January 31, 2017
by Bilal Khan
Today, we received the news that the CEOs of Jaeger-LeCoultre, Vacheron Constantin, Piaget, and fashion brand Alfred Dunhill (who used to make watches but, I believe, do not anymore) are leaving their respective brands in spring of this year. Philippe Leopold-Metzger of Piaget and Juan-Carlos Torres of Vacheron are retiring while Daniel Riedo of Jaeger-LeCoultre and Fabrizio Cardinali of Alfred Dunhill have “decided to leave” their positions.
Back in November 2016, the Richemont Group began the process of untangling and simplifying a bloated corporate structure by dissolving their CEO & CFO positions at Richemont HQ and appointed IWC CEO Georges Kern as head of watchmaking, marketing, and digital for all the Richemont brands and appointed Montblanc CEO Jerome Lambert as head of operations. The shakeup also came with a warning from Richemont Executive Chairman and controlling shareholder Johann Rupert that “Underperforming brands need to be fixed or sold.”
Though Richemont had an inarguably bleak 2016, they ended the year with revenues up 6% from the end of 2015 due to a spike in jewelry sales. At SIHH 2017, we saw a significant focus on ladies’ watches and pieces that serve a dual function as jewelry and timepiece, as well as an ever-stronger focus on vintage re-releases amidst brands discontinuing many of their more modern collections. In fact, Cartier’s reintroduction of the Panthere de Cartier is billed as “Jewelry first, timepiece second.”
Going back to November, Johann Rupert said “I want to see less grey men, less grey Frenchmen, as a subcategory,” adding “We have too few women. We don’t have enough diversity.” Keeping this in mind, we see Piaget is to be headed by Chabi Nouri who is their current Marketing Director (her corporate bio states her focus has been on jewelry and the brand’s heritage) and formerly worked as Cartier International Jewelry Group Manager. Her rise to the role of Piaget CEO is likely to send a signal to the markets that, along with the increased focus on ladies’ pieces like the Panthere de Cartier, the “too few women” concern is being addressed as well as the intention to seize on global jewelry sales at Richemont.
Vacheron Constantin will gain Louis Ferla as CEO, who is also the current Marketing Director at the brand, placing another younger marketing expert at the top rather than some other long-serving watch brand CEO who is likely steeped in the Swiss culture and out of touch with the needs of the brand as it comes to delivering the products buyers want. Previous to being at Vacheron Constantin, Ferla worked as Managing Director, Cartier Middle East and India and then as CEO of Cartier China. Considering Vacheron’s popularity in China, Richemont is probably hoping Ferla’s experience and time spent in the region will recalibrate and strengthen the brand’s position.
Jaeger-LeCoultre hasn’t announced a new CEO and it looks like Georges Kern is going to serve as interim CEO for the time being. As for Alfred Dunhill, Andrew Maag, who is head of Europe, Middle East, India and Africa at Burberry Group will be taking the CEO role.
Personally, I hope the Richemont Group is able to be flexible enough to capitalize on their various brands’ strengths in the current market while also addressing the needs of the watch-enthusiast community that have been patrons for years. Or maybe boutiques will become jewelry stores with a small watch section in the back, like the men’s section at a luxury department store. richemont.com