PARIS — For Edouard Meylan, the chief executive officer of luxury Swiss watch maker H. Moser, now is a good time to be small and nimble — and keep launching watches.
“It’s a great opportunity for independent brands because a lot of brands are scared to launch products and too big to really engage their customers and have maybe too many points of sales to manage them,” said the executive, who spoke to WWD in a phone interview. The brand is one of over a dozen watch labels that have banded together for the Geneva Watch Days event, holding meetings in spots around the city.
“If we look at our strategy of launching products, when the crisis really hit us in March, we decided to review our launch plan. We thought, during a pandemic, when some people are fighting for their lives, can you actually promote your brand and do product launches? We really questioned that,” he said.
“We decided to move forward with a few launches and we realized that actually people are looking for something to maybe change a little bit their minds, get some positive emotions, positive energy, and the result was tremendous — we had a lot of amazing results,” he said.
Instead of launching everything at the end of April, as originally planned to coincide with Watches & Wonders, the label decided to spread them throughout the year.
The brand had introduced a new line in January, the Streamliner, a steel watch with an integrated bracelet, limited to 100 pieces. At the Geneva Watch Days, it introduced a new model, the Streamliner Centre Seconds with a simpler movement, that will be not be limited — although the label only produces between 1,000 and 2,000 watches a year.
“It’s a very complex design, not easy to understand and appreciate at first sight but the response has been great by the entire community because it’s different,” he said, noting that for smaller, independent labels, it’s important to have a unique offer.
“We need to take risk and if we want to create something that is there to last, it has to be a design that is not easy to understand,” he said. “And I think we achieved that with that product.”
“You need to look at it a lot of times before you appreciate it, I compare it to good music — I feel like something you like right away, like pop music, and after a few months you don’t want to listen to it anymore — the big classics that you might not appreciate at first, you listen and listen and eventually it becomes something that maybe 40 years from now you’ll still be listening to,” noted the executive.
The new model comes with a green, sunburst dial that goes from a bright, apple green to a copper-like hue.
“We call it the matrix green,” he said.
His teams were as excited for the Geneva event as they had been for large fairs in the past, said Meylan.
“It’s been frustrating to be stuck in the office for four months, so we’re very happy to be able to go,” he noted. “It brings a lot of energy in the team as well, it’s exciting, we have been traveling a lot less than we usually do, meaning also meeting fewer people, getting less feedback than we usually do.”
The watchmaker rushed to open an online sales platform during the lockdown — managing to do so in two weeks — and is discovering the advantage of higher margins from direct sales.
Before the pandemic hit, there were plans to open a number of new sales points around the year, which have been delayed. There will be a pop-up store in Beijing, a first for the label, followed by more openings next year. In Hong Kong, office space has been converted to a place where customers can come and meet with the brand.
“It’s quite discrete and you can discuss with knowledgable people in our price segment,” he said. Sales in the U.S., where it has 10 points of sale, and the Middle East have been booming, while Europe has felt the absence of visiting Asians, although local clientele remains intact, according to the executive.
The company is focusing on local, targeted investments in digital channels like Facebook and Instagram to drive people to stores that carry its watches, as well as to its own web site.
“It’s not easy, but we move forward fast — we will emerge from this situation bigger than where we were,” he predicted.