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Here is what he had to say about Breitling’s exquisite watchmaking and the brand’s latest launches, the Exospace B55 and the Avenger Hurricane. Breitling‘s Vice-President, Jean-Paul Girardin, shared his insightful thoughts with us on the innovative technology and creativity infused by the brand in its horology masterpieces.
In the current scenario, how easy or difficult is it for Breitling to focus on creativity and innovation?
I think staying focused on creativity and innovation is the best way to be able to fight and be more competitive in such a difficult situation. If you continue to innovate by bringing new products, improving the performance as well as the aesthetics of the products, and bringing new material as we do, I think it’s the best way to be successful in a difficult environment.
You launched the AvengerHurricane featuring a special material called the Breitlight. Is that one example of how you’re working in the current scenario?
Exactly, innovation is not the only one, but it’s one of the physical factors [required] to be successful with a brand like Breitling because innovation is a kind of tradition at Breitling and this year we are innovating in terms of new material, as you might have seen at the Basel fair this year. Breitlight is a very strong, yet very light material that appears in a specific watch—the Avenger Hurricane. And we are also innovative in terms of new material to improve the performance of our in-house mechanical chronograph movement using our engineers at our laboratory partner called Chronoworks®, where we present each year very advanced mechanical movements. For instance, with the Superocean Heritage Chronoworks®, we have been able to improve the power reserve from 70 to 100 hours.
While the debate is still on that the smartwatch is not really a threat to watchmakers, what’s your point of view on this?
We don’t see this new technology as a threat; we see it as an opportunity. First of all, the people wearing smartwatches, many of them were not wearing watches before. So they had to choose, especially the young generation. Now, they have something on their wrists, and that’s very positive. Maybe in other circumstances, they could be wearing something other
than a smartwatch, it could be a classical luxury mechanical watch. And for Breitling, we see it as a very good opportunity—again, to improve the functionality of our product. And we presented last year the first Breitling smartwatch. It’s not a smartphone on the wrist; in fact, we designed it exactly the other way around. We used this technology to improve the functionality of the real Breitling Chronograph watch. Firstly, we used the userfriendliness of the smartphone to improve the functionality of the Exospace B55. We launched it at the end of last year in New York, and now it’s available worldwide. We are really using this connectivity in the Breitling way to improve the functionality of the Breitling Chronograph. So for us, the new technology is really not a threat, but an opportunity for Breitling products.
Speaking of the worldwide launch for the Exospace B55, do you have any special plans for India and what’s on your agenda?
India has been a key market for Breitling because historically, Breitling had a good presence in India. Also, the Indian customers are very knowledgeable in watchmaking, they travel so they know about Breitling. The plan is not yet finalised, but for sure, we’ll have something for India.
One of Breitling’s USPs is that it continues to associate with aviation. It’s a core part of its legacy and you too have a pilot’s license.
Yes, I’m a pilot (laughs). I fly only helicopters, but I do have a license. For Breitling, it’s a long history—the relationship between Breitling and aviation started 80 years ago. With the products, we develop technical watches, chronographs as well as the legacy of the brand—these are some of the pillars of Breitling. For us, aviation is not just talking about aviation; it’s really a way of life and our owner Mr Schneider also flies. We have many pilots within Breitling, so it’s really a part of our daily lives.
The last time we spoke, you mentioned that besides pilots,there are other professionals like lawyers, who are connoisseurs of the brand. What about the new customer; the one who may not be as aware of the brand? How do you think Breitling is going to appeal to them?
I think by having a strong communication about our innovation. On the one hand, if you look at the Exospace B55 connected watch, we have many comments and interest from newcomers, new customers who say, ‘We are more interested in Technical electronic devices that also offer performance’. On the other hand, if you look at the more established customers, we also notice there’s more and more interest in the partnership with Bentley, which is now more than 12 years old. This is the core range of Breitling customers. We are also looking to new customers in terms of the Exospace B55. And on the more exclusive segment, which is Breitling for Bentley, we also attract people who are new customers.
Clearly, the association has paid off, but how much of a role does word of mouth play in all of this?
In 2016, compared to 15 years ago, the way of communication about the brand, its retail, and the features of various Breitling projects has changed a lot. You had billboards, some advertising in newspapers and weekly magazines. Now of course, word of mouth is very important, especially with social media and the internet—everything is available almost immediately. We can call this word of mouth, but it’s very important to be present in this kind of media, so we can generate interest in our products through these new ways of communication.
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