large collectors who know the brand well, he added.“American clients are very important to us, they are very well-educated, in terms of high-end watches, they recognize the elegance and the expertise of Vacheron Constantin…so if we communicate a bit more and we explain a bit more what we do, we should be able to engage with them,” said Ferla.The former Cartier executive took the helm of the brand a year ago, succeeding Juan Carlos Torres, who ran the house for around a dozen years.The brand does not reveal production figures, either, but maintains relatively low levels compared to its peers, probably around half that of rivals like Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, estimates Ferla.Key to the house’s strategy is relaying the idea that pricing is fair while maintaining a top-tier positioning. Price points have remained fairly stable for the past five years, with a few fluctuations due to a rise in the cost of gold or components, Ferla said.With prices running into the tens of thousands of dollars — the American 1921 small model is priced at $29,200, the steel Triple Calendrier 1942 at $19,500 and the gold Triple Calendrier 1948 at $35,000 — explanation is necessary, noted Ferla.“I think the world is asking for more transparency and understanding...if you spend such a large amount of money you want to understand why it’s justified,” said Ferla who cites the technical aspects of the watches as the basis for the steep price tags.“You get a movement which is assembled and finished by Vacheron Constantin, you get complications…with a high level of finishing,” he noted.The house has a special division geared towards collectors, called the Cabinotiers workshop, which develops custom watches, taking at least two to three years of development. To mark its 260th anniversary a few years ago, the brand made a watch it says has the world’s most complications. The result of an eight-year development process, the oversized pocket watch’s 57 complications include various calendars and a sophisticated chronograph.“This is a business that we want to strengthen because this is the ultimate experience, where you can customize your watch without any limit,” he noted.Shunning the industry’s widespread practice of recruiting official brand ambassadors, such as star athletes, or even an entire family, as in the case of Omega which recently added Cindy Crawford’s children Kaia and Presley Gerber to a long-standing partnership with the super model, Vacheron Constantin has instead focused on the qualities of its watches.When the brand threw a sumptuous party in the five-star Le Crillon hotel in Paris to mark the new watch launch, clients rather than celebrities were the guests of honor.As hostesses in elegant flapper-style dresses and rhinestone headbands scrutinized the list of invitees, guests flocked to balconies overlooking the Place de la Concorde, tried their hands at casino card games and observed a watchmaker demonstrating his meticulous vocation. There was also an employee presenting vintage Vacheron Constantin watches — for sale.In addition to the real-life event, however, the brand is also working on bulking up an online presence.“Digital is everywhere now, we will invest more and more in digital, whether in editorial, in advertising, in e-commerce — for me all these channels should complement each other,” explained Ferla.“If you are a client today, you go through a web site, through print, you visit some blogs, some forums, you speak with your friends, who are also collectors, you visit points of sale and in the end you make a very informed decision of buying a brand or not,” he said.Ferla estimates the average age of the watchmaker’s clients is in the early 40s, relatively young for the high-end sector.
From overseeing America’s fastest-growing speciality retailers to codifying cool, WWD talked to the women who are leading the way for the future of beauty. Check out our Instagram Stories to see how these women built today and are creating tomorrow. (📸: @hannah_khymych) #wwdbeauty
For @laperlalingerie's spring 2018 show, the brand chose to host their event at @thevenetianmacao. With Chinese megastars @bingbing_fan and @hubing in attendance, La Perla debuted a rock ‘n’ roll-inspired collection. The show marked the start of Sands Macao Fashion Week, which runs from October 19 to 24 — the city’s first such event. Pictured here are models backstage with glimmering eyes. #wwdfashion (📷: Cheuk-Yin To)
Trending for spring 2018: top stitch design. Gone are the days of stitch just for seams — designers are using the once-minimal detail to create strong decorative elements. (📷: Paola Testa; Styled by @andrew_shang) #wwdfashion
@tradesy is turning the concept of a showroom upside down with its new space in Santa Monica. Here, the company plans to hold events, art exhibits and a showcase rare fashion pieces like this Louis Vuitton boxing set. Get all the details on Tradesy’s first showroom on WWD.com. #wwdnews
Spotted last night at the @erdem x @hm launch event: Kate Bosworth, Rashida Jones, Kirsten Dunst and Selma Blair. The party, which took place in LA, also marked the opening of their pop-up shop. “I was interested in creating a collection that wasn’t in any way disposable. It was about pieces you’d create and keep forever, things that have a permanence to it,” designer Erdem Moralioglu said. #wwdeye (📷: Katie Jones)
Renee Zellweger in yellow in 2001 and again in 2017. Chosen as one of the 12 @pantone Leading Spring Colors (and dubbed “Meadowlark”), it only makes sense that the bright hue stands the test of time and is making a resurgence this season, seen already on stars like @blakelively and @gigihadid. (📷: Donato Sardello & @rexfeatures) #wwdfashion #tbt
Dior’s 70th anniversary celebration continues with a new exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. “Christian Dior,” which is scheduled to run through March 18, takes a look at the founders tenure from 1947 to 1057 and feature 40 designs. Pictured here is an evening gown from the Ailée, fall 1948-49 haute couture collection. #wwdfashion (📷: Brian Boyle)