For over a decade now, Mr. Stephane Waser has been at Swiss watchmaker Maurice Lacroix. Today he sits as the historic brand’s Managing Director. As a luxury timepiece brand, Maurice Lacroix has been intelligently re-imagining itself over the last few years. It has had to, just like many of the major names in fine timepieces. The world is changing and, along with it, wristwatch appetites and purchase habits.
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Maurice Lacroix redirect its attention on timepiece enthusiasts, as well as mainstream consumers, with products that appeal to both categories with equal force. Maurice Lacroix has also taken seriously the mandate to become more relevant with younger consumers. This is being manifested both in the brand’s products, as well as its marketing. In this latter respect, Maurice Lacroix is taking some interesting chances I don’t think I’d see from other brands. Most recently is their Time Code initiative, which is really a sort of mixed digital and real-world scavenger hunt. People (with free time) do enjoy fun activities that allow them to both socialize and win cool stuff (like a nice Swiss-made wristwatch).
From a product perspective, I have a good understanding of what Maurice Lacroix is doing today, but I was curious to learn more about its overall strategy and where top management is taking the brand. The hot Maurice Lacroix products today are mostly in the Aikon collection, which has really interesting products and the entry point all the way to the rather original Aikon Mercury with its entertaining “trick hands.” Allow me to thank Mr. Waser for taking the time to speak with me and the aBlogtoWatch audience. Let’s see what he had to say below:Ariel Adams (AA): Time Code is an interesting marketing promotion developed for Maurice Lacroix that has run at least a few times now. Tell us what Time Code is, who came up with it, and what it has done for Maurice Lacroix.
Stéphane Waser (SW): The #TimeCode race against time follows the success of last year’s #CHASEYOURWATCH, a digital and interactive game. We decided to, once again, embrace a social gaming strategy, offering the brand’s fans a new concept, an online and offline race against time. The lucky contestants have the chance of winning the new AIKON Venturer #TimeCode along with an array of other prizes. The principle is simple: one week, one city somewhere in the world, and various clues to solve in order to collect as many #TimeCodes as possible.
In each chosen city, a lucky contestant will win the new AIKON Venturer #TimeCode. Maurice Lacroix’s objective with this promotional strategy is to engage with millennials, fans of this type of concept, and bring the brand and its target audience closer together. Soon, #TimeCode will be in New York, from October 17 to 24. Readers should feel free to register for the game on Maurice Lacroix’s website in order to have the opportunity to win. You definitely need to try this game, you’ll see, it’s addictive!
AA: The last few years has seen Maurice Lacroix as a watch brand change, but many consumers probably find it difficult to point exactly what is different. What can you tell me about how as a company and as a product designed Maurice Lacroix has recently evolved?
SW: Yes, Maurice Lacroix has changed! When I joined Maurice Lacroix in 2008, the product portfolio was, to be honest, inconsistent. There was a mix of styles from very traditional watches to overtly modern designs. I think it was difficult for our customers to assimilate our collection and what the company stood for.
The brand had, at the time, been re-positioned at high price points, above CHF 10,000.
After our attempt to enter the high-end watch segment, we left our existing customers feeling confused and unsure of what Maurice Lacroix stood for.
In 2016, we launched the AIKON collection. At the time, we lacked an iconic product and a strong collection which everyone could identify with as a Maurice Lacroix. The AIKON is a descendant of the Calypso, our flagship model of the 1980s. We rejuvenated its design codes, but refined its appearance for a modern audience.
Since the launch, AIKON has been an incredible success thanks to its high perceived value and attractive price-quality offer. This shows that we are succeeding in capturing the attention of our customers!
AA: It is important to know your customers when wanting to speak to them, as well as when wanting to design products for them. From what you have learned, what types of people mostly make up Maurice Lacroix customers, and what is it that they like about the brand which you might be able to share with other types of consumers?
