Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Transfer Window Has Openend...

At Eterna/Corum.  Word trickled down to the Boston Metro area, and after a week of useless effort, we finally got two sources of confirmation (albeit not official) but if the rumblings are true, it would seem that the Widowmaker has struck again, and Jérôme Biard will be exploring career opportunities outside of the gates of La Chaux-de-Fonds.  Making this an even shorter tenure than the last few predecessors.  What the reasons for the rather short period in charge are (at least to the team at Tempus Fugit HQ) unclear, it would seem that the catamaran that is Eterna/Corum is once again without a captain.

Now before you all start rolling your eyes, and click out to go read the "feelgood" tripe over at some of the other sites, I would beg your indulgence.  I know that I can be a bit of a "henki-raincloud" but I also think it might be time to stop (collectively) clapping like seals when a brand dangles a shiny new celebrity partner, a fancy new tourbillon, or treats our favorite instafamous personalies (i.e. not you) for a fun night out at the SIHH and instead face some realities.

The watch industry is still very much in turmoil.  Think I'm full of it?  Even the smiling swells over at that other outlet that starts with an H have indicated that, in fact, the outcome from the SIHH was not nearly as rosy as might be hoped after they (the SIHH) had hosed BaselWorld out of some of their shining stars over the past few years.  Curious to relate, watch brands actually need to sell actual watches to actual clients that have actual customers who will actually buy said watch.  And actually?  Said people were not exactly abundant in the halls of Geneva.

Here's another fun factoid - the majority of watches sold in the world are (brace yourself) not covered by the majority of the watch media, because, well, they're junk.  Or at least that's what we believe, and try to have you believe.  But also curious to relate, one person's junk is another person's treasure.  I have met many people who still treasure their base metal Timex owing to the personal connection that they have to the watch.  Another fun fact that is probably lost on the Commerce Secretary of the US, as it would have been on another watch fan - Marie Antoinette, is that the majority of watches bought and sold in the world are WAY less expensive than those sold by Richemont, SWATCH Group, or in this case Eterna and Corum.  

And I promise, this is where I tie it together ; )

When you are making (albeit through third-party assemblers) marketing (and hopefully) selling something that nobody needs, you need to actually focus on all of the things surrounding the watch.  As my old master sales sensei (Javi Perrigo) used to remind me - "You have to romance the watch".  A watch, in and of itself, is merely a device to tell time (assuming it's working correctly and the rotor hasn't disengaged itself from the movement proper and is bouncing around the case).  Now obviously, a big part of that is down to marketing.  But another big part of that is the "feeling" of and for the brand with the general public, and that is not an "instafamous" thing.  A quick personal example - I am going to purchase an "instant" camera for BaselWorld so that I can get a quick shot of watches of interest during visits, print them out immediately and tape them into my notebook along with the pertinents so that when I review the digital images, it will all be familiar.  Now I could buy a less-expensive model, but truth be told I have had my eye on Leica's Sofort.  It is easily twice as expensive as other brand's models (which relatively speaking is still pretty low), it works just as well as models that Fuji makes for half the price, but it still speaks to me.  Part of this is the actual product design, part of this is the Leica history (which is silly, because I have been led to understand that under the paint, it is the same thing that Fuji will sell me for 50% less).  But yet I still want it.

Think about that for a moment, and then I think that why some brands succeed and others perpetually choke on the bone becomes clear.  Leica knows their market, and they communicate in a way that is understandable and inclusive.  Eterna and Corum in many ways have everything that they need to not merely survive, but to thrive.  Rich histories, strong model identity and they have at one time or another had some very smart people working for them.  But where they have perpetually fallen in the shit is ego, avarice and discontent.  And that has been not just down to the various CEOs, although they have certainly contributed.  No, it is cultural, and at this point?  Both brands need a corporate cultural enema.  Previously it was easy to blame a CEO, or Chinese ownership, etc.  But it bears mentioning that you can change owners, change directors, but the end results tend to be the same.  When Severin Wunderman took over Corum, he created a new spirit, a new identity, a new way to do things.  He was the colonic flush that the brand needed.

And when we get to the million dollar question, who should be next?  There is one guy out there that I KNOW could turn it around.  A fellow who could adjust the sails of that catamaran trapped in the doldrums, and fill the sails with the winds of change, hope and success.

And if the folks at CityChamp wants to know who that guy is?  Give me a call, I won't even charge you a referral fee ; )

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