Yann confirmed that after the first week at the fair, the brand was very active and was seeing a few people going in the same direction as Glashütte: more stainless steel and a few vintage watches, which are already part of the brand’s DNA. For a German brand whose currency is the Euro, it seems not to have incurred the wrath the Swiss Franc depreciation: “We are not affected. Our issue lies more in being able to cope with the demand, as we do not have enough watches for the demand today. We’ve grown our production drastically but it’s still a small quantity. We are a niche, nice, little German alternative to the big Swiss industry, and at the moment, although we’ve doubled our capacity and our sales over the past five years, we still have a six months back-log with our customers. So fortunately or unfortunately, it doesn’t affect us.
“No compromise on quality.”
Q: With the high demand continuing to grow, are you forced to compromise a bit on quality?
A: We cannot afford to compromise on quality because the first element in our DNA is German high precision, high quality and high expectation. Our customers have that as a forefront element. Elegance and attention to detail are important. We have gone from one manufactory to three, and we still can’t meet demand. To be honest, it’s easier to build manufactories and buy machines than it is to train the people that operate them. We have tripled our production capacity in terms of number of people but we’ve hardly doubled the output because it takes a very long time to train a watchmaker, a toolmaker and a mechanic.
Q: How long does it take you to work on developing a movement?
A: Traditionally, the development of a simple movement is three years. Development of a complicated movement can be up to six years. Then, parallel to developing the movement, we also work on the case and dial. So I’d say anywhere from 3-6 years.
Q: Who did you have in mind when you created the Original Senator Cosmopolite travel watch?
A: Can I cheat on my answer? Apple! Apple was on our mind. Because we knew 5 years ago they were going to produce a consumer electronic device that would tell time. We’ve been working on the concept of a time zone for the last 8 or 9 years. We came up with a very exclusive series with the Tourbillon 3 years ago, tested the waters at a very exclusive rate and saw a good response. So we decided then to really take it seriously. The first pieces are expected around the beginning of winter, and will surely be available in the Middle East where we have some of our top points of sales.
Q: Speaking of the Middle East, how is it responding to all of the brands? And how do you see the clients there?
A: The Middle East is responding well. We’re quite happy! We’re fortunate in a way because we sell a very high-end piece at a very reasonable price. People want to be taken more and more seriously with their watch purchases. At a point in time, they purchased watches to make a “bling bling” statement, but nowadays when they buy a watch, they spend time and careful consideration on it. We see that at our boutiques when people visit us between three and seven times with their spouse and have a whole discussion about the purchase. It’s an investment. The Middle East clients are quite sophisticated. Because of the resources available in the area, they are difficult to attract. Once you manage to interest them, they are beautiful wearers. We have a couple of strong collectors there and they display our watches with pride. We’re happy to be part of it.
Q: Talking of statements, a watch is a statement today. With a very discreet brand like Glashütte, do you think it can still make a big statement?
A: I think the Glashütte Original wearer belongs to a club of connoisseurs. That by itself is a statement. Also, the brand name now means something to people. The fact that it is German high-end quality and a decent alternative to Swiss high-end watchmaking helps.
When asked about the challenges Glashütte faces in always insisting on maintaining a very reasonable price for a very high-end product and with very little marketing, Gamard explained that the brand spends less on marketing because it prefers to reflect the quality in the product by offering a high-end piece of qualitative substance at a reasonable, sincere price. “It’s our strategy, it’s our philosophy,” he stated. And it is aligned with the Hayek family’s wish that the brand be positioned at the entry price point of the prestige market. “That’s where we are and that’s where we’re enjoying ourselves.” The only challenge Yann sees is that he needs to have customers talking about Glashütte, without spending much on marketing, but that seems to be remedied by the large number of “Libharbors” as he described it, or aficionados in English. “A lot of people love, appreciate and talk about us. We now have a good, sound basis for being represented in the world. And that grows naturally.”
“Blue is the new black.”
A: If you ask the traditional sales guy, he’d love to have a lot more references so he can frontload the retailer. If you ask us, in general, we think we have given consumers a good choice. First of all, we come up with a movement. And it’s not easy to come up with a movement. It takes a lot of work for us. So it’s a major event and a major celebration for us. Then, because we have a dial manufacture, we also exercise this expertise and do some playful work on the dials. And since blue is the new black, we’ve managed to finally stabilize this blue. We’ve presented our iconic pieces in the beautiful blue dial, or the gold version in a beautiful black dial which enables us to play with the light. Then we presented the fantastic Observer with the boosted luminova so you can actually see it at night. We also featured new numerals and new aesthetics. Two years ago, when we launched a ladies line, we were a little bit alone in doing that because the trade did not believe in it. Now we’re launching some extensions and everybody wants to be part of that. So it’s working phenomenally!
Yann confessed the movement is his favourite novelty: “For me, the celebration is in the beautiful piece.” After the wearer tells the watch five things: location, time, season, date and whether it’s night or day, the watch will function on his or her wrist all the time. It will act as a companion, providing crucial information. The other little subtle advantage is that it doesn’t need to be recharged every day. Its value will increase over the years. And when asked how he describes the Glashütte client in one word, Yann declared enthusiastically: “Connoisseur. For me, he’s a connoisseur. Libharbor is the German word. He’s really a Libharbor!”
The Swatch Group offers Glashütte great support.
There are one or two companies within the Swatch Group that are professionals at producing some of the pieces. The brand could eventually do it all in-house, but it would probably not be at the same level of quality or pricing. Glashütte is supplied by and receives a lot of support from the Swatch Group, whether financially or in terms on brand development. From a distribution standpoint, the Swatch Group has a global worldwide network which Glashütte didn’t have before. “They’ve also helped from an engineering and a creative standpoint as we develop our watches together with them.” There are many collaborations happening between the sides and Glashütte is definitely enjoy that. “I think they enjoy it too because if they didn’t, we wouldn’t be seated here centrally in the Swatch Group plaza. So I think somewhere they love the relationship with us and we love being part of the Swatch Group,” he added with a hint of humour. Mr. Hayek has also helped redo and re-launch the museum of Glashütte and the city of Glashütte. To create a bond between the watch and client, the brand has been organizing a manufactory visit system as customers want to experience and understand what goes into making their watches. A bit more than 1,000 out of the 7,000 yearly visit requests can be satisfied.
On where he sees the brand in 5 years, Gamard hopes not to have 6 months of back orders and that most of the demand will be satisfied by then although it takes a long time to train people to produce superb watches at this level. He wished that the brand continues to present beautiful watches at a sincere price. His final message for Middle East watch collectors and enthusiasts? “Let us talk to you. Let us try and entice you into the world of our beautiful watches and have you wear them. We’d like to see you wear them.”