Vacheron Constantin’s confidence in the future – an exclusive interview with CEO Juan-Carlos Torres

Recently I had the privilege and honor to interview Juan-Carlos Torres, CEO of luxury watchmaker Vacheron Constantin, known as an authority in the world of luxury watchmaking.

Upon my arrival at Vacheron Constantin’s headquarters just outside Geneva, I could not help but notice the impressive nearby construction site, which, from a bird-eye-view could seem a doubling of Vacheron Constantin’s site. Mr Torres told me: ‘’Indeed, we are expanding our site, but if you look closely we are replacing some of the existing temporary buildings and our primary target is not an increase in output but rather to add people and to create a better environment. For our watchmakers, the standard work space used to be 5sqm and now it is 7sqm’’

Regarding growth, Mr Torres also said: ‘’The expansion of our facilities will also provision 25% for future growth. We need to be prepared and that is why this is carefully planned such a long time in advance‘’. He added: ‘’As CEO, I am here to help people to do their job and create the best workplace for them’’

‘’Balance expectations is extremely important in our everyday activities but also in our long term strategy. This is something that applies at all level, whether it is product development, sales, operations or marketing.’’ Mr Torres said.

My next questions was related to marketing and communications and what was the strategic approach of Vacheron Constantin. Mr Torres replied: ’’I disagree when you say we are conservative. I believe we now have a very good understanding of our heritage and that is key to our success. Heritage is what guides all our work’’

On the much talked boom of digital watches, here is what Mr Torres had to say: ‘’If I had to compared a traditional watch to a digital watch, first of all I would say a traditional watch is an emotional object and is there to help one manage his time. On the other hand, all these new developments in the digital world, they arouse curiosity but at the same time, they take control of your time – you noticed people are spending more and more time on these gadgets!’’

What about the young generation? How are you going to entice them to potentially become your customers? Mr Torres said : It is a matter of understanding and trust. They witness their fathers or grandfathers wearing a watch and how, from one generation to another, a watch becomes a witness of your life. It is much more than just an object.

‘’I agree with you that with the explosion of these gadgets and their aggressive approach is certainly going to impact our industry, but only up to a certain extent, most probably from the purchasing power point of view and how people chose to spend their money.’’ Mr Torres said. ‘’Ýou saw the disappointment generated by the 3D Tvs, so I am not so sure about the long term success of all these technologies’’

As for retail expansion, Mr Torres told me: ’’Yes, mono-brand boutiques are indeed important, but right now we are focusing on after sale customer service. In many countries around the world, we have more points of service than boutiques or sales points’. Building trust is at the core of the long term relationship we establish with our customers. Retail has to be an addition and not a means to achieve that’’

On the most important markets and what will be the key markets of growth in the future for Vacheron Constantin, Mr Torres said ‘’China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore remain priority markets, along, of course with long time established markets like the U.S. or the U.K.’’

In respect to marketing and communications, Vacheron Constantin has had a consistent message, however, in the past years, I pointed to Mr Torres that I noticed a slow-down in exposure for the brand. ‘’Communication is indeed key to our future. It is extremely important that we do not copy what has already been done before. We need to find new ways and new channels, but this will not necessarily be achieved by the traditional marketing instruments. What is the ideal strategic approach to marketing and advertising, at the moment ? We are countinously pondering and reflect very carefully on this’’

What do you think has been the success behind your long standing career at Vacheron Constantin? Mr Torres: ‘’I can feel my people, I not only see them but I also understand them. I pay attention and I listen’’

Oliver Petcu in Geneva