Replacing another Patrick (Hoffmann, CEO of the brand from 2011 to 2017), Patrick Pruniaux could easily be qualified as a luxury expert – watch expert, of course, but not only. He forms part of the new generation of CEOs who know about the watchmaking industry but who have also spent years outside of this microcosm. From the Wine and Spirit division of LVMH, followed by several positions at TAG Heuer, Patrick crossed the Atlantic in 2014 to take up his position as a member of the Special Projects team at Apple, in Cupertino, to prepare the launch of the Apple Watch. He was then promoted to the position of Managing Director for UK & Ireland in 2015 and was also a member of Apple EMEA Executive Committee. He finally joined Kering Group in September 2017 as Chief Executive Officer of Ulysse Nardin. Today, the 2.0 luxury CEO talks to us about the future of Ulysse Nardin.
MONOCHROME: What have been your main tasks at Ulysse Nardin after joining the company a few months ago? How has the road been so far?
Patrick Pruniaux: I have been following Ulysse Nardin since I started in the watch industry. I have always thought there was a mystique around this brand. It is a sort of hidden gem, the best-kept secret. In addition, it has not been “damaged” or overused. There is no brand fatigue; it’s the other way around. I arrived at Ulysse Nardin in September 2017 and, indeed, I discovered a company with many assets. The foundations are there: incredible products, stunning expertise, integrated manufacture, motivated teams and great heritage. The thing, which I see as both an asset, as well as a challenge, is that the brand is not that familiar to the public, although it is well known to watch connoisseurs. We have not put enough effort into marketing, placing too much emphasis on investing in the manufacture in the past. Now is the time to tell a little more about our values and what matters to us. It is important that we make sure the public learn more about the brand and we need to improve the storytelling and to create the dream around our products.
MONO: What are your priorities with regards to the product? What are the key evolutions to expect with the UN collection?
PP: We have to make sure our offer is consistent and we are aiming for best-sellers. As we say in Le Locle: we owe our client to “under promise and over deliver”.
We have simplified and reorganised our product offer around five collections, five pillars: on one side, the FREAK and the EXECUTIVE, where we put all our pioneering developments and crazy innovations, such as silicium technology or the new grinder rewinding system in the FREAK VISION, for instance. On the other side, the CLASSIC, the MARINE and the DIVER, which are a more elegant or sporty chic offer, heritage and marine-themed, with refined enamel dials or Automatons with Grandes Sonneries, for instance.
MONO: Kering has just released its 2018 Q1 results commenting on the good performance of its watch brands. What are the key factors to strengthen Ulysse Nardin’s business?
PP: We are fortunate to have several pillars in our watch offer that fuel our growth, from the Marine and Torpilleur models (including its Tourbillon) all the way up to Freak or some Haute Horlogerie timepieces. To strengthen the trend, we are also coming out soon with a new brand platform, with a new, audacious twist.
You will see, this new visual identity accompanies a global strategy in which the world of the ocean remains at the forefront of the brand expression. Stay tuned!
MONO: Ulysse Nardin is part of Kering group. What are the synergies at Group level? (on the production/manufacturing side and between the watch manufactures)
PP: Kering Group is really respecting each brand’s identity, heritage and expertise. Being part of the Kering group stimulates our creativity as well as we learn and get inspired by all brands, from all different sectors, including fashion.
In addition, the Kering group is promoting sustainable industry practices and to us, Ulysse Nardin, the watchmaker of the seas, we are very concerned by conservations issues and it is a natural choice to be responsible and eco-friendly. For example, our recent alliance with Fred Buyle contributes to raising awareness through ocean explorations. We strongly support Fred, a free diver and underwater photographer, in his explorations in the watery depths.
MONO: The Freak is the essence of the UN innovation. Can you tell us more about the evolution of the collection and the new models?
PP: Over the past two decades, Ulysse Nardin has worked diligently to create engineering masterpieces while pushing the boundaries of traditional watchmaking. Freak has always been considered as the “laboratory on the wrist”, the collection dedicated primarily to receive the numerous brand innovations. We are using our innovations as early as possible in our current collection because we believe in their advantages for the wearer of the watch. The Freak universe is widening and I want to continue in that direction in the future.
Mid-April, we have launched a stunning new collection of four new Titanium FREAK OUT timepieces with a retail price of CHF 48,000. A revolution on your wrist – no crown, no dial, no hands and the time indicated thanks to the baguette movement.
MONO: You have worked on the launch of the Apple watch, what have you learned from this experience?
PP: My Apple experience may help me sometimes step back from a pure watchmaker’s perspective and help facilitate, with the rest of the teams, a fresh view on things.
Just to give you an example, when I arrived at Apple before the launch of the Apple Watch, I was told: “we’re going to make a personal object and, by the way, it is going to be worn on the wrist so we may call it a watch”. Apple taught me that you actually could do what you want to do with any product. I have a much broader view now.
But to be honest, this spirit already existed as well at Ulysse Nardin in a different manner. This way of thinking is probably the trademark of the brands that are true innovators… and Ulysse Nardin has historically been one of them, that’s why I am glad and honoured to lead this brand.