The CEO of LVMH watchmaking division tells STYLE why Tag Heuer picked Shanghai for its Chinese launch and how the Monaco accounts for 20 per cent of French sales
The latest instalment in our On Work series with luxury CEOs. This month: Stephane Bianchi, CEO of LVMH watchmaking division and CEO of TAG Heuer
This year, TAG Heuer marks 50 years of the Monaco. Stephane Bianchi, CEO of LVMH watchmaking division and CEO of TAG Heuer, reveals the reason for its lasting popularity, and why one of the anniversary models was launched in Shanghai.
China is a country that inspires us. It's always innovating. There is a lot of tradition but the country's always looking aheadStephane Bianchi, CEO of TAG Heuer
Job Experience 2018-present: Head of the watch division at LVMH MoEt Hennessy Louis Vuitton and chief executive of TAG Heuer
2015-2018: Board member of Maus FrEres, responsible for brands like Lacoste, Gant and Aigle
1998-2015: CEO of cosmetics and beauty brand Yves Rocher
1994-1998: Joined Yves Rocher Group
Why is the Monaco more popular now than ever?
It's been growing in popularity over the past 10 years. It accounts for more than 20 per cent of our sales in France. In 1969, when it was launched, it was not popular at all. It was too different. It was blue " people were not used to having blue dials; they preferred white or black. Having the crown on the left was a crazy thing. Square? Wow! People didn't like it very much at all.
What made it famous was the film ( Le Mans , 1971). Since then, people who love cars and motorsports in Europe have been wearing a TAG Heuer Monaco. Then there is the famous Formula One Grand Prix in Monaco, where every year we speak about the Monaco watch and TAG Heuer. Step by step, it has developed into a real big story. And now it looks modern. It was much too far ahead of its time " and now it's in its time.
Why launch one of the 50th anniversary models in Shanghai?
We started with Monaco, during the Grand Prix, as we couldn't possibly start with another city. Then we went to Le Mans. Again, we had to. Then we went to New York, then Tokyo. Why did we finish with China and Shanghai? It's simple " because China is a country that inspires us. It's always innovating. There is a lot of tradition but the country's always looking ahead. Every time I visit Shanghai it's like a different city, there's something new. From the beginning we thought the most contemporary limited edition should be launched in Shanghai. To us, it's the most contemporary city in the world.
Cara Delevingne is launching the Shanghai edition of the Monaco. How do you choose your brand ambassadors?
Firstly, they have to be loyal to the brand and they have to like the brand. They have to (agree) with our way of doing things. We are a cool brand. Cara is cool. Our ambassador has to be proud to wear our watches and speak freely about the brand. (There has to be) good communication between the brand and the ambassadors.
What are TAG Heuer's strengths as a brand?
It's avant-garde. It's different from the others. Our watches (adopt) a "show me rather than show off" approach. Wearing a TAG Heuer shows who you are. It's for rising achievers. It's not for someone who says, "I've done everything. Now I'm the king and this is my reward." With TAG Heuer it's a never-ending story. Every finish line is a new start line. This is the main difference between TAG Heuer (and other brands).
We are a competitive and challenging brand, always on the move. We're a good match for China, which is also always on the move, always innovating, always going forward. But the brand has to be consistent. We need to have a strategy and stay with that strategy. We shouldn't dilute our brand, otherwise we're not a brand.
What are the personal challenges you face as a CEO?
(I face) the same challenges that every CEO faces " develop the brand, develop new products, make the team successful, make the team understand the strategy. It's about teamwork. It's not one person's work.
I have to get my team on the same page because I can't be in every market. For me, what's most important is teamwork. I've been CEO of a group for the past 20 years and it's always the same challenges " try to make the brand the same everywhere in the world and try to make people understand the brand.
How do you market a mechanical watch when consumers have an eye on smartwatches?
Firstly, we will have a new smartwatch this year. But it's not for the same consumer. A mechanical watch is more than just a tool to read the time. For men, it's like jewellery, it's a way to be different. A mechanical watch is all about precision, detail and shape.
On certain TAG Heuer watches, when you look at the back you can see 350 pieces. There are 130 operations just on the dial. It's a piece of perfection. We can fit so many mechanical pieces in such a tiny space. It's like magic.
Watches can be emotional as well. A watch can be a gift for your wedding or graduation. Whenever you look at it, you see that moment. It's precision, it's emotion, it's beauty. It's everything. It's all in a mechanical watch.
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