SW: Our customers are predominantly young, connected to the world, open-minded, educated, adventurous. They are often categorized as “millennials.” We know this information through the extensive use of market research we’ve done. They are drawn to Maurice Lacroix because we offer great designs with high perceived value.
AA: Maurice Lacroix seems to be somewhere between an independently run brand and one controlled by a parent group. Help watch-lovers understand who makes product and marketing decisions at Maurice Lacroix and what the people who are calling the shots are interested in these days.
SW: Maurice Lacroix was acquired by DKSH (a multi-brand group) in 2011. The product and marketing decisions are made at the brand level by Maurice Lacroix. DKSH has been a strong support, and has invested in our growth.
AA: With the Aikon collection Maurice Lacroix has a modern hit. Other well-meaning models from recent years didn’t do as well despite also having good designs. What did you learn about the success of the Aikon collection that you feel other Maurice Lacroix product collections can learn from?
SW: It is true that AIKON has been a great success for the brand. With AIKON, we took our time developing designs without rushing them to the market. To build a sustainable collection over the long term, it is necessary to go step-by-step, consistently incorporating the same design codes across all of the collection. Furthermore, we have been bold and unafraid of taking risks. It is necessary to be courageous in order to surprise consumers and gain their loyalty.
Ultimately, it is our customers who pay our salaries, hence we should always put them at the center of everything we do.
I also think it is important to avoid projects which are too innovative and remote from the needs of our clientele. Just because we can make a particular watch, doesn’t necessarily mean we should.
We commission market research with consumers and hold exploratory focus groups with retailers and distributors. In short, the key to success is to take the time to think and never forget to listen to the consumers, retailers and distributors. In the end of day, a great product is a product that sells!
AA: Finally, tell watch enthusiasts what Maurice Lacroix has in store for them in terms of exciting products that collectors and similarly minded consumers should look forward to on the horizon. Might Maurice Lacroix continue to evolve as a brand for timepiece enthusiasts?
SW: Well, I can’t tell you all of our secrets, otherwise we won’t have any surprises to show you next year! However, I am willing to provide some hints of what lies in store over the coming months.
This autumn we are releasing a watch that everyone has been keen to see, the AIKON Mercury. This watch features a Manufacture movement and incorporates much patented know-how. The behavior of the model’s hour and minute hands is very unusual and unlike anything seen before. I will not spoil the surprise.
What I can reveal is that the AIKON Mercury has been selected for the Grand Prix d’ Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) in the Petite Aiguille category. In addition, Maurice Lacroix has created an evolution of the AIKON Mercury, a unique piece specially designed for Only Watch 2019. This watch features a titanium case and is suffused with the charity’s blue colors. It’s a superb piece.
We recently launched the AIKON 35 mm, the first Automatic AIKON watch created for women. In the near future, we will also welcome a new addition to the Masterpiece collection.
AA: Maurice Lacroix recently announced their return to Baselworld in 2020. This is amidst a few years of news about brands leaving. You and I both agree that Baselworld has tremendous value to the watch industry, but some members of the public seems to feel that Baselworld has an existential crisis. Can you please explain to a experienced watch consumer audience what Baselworld does for a company like Maurice Lacroix business-wise, and how that need will continue tomorrow even though your team now needs to also travel to lots of individual markets around the globe?
SW: As you know, the Baselworld organization has a new team with the objective to reinvent itself. We had in the last year numerous discussions on our expectations of a fair in 2020 and what was important to us to commercialize our watches in international fairs and events. Undeniably, Baselworld is and remains the only international platform of the watch industry. Reintegrating it into our global roadshow program seemed to us efficient and what they offered was meeting the brief.
Commercially, they have been able to reinvent themselves by proposing a modern concept: The Community District. Brands no longer need to build booths and invest into infrastructure — everything is done to make our lives easier on the organization side so that we, brands, can focus on our core business, which is selling watches. It is this modern vision that has seduced us.
Based on our ambition to innovate, I would say tuned to Maurice Lacroix’s website as we will never stop creating new, exciting, quality and well-crafted creations.’