Stéphane Waser has worked for Maurice Lacroix since 2008 and has been at the head of the company since 2014. A few years later, following the launch of the Aikon and successful brand building, Maurice Lacroix has turned into a profitable brand. Maurice Lacroix’s Managing Director tells us about the development of the brand, the challenging situation and its plans for the future.
Xavier Markl, MONOCHROME – We are going through challenging times. How do you adapt to the situation?
Stéphane Waser, Managing Director of Maurice Lacroix – We had a very good year in 2019 and a very good start of the year. Until the end of February, there had been no significant effects of the pandemic on our business. Now the lockdown in Europe and in Switzerland has impacted our operations. On the one hand, the management of our supply chain is becoming challenging, suppliers are closed. On the other hand, with regards to demand, people are naturally concerned about the situation and the mood is not for luxury spending.
Our priority is first and foremost the security of our employees, and secondly maintaining smooth operations and service. For our employees, we have strict hygiene rules: people at risk remain at home. It also means home office for most of the company. The production is reduced and we do some short-time work. The second objective is to offer service to our customers, answer to every demand and to be available. We have teams working from home and others at the manufacture. We have to deliver orders. If many shops are closed, we still get orders online. And we are seeing a slow recovery of the Asian market, especially China. There are customer calls, request and orders and we deliver.
Maurice Lacroix was planning to exhibit at Baselworld in April 2020. When do you plan to introduce the novelties?
Talking about the activities we had planned for the first part of the year, most of these have either been cancelled or postponed to the second part of the year. Baselworld has been postponed to next January but we are looking into participating in the Geneva Watch Days, at the end of August.
What is essential in these times is to be responsive. We are adapting and trying to best monitor the situation.
What defines Maurice Lacroix?
Maurice Lacroix is about high perceived value, Swiss craftsmanship and contemporary design, all in high-quality at affordable prices.
The AIKON has been a game-changer for the brand. What is the history of the model?
AIKON is the rebirth of the Calypso. It was one of the brand’s most successful models because of its quality and its price. The quest of high perceived value has always been our top priority. We have refreshed this distinctive 1980s/90s design. Today, the sport-chic category has become popular again, these Genta-type designs, with integrated bracelets, streamlined, very edgy. This is what the AIKON has tapped into, of course at a price level that is Maurice Lacroix. We speak about an automatic watch at CHF 1,600 or a chronograph at CHF 2,600. It is about high quality, in-house development and assembly, with the savoir-faire that we have at Maurice Lacroix. The AIKON is an emblematic design, a quality watch with attention to details, and thanks to our expertise, we are able to deliver all this at an attractive price point.
We have built the collection step by step. We introduced the AIKON quartz in 2016. We waited two years for the automatic. From the beginning, when we designed the AIKON in 2014, we had a clear strategy. We knew there would be an automatic one, a feminine one, then a sporty one, that we would integrate high-end ‘Masterpiece’ movements. From the start of this project, we knew the collection had this potential.
You are also bringing back the Masterpieces and their original display?
The Masterpiece is still a focus. Of course, AIKON is a hero product for the brand. Masterpiece was not as well-known as AIKON, a collection that is filling the gap for a commercial product with a strong identity. For the high-end, Masterpiece stands for craftsmanship, innovation, creativity and in-house movements. From the very beginning, it has always been about offering Haute Horlogerie at very affordable prices. We were the first, with a swiss-made quality, to offer exclusive, innovative, high-level watchmaking at this price level. We have bridged a gap. This is the kind of value for money spirit that we have had since 1975 incarnated in the form of high-end products like the Mercury, the Gravity, the Mysterious Second, the Square Wheel…
What will be the focus for 2020?
We will be continuing the AIKON quest. Our idea is not to introduce a new line but rather to consolidate and further build on existing models, on all levels: quartz, mechanical but also in-house movements. We’ll bring selected novelties in all categories. We have presented some quartz novelties, the AIKON Chronograph Skeleton and there is more to come.
The second focus will be on women’s watches. We have models for AIKON. What we have not pushed enough and where we have huge potential is the high-end Masterpiece. We didn’t have Masterpieces for ladies. And then for the entry-range with Fiaba, we are expanding the collection with moon-phase versions.
The Masterpiece was more challenging. The question was: how do you adapt the Masterpiece product concept for ladies? Most ladies’ watches are smaller versions of men’s models fit with a mother-of-pearl dial and diamonds. But we wanted to develop something innovative, tailored for ladies, something more poetic. We had this Square Wheel retrograde movement and we thought we could reimagine the whole concept for ladies. To create the Embrace concept, we transformed the square wheels into two heart-shaped wheels that are fully functional, as one shows the seconds. The retrograde indication was turned into something more emotional, some type of whimsical love gauge. We also introduced for the first time an aventurine dial, which underlines the poetic and high-quality aspect of this feminine Masterpiece. I think the result is quite stunning and superbly executed by the team.
Distribution is crucial today in the watch industry. What has been your strategy?
We are a retail brand. We are not a boutique brand. Our main focus is the relationship with our retailers, multi-brand retailers. Of course, distribution has evolved, all businesses have become more digital. We support our retail partners to sell online. In particular, there is a new generation of retailers that have brick-and-mortar business and also online solutions. The retailers that are active online and offline are the most successful ones. We also have our own e-shop but it is more about image and creating a standard, a point of reference, rather than competing with our retailers to whom we want to give full support.
For more information, please visit www.mauricelacroix.com.