Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Few Minutes with Alain Zimmermann

Baume et Mercier is one of the oldest watch brands out there. Alain Zimmermann is the CEO, and he was kind enough to spare some time to talk about life, watches and Baume et Mercier.

And now, a few minutes with Alain Zimmermann -
Courtesy of Baume et Mercier
James Henderson - What was your first watch?  Was it a gift?  Is there a story behind it?

Alain Zimmermann - My first watch was actually a Hampton quartz with a white dial and an amazing “racing green” strap.  I loved that watch at first sight and have been really proud of wearing it!  I bought it in 1996 and that was representing a significant investment at that time.  I still keep this watch which reminds me of a great time! 

JH - When you were a boy, what did you want to be "when you grew up?"

AZ - When I was a child, I wanted to become a surgeon!  Then during my school years and studies, I have discovered a passion for the international, the travels and more generally speaking for the business jobs. That’s how I have decided to start what I am doing today.

JH - Where did you go to school?  What did you study?

AZ - After graduating from the Business School of Reims (CESEM) in France and the Reutlingen University in Germany, I started my professional career, in 1989, at the L’Oreal Group and then joined the Richemont Group  in 1995 (Cartier).

JH - What was your first job in the "real world"?

AZ - I went to work for the L’Oreal Group in Germany in 1989 (to 1995) and held various sales and marketing positions for the Prestige Brand Entity.  This was for me a wonderful way to enter the luxury universe, thanks to licensed fragrances such as Paloma Picasso, Armani, Ralph Lauren… and also a great business experience to learn about brand management, from sell in to sell out and how marketing and merchandising support is needed to be successful at retail.

JH - How did you get started in the watch industry?

AZ - I had the pleasure of joining the Richemont Group in the mid 1990’s, working for Cartier on various product lines including watches.  I continued with Cartier until 2002 and then joined IWC as the Area Sales Manager for Asia, Middle-East and Switzerland and later as International Marketing Director.  I have been appointed as Chief Executive Officer for Baume & Mercier in 2009, and my knowledge, enthusiasm and love for timepieces is called upon every day.

JH - A lot of people don't realize it, but Baume & Mercier is one of the longest established members of the Richemont Group.  What do you feel has given it such staying power?

AZ - Baume & Mercier enjoys being the 7th oldest watch brand in the world, and is recognized as one of the founding pillars of the Swiss watchmaking industry!  Founded in 1830, the brand has always and continues to be committed to its founder’s motto “Accept only perfection.  Only manufacture watches of the highest quality.”  With a clear vision and direction, Baume & Mercier indeed offers consumers around the world a Swiss Made watch that is classic and timeless in its design and a high quality at an affordable price.

The Clifton collection, the Maison’s 2013 newest addition, represents a milestone in Baume & Mercier history. Inspired by the 50’s, this collection reinforces our presence in the segment of round  masculine, classic elegant timepiece, and at the same time, leverage our watch making legitimacy inherited from the 183 years of history.

Courtesy of Baume et Mercier

JH - Baume et Mercier is in many ways the "shy, quiet" girl at the dance - considering her more flamboyant sisters (Panerai, Vacheron, IWC and others), yet Baume et Mercier is oftentimes more visible to the customer - what would you say is the Baume et Mercier message?

AZ - Interesting point of view!  I wouldn’t necessary describe Baume & Mercier as a “shy” girl at the dance for we are confident in our heritage and watch collection offerings and are proud that our watches are very often purchased to commemorate and celebrate a milestone moment or special occasion in our customers’ lives.  Perhaps our "understatedness" could be mistaken for shy and quiet, however, we have been worn on the wrists of consumers around the globe for more than 180 years so yes, our visibility may indeed be greater.

JH - What is Baume et Mercier's strongest market right now?

AZ - As a global brand, all markets are important to us, be it Europe, USA or more recently Asia.

JH - I realize it might be hard to choose, but what is your favorite model?

AZ - It depends on the occasion! When I wear casual/sport clothes, I like to get the Capeland watch (ref 10065), on my wrist. It's got a 44mm diameter with a blue dial and alligator strap.

Courtesy of Baume et Mercier
When I want to be more elegant, I often choose between the Capeland-ref 10006, a 44mm case with an off white dial and Blued steel hands, powered by a self-winding mechanical movement with a flyback chronograph function.

Courtesy of Baume et Mercier
I also might opt for one piece from the new Clifton collection.  The Clifton 1830-ref 10060, as the collection cornerstone, is an elegant 42mm piece crafted from an ingot of 18K red gold, with refined finishes and a manufacture caliber adapted for Baume & Mercier by the La Joux-Perret Manufacture.  In the same collection, I also appreciate wearing a piece from the core collection-ref 10052-, a 41mm automatic reference with a silver-colored dial.

JH - Who is the Baume & Mercier customer?

AZ - The Baume & Mercier customer is a man or a woman who is celebrating a special milestone or occasion in their life or in the life of a loved one.  This includes birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, the birth of a child, religious rite of passage, job promotion and so much more.  They purchase a Baume & Mercier, and in many cases, choose to engrave it, to mark the moment with a symbol of time, elegance and classic design.  For our customers, Baume & Mercier is recognized as a safe choice and a trusted brand.  We also place a strong importance to our after-sales service.  We do restoration work and get requests all the time. Sometimes it is a watch left by a grandparent or a parent who has recently passed away; it is quite emotional.  We never say no and we always try to find a way.

JH - What are some of the challenges that Baume et Mercier is facing?

AZ - The challenges that Baume & Mercier is facing are not unique to our brand, but rather challenges being faced by many in the watch industry.  Our category of business continues to remain highly competitive- not just with the watch brands who have been in business for a number of years, but the fashion brands that are entering the watch business who sell on brand affinity with less attention to quality and price point.  We must continue to emphasize the benefits of a Swiss Made watch with 183 years of solid reputation and know-how, and still retain the same spirit, loyal to the motto of our founders: “Accept only perfection, only manufacture watches of the highest quality”.  This is how we will all be successful! 

JH - What do you like to do in your spare time?

AZ - I get great joy from spending time with my wife and children. We love to ski and travel together.

JH - If you weren't doing this, what do you think you might be doing?

AZ - I've never thought about it as I love what I do!

JH - What advice do you have for new CEOs in the watch industry?

AZ - Have conviction. Listen more than you speak. Accept new challenges. Learn from what doesn’t go as well as you want it to. Be surrounded by a great team. You can be successful only as a team!

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