Charles Villoz, Simon Baker and Matthieu Baumgartner

CHANTILLY, France — Following Swatch Group’s exit from the Baselworld watch fair, Longines has embarked on a market-by-market approach, with a focus on introducing new products when they are available.

Speaking to WWD in the runup to the Longines Prix de Diane horse race, Matthieu Baumgartner, Longines vice president of marketing, explained how the label is pursing a strategy of spreading launches out over the year. 

“Not being in Baselworld, we have decided not to reveal all the new models and new additions to the collections in spring as we used to do, but rather to have our new models, launches being spread throughout the year,” he said.

While it’s still early days, the label is discovering the advantage of synchronizing the introduction of new watch models with their availability, according to the executive.

“That definitely enables us to engage and to talk to our audiences at different periods of the year,” he said, recalling the challenge at Baselworld of rising above a crowded field. 

“There is such a huge amount of new products and noise that nobody can get every single thing, that’s why we believe that this approach being more tactical and closer to the availability in the markets will be a good step.”

“So there’s not that time lag between introducing the collection and having that available in stores so that’s typically what we have been doing very recently with the launch of the Conquest Classic collection for ladies in the U.S.,” he said, referring to the June launch event at the Shed of Hudson yards, where the 100-person guest list included retailers, influencers and the press. 

The sleek quartz timepieces, which start at just under $1,000 come in rose gold steel, with diamond-encrusted versions priced in the $1,500 range — aimed at a young, female consumers.

The label’s consistent price range of between around $1,000 and $3,000 has contributed to the brand’s success, the executive added. 

The company is pursuing  a global approach, while also diving deeper into local markets, gauging reactions to new models on a local level, he explained.  

“There is a strong focus for us on the U.S. market where we really want to keep on growing and we feel that there’s still a potential for growth” for the brand, he said, citing the Conquest launch as an effort to forge closer ties with women there. 

Longines is also reissuing heritage models with an eye to people who already know the house, he added, noting a “strong interest” in the U.S. for older models. 

“That enables us to develop products but also to engage with probably rather male audiences and customer base,” he said, noting the heritage lines have been particularly successful in the U.S. 

The Prix de Diane is just one of a number of equestrian event partnerships for the brand, which includes the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and the Breeders Cup, as well as the North American league of the international equestrian federation, the FEI, for show jumping. 

“We have a very good range of high quality events that enable us to deliver our messages, introduce the collections and welcome guests,” said the executive.

At Chantilly, the label had brand ambassadors Kate Winslet and Simon Baker on hand to meet with the press and guests. 

In the U.S., Longines has held two events for retailers only since the beginning of the year, in N.Y. in January and Las Vegas in May.

“People are there only for us,” he said, noting that allowed time to go more in-depth, and glean information from retailers than at a large trade fair.

Longines has three of its own stores in the U.S., in addition to the wholesalers and retailers it works with, a distribution network that is constantly being assessed, he said.

“There has been a continuous reflection and work being done on the distribution…we try to be as close as possible to the market needs, the U.S. being a giant market, distribution is key, of course we know that’s a constant subject we are working on.”

The watch industry is revisiting distribution channels with a number of high-end brands taking control over all stages of a watch sale, in a bid to get closer to consumers.

The Apple Watch has taken business from traditional players, particularly in the lower-priced segments, forcing brands to seek new ways to engage with clients. Swatch Group, which has a vast stable of brands that includes its namesake label as well as Omega and Tissot, relies more on wholesale business than many competitors that operate more in the luxury range.