After over a decade working at Hamilton HQ, Vivian Stauffer was promoted to the top of the brand’s leadership last July, a challenging time for the whole world due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During Hamilton’s 2021 novelty preview in Biel, we were able to speak with Vivian about strategy amidst a global pandemic, as well as the year’s new products. Challenges and upcoming collections, let’s see where Hamilton is heading for 2021.
Xavier Markl, MONOCHROME – You took the helm at Hamilton as CEO right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. How did the brand navigate 2020?
Vivian Stauffer, CEO of Hamilton – I have been Hamilton’s CEO since July, and while it was certainly a challenging time to take the lead, we are quite happy with our results. Luckily, we have a geographically balanced presence and market penetration at an international level. Less dependent on any one market, this gives us potentially more flexibility than other brands. For example, in early 2020 when Asia began to quarantine, we were still performing well in Europe and the U.S. Later in the year, the situation reversed and we were able to resume selling in re-opening markets such as China, Japan and Korea, resulting in us being less affected than the industry at large.
Another Hamilton strength is our e-commerce, which we’ve been steadily growing the last few years. With this buying option already in place, it was easier for us to take more of our sales and marketing planning online.
Having a smaller team within the larger umbrella of Swatch Group was also a plus, allowing us to react quickly and to find many opportunities within a challenging situation.
How were Hamilton’s latest watch releases received?
For sure, in 2020 we faced production and logistics-related obstacles due to COVID-19 restrictions, but thankfully, we found solutions and were able to launch all our new products on time.
And actually, we had one of our most successful launches ever in April with our PSR, a tribute to the 50-year anniversary of the world’s first digital watch we debuted in 1970. With a very good product, a great design and a strong story we secured a lot of visibility even in the middle of the first lockdowns.
We launched the Khaki Navy BeLOWZERO Limited Edition over the summer, which was another highlight of the year. Inspired by a prop watch we created for Christopher Nolan’s latest film Tenet, the piece not only celebrated our long history with Hollywood but also the return of cinema as part of one of the few blockbusters released in 2020.
Later in the year, we launched our Khaki Aviation Converters. The new line of pilot watches features highly technical functions and proved a great success for us in both PR and sales. Finally, we announced an extension of our signature Intra-Matic Auto Chrono styles, adding the choice of a stainless steel mesh bracelet, as well as an automatic, three-hand version, which have all been extremely well received.
Back to e-commerce, Swatch Group mentioned that the proportion of e-commerce for brands in the middle and entry-level price segment reached between 20 and 30 percent. What about Hamilton?
Our numbers have been even higher, with over 30 percent of Hamilton sales online in 2020 including purchases from our own e-store, as well as with partners such as Macy’s, Rakuten or JD.com.
It’s clear that online sales will only increase, and even before the pandemic they were almost doubling year over year. Naturally, the closure of brick-and-mortar stores during lockdown served as an accelerant to the digitalization of our activations, but thankfully, we were already in a very good place to increase and improve this business and will continue to do so moving forward.
Since we launched our first e-store in the U.S. in 2014, we’ve opened seven digital platforms around the world, began selling straps online offering clients a way to customize their watches in a unique way.
What can we expect from Hamilton in 2021?
We’re very excited for 2021 and will be launching very strong pieces throughout the year. Without a fixed deadline such as Baselworld to introduce new products, we can release new products to clients, retailers and press on a regular basis.
Hamilton will focus on heroes in 2021, celebrating important themes for the brand including Screen Heroes, Time Heroes, Sky Heroes and Field Heroes. One of the first products released is tied to our Time Heroes category, which highlights our pioneering spirit and innovative inventions such as the world’s first electric watch, the Ventura, in 1957; the first automatic chronograph in 1969; and the first digital watch, the Pulsar, in 1970.
We developed an exclusive hand-wound chronograph movement that will power a new Intra-Matic style. Featuring a two-counter design in either traditional or reverse panda, the dial is protected by a box sapphire crystal and paired with a leather strap or mesh bracelet. A balance of new technology and vintage charm, the Intra-Matic Chronograph H will be available in March.
For more information, please visit www.hamiltonwatch.com